By J.D. Neal Self Published BFRPG Levels 4-6
Rising out of the vast emptiness of the blue ocean is a lush green island filled with ancient beasts and scattered strange ruins waiting to be explored.
This 54 page hex-crawl adventure uses about thirty pages to clone the Isle of Dread, but without the kelpies/kelies/whatever-they-are-called. Instead you get monkey people. It’s from 2015 and it FEELS like an old OSR adventure, with generic encounters and long writing.
It’s Dread. It’s a primitive island off the sea paths. There are some good villages and a bad village. Dinosaurs, etc. You wander around the island, I guess looking for loot? It’s a classic older hex crawl. By which I mean: not very good.
You need a couple of things for a hex crawl to work well. First, the players needs to be motivated to explore. Why are they crawling? Are there rumors? Are they trying to accomplish something, looking for something, etc? You need a purpose. This don’t have that. Basically, you sail around the island and the DM might tell you that you see a path, or mountains, or something. Maybe you will go explore. Maybe not, I guess. You can also trek overland, but, again, why? Rumors of gold. Rumors of temple (which usually have gold …) Rumors of Magic, Rumors of SOMETHING are needed to get the party moving. That’s not here. The most you get is is in the hook: you capture some pirates, they have old gold and said they got it from an old temple on the island. That’s not much to go on.
There’s also little in the way of hex crawling rules present. (My apologies if this is in the BFRPG book.) Travel speeds, noted on the map? No. How far can you see/what can you see, to draw the curious eye and lead the party to another place? Nope. And, even if they WERE in the BFRPG book, putting the tables on the mps here would help the DM run it , as a kind of reference sheet. Vision, especially, is important in a hex crawl. You want to lure the party, and give them motivations for moving and going places, by what they see in the distance, with the map set up to encourage some of that.
And then there’s the encounters. There’s a wanderer table that is essentially 100 entries from a monster manual. Just list about a hundred entries and put them on a table. Everything from intelligent humanoids to, of course, a heavy dino population. They don’t do anything, so no help in running the encounters. AND they are pretty frequent; roll a d6 six times a day and encounter on a 1 … that’s gonna chew up an old style D&D-healing party with low HP. And the island encounters proper, about twenty of them, read more like decent wandering monster encounters. They go a little something like: “ANT MOUND: Rising out of the grass is a huge ant mound. The ants will appear 1d6 at a time if it is disturbed. Inside the mound are 1,500 gp in nuggets. Each nugget has been molded into the rough shape of a humanoid insect.” Pretty brief encounter, but with little to recommend it … unless it were a wandering monster encounter. And a decent portion of the normal encounters are just monsters attacking you. It’s weird. Again, more like real encounters than a hex crawl encounter. (Not the review of Isle of the Unknown for a more detailed analysis of what makes a good hex crawl encounter.)
Twenty island encounters, but about nine villages (a couple of evil ones) and ten or so ocean encounters and about seven temple complexes/lairs with about a dozen rooms each. And all described in a pretty basic way. There IS decent interactivity in the temples complexes, more than a just fighting, and there ARE some roleplay opportunities in the villages. Certainly, the villagers are generally better than the long drawn out Dread ones. These are shorter. Both products, though, could have used some village personalities and some intrigue to get things going a little better.
The island is PACKED with humanoids. Besides the human villages (8?) there are also intelligent ape villages, pygmy villages, lizardmen, trogs, cavemen, evil elves, orcs … and just about every other intelligent humanoid possible in a monster manual. And the island is relatively small. Where teh fuck do all these people hang out? Better, I think, to have more repetition in the humanoids and make the island feel less like a humanoid zoo.
It’s a very basic adventure, like the kind you might from the early days of the OSR. When encounters were generic and descriptions abstracted … and yet there was some knowledge of the interactive portions of the game.
There’s still not a good Dread adventure, IMO.
The PDF is free at the BFRPG site.