The Horror at Hill Stead

Destination Unknown – Life is so strange

By RC Pinnell
Mavfire Games
Levels 4-8

This is an homage to G1, but this time with ogres and a hardcore devotion to the original 3 book version of D&D. No retroclones here! “It is assumed you have it or will very quickly obtain it.” This is an assault on an ogre fort that looks a lot like the steading in G1, but a bit smaller. It get inspiration from some of the encounters as well, from the feast to the infamous watchtower room 1. The writing style is remarkably close and at times you could be forgiven to think you were actually reading G1. Very close … but not the same. This has a more conversational style and more direct statements to the DM. I wonder sometimes about these sorts of products. Is it actually an art project, or something like required homework? Taking G1 writing something so close to it, but for OD&D … why? “Because I want to” is a perfectly valid answer … but still leaves the question in a state that makes me uneasy. If the goal was to produce a work that could be mistaken for having been produced in 1975 by TSR then it succeeds greatly … but that would then put it solidly in the Art Project category, like Habitation of the Stone Giant Lord.

I mentioned a more conversational style and a devotion to OD&D. A lot of that is front loaded. The entire adventure is about ten pages long with the fort having about 35 rooms and the last page being devoted to the wilderness map and pregens. That leaves almost four pages of lead in. This is predominantly wilderness information and wandering monster tables, along with lengthy … commentary? I want to say advice, but it’s so generic that it’s more like someone who REALLY loves OD&D commenting on specific aspects of the game.

“Lastly, it is not cheating, nor coddling the characters, to provide them–even at these levels– with some minor magical assistance. One potion of healing per character, supplied by the local temple, or a minor scroll of magic (containing a Magic Missile Spell) from a local NPC — perhaps for a share of the booty recovered by the group–would be within reason, and might contribute to the interaction between the the characters and the residents of the town in which you plan to begin the adventure.”

The cadence there, the style, is unmistakingly in the voice of G1. And takes forever to get to the point. There’s quite a bit more of even more general advice: characters with low ability scores tend to die in dungeon. Games die from a bad streak of luck. It’s not quite “let me tell you about my campaign” but more “let me tell you about generic truths from RPG’s.” Combine this with some notes about where to find things in the books (Greyhawk, no stats for dire wolves appear, You may Use Supplement 1 for STR and DEX bonuses. Feel free to not roll for wandering monsters if that is your wish) and you get some lengthy commentary gumming up the works. The whole” find a resting cave” thing from G1 is present, as well as the advice on the difficulty of burning down the fort. The wanderers are just beasts and too much time/space seems to be given over to the wilderness sections for what is presented. IE: “wander through the woods and through the hills.” Is about the extent of it.

The main encounters section is pretty directly inspired by G1. A feast hall with lots of folks in it. A watchtower with someone asleep. Dire wolves. Matron cooks. Visitors present (hill giants and a stone giant.) There are little tweaks here and there. A second floor to the feast hall balcony. A doggy door in the kitchen for the wolves. No lothario but the chutzpah kids are present.

Like G1 there is a verbose tersity, if that sort of thing is possible. The creative content is nice, from a mundane monster fort sort of viewpoint, but then it tarries. “A small hidden door in the back of the north shelf (see map) allows passage to a secret hallway beyond. It’s more focused than most modern adventures, avoiding for the most part lengthy mundane descriptions that add little … but then it adds the commentary of description of where the secret door is (It’s on the map.) Or what to roll to find a secret door. (Repeating what’s in the rules for such.) In the end it manages six of seven encounters per page.

The treasure here is generic and mostly uninteresting, as it was in G1. The exception are (mostly) the cursed magic items. Not just a Ring of Delusion but one that makes you think CP is SP and SP is GP. That’s quite nice, as are the variety of cursed swords. The rest is almost abstracted: a gem worth 1000gp. Three jewelry worth 500gp each. The treasure was not one of G1’s strong points.

I’m at a loss where this fits. G1 for people who want a thoroughly researched/converted/inspired version to run with OD&D? There are some bits of background, quite brief, about a ruined and desolated village and it’s downfall that are quite nice: evocative and terse, but otherwise there’s not much new to point to here.

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