By Geoffrey McKinney Self Published B/X Levels ... 3-12? (Whatever X play is)
MIKE’S WORLD: THE FORSAKEN WILDERNESS BEYOND expands on the fantasy world first introduced in Gary Gygax’s dungeon module B2: THE KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS. If you have ever wondered what perilous lands further surround the Keep, this is the book for you. MIKE’S WORLD includes 14 hand-drawn wilderness maps of war-torn lands with details of their monstrous denizens, ancient ruins, eldritch mysteries, and more. It is perfect for all levels of campaign play and for both complete novices as well as for those who have played for decades
This 32 page wilderness “square crawl” contains fourteen pages of pages with four or five encounters for each, expanding on the wilderness from module B2. An absolutely fantuckingtastic collection of encounters, about the right length and level of detail, imaginative, and with some occasional themes running between them. Totally unlike the rather drab Mike’d Dungeon, this may be Geoffrey’s best work, and is certainly one of the best things to come out of the OSR. It’s The Real Deal.
If the keep in B2 represents the edge of the borderlands then this wilderness map represents the borderlands proper. A wilderness full of weird and interesting things to explore, as well as being well stocked with monsters ready to eat your face. And, of course, it’s not all barren wilderness, there are those that were here before, elves, dwarves, gnomes and the like. Not necessarily allies of man but generally not ready to stab first and eat later, unlike a decent percentage of the humanoids.
The expert level game, the X in B/X, was never really expanded upon well, IMO, in adventure products. You got a lot of dungeons, and isle of Dread, which always seems too minimal to me. Maybe something like Tharizdun, with its wilderness travel? But I seem to recall that was on roads and paths … and they aint here. The road from the keep ends on the edge of the map at the FORMER keep that was on the borderlands … now in ruin for 20 years from a gnoll assault. Well now, that brings the borderlands home, doesn’t it? In a way that never felt like it in the keep, the forces of chaos can come calling at any time … and did.
And that’s what this product does, over and over and over again. It makes you think “I could do this, and this and this and I could use this in this way …” The entries have just about the exact amount of details, describing interesting things, using its word budget wisely, not overstaying welcomes and in some cases leaving some hooks or threads to follow up on. Just off hand comments but enough to get he DM going. Almost every runs that knife edge between underexplaining and providing enough information for the DM to bring the situation to life. And that’s GREAT!
Goblins climb among the mirkwood style dark forests, dwarf heads, skins and skeletons from a recent devastating war are displayed in the branches. Fuck! Yeah! A woman suspended in a cage on the top of a rocky hill. Weathertop meats the harpies, anyone? Every plains is filled with cactus, every stand of trees a mirkwood. Geoffrey hits time and time again with his encounters, four to five per page, with one page per map.
The maps proper are interesting, with terrain features likes hills, ravines, rises and bluffs, rivers and the like. While they appear to be quickly drawn with pencil, they are clear and easy to read. The keys, proper, alphabet letters like A, B, C, and so on, do blend in a little, or rather, don’t call attention to themselves. I might have twisted Geoffrey’s “Mike” backstory a bit and put them in a read circle or something, to make them stand out a bit more as features.
The misses in the “adventure” are all generally related to the map and the nature of hex crawling, in general. As I mentioned, a little highlighting of the encounters on the map would have helped a bit. Related to this is visibility … how far can you see? Some guidelines in this area would have been helpful (is that in the Expert set?) I want to get the party moving towards things, and climbing a hill and looking around would cause me to fumble through the book looking through all the nearby encounters to see what the party can see. I always turn to the Fallout game and its ability to put something in the distance that you want to travel to.
And, related to this, are the interconnections between the places. You meet a fair number of monsters and humanoids that will talk to you, or at least that you can question with fire and torture. A few notes on what they know is nearby, a likely question from the party, would have been in order. Even just a simple notation like “B, G, I, K”, meaning they know about those places, would be a help, I think, in running it. I think the adventure needs just one more page, laying out the overall situation and how everything works together, what they know, and … how the maps fit together. [Edit: it looks like Melan did at least the maps fitting together part.]
But, this doesn’t really detract from the creativity of the work. It’s fucking magnificent! Great situations, with a kind of … I don’t know, low fantasy vibe? Traditional fantasy? There’s some weirdness here, but it’s got a much more … folklore mashed up with the Hobbit mashed up with Clash of Titans vibe going on. I don’t really know how to describe it. Maybe the darker parts of the hobbit, the Mirkwood bits, combined with the more fantastic portion of LotR? It’s strongly “not the realm of man” fantasy, but not gonzo. It’s the fucking borderlands baby!
This is easily one of the best, this year or any other, and is what the expert set should have included as an example of play. I can’t recommend it enough! I want to totally redo the Keep, bringing it up to date, and run every campaign from now on there and in this environment! IE: i”m excited about this!
This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is the entire thing. Check out the first maps keys on page 5 of the preview. Great, great encounters, terse writing, just the right amount of detail for a hex crawl!
This has been episode four of Bryce Reviews Everything on his Wishlist in Order.
Random Social Interaction Hex Flower, by Goblin’s Henchman
Well, I AM buying/reviewing everything on my wishlist, but, it’s important to note, I don’t know shit about anything other than adventures, and I don’t know much about them.
I’m fond of social connections between people in villages, and so on, where the party will interact with some group socially. I think that it makes the situations much more interesting, prone to actionable roleplay, and believable when the various people in a village have some kind of relationship with the other people. (Used in the loose term, like hating, coveting, etc. I’ve often though that mind maps were one good way to depict this, and this supplement seems to do something like that, so I put it on my list.
It looks like you put 4-7 NPC’s in the shaded hexes and roll 3d6 for each to see how they are related to each other. One roll indicates the direction, so, ultimately, who this NPC will have a relationship with, which could be open or secret. Another indicates if its NPC A or B who is the influencer, or both. IE: I love you, you have a crush on me, we both love each other. The third is taken as a modifier to the first two. You take all three dice and then arrange them to get a modifier like “a strong interaction, happened in the past, arcane influence, NPC is stronger than expected, or so on. Basically, doubles, straights, etc. Finally, you sum the first and second die and that gets you the type of relationship: love, family, admire, aids, owes, watches, dislike, etc. 10 entries.
As a prep tool I think this is quite interesting. I would use it to create situations that I could then riff of off. I’ve always thought that a blank mind, a totally empty canvas, was the hardest to work from and that by giving the mind just a little bit to work with it will then go racing off to new heights.
This is begging, I think for an online/electronic version. And, I’m not quite certain of the 2d6 nature chart, with love, admire, hate, etc. These sorts of things always make me think “is this the platonic version of this? Is admire a weak love relationship, for example, and could be replaced with something else more platonic to the humans condition? But, fuck it, that’s my nature.
This is a great tool to prep situations to riff off of while designing dungeons/villages/social interactions … and would be even more useful if there was an online version.