Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Uncanny Abode and Final Resting Place of the Mysterious Mervin H. Floyd (A Review)

Olde House Rules has released an Open Supplement License to publish supplementary materials for the Pits & Perils game, subject to a few simple rules (you can check it out here)...

All formalities aside, the following is a review of the first commercially available adventure for Pits & perils, and the very first ever under the Open License:  

The Uncanny Abode and Final Resting Place of the Mysterious Mervin H. Floyd, by Bryan Steward of Black Paperclip Games!

The Uncanny Abode is recommended for characters of at least 6th level
and is available in digital and softcover format...

By way of introduction, the Uncanny Abode is set in the final resting place of a dead adventurer who knew that his tomb would be plundered - and probably looked forward to it!  But instead of warning the party off, he invites them in to stay awhile.  Sure, steal my riches, but first, a few simple tests...

Production is solid old-school, and the artwork, in particular, captures the spirit of things nicely.  For some reason, it reminds us of early Dragon Magazine, which not only speaks for its old-school pedigree, but to its general tone and style.  The whole thing feels like a cross between 70s Judges Guild and Tunnels & Trolls, doing so in a way that feels completely genuine.   

Note: This adventure is made for characters of at least 6th level, so the party may need to work up...

The module begins with an "adventurer-friendly" city called, appropriately, Ravensreach, from the author's original (and long-standing) campaign.  Rather than focus on small details, it emphasizes those services, like the Temple of Datronus, that the party will really need.  This adventure knows where it's going, and that's straight to the Uncanny Abode!  

Accordingly, there's a section devoted to getting there, with several possible (and deadly) options.  Each campaign is different, and the referee can pick which one suits their game.  

The dungeon, itself, is a mixture of deadly monsters, clever puzzles, and terrible traps, and the writing is conversational and fun even as it describes the wicked, and sometimes darkly funny, things that might befall a hapless party.  This speaks to an essential old-school element: a little humor balanced with the seriousness of solving puzzles and fighting for your life (which is never boring).  The Uncanny Abode does this well.

Its puzzles are challenging because you don't always know when they're happening, and players may find themselves tested on their normal responses to little things.  Blessings become curses and curses have a silver lining - but only if the characters are willing to experiment.  An entire session might be spent tinkering with a certain magical pool, which is as it should be!

Sometimes it feels as if the departed Mervin is chuckling from beyond the grave, and his ambitious burial is just his way of living on and having a good laugh...   

A few notes about the presentation:  

Instead of giving stats for the individual monsters, the dungeon cites its page in the appropriate rulebook.  Pits & Perils is simple enough that this is actually doable.  Moreover, this speaks to something not advertised: The Uncanny Abode can be tweaked for any old-school system, making it a flexible product.

And in addition to the usual map in the back of the book, each section is reproduced on the relevant pages, so the referee can see what each area looks like without having to flip around, which is convenient in the heat of play.

Verdict: The Uncanny Abode made this blogger recall some of the excitement of being an 11-year old first experiencing the hobby back in the late 1970s, and while the referee might need to prepare certain things, like enemy statistics, doing so is relatively easy, and they're rewarded with a fun read and a challenging adventure once play finally begins.  Worth getting!

Recommended for P&P players and old-school aficionados alike, published in digital and softcover, the latter being saddle stitched and really looking like a booklet from some bygone era!

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