Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Monday, December 15, 2014

Side Treks II: The Village (A Review)

This time we're reviewing Side Treks II: The Village, by Matt Jackson of Chubby Monster Games.  Matt's maps are famous in the OSR community and with very good reason (check it out).  His maps are both gorgeous and evocative; not merely utilitarian things, but actual pictures, and here he proves that every picture really does tell a story.  While not exclusively for Pits & Perils, it can certainly be used, and we like it...

Someplace you should definitely visit, the sooner the better!

Side Treks is basically a small (16-page) collection of village locations for use in old-school games.  The physical production is notable both for its typesetting (an old Underwood) and its excellent, two-toned mapping, each one evoking a moody and very magical atmosphere dripping with old-school style and sensibilities that recall the trippy 70s well.        

Each location is treated an an encounter unto itself, for they potentially are, and special care is taken to establish the proper atmosphere, whether dark and ominous rumblings over one strange emporium or drinks with a certain beardless dwarf.  Players will no doubt find themselves drawn into this world, but always choosing their own adventures by their actions.

And that's the really neat thing about this product; while it presents a fully realized locale, it nonetheless manages to leave much to the referee, truly inspiring them, but never imposing anything more than what they want or need to use.  And the players can't help but tinker with all the interesting and, occasionally, exotic things to be found.     

In all, Side Treks includes Skellerdeed's Brewery, where the characters might sample magical ales(!), Miechaloob's Fae Emporium, that deals in what it says, The Broken Gnome, a tavern with a diverse clientele, The Forge, where you can get more than the rank and file gear, and Molyndix Stables, a place where you can buy a genuine jackalope.  Need we say anything more?

Side Treks: The Village is system-neutral, although necessity dictates reference to some common mechanics (damage and/or general bonuses) found in a variety of systems.  This not only makes it accessible to a wider audience, but gives the referee great freedom to adjust for the size and strength of their group.

The referee might, of course, import the whole village into an existing campaign with complete ease and find it a nicely interconnected community, having within all the services of a proper settlement.  But they can just as easily take what they wish and leave the rest; whatever they want!  Some adjustment may be necessary, depending on the system and campaign, but such changes can be made on-the-spot and quite easily.

On a final note, this is a digital download, and you get two versions of the product; high and low-resolution.  A final bit of choice for those with varying storage needs or for use on small devices at the table.  This is flexible stuff!  

Verdict: Side Treks II: The Village presents several fascinating locales that strike an inspiring balance between its prepared setting and referee freedom.  The result is one of the best products of this sort we've ever come across; recommended for fans of the renaissance and our own Pits & Perils.  Also suggested for the harried referee or novices who deisre to kick start their own campaign and needing just a push.  Available as a pdf download!

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