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Friday, 18 September 2015

An Appendix N Short #1

For the most part, books and games released under the Old School Renaissance have been put out by the small press, whether that is Labyrinth Lord from Goblinoid Games or Swords & Wizardry from published by Mythmere Games. To date, the only larger publisher to offer an Old School Renaissance RPG is Goodman Games with its Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. What set this RPG apart from just about every other RPG and every other fantasy RPG is that every player begins the game playing Zero Level characters—and lots of them! In going through their first adventure, there will perhaps, be survivors who will survive to achieve First Level and acquire an actual Class.

The Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game, is though, published under the same Open Gaming Licence as other titles for the Old School Renaissance, which means that other publishers can release support for it. One such publisher is Brave Halfling Publishing, a small press outlet best known for its ‘White Box’ iterations of classic Dungeons & Dragons-style RPGs such as X-Plorers and Delving Deeper. Now, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, the publisher has released a small selection of adventures under the Appendix N imprint.

The first of these is Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #1: The Ruins of Ramat. This is a Zero Level adventure—or alternatively, it can be upgraded for play with higher level characters—that can be played in a single evening or session. Based on an earlier edition written for use with Labyrinth Lord, it has been adapted for use with the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game as part of the Kickstarter. It is designed for use by eight to twelve characters, so at two characters each, it would work with four to six players. Physically, it comes as a digest-sized booklet with a detached colour card cover. Also included are two player hand-outs—the back cover blurb says four, but mine contained two—illustrations that can be shown to the players when they reach certain locations. The other issue with The Ruins of Ramat is that its introduction for the players is incomplete, so the book could have done with another edit.

The plot to The Ruins of Ramat begins with a lost dog. Or rather a scared little girl who comes running with the tale that a giant, clawed monster reached up out of the ground and grabbed her constant companion. The village has no-one to turn to for help, so when the player characters decide to volunteer, the villagers look oddly relieved. Once they do get up the hill, they find a hole in the ground and at the bottom of the hole, a complex of tunnels that has been there for centuries…

Although the monster that grabs the dog is nowhere to be found, the dog itself can be found. That is the good news. The bad news is that there are demons and the undead in complex—not too many given that this is an adventure for Zero Level characters—but more than enough to present them with a challenge. What they also discover is the remnants of an ancient monastery, once dedicated to the militant arm of the Church of Ramat, a Lawful deity, which they will hopefully learn was defiled by evil. The dungeon itself consists of just seventeen locations. With so few, it means that they are quite detailed and atmospheric as they build towards the scenario’s culmination.

Now the dungeon’s true history will not be apparent on a straight play through of The Ruins of Ramat, but an appendix includes two adventure expansions. The first is an option for one of the characters to study the teachings of Ramat and in doing so, become a Cleric. The second adventure expansion is a simple link to another location that the Judge can develop.

The ‘Appendix N’ element of the scenario’s title—Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #1: The Ruins of Ramat—denotes the fact that it is inspired by ‘Appendix N’, the list of inspirational fiction found at the back of the original Dungeon Master’s Guide that so influenced Dungeons & Dragons and then Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. This designation leads to expectations that these fictional inspirations, whether it is Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, will be discussed or at least made clear. Sadly, this is not the case, but perhaps in future releases such a discussion would be a worthy inclusion…?

Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #1: The Ruins of Ramat is a solid, well written scenario. Its design is tight and should serve as the fun, challenging ‘Character Creation Funnel’ that a Judge is looking for.