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Sunday, 24 July 2016

An Appendix N Short #2

For the most part, books and games released under the Old School Renaissance have been put 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, a Zero-Level, ‘Character Creation Funnel’ designed to be played in a single evening or session. The second is Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #2: The Vile Worm. Like The Ruins of Ramat  this second scenario is designed to be played by between eight and twelve characters and like The Ruins of Ramat, this scenario has appeared for previous rule sets, as The Vile Worm of the Eldritch Oak for Swords & Wizardry in Brave Halfling Publishing’s Swords & Wizardry White Box, as The Vile Worm from Arcana Creations—again for Swords & Wizardry, and then again as The Vile Worm of the Eldritch Oak from Lord Zsezse Works for use with Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Which means that it has a bit of a publishing history and so must be worth reprinting.

In The Vile Worm, the adventurers are travelling in a forest when they encounter a hermit, a priest of nature, who offers them a chance to rest and partake of a meal. He is of course, nothing of the sort, being a crazed berserker who discovered the sacrificial site of an ancient cult and now sees it as his duty to capture and give up victims to the vile worm that the cult worshipped. Whether or not the adventurers accept his invitation, they will find themselves ambushed and wondering at the truth of this madman. This truth is revealed over the course of three rooms, each quite detailed, and two or three combat encounters. In the process, the adventurers will hopefully rescue the berserker’s current victims and thus save a family. The worm itself is a nasty oozing creature bent on turning the adventurers into hosts for its eggs.

As atmospheric and as detailed as the scenario is, this is all that is—an extended encounter. Unlike The Ruins of Ramat, there is not material here to take it much further into an on-going campaign. Like The Ruins of Ramat, this scenario comes with a pair of hand outs that the Judge can use to illustrate certain locations and these are nicely done. Similarly, the cartography is excellent.

Unfortunately, Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #2: The Vile Worm has a couple of problems. The first is the one that beset Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #1: The Ruins of Ramat. The ‘Appendix N’ element of the scenario’s title—Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #2: The Vile Worm—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…?

The second issue that that Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #2: The Vile Worm is short. It is an extended encounter, but little more, and lacking the extra material that can be added to a campaign, The Vile Worm feels all too brief… Nevertheless, Appendix N Adventure Toolkit #2: The Vile Worm is a solid, if short, adventure that works for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game as much as it does for other RPGs for the Old School Renaissance.