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Friday, 12 April 2019

Friday Fantasy: Behind the Walls

Behind The Walls is a short scenario set within The Midderlands, the horror infused, green tinged interpretation of the medieval British Isles flavoured with Pythonesque humour and an Old School White Dwarf sensibility, published by Monkey Blood Design. Designed for play by four characters of low Level using Mythmere Games’ Swords & Wizardry, it can easily be run using other Old School Renaissance retroclones and even other fantasy roleplaying games. It offers a short, investigative scenario strong on atmosphere and mood with an emphasis on mud, blight, and greed.

In The Midderlands, this scenario takes in the north of Havenland, near to the Scrottish border and the Great Wall of Hadreen by the Kelderwater Lake in and around the village of Otterdale, an isolated settlement located in a damp, mist-filled valley through which the Little Kelder stream runs and finally dribbles into the lake. Local farmer, Ebeneezer Garbett, has recently come into some gold and been quite generous in spreading his wealth around, much to the delight of the Otterdale’s inhabitants. The player characters may have been hired by an archaeologist who wants to investigate local Goman ruins—the Goman Empire having conquered Havenland in centuries long past, are looking for a particular fungus which grows in the region which will cure an illness that one of their number is suffering from, or are simply attracted by the sound of new found wealth to be found in the valley and nearby. Certainly this has been motive enough for another adventuring party—the Eagle’s Talon Adventuring Company—to come to Otterdale in search of treasure.

Making their way to Otterdale through the shifting mists of the fungi-infested soggy valley, the player characters discover the villagers caught up in the preparations to celebrate the new wealth that has come to Otterdale. They are cautious, unused to seeing strangers, but friendly and welcoming, though both they and the adventurers are in danger of being subsumed into a force which could grow and grow until it threatens the whole of Havenland.

Physically, Behind the Walls is very nicely presented. The cartography is unsurprisingly excellent given the publisher, the illustrations all following the fungoid theme of the scenario. The scenario is also well written and easy to grasp, as well as being easy to adapt. This is not only to other retroclones, but also whole other roleplaying games. Both plot and setting are readily suited to be relocated in the settings for both Symbaroum and Forbidden Lands, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and even the post-apocalypse of Mutant: Year Zero – Roleplaying at the End of Days, among many others. Which serves to highlight the simplicity and versatility of both set-up and plot in Behind the Walls.

With relatively few locations and a handful of NPCs, what holds Behind the Walls together is its strong atmosphere, a sense of melancholy blight, and a number of flavoursome random encounters out in the fog which swirls around Otterdale. At its heart, Behind the Walls is essentially a fog-shrouded zombie-style outbreak, but one mired in muck and mucus as well as Havenland’s ancient history.

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