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Saturday 21 April 2018

Fantasy LAW Starter

A Wedding in Axebridge is a scenario for use with High Adventure Role Playing or HARP, Ice Crown Enterprises’ percentile fantasy roleplaying system descended from Rolemaster. It is designed for use with between four and six characters of between First and Fourth Level and should provide two or three sessions’ worth of play. It offers a mix of roleplaying and intrigue encounters as well as combat and exploration in a forest and a dungeon. It takes place in and around the village of Axebridge which sits on the River Clearwater across from the extensive forests of the Alfwood. The village is not far from the Free City of Lochdomhan in the Aeden Isles which lie off the coast of the Tyrisian lands, the most remote of the Shatterings on the world of Mithras. The Aeden Isles are mostly settled by Humans, their having driven the Sidhe—or Elves—out long ago, such that both the Sidhe and the Fae are no longer trusted. More recently, the peoples of Aeden Isles have converted to the church of Caerwyn, Lord of All, and as benevolent as the new faith is, it does not sit well with many who remember the old gods of the Gael. As the adventurers come to Axebridge, it seems that a celebration is in full swing. 

A Wedding in Axebridge opens with the adventurers arriving in the village and being invited to attend the forthcoming wedding that everyone is celebrating. They have an opportunity to mingle and perhaps participate in a competition or two—there are some decent prizes on offer—and perhaps gain an inkling of their immediate future. Unfortunately, the bride falls ill on the morning of her wedding day with no obvious cause, and with her condition worsening daily, the adventurers are asked to investigate. Then, just as the adventurers discover the cause, they are accused of being involved in the disappearance of another villager, the daughter of a local hunter. Are the two connected? Is the village under a curse? Or is something else at work in bringing woe to Axebridge?

The plot does indeed involve a curse, but it also involves a clash between religions old and new, ancient and new, ghosts, and a dungeon. Consisting of three quite small levels, this is where the climax of the adventure will take place in a series of quite challenging fights. It is also here that they will discover—amidst the ruins of an ancient site of druidic worship—what lies behind the events that have befallen the village of Axebridge in the last few days. The climax of the scenario involves a fair bit of combat, but before that it presents some good opportunities for the players to roleplay and for their characters to take the high ground. If they do, then they will have the opportunity to earn more Experience Points than if they rush straight into combat. The epilogue to the scenario is also very nicely played out.

The plot itself is relatively straightforward, and if truth be told, more experienced players may figure some of what is going on relatively quickly. If they do, then they probably need to roleplay around that until the scenario presents them with the clues to put the plot together. To an extent, the Game Master will also need to work this out himself as the exact details of the plot are not given in one place, but scattered throughout the book. As with experienced players, an experienced Game Master will be able to connect the dots anyway. What this means though, is that a less experienced Game Master might not find the adventure quite as easy to run, especially given that the scenario is overwritten in places.

Beyond the adventure itself, there are some suggestions as to what the adventurers might do next. This would require some development upon the part of the Game Master, but the area around the village of Axebridge certainly has potential.

One problem with the scenario is that the dungeon maps, although done in full colour, are not all that easy to read because they are a bit too fussy. Black and white, line drawn maps might have been a better, clearer option than ones here which were drawn on a computer. That said, the area maps are much clearer and easier to read. Otherwise, A Wedding in Axebridge is a well-presented book illustrated with some decent pieces of black and white artwork.

A Wedding in Axebridge is not a great scenario, but it is a reasonable scenario. 
Although let down by two issues—fussy cartography and a slightly too familiar plot—it is well written, it presents a decent challenge, and it works as first scenario for use with HARP. Although not quite suited to the beginning Game Master, A Wedding in Axebridge is a good adventure with which a Game Master can introduce HARP to her players.

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