Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday, 23 July 2021

Friday Fantasy: For the Sound of His Horn

With For the Sound of His Horn, author Adam Gauntlett returns to the horror genre he is best known for with titles such as The Man Downstairs and Hocus Pocus for Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition. This is a scenario set in Barovia, and thus Ravenloft, the preeminent horror setting for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. The scenario is designed for a party of Player Characters of First to Third Level and is set in and around a village in Mordent. The author’s experience with other horror roleplaying games is nevertheless on show here, as the emphasis in For the Sound of His Horn is very much on interaction and investigation rather than exploration or combat.

Subtitled ‘A Haunted Hunting Party in Mordent’, 
For the Sound of His Horn takes place in Oaksey, a small village in Mordent, once part of the Huntingtower estate, since long extinct. The village has long been known for its fox hunts, and despite the loss of the local lord a century before, maintains the tradition today, keeping a pack of foxhounds and staging regular hunts. There being no lord, the position of Master of Foxhounds is held by Oaksey’s alderman. Recently, the current alderman, Sanders Murdoch, suffered a near-fatal hunting accident. Some say it was due to a riding accident, others his poor horsemanship, still others put it down to something unnatural, whilst Sanders himself suspects foul play and has vowed to severely punish whoever was responsible for his injuries.

The Player Characters may come to Oaksey for several reasons. They may simply have heard some travelers’ gossip and become intrigued enough to visit, but they might be asked by the Church of Ezra to come to the aid of local priest, they might be occultists who have heard of strange goings on in the village, or they may simply be keen huntsmen and women, come to ride with the village hunt. Their visit and thus 
For the Sound of His Horn is structured around a series of Core and Optional scenes. The Core scenes should provide the initial clues and revelations which point to Optional scenes and yet more clues and revelations—some of which are connected to the scenario’s main plot, others not. Most of these scenes—both Core and Optional—take the form of interviews and interactions with the villagers, meaning that the scenario relies heavily on the Insight, Investigation, and Perception, although there is the possibility of combat either towards or at the climax of the scenario. Ideally, the climax of the scenario should come at or around a festival when true facts of what has been going on in the village for the last century will come to light.

Each of the scenes in 
For the Sound of His Horn, whether Core or Optional, is presented on its own page and everything is clearly laid out. Thus the nature of the scene, skill involved, goal, and then if an NPC, personality, background, maneuvres—that is, the NPC’s actions in the scene, and lastly his disclosures. The latter are his secrets, hidden information, and true motivations, all to be revealed with a combination of good roleplaying and skill rolls. Location descriptions are simpler, listing and explaining their various features, secrets, and potential encounters.

Given that it is written for use with the Ravenloft setting, the scenario makes use of Haunting Effects and Stress, as well as its many secrets. The Haunting Effects can cause Fear, which can lead to a Player Character acquiring Stress, the Hunting Effects being set off by Triggers. Again, these are clearly marked in each of the locations where they occur. In fact, one of the locations has several! The scenario is not without its own potential triggers either. Obviously, it is a horror story and so it does involve strong themes, but those themes do include child cruelty (though this is very much off camera). The stronger issue may be the fact that the scenario involves blood sports, in particular, fox hunting. It includes a description of the activity and a list of its terminology, and the scenario should culminate in a Meet and a fox hunt. The blood sport is so bound up in the events of the scenario that it would be very difficult to run if the Dungeon Master was to try and remove it from the scenario.

For the Sound of His Horn is missing a couple of elements which would make it easier to run. The first is that all of the NPCs lack a physical description and the second is that the scenario does not have any maps. The former is more of an issue than the latter, because it is possible to run the scenario with referring to any maps—having them would make it easier though. Fortunately, both are easily rectified by the Dungeon Master. Thus she can write the descriptions herself—though the author should have supplied them, and she can either draw the maps herself or find suitable ones online, even rights free ones. Another issue is that not all of the scenario’s plots are fully explained until they appear in the individual scenes and locations, so a better overview could have been provided. For the Dungeon Master it might be a good idea to draw a plot diagram and perhaps a relationship diagram as part of her preparation.

For the Sound of His Horn is generally well presented and easy to understand. It is lightly illustrated, mostly with rights free artwork.

In comparison to most scenarios for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, the setting for 
For the Sound of His Horn is not so much fantasy as one of late Georgian or Victorian England. This means plenty of source material to draw from in presenting the scenario—especially if the Dungeon Master wants images to illustrate the scenario’s NPCs. It also means that the scenario would be easy to adapt—at least in terms of its plot—to other roleplaying games and their settings, whether that is Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition, Cthulhu by Gaslight, Victoriana, Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space – The Roleplaying Game, and so on. Overall, For the Sound of His Horn is a highly enjoyable horror scenario, emphasising interaction and investigation in serving up a punch cup, a fruity slice of hand cake, and a rich melodrama!

No comments:

Post a Comment