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Saturday 17 June 2023

The Other OSR: Tyrannosaur Inside

Scenarios set on or within the bodies of enormous creatures are not new. For example, Genial Jack, is set entirely within the body of a blue whale and On the Shoulders of Giants is set not on the body of a single god, but the bodies of twelve gods. However, Tyrannosaur Inside – A T-Rex Crawl Adventure is very probably the first scenario to be set inside the body of the most notorious dinosaur of all time—the tyrannosaurus rex. Which is both bonkers and fun, but also, a bit “Tell me again, how I use this?”. Published by Beyond Cataclysm Books following a successful Kickstarter campaign, the scenario is designed to be played using with Mörk Borg, the Swedish pre-apocalypse Old School Renaissance retroclone designed by Ockult Örtmästare Games and Stockholm Kartell and published by Free League Publishing. (In addition, it should be noted that a version is also available for use with Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition.) It is not specifically set in the same doomed land as Mörk Borg, in fact, it is probably too over the top, if not a little silly, yet if the Game Master wants to set it in the same world, there is nothing to stop her. At best, and because it does involve a fifteen-thousand-pound meat-eating theropod, Tyrannosaur Inside – A T-Rex Crawl Adventure, works as a one-shot. This does not mean Tyrannosaur Inside – A T-Rex Crawl Adventure cannot be dropped into a campaign. It has the same effect as dropping a tyrannosaurus rex onto a village, which is exactly how the scenario starts.

Tyrannosaur Inside – A T-Rex Crawl Adventure begins in small village whose inhabitants have been scared out of their wits after a dinosaur out of the cretaceous period has appeared their midst. Of course, the Player Characters are tasked with dealing with because they are not the ones running away. The first two questions they have to answer are, how much they know about tyrannosaurus rex and how are they going to get into inside to take it down. The answer to the first question, is not very much, no more than their players do, unless one of the players happens to be a palaeontologist, in which that player is going to be very, very, and the author means, very surprised. Otherwise, the nearest town’s leper can tell you that the tyrannosaurus rex is renowned for having an ‘out’ door (underneath the tail) which can be used as a means of access if you are brave and bring lots of hand sanitiser and for having a helter-skelter which spirals down its spine… The answer is either to use the ‘in’ door, the ‘out’ door, or drill their way in via a toenail… In addition, Tyrannosaur Inside – A T-Rex Crawl Adventure does include extra answers to the earlier question, “Tell me again, how I use this?”. ‘d10 Things To Do With a T-Rex In A Fantasy Kingdom’ provides exactly ten answers by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, the best of which includes using it as the hiding place for a lich’s soul jar, grabbing it as a wizard’s tower after casting Flesh to Stone, and never, ever giving a Ring of Wishes to a six-year-old (which reads ever so slightly, as if Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan has actually done this…)

So the first really big surprise about the tyrannosaurus rex is that it not actually a tyrannosaurus rex. Well, it is, but just not the traditional sense. It is in fact, a tyrannosaurus rex operated by comparatively tiny—and that we mean, man-sized—tyrannosaurus rexes, some of whom are actually really bored of being the crew of a tyrannosaurus rex, some of which really hate their tyrannosaurus rex being boarded. Especially by the mostly hairless ape-like descendants of tree rats. So essentially, the tyrannosaurus rex is a giant t-rex-shaped mecha, but with teeth and really good skin. In game terms,
Tyrannosaur Inside – A T-Rex Crawl Adventure is a hexcrawl adventure up the length of a tyrannosaurus rex, with each of the creature’s limbs, tail, abdomen, thorax, and head making up one hex. Some of the locations are quite expansive, such as the thorax with its maze of intestinal pumps, whilst others, like the Piddly Left Arm and the Piddly Right Arm, are narrow and constrained. There are some entertaining encounters throughout, such as the Dinogängers, which appear and attempt to replace the Player Characters, a lecture on dental hygiene by a T-Rentist, and a very cosy stop-off with the Old-Rexes!

As to getting around the insides the non-tyrannosaurus rex, it is relatively easy, even it is technically a tight squeeze, since this being a relatively modern tyrannosaurus rex, it is wheelchair accessible with signage in braille, the language of the user’s choice, and so on.

For the Game Master, there is mixture of tips and playtest notes—which mostly point out how silly the adventure is—and a table of motivations for the tyrannosaurus rex actually in charge, written by Grant Howitt. Dave Emerson contributes ‘d6 Reasons You Are Scared Of Dinosaurs’ which does not quite work with the medieval style settings of the roleplaying games that
Tyrannosaur Inside – A T-Rex Crawl Adventure is actually written for.

Tyrannosaur Inside – A T-Rex Crawl Adventure is very well laid out and a lot of thought has gone into how the whole thing is organised. The various locations are always marked with a mini-version of the tyrannosaurus rex map with the right hex highlighted in red. Directions to nearby locations are marked with big teeth, very big teeth…

Tyrannosaur Inside – A T-Rex Crawl Adventure is dinosaurously ridiculous, but for that one instance where the Game Master wants to run a t-rex incursion recursion, Tyrannosaur Inside – A T-Rex Crawl Adventure is exactly what she wants.

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