Guest Writer: Christopher Bishop
The OSR movement has given many things back to me. It has reopened my eyes to the fact that sometimes simple is better. Prior to going back to my roots I almost lost my connection with my hobby as it began to feel more and more like Accounting and Dragons and less like the grand ole game I cut my teeth on. However, two years ago I discovered a few blogs regarding 1st edition play revived, and it opened my eyes to a community I had largely thought vanished. Long story short, it also introduced me to the Renaissance, and a small Kickstarter started by a company known as Mischief Inc, which would later be renamed Fire Born Games. I downloaded Rakoss the Undying, a PDF at the time on their site and was pleasantly surprised by the production values, artwork, and flavor of the 16-page wonder. I Kickstarted A1 A Forgotten Evil without hesitation and the rest, as they say, is history.
Before delving into the module review, let me just say, Fire Born Games ran in my humble opinion the perfect Kickstarter. It followed along perfect to the timetable given and shipped out flawlessly. My only hope is that it was equally successful on the part of the developers.
First off this module is so rich in nostalgic value it is intoxicating. Flipping through it is like walking through a time capsule, except for the fact that Mr. Karaczun has an excellent writing style somewhat easier on the reader then High Gygaxian. Within the first few pages, we are given a brief history of the region as well as the setting as a whole that the author has so richly crafted. This module is linked to future products, which gives me great hope for the companies future, as they already have a plan. It is obvious that while this module is easily its own small self-contained sandbox (think B2 Keep on the Borderlands), there is a bigger world and future adventures to be had.
The author gently leads the Dungeon Master through plot hooks in the region, the initial how do I hook them lead in as well as tons of semi-planned but flexible wilderness encounters. The thing I feel anyone should know about this product is, if you are looking for a great way for a neonate DM to learn how to run an OSR/1st Edtion adventure, this module is the perfect step by step holds your hand affair. I showed it to my daughter whom is 11, and just starting to want to dungeon master her own games (I bought her the BECMI books for Christmas) and without letting her spoil all the goodies, it took her no time at all to figure out the plot line and what she wanted to do it. In fact, though I am loathe to admit it, she understood and followed this module better than she did her B2 copy I picked her up. To me, that speaks volumes of the author’s style.
The Dungeon itself, which of course is the meat of any module is a well done if simple affair that once again just makes sense in layout and design. I am planning to run this module with Swords and Wizardry toolset in the next month, and frankly its the first time I have had to do little to no editing. I actually thoroughly enjoyed the adventure as it was laid out. I think one excellent thing this module captures is the old school sandbox “here is your list of monsters, some are MEGA tough, but here is a way to organically let your players encounter them and decide for themselves if they feel safe trying to fight them. That also hearkens back to the days of yore gaming, where often times you would find a few encounters that were borderline suicidal unless approached correctly. Which fits in perfectly with freedom of choice that a sandbox module is supposed to offer.
One additional thing this module brings to the table is the idea of magical weapons, no matter how low end, possessing stories of their own. The module includes a lot of named items, that have little stories related as to how they got their name or perhaps covering their previous owner’s deeds. It means a lot more if that Buckler you find with the interesting face carved upon it has some story driven historic link to another character or hero of lore in the game setting.
In Summary, A1: A Forgotten Evil has to be the best module I have read in the last few years. I am excited to run it, but I am also excited to play in it and let my fledgling dungeon master in the household cut her teeth on it. When something can cater to both the old and new gamer equally well, it is hard not to view it as genius.
Appearance: The artwork is evocative of the time period from which this module is emulating.
Layout: The layout is flawless two column, and the font also hearkens back to the AD&D roots that inspired it.
Price Point: Currently you can purchase this in PDF format at DrivethruRPG or the Opengamestore for the reasonable price of $9.99. You can also pick it up at the author’s store site Fire Born Games. The Website also has a few tidbits on the world setting that A1 is set in under the blogs tab, and while a little light, it does appear they update it fairly frequently with new information over time. I am patiently waiting for the next Kickstarter or offer from Fire Born Games. This is an OSR company to watch!
Keep Rolling them Bones