Sunday, April 12, 2015

Journey to the Rock: Homeguard Campaign

As a classic TSR era module, I've never been particularly impressed with the adventure B8 Journey to the Rock.  Oh sure, it had some sweet Larry Elmore cover art, but the hook and back story are long, clunky and frankly have no real impact on actual play.  The scenario reads like a railroad / tournament module, leaving the (arbitrary) options presented to players feeling a bit like a dressed up Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Gus, at Dungeon of Signs, wrote a really thorough review of the module for those who might be interested.

The boys at Something Awful also do a nice send up / walk through of B8 in their own unique style.

The setting is jumbled too: a desert right beside an elf-patrolled forest; a raging river (flowing through the desert) and a giant metallic city that nobody ever dares to visit.

Taken together, these weird elements had almost the feel of the bizarre setting from the 1980s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon ... not a bad thing in and of itself ... just strange, specific, and pretty darned difficult to fit into an existing campaign.

Floaty rocks anyone?
The real beauty of this module didn't really occur to me until I actually started running the scenario.

The single paragraph vignettes for the "optional encounters" really turned out to be gems that I found myself riffing off of effortlessly -- a fighter-turned hermit driven mad by an encounter with a vampire; an abandoned goblin camp; a crossbow-equipped dwarven patrol out hunting for the goblins; an ogre who wears stag antlers on his head -- each of the encounters is mechanically simple and stays within the rules structure of the old basic set, but has small creative embellishments that make it memorable.

So as my players smashed through a flock of harpies and showed ruthless professionalism as they hit an ogre at maximum range with a Sleep spell (when it failed to succumb, a Light spell to the eyes blinded the vicious oaf and they wasted little time falling back and peppering it with arrows until it dropped), I reflected that a really sweet product would be a dozen pages of these short, distinctive, vignette encounters along with some artwork or pullout maps and clues to share with the players.

Has anyone seen a product along these lines?
What type of writing do you find it the easiest to riff off of when running games?