After my last lengthy posts, I want to do a short one for a change. This is not really a review, just some commentary.
A while ago Erik Jensen asked for reviews and I foolheartedly promised one. So today let's talk about the module with the long name Double Feature Charity Module: Erik Jensen's Bonespur Glacier and Jason Paul McCartan's The Tomb of Bashyr.
I'm no old school Grognard (what's the female version anyway?) so I'm looking at this from the perspective of someone who has come to the OSR in the 2010's. Thus, I can't compare the product with original (1st edition) D&D adventures as I've never played them.
This post will contain spoilers! I haven't played the modules, these are my impressions from reading.
To commemorate the birthday of Gary Gygax, Christopher “The Secret DM” Mennell ran a contest on his blog in 2012 soliciting submissions of short adventure sites with a “first edition feel”. The two winning entries by Erik Jensen and Jason Paul McCartan are collected in this publication and brought further to life through the artistic talents of Khairul Hisham, Glynn Seal, and Jason Sholtis. The awesome cover art was created by Christopher Malidore. Layout was originally developed by Jez Gordon and completed by Jason Paul McCartan.
The modules are written for OSRIC but can of course be used with other old-school D&D games.
Erik Jensen's Bonespur Glacier
This one is all about a Nordic vibe with polar bears, a crystal dragon, and a lost princess who is frozen in ice.
It's presented matter-of-factly. There are points of interests, factions and things to do, but there is no overarching theme. Thus, it feels a bit disjointed to me. Also, the factions are all isolated and there is no conflict between them, so there isn't the immediate benefit of trying to play them against each other or finding allies against other factions.
However, there are many interesting ideas here. Outside of the glacier you can find the camp of the Val-Kar (polar bears FTW!).
Inside you will find the criminal Rime-Singers which are led by a female werefox. She seeks an ancient magic device.
The next point of interest is the lost princess, now a ghost that haunts the caverns. She was locked away and guarded, it is unknown why.
The players can also encounter Gallia, a crystal dragon who has dug her lair into one part of the glacier. I like how the author doesn't automatically assume that she has to be a foe and players can barter with her.
There are also some funny bits. I like that one random encounter can be a white pudding which masquerades as snow or that there may be ice-pirates.
All in all, a lot of intriguing ideas, a nice map by MonkeyBloodDesign and great illustrations by Kairul Hisham to convey the icy motif but it could be a bit more coherent. But perhaps this kind of presentation is typical for 1e?
Jason Paul McCartan's The Tomb of Bashyr
This is more of a classic/standard dungeon crawl, complete with Goblins. The map is very linear.
The tomb is only detailed in the first level. If your players descend to the 2nd floor the Game Master will need to come up with her own design or find another module to add.
The nice thing about this is that this is easy to plug into an ongoing fantasy world/campaign as it's so full of typical tropes.
Generally, this is a deadly crawl with lots of traps and secret doors. I like that the author included some puzzles into the dungeon.
Altogether, I found the theme a bit bland as it's so standard (a tomb, Goblins, traps) and the maps are too linear to be inspiring, but the deadliness of the traps and the puzzles can sure be fun (at least for the Game Master).
Again, wonderful illustrations, this time by Jason Sholtis.
Look and Feel
A very professional product with great illustrations and a nice cover image. The cartography by Glynn Seal looks very sweet. The layout is clear and makes good use of boxed text, headers, font style and is set off with red as contrast. This is very well done.
You can't beat the price for free (with a tip jar) and furthermore the project was done for a good cause. I can't say if the adventures meet the criterion of "first edition feel" lacking experience in this regard but they certainly feel old-school to me. Both modules are written in a clear-cut style. I didn't feel like crucial information was hidden away. The first one feels a bit more unique to me. The second one is very deadly.
Please give the product a try and maybe donate some money.