Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Strange Allies Universal Fantasy Adventure from Eldritch Enterprises Review


Product Name: Strange Allies
Publisher: Eldritch Enterprises
Author: Christopher Clark
System: Universal
Theme: Universal  Fantasy
Type: Adventure
Release: PDF

Plot And Tag line From Back of  Module: 
A forlorn wagon lies abandoned at the side of the road. Curious, you decide to investigate. Suddenly goblin arrows fill the sky, and a burning sensation assaults your forehead. Goblins within the trees shout spiteful imprecations and it is all over almost as quickly as it began…except that your fellow adventurers have rags over their noses, and everyone seems to be moving away from you. The reason for this behavior becomes abundantly clear when one of them shouts at you.

Christopher Clark is a veteran of the old school rpg industry and this is one of his latest efforts under the wing of Eldritch Enterprises. This latest adventure is interesting for number of reasons. The first of which is that this is the follow up to Forrest of Deceit. Second is that this module is unapolgetically old school in its encounters, monsters, foes, NPCs, and open end design. 
This module recalls a design tactic that I have seen in old Judge's Guild modules. The idea that a setting can be limited to certain sized number of hexes and still contain a boatload of encounters. The idea is not only set down within this adventure but expanded upon. There is an entire ecological vibe similar to A New England Wilderness or  the Canadian  countryside within this adventure. 
If your a fan of humanoids such as the fore mentioned goblins then this is a great adventure for you. The encounters are solidly balanced and the story line can easily be blended into the background of your home campaign world. The module could easily be played as a continuation of Forrest of Deceit. The interesting idea here being that these two adventures together could form the basis of a small scale campaign. 

 The feel of the adventure is pure pulp fantasy adventure. There's very little in the way of it feels like the standard fantasy convention and instead creates a feeling of it's own style of adventure and flavor. 
The adventure clocks in at fifty two pages and has a bunch of new monsters, treasures, woodland and wilderness encounters, and a feeling of small scale but big adventure. 
Using Strange Allies For Your OSR gaming 

 Believe it or not there are three ways of using Strange Allies. The first is the traditional OD&D style of game and simply running the fifty two page module out of the box. The plot will hum along and provide a mid level game with some actual challenges as well as plot twists. New Races make an appearance as well as some new material.
The second way of running this is as a bridge gap or cross over module for a science fantasy game. Here the encounters are taking place on an alien world with some of the monsters, races, etc. all standing in for the tradition fantasy tropes. The nature of the module being as generic as it is this actually isn't a problem. The scale of the module makes a "landing party" or away team style of play quite the snap. The fantasy elements will throw your traditional science fantasy gamer for a loop! As you present them with a down and gritty action adventure as opposed to the traditional science fantasy planetary adventure. The results could be quite amusing. 
The final permutation of this module would be to use it as a basis for a post apocalyptic gaming experience. Here the party wanders into the environs of the adventure and subject to the limited scale of the adventure. This enables a much more intimate style of play. Here its the player vs. not only the adversaries of the adventure but the environment itself.
There are a number of small scale NPC's that are introduced and allow the DM to coolly hook the players into a number of compromising situations all within the confines of a manageable campaign where space isn't wasted. 
Bottom line 
Strange Allies is a great tool box and adventure for a DM looking for a middle of the road adventure for his party. The module isn't perfect by any means. It lags in some of the movement of the plot however that is easily solvable by moving certain adventure elements around. The adventure sells for $7.00 for a fifty two page module.
I might wait until it was on sale. The adventure is very perfect for a DM looking to cut his party in a New England/ New World environment. The adventure would be a perfect fit for Labyrinth Lord, as well as Lamentations of The Flame Princess or Swords and Wizardry. One thing is that Eldritch provides a number of places for support of the customer. The maps are built to scale and are easily used for a number of encounters and the locations are places that the PC's will come back to again and again. Personally I enjoyed every single moment of this adventure and I'm playing on running this soon.
Three and one half stars. Combined with Forrest of Deceit this is the makings of a mini campaign with no hassle and fuss.
 Support for the module : 
DriveThruRPG: Strange Allies

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 Ten Reasons To Use Strange Allies 
  1. The twists and turns of this module make it a fun read and I'm sure as a fun play. 
  2. Forrest of Deceit - Is the perfect introduction to the world of Chris Clark 
  3. The maps actually make sense, the monsters are balanced, & there's a dark underbelly to this adventure. 
  4. There actually story seeds that make using this module easily and a continuation quick. 
  5. The NPC's are just fleshed out enough that a DM could simply use these pre generationed characters as jump off points or as patrons for his party. 
  6. There aren't a lot of players aware of this adventure and snagging it as part of something to plunder isn't a bad thing. The module is made as part of a greater tool kit. 
  7. The new PC races are worth the ticket alone and that these can be used with any number of games and there might even be enough to use these as the basis for a PC or two. 
  8. The goblins are nasty and very, very dangerous. 
  9. The adventure is apologetically old school and there are a number of ideas here that can be used in other games or even the entire location transported into a already existing game.  
  10.  This is an example of what can be done with a small hex space and the locals who are more then merely NPC stats on a page. This adventure can provide hours and hours of fun if the DM is wiling to provide the players with the right opportunities. 

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