Friday, December 25, 2015

Retro Review Of The Compleat Adventurer By Stephan Michael Sechi For Your Old School Campaigns

This is a very personal product for me because of Bard Games connection to War & Pieces in West Hartford Connecticut. Basically in Connecticut way back in the Seventies there were a few options on the table. In 1977 or '79 I took my first trip into War and Pieces in West Hartford with my uncle Bob. I got to meet the guys down there including Rich Petro and the guys down there it was not going to me my last dealings with them. In those days my dad would take me into New York City to play wargames with the SPI crowd and fix sewing machines on the side in the garment district. It was a different time then really and OD&D was already in my blood stream. So  what does this have to do with the Compleat Adventurer?

Everything and nothing in equal measure in the world of gaming. Flash forward to '83 and the shelves were chock full of AD&D 1st edition books and this wonderful lady was luring me into book stores and all sorts of seedy places where others of my kind hung out. You know those kids who would later become film makers, engineers, musicians, writers and worst of all game designers. There was a small problem with Advanced Dragons & Dragons at the time, among the players there has always been a demand for more player character types. So in 1982 according to Wiki; Stephan Michael Sechi, Steven Cordovano and Venie Taylor each put in $600 and formed the company Bard Games to produce their own Dungeons & Dragons supplements. They found moderate success with the Complet Alchemist which offered many different options for the Alchemist from ingredients to fully fleshed out magic item production PC class. Heady stuff for a young kid to get his mitts on. The Compleat Spell Caster was even more intrenched in the weird occult and mythological background. 

Add in a touch of Bloody, Bloody Arduin and you've got the makings of a whole other way of looking at Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Much of the complete series would go on to another incarnation in the form of the Atlantis Trilogy.  These would later form the basis of a completely alternative system of  OD&D and AD&D in Connecticut and at my table  which I referred collectively over the years as Hartford Beta Max Black Edition. This brings me back to The Complet Adventurer a collection of alternative adventurer's classes and Amazon's breakdown of the book is pretty spot on; "THE COMPLEAT ADVENTURER is BARD GAMES' third Fantasy Role Playing Supplement, and covers in detail a host of new character classes that may be added to your favorite F.R.P. game system. As a logical successor to THE COMPLEAT ALCHEMIST and THE COMPLEAT SPELLCASTER, this supplement is intended to expand the options of experienced players and Game Judges.

For the role-player in particular, THE COMPLEAT ADVENTURER offers a variety of colorful and viable types from which to chose. Several of the characters were invested with verbal talents which may be used to great advantage by the clever role-player. To add variety, certain character classes were designed so that the player could choose between several abilities, thus creating a more "personalized" type of character. Others were given abilities of a highly specialized nature, in the hope that players would more easily be able to relate to (and role-play) them.

For the Game Judge, THE COMPLEAT ADVENTURER should do much to add to his or her repertoire of N.P.C. villains, heroes and anti--heroes, while hope fully stimulating a few new scenario ideas. The many new character classes should also add variety to city, village, and wilderness encounters, and make the Game Judge's job a bit more interesting.

The character types available are: Beastmaster, Buccaneer, Gladiator, Harlequin, Hunter, Scout, Bounty Hunter, Witch Hunter, Knight, Martial Artist, Rogue, Spy, Swordsman, Warrior"

Now I want you to notice something the break down says Judges as in Judge's Guild products there are reasons for this in the Compleat series of products. In Connecticut there was quite a bit of market penetration locally of Judge's Guild product lines.  The Bard's game materials offered complete PC's packages that could be customized on a one on one basis for players while offering  truly alternative selection of classes including the coveted Beast Master class'. This material helped to fill in a gap point between the AD&D Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide while enhancing the Judge's Guild adventures by offering new options for the Dungeon Master's NPC's. Bard Products cut both ways you see by giving choices across the board.
This book comes with everything you need to back draft these classes right into your home campaign right out of the gate and this comes from a time when things weren't quite so cookie cutter and corporately snug in back beat of the AD&D game of second edition. This was the heyday of DYI experimentation, and this book included material to make it your own including in house experience tables, PC's abilities according to class and more all of this is under the umbrella of forty eight pages.

Stephan Michael Sechi and the Bard games crew included everything that the player actually needs straight from the time you open the book to the time you flesh out your PC and they include an array of these adventurer scum. Suddenly you could play a Beastmaster, Buccaneer, Gladiator, Harlequin, Hunter, Scout, Bounty Hunter, Witch Hunter, Knight, Martial Artist, Rogue, Spy, Swordsman, Warrior"
The Beast master was an interesting inclusion in the fact that it actually offered everything that the character of Dar could do and a bit more.

At the time I was with an old crew of players here in the Northwest Corner of Ct, they had been playing D&D for quite some time and were experienced at adapting gaming materials to a wide variety of venues. The Beast master class was retro fitted into a science fantasy setting by using the The Compleat Adventurer.  The book might take a bit more work to fit some of these classes into a B/X or Lamentations of the Flame Princess style game but the Witch hunter and several other classes would fit right into a pseudo or alternative world history setting. There would be a good deal of shoe horning going on to get these to work but these classes might well worth the effort involved.

There was something about using the book that was somehow freeing from the constrains of the AD&D's Dragon magazine paradigm. Suddenly the possibilities for more science fantasy based adventures made more sense to me. Add in classes like the bounty hunter and the nastiness of the Harlequin as an alternative to the Bard and things got very interesting indeed. Those crossover tables from the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide for Gamma World and Boot Hill suddenly made complete sense. The witch hunter is a complete bastard class though and has been one of the main NPC classes for vile villains over the years use this one very carefully, a small subtle hint they can also be used to hunt mutants and heretics as well.


Not everything is perfect in the Compleat Adventurer by any means but it presents another echo of options and a complete tool box to play with at the table. This was in the days from when The Dragon was gospel among certain cliches of players in my home town and I had seen the wider world and experienced Arduin in New York State but that's another story. My father's friend from the U.K. had drilled certain D&D and war gaming principles into my head including to think and try things for yourself and this is one of the lessons that the Compleat Adventurer brings home. Try and play with your games as you see fit. Several of the characters were invested with verbal talents which may be used to great advantage by the clever role-player the rules and guidelines of the Compleat Adventurer encourage just this sort of behavior and you'll get far more out of this book if your players come along for the ride with this book.

For me the Compleat Adventurer by Stephan Michael Sechi represents an artifact from another time period that can still be learned from. This isn't a collector's item to me, its a gamer's book to be used at the table. There are gamers and collectors in this world, the gamers take a book and use it in play.  The Compleat Adventurer by Stephan Michael Sechi is a book meant to be used. As an OSR book Compleat Adventurer still has a lot to offer in my humble opinion.

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