Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review & Commentary On The 'Free' Beta OSR Adventure Resource - PA1 Vault of the Faceless Giants From New Big Dragon Games Unlimited For Your Old School Retroclones

PA1 Vault of the Faceless Giants From New Big Dragon Games Unlimited is a 'free' beta adventure from New Big Dragon Games Unlimited.This is a sixteen page 'free' beta adventure that highlight's the strengths of the PX1 Basic Psionics Handbook. So a day or so ago author/designer Richard J. LeBlanc, Jr.offered this beta adventure for 'free' on his blog website with the following stipulation. PLEASE NOTE: This adventure is being released for free in its current beta form. Once the final art and adventure material have been added, it will then go to its regular price. Those who download it for free as part of this beta release will get the final updated version for free as well, even after it goes to its regular price! 

The adventure's set up pays tribute to a classic pseudo historical mythology from India or some other far away land. The plot reads like something from a classic Rudyard Kipling;

"The tiny jungle village of Phoumi Sramol has fallen victim, they believe, to the evil hand of the demon lord Rahb. 
Many generations ago, a temple set in the side of a cliff a few miles northwest of the village acted as the center of worship for evil adherents of Rahb. Livestock would die, villagers would be kidnapped, plagues would befall the area. It was believed this was all done in service of bringing Rahb into the physical world (the Material Plane) from his Abyssal home (an island fortress known as Lanku).
Suddenly, however, all of the evil and suspicious activity around the temple stopped. 
Legend holds that it was the great adventurer Somnang whose hand stopped the evil, but no one is really sure.
Now, generations later, an occurance in the village has the locals questioning whether or not the evil is returning. 
A local woman named Kanya claims her baby was snatched from her hands in the middle of the night by followers of Rahb, dressed in loin cloths, their faces painted to resemble the many-faced demon. 
Many of the villagers deny the temple’s relationship to the missing child. Maybe they are naive; maybe they are just fearful of the truth. Regardless, they suggest instead the woman “lost” the baby in the jungle and a tiger ate it; they purport she is simply unwilling to admit her absentmindedness (something for which she is well known by the locals).
If the woman is telling the truth, however, then there is much to be feared, and the story bears investigating—not just for the sake of the woman and the community, but for the sake of a world where this kind of evil can exist."
The maps of the Vaults of the Faceless Giant are very well done, many of the ideas and encounters highlight the strengths of the sixteen page adventure; their well done and blend into each other quite nicely. But this adventure also takes advantage of another free download outlined right here;
This module includes several encounters that use mechanics and
content from Old School Adventures™ Accessory PX1: Basic Psionics Handbook. Additionally, many of the encounters will be made more enjoyable by having a character of the mystic class in the party. If you do not plan to use the material from the Basic Psionics Handbook, some of the encounters
may require modifications in order to facilitate playability. This adventure references the planar cosmology (specifically, the Astral and Ethereal Planes, and the lower plane of the Abyss). It is suggested that DMs have a cursory familiarity with these concepts. A PDF of Old School Adventures™ Accessory
PX2 Extra: Planar Primer is available for free through One- Bookshelf (i.e., RPGNow and DriveThruRPG).
Everything is laid right at the feet of the dungeon master to run this adventure the village is clearly outlined and defined within the perimeters of the adventure. The details are just enough to wet the appetites of the players and the PC's are given enough details of the place to make everything clear and concise including the goals of this adventure. For example here we've got a thumbnail description of the village featured in the Vault of the Faceless Giants.
"Phoumi Sramol (the name means “village of shadows”) is a tiny  fishing village—a collection of about two dozen simple straw shacks built atop posts, set along the edge of the Karkeng river.
The fifty or so people residing there live a simple life, relying  mainly on the fish in the river for their protein source, and gathering fruits and nuts from the nearby Sramol Jungle"
We get lots of local color and rumors that flesh out details of the adventure. Random encounters help to round out the upper half of the jungle part of the adventure from morning till night. This helps to build the ideas within the game adventure. This is a dangerous and wild place just on the edge of civilization. We then switch to the main action of the adventure the temple and its environs. There's a ton of flavors and ideas in the PA1 Vault of the Faceless Giants and there are more then a few instances that take and use the psionic system of the PX1 Basic Psionic Handbook during some of the encounters.  But there is more to this adventure then simply another adventure as advertisement for another book.
The balance here is between game elements, adventure encounters, and monsters, the cult of the temple is pretty well fleshed out and this is a great adventure to run with OD&D and any of its retroclones. After really going over the adventure &  though the adventure locations and encounters this adventure has been created to take full advantage of the
PX1 Basic Psionics Handbook. Another 'free' resource that will come in very hand during several key points in this adventure is the free planar resource PX2 Extra: Planar Primer.
This is a solidly done adventure with lots of possibilities for a campaign touch stone and jump off point. New Big Dragon Games Unlimited continues to impress me with its products, this could be used with Labyrinth Lord, OD&D, and Basic Edition with lots of room for expansion. With a little work this adventure could provide a template for an entire campaign world. The function and focus of the adventure  is top notch and very well done.

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