Friday, November 27, 2015

Review & Commentary On The Free OSR Adventure Resource - OB3 The Legend of the White Snake Adventure For Advanced Dungeons and Dragons First Edition or Your Old School Campaigns

I'm familiar with the Oliver Brothers OSR work and some of their material from around the web, they've been mentioned on Dragon's Foot and in a few places in old school circles. They're on my 'ones to watch' list of writers and designers for OSR materials. A bit of prefacing for this adventure I've been on the look out for several adventures that I can adapt and twist into Nineteen twenties and thirties style pulp adventures using an AD&D style system. With this in mind this bad boy clocks in at a great forty two pages of oriental adventure set in the ancient China of the mythological past. This adventure is for PC's levels six to eight and they do mean this. There are several key points in this module where players are going to have to do some very high end investigation work and figuring out of clue and tricks, what's going on with the legends, mythology, and more of the island.
The blurb from Dragon's foot reads something like this;

Rumors abound about the mysterious island that appears in the lake. Rumors about fabulous hidden treasure and deadly mist dragons. An adventure for character levels 6-8

This adventure follows the legends and mythologies of the White Snake but done in such a way as to accent the AD&D properties of that legend which has now become an adventure location of some pretty damn challenging obstacles. The brothers put their own spins on many of the traditional Chinese mythological elements and this module is also a bit of advertisement for their own campaign setting called Cannon fire. Since I've never played nor even seen Cannon fire I can only judge the module based upon its own merits.
The Oliver brothers apparently visited the Hangzhou, China province back in 2009 and really grew to love the legends of the White Snake. The basic legend according to Wiki; goes something like this:
"Lü Dongbin, one of the Eight Immortals, disguises himself as a man selling tangyuan at the Broken Bridge (斷橋) near the West Lake in Hangzhou. A boy called Xu Xian (simplified Chinese: 许仙; traditional Chinese: 許仙; pinyin: Xǔ Xiān; Jyutping: Heoi2 Sin1) buys some tangyuan from Lü Dongbin without knowing that they are actually immortality pills. He does not feel hungry for the next three days after eating them, so he goes back to ask why. Lü Dongbin laughs and carries Xu Xian to the bridge, where he flips him upside-down and causes him to vomit the tangyuan into the lake.
In the lake, there is a white snake spirit who has been practising Taoist magical arts in the hope of becoming an immortal after centuries of training and cultivation. She eats the pills and gains 500 years' worth of magical powers. She therefore feels grateful to Xu Xian and their fates become intertwined. There is another terrapin (or tortoise) spirit also training in the lake who did not manage to consume any of the pills; he is very jealous of the white snake. One day, the white snake sees a beggar on the bridge who has caught a green snake and wants to dig out the snake's gall and sell it. The white snake transforms into a woman and buys the green snake from the beggar, thus saving the green snake's life. The green snake is grateful to the white snake and she regards the white snake as an elder sister."  You can read more about it right HERE
 This module draws very heavily from the original Advanced Dungeons And Dragons book Oriental Adventures
I did a cross comparison with my copy of Oriental adventures first edition and it does work very well for that campaign style and the elements fit quite well, but this would not be my first choice to run this adventure. I'll explain why but first let me go over the some of the elements of OB3 The Legend of the White Snake Adventure that I like.
On the plus side this adventure has some really well done NPCs, interesting locations, really need adventure set pieces for full scale investigation by the PC's, nasty hazards, and well done interludes. The brothers weave the action in and out of the legend with a flare for the dramatic incorporating the elements of AD&D in clever and more then slightly interesting ways. There's some wonky with the text and layout of the pdf, the lettering isn't quite right in place and there's a slight bit of run off. Now rather then completely give way what's going on in this adventure I'm going to run off again and talk about running this with other retroclone systems. Because of the slightly higher then normal level for OB3 The Legend of the White Snake Adventure

The first thing that springs to mind is Mad Monks of Kwantoom by Kabuki Kaiser  which OB3 fits right into rather nicely. The design elements, legendary story and high legendary weirdness fit right into the backdrop especially when coupled with the Labyrinth Lord system and the advanced companion.  Because of the very nature of this adventure it can be dropped into any existing campaign in which the adventurers are traveling in an Orientalist setting. There's a very dangerous and dark fairytale like atmosphere that could work well with an advanced party of Lamentations of the Flame Princess group of adventurers who become ship wrecked upon the isle and its environs. I would use the island and its environs as an isolated other worldly adventure location and use some of the conversion materials that are in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee's Guide.

Other suggestions for running this adventure also come in the form of Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, or OSRIC. Personally, I'd use this adventure with AS&SH as a sort of Old Earth Chinese version of  an adventure setting that has drifted on the dimensional winds into the environs of Hyperborea. The PC's are definitely going to have to be advanced and of level enough to play ball with some of the adventure elements of OB3 The Legend of the White Snake. With a bit of heavy modification this adventure would suit the game quite nicely I think as a off beat but highly dangerous adventure.

All in all I do think that OB3 The Legend of the White Snake is well worth the download and is very well done for a high dangerous, weirdly mythological and weird Chinese legendary adventure with high level of play ability and old school gaming utility.

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