Saturday, January 9, 2016

I8 The Ravager of Time Adventure By Graeme Morris and Jim Bambra For Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Editions And Your Old School Campaigns

This is a dark and gritty UK adventure set against the stinking fens and bogs of Ffenargh. A setting right out of the imagination of Robert Howard's Solomon Kane adventures. The grittiness of this adventure rings right straight through even as it uses monsters straight out of the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II. This is an adventure that I've seen used with  the Rune Quest Third edition, the Warhammer Fantasy rpg  and ported over to The  Palladium Fantasy Rpg  as well as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons first edition. Well see why in a moment.
"So this is the Ffenargh? Mile after mile of stinking bogs overlain by a swirling mist that clings to the skin and chills to the bone. Ahead, a decrepit causeway rises scant inches above the fetid waters and meanders its way through the twisted forms of stunted trees into the depths of this forsaken land.

For years, these blighted fens have been ignored by the outside world, but now an urgent summons brings you into the Ffenargh, to the Court of the Lords Spiritual at Eylea. A foul murder has been committed. Geoffrey D'Arcy, Lord of Myrkfast, has been slain by his own son and you are called upon to find out why.

Death has always hung heavy over this mire, but now an ancient evil has returned to haunt the mist - an evil whose icy fingers reach out to crush any who dare delve its secrets. You, who have faced death a thousand times, meet it now in its most terrible guise. Can you defeat it, or will you fall victim to the Ravager of Time? "

An adventure for 6-10 characters of levels 8th to 10th.
There's always been something different about the UK TSR's efforts and this one is no different, I've seen this module described as the bastard child of  Shakespeare meets sword & sorcery with an English twist. Wiki actually sums up the British sense of this module quite nicely;"The adventure is a TSR UK branch production and features non-player character types, expository style, atmosphere, and situations that are notably different from many of the game modules created in the US."
This module is full of casts of characters with back story, twisted motives, and monsters lots of em and pay close attention to those PC levels because they mean it. There something really twisted about this module, maybe its the monsters or the main villain or the fact that it can be ported right into a few of the other swamp based modules that I've talked about. The adventure is clever and doesn't talk down to its audience at all, in point of fact it takes the dungeon master and expects them to take the PC's and throw them into the dark alleys of old age.
Here's the break down according to Wiki;"Ravager of Time is set in the Ffenarch. The Ffenarch is a dismal, boggy environment with only some small areas of firm ground. The player characters are hired to search the fens for a lord's son who killed his father. While searching, the characters become entangled in an evil plot that is tainting Eylea."
I8 takes your PC's by the short hairs and knows that your outlaws and adventurers. You're expected to have your characters use commonsense and there huge swaths of this adventure that are complete railroads but that's because this was a convention set up back in Eighty Six. Again this is a part of the TSR UK formula from the D&D Classics website;" Like most of the TSR UK adventures, this one is plot heavy, featuring numerous NPCs; a jury trial; and a life-draining sorceress, the eponymous "Ravager of Time." All of the adventuring occurs in towns or wilderness, without a dungeon to be found. This would all be much more typical of the TSR adventures of the 90s, but in the 80s it was almost exclusively the domain of TSR UK and (to a lesser extent) Tracy Hickman. Like many of the other TSR UK adventures, this one makes heavy use of monsters found in the Fiend Folio (1981) and the Monster Manual II (1983)."  But does this make the module bad or unplayable? Not at all, in point of fact Ravager of Time captures and encapsulates a certain time period in writing and game design. The plot, the writing, and adventure are a trial by fire in sword and sorcery terms. The country of Ffenargh could be in central Europe someplace in the 1400's with its gritty trappings and plot that could easily be ported over to Lamentations of the Flame Princess or Dark Albion. Yes I must sound like broken record but believe me because of the familiar nature of royal plot, the dark background adventure elements, twisted motives for the NPC's and the events of the backdrop this adventure fits the contents. Its also a tightly written affair and still widely regarded by the OSR community fondly.

There are three real reasons to use this particular module : 
  1. The Ravager of Time has a very dark resonance with its audience and a pulpy grittiness that really tests players to their limits. Because the setting is generic you can drop this adventure into any campaign world and it will work. 
  2. I8 has lots of investigation, hunting, and is a real mental workout it can be customized for DYI work and can be broken and still work for your old school or retroclone campaigns. 
  3. Because of the connection with both the Monster Manual II and the Fiend Folio lots of old favorites show up and can actually get a deadly workout at the table lending this module a bit of an old world horror flavor. Bring spare characters and sheets, PC's should be of the appropriate level. 

So would the Ravager of Time be a good fit for a game of sword and sorcery pulp action for a game such as Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea? The short answer is a solid yes and the reasons why are very simple. The adventure is distinctly British in both tone, artwork, feel, and content or at the very least pseudo historical in its treatment of Ffenargh. The setting could easily be work of Celtic settlers in shattered shadow of Lemuria, Atlantis, or Hyperborea from Old Earth. The motives and feel of the adventure is sort of a woven dream of a corrupted pulpy landscape pregent with adventure waiting for the right match to come along and set the campaign on fire. This adventure has the feel and elements  of Mac Beth set against the world of Howard and Lovecraft. But this is an adventure for experienced players and PC's in every sense of the word.

Forget the usual solving everything with your sword arm and getting things done with a boot up a monster's backside. This adventure involves thinking things through very carefully and then taking swift action. Because this adventure came out in the shadow of the White Dwarf magazine era. I've seen this adventure converted over to Rune Quest and later on over to the Palladium Fantasy Rpg. This was because of the generic and well thought out way that the U.K. TSR crew put this one together. Its tightly designed, deadly as sin, and capable of taking PC's up a few levels and is a great jump off point for extended bits of old school campaign play. This is not an adventure to be taken lightly. I've seen several TPK's with I8 The Ravager of Time. Is it well done? Yes absolutely it is. Is it worth your time? Yes in a heartbeat. This is also one of the more reasonable used adventures on the open market clocking in at ten dollars for a used copy on Amazon.

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