Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Review & Commentary On Mad Martian Games OSR Setting The Ice Kingdoms Adventure "Lair of the White Wyvern" By Ryan Lynn

Five days or so ago I went to the Mad Martian Games crew & asked for a copy of "The Lair of the White Wyvern".  I took three days to read through Mad Martian Games "The Lair of the White Wyvern", here's what came out of my readings & musings.
"Something is amiss in the village of Ainhild. A sickness sweeps through the people and no cure can be found. Rumors and tall tales lead the desperate to blame a long vanished wyvern for the illness. Can your adventurers unravel the secret of The Lair of the White Wyvern? "The Lair of the White Wyvern" is the first adventure for the Ice Kingdoms campaign setting. It is a suitable adventure for characters level 3-6 for a variety of old school role playing games, including OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, For Gold & Glory and even the original games these ones are based on."
So reads the blurb for the first adventure for the Ice Kingdoms old school style rpg setting. This is one of those adventures that is half adventure & half let's get the party up to their necks in trouble in our setting. The village of Ainhild is one part sword & sorcery setting and one part home base for this adventure where the party is right at the center stage of the action. The plot begins with the PC's right in the middle of the action;"As the adventure begins, the characters are traveling across Thanegard heading toward the Vanir Mountains when they encounter some farmers in need of rescuing.
By talking with the farmers, the characters learn of Ainhild, a small village that has been stricken with a rash of unexplained deaths and illnesses." And then it sort of goes pear shaped.

There are over thirty two pages of adventure with surrounding introduction material comprising of random encounter tables, adventure plot ideas, setting background & history of the village of Ainhild as well as the surrounding environs. Its a serviceable section that does the job of getting the PC's into the adventure's universe. But there's a problem right off the bat.
Right out of the gate there's an adventure device that is a bit well rail roadie with the PC's drawn into the plot of the adventure if they like it or not. This is not something that I like to hook players into the action but 'Lair of the White Wyvern' employs it. There are other hooks & ways of drawing in the PC's into the adventure provided. These are discussed about getting the PC's reasons for being in the village of Ainhild. But once again this device is employed throughout the first half of the adventure.
The adventure itself has some clever bits and pieces revolving around the deaths of the village, a bit of wilderness adventure, some dungeon crawling, and plenty of hooks for later adventuring in the area. But something felt a bit flat in the writing of  "Lair of the White Wyvern." There are a few things that I've come to expect out of an old school adventure:
  1. Is this adventure going to provide an overview of the setting material and can it be used as a campaign tool kit to create a complete campaign setting for long term play? The Lair of the White Wyvern has the potential to do so but seems well somewhat limiting for long term play. Here's your sandbox & your region don't go colouring out of the lines because your only this level PC's. 
  2. Can material in the adventure  that has been provided be used to create other adventures within an campaign setting? With the "Lair of the White Wyvern" the answer is yes & this makes the adventure salvageable for other adventures within the region given in the adventure. 
  3. Is the adventure open ended? The "Lair of the White Wyvern" is not as open ended as I'd like it too be; the Thanelands is one of epic mythology, sword & sorcery action. But your in some backwater village dealing with an issue of poisoning & backstabbing. The more interesting stuff is happening elsewhere in the campaign setting. This was one of the problems with many second edition rail road AD&D adventures. This isn't an edition wars complaint but a second edition adventure design criticism. Its one that's stuck in my craw since the first adventures started coming out for second edition AD&D & "Lair of the White Wyvern" seems to stumble right into this path conceit  for whatever reason.

    The bestiary is one that we've seen a thousand times before with several usual suspect AD&D first edition monsters now transported over into the Thanelands. Why is this being done? Because Mad Martian games wants their own version of these classics. Anyone can find them out of the OGL & I understand why the designers & writers are doing this but it doesn't fly in this adventure.

    Look the problem is that there are certain sword & sorcery ideals that I was expecting after reading through the Ice Kingdoms setting  book.  I'm expecting an operatic sword & sorcery adventure & given the quality of the setting book I was expecting more from the "Lair of the White Wyvern". The writing felt flat, the artwork was passable, & the cartography needed more time in the oven. In fact I think that the whole adventure needed more time to develop & be brought up to the quality of Mad Martian Games Ice Kingdoms setting. Three out of five.
    If this is the direction that The Ice Kingdoms line is going to go then I'm going to part ways. There are way too many issues for such an epic setting to have such a mediocre adventure.

     "The Lair of the White Wyvern" is available through Mad Martian Games Lulu store

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