Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Commentary & Review of Mayfair Games Role Aids Module 'Evil Ruins' '83 For Your Old School Campaigns.

"Evil Ruins: An ancient terror among timeless ruins is an adventure set in an ancient Saxon/Celtic castle. Intended for 3 to 6 characters of 1st to 4th level, and is part of the Role Aids line of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons-compatible products."

Time & again over the years I've heard from various gamers that Mayfair Games Role Aids series never created any low level adventures. This i
s pure manure with Stephen T. Bourne, & Martin F. King's module 'Evil Ruins'. The striking cover art by Boris Vallejo has absolutely nothing to do with the module's adventure plot. The PC's are hired to clear out an ancient Saxon/Celtic castle.
This is a very cut & dry module clocking in at thirty two pages or is it? Evil Ruins has several interesting mistakes in the mapping like a missing set of stairs. A clever dungeon master can take advantage of this to add in to the module a few dungeon adventure elements to adapt Evil Ruins to their own home campaign game. Now Evil Ruins is intended for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition game. The encounters are quick & to the point & the writing is crisp & I especially like the Arthurian angle; "The ruined castle at Tintagel (by-the-sea) actually exists in Cornwall, England. It is said to be the original site of King Arthur's castle. For the purposes of role-playing, the origins of this adventure predate the player characters' era by 400 years. By now Tintagel is in ruins, and yet it exerts a terrible and malevolent influence on the land. For miles and miles about the castle all settlements were destroyed and the land reverted back to a thick and dense forest. Now the castle stands practically buried in weeds and brambles 30 miles from the nearest inhabited place. The local secular authority (the Duke) is troubled and frustrated that so much of his land is adversely affected by this menace. Lately, a helpful retainer of the Duke has put him in touch with a religious retreat. The Duke is only too pleased to give the property to the religious order if they can first deal with the malevolence that abides there. It falls upon a cleric (from that religious order) to organize an expedition to confront and disperse the Evil in the castle"
Evil Ruins is an adventure from another era & it shows it in everything the module embodies. For me this is part of its charm & wit with many Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual favorites taking center stage whist an evil wizard lurks in the shadows.

Even though Evil Ruins is a basic module there's an advanced plot lurking in the background & several solid Arthurian leads that can be used to weave the module into your home campaign. For my money with the way that 'Evil Ruins' plays out I would reskin it over to the classic AD&D Greyhawk setting. 

Because 'Evil Ruins' clocks in at thirty four pages it has the potential to be used to kick off an easily established low level Arthurian campaign. Even though it comes off as nothing special with a bit of work Evil Ruins could be reworked into a completely weird late post Greco Roman/English post occupation Saxon  campaign. 'Evil Ruins' even includes a small grouping of towns,villages, and even an inn with a black smith. The history of the castle lends itself to all manner of campaign expansion; "Four hundred years before this adventure, the castle of Tintagel was the main northern outpost of the ancient Saxon Kings. It was built on the north shore of Cornwall, in the West Country of England. The castle belonged to Godwin, First Lord of the Realm and personal retainer of the King of the Gold Swords, Leefrick. Godwin played a crucial role in assisting Leefrick retain control of the realm after years of anarchy."

'Evil Ruins' isn't spectacular but with a bit of elbow grease this can go from being a four star module into a full on five star campaign starter. I would ruin Evil Ruins with either OSRIC or Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition.  Evil Ruins could even be run with the Lion & Dragon rpg. The module's castle is an Elven haunted ruin & the local authorities call in the PC's to clear it out.

For Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 'Evil Ruins' becomes something else entirely. The module can be run from the ground up as a time lost portal in the Keltic countryside that leads to a Saxon England of Arthurian times. The PC's become embroiled in the power struggles of a time lost castle but in actuality. The castle is very real in the back bay of Keltic lands. This approach reflects the writings of Clark Ashton Smith approach. 'Evil Ruins' outcome affects the ruins of the castle in the present. Clever DM's will see what I mean with the module having further use as double location in present day Hyperborea.
'Evil Ruins' isn't perfect but with a little work 'Evil Ruins' could be used to jump start an OSR or old school campaign & keep it going for years. 

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