In Different Worlds issue #31 'The Bastions of Balo' by Ken St. Andre things got very hairy & wooly for our group of cut throa umm adventurers. Different Worlds issue #31 'The Bastions of Balo' how shall we put this nicely?! A nasty little Stormbringer adventure wrapped in a velvet glove. This is another one of those let's strip the PC's down to the bare essentials & see if they can survive our little trap adventures. Its sort of a mini AD&D first edition 'Sourage of the Slave Lords' adventure where the players have to think their way out of the adventure.
Brain power does not equal playability but fortunately we had solid players in my uncle Jack's game. Older players mixed in with our young hot headedness & tempered with a dollop of extra jadedness pulled us back from many a PC death. But we did die by the score in 'The Bastions of Balo'.
Balo himself had laced this adventure as a mini world & it really fueled my hate for 'the Jester of the Chaos Gods'. This was the adventure that really brought home the fact that Balo always looked like demented jester from Werner van den Valckert 'Fool With A Smaller Fool' art piece in my mind. My uncle used this piece of artwork whenever we interacted with Balo as an NPC.
While 'The Bastions of Balo' by Ken St. Andre was created as a trap for Elric our group stumbled into its machinations. This means that the adventure while it is a' locked closet adventure' there are some ways out. We were able to confront & confound the 'Jester of The Chaos Gods' by basically role playing outta of the situation similar to 'Next Generations' Star Trek crew's confrontations with 'Q'. After a multiplicity of dying & being resurrected Balo got a bit bored with us and decided to let us go. As simple as that or was it!?! No not at all & in fact it was 'The Bastions of Balo' by Ken St. Andre that lead directly into 'The Madcap Laughs' for us.
As a 'locked dungeon' scenario 'The Bastions of Balo' by Ken St. Andre has some merits. One its a perfect take away to run with the Stormbringer rpg especially as a prelude or after the events of Michael Moorcock's Weird of the White Wolf.
Even if 'The Bastions of Balo' was meant as a trap for Elric there were very few times that we even remotely crossed paths with the White Wolf as Stormbringer rpg players. Let me let you in on a little secret 90% of the time when we even romotely came close to the areas where NPC Elric was we fled. Yup that's right! We as players had our PC's survive the destruction of the Young Kingdom. Why?! Because we were no place near the plane at the time. Elric is/was a literal walking engine of murderous destruction & target for the cosmic forces. He's an NPC black hole swirling with a plane wrecking demon sword. Sure its cool to play Elric as an NPC but none of the players that I played with wanted to be near him.
- Don't use 'Bastions of Balo' as an introduction adventure for the Stormbringer rpg. It almost put me right off the game because of the frustration level of death in it.
- Use it as mid tier or campaign side bridge of an adventure.
- Have a backup way out of the Bastions of Balo for the PC's or it could end the campaign.
- PC resurrection, resurrection, resurrection, & make any replacement PC's a thorn in the side of Chaos or Law. The Jester of the Chaos Gods should be playing with the movers,shakers,& fools.
- As a DM pay close attention to map of 'Bastions of Balo'. The players often get confused with regards to the room vs monster encounters in my experience.