Albion Tales: Review

I don’t normally do the whole OSE or OSSR thing. I’m more of a heavy rules, modern game design kind of guy, and these tend to harken back to what I jokingly refer to as the bad old days of 1 and 2e D&D. Not to get too deep into it, but it’s not normally my thing. So, I normally would skim right over anything with those in the labels while browsing Kickstarter. That said, a trio of quick and easy adventures, whose mechanics are quick to cut out, and some really cool art made me pause. The price point was right, (£15), so i figured what the heck. Albion Tales was originally a kickstarter from Leyline Press and you can get copies there now, although right now print editions seem sold out.

I say it all the time, but good art and layouts sell RPGs. That god with no name cover should get anyone into an RPG.

Each of the three pamphlets is 16 pages, and folds in and out like sort of like an old fortune teller from elementary school. Only instead, I’m finding out I married the skeleton king on the windy isle and we have a thousand flaming skulls. The paper and inking process is blast for me, as I love a good tactile thing to play with. The kickstarter and website brag about risograph printing, which I googled and still don’t really get. But if the outcome is pamphlets with texture and inking like this, I’m for it.

The Bastard King of Thraxford Castle

The Bastard King is a location based adventure, taking place in the aforementioned castle. We get a great looking exterior map of the castle and surrounding town buildings, along with descriptions for encounters within the castle itself. Broad strokes of the story, a King was a bastard and got ousted. Now his castle is in ruins, and anyone present in the castle at dawn, or die within the grounds arise as undead. Your party stumbles along it somehow and needs to solve the mystery or put a stop to it. Or don’t and have an undead castle near wherever you were. The twist for this macabre castle, is that the undead sort of go about their lives, for the most part and don’t always just mindlessly attack the PCs. So you will see some zombified guards, who might even question you or encourage you to leave. But there is a chance they just freak out and demand brains.

What I like about the module is that it’s not just zombies and skeletons though. They make a point to include ghosts, ghasts, ghouls, undead giant botflies and maggots, wights, a banshee and other assorted undead creatures. You’re not just hacking through waves of the same stuff. Even the rank and file zombies are sometimes halflings, and ogres and whatnot.

Of the set pieces, my favorite encounter is probably the Gate of a Thousand Mouths. Specifically, because of the opening sentence. “This leathery gate is made of hundreds upon hundreds of human mouths chattering to one another”. PCs can listen to the gate and get rumors, and you open it by sharing gossip. You can bust it down but get attacked by skeletons and break your way in, if you want, but this feels like a really cool encounter that you might be able to bypass with some fun RP. I’d also be remis if I didn’t highlight the Bastard Kings sweet saddle, a magic item that turns whatever you place it on into a skeletal version of the same steed. It’s sort of cursed, but that’s also not necessarily a curse for a lot of parties.

The Isle of Glaslyn

The Isle of Glaslyn is a hexcrawl, my personal favorite style of adventure. As a true hexcrawl, there is no overarching plot or big story to unravel, instead, you start at Caer Emrys, a small fort, and can explore the 18 mile diameter island at your leisure. The fort is relatively simple, with a couple of buildings within its walls, but otherwise the gist is “go out and explore”. The lady of the keep does have a quest, but it’s essentially “go clear a dungeon 2 hexes away”. Something your party would probably do on their own, if they want to play a hexcrawl, and stumble onto a dungeon.

In total there are 7 hexes, each relatively distinct. I like a big hexcrawl, and would probably pair this with a couple other islands to get a little island hopping or nation building going on. Maybe some Hot Spring Islands, for example. The coolest hex is also probably the set piece hex for the module. An ancient seal under a lake in the mountains, if excevated, revealing two slumbering and warring dragons of fire and ice and piles of gold. I’d love to play in a game where we got to break a seal, draining a lake and freeing slumbering dragons. Although I do imagine these dragons would be way higher level than the rest of the island, and the DM would need some massaging to make sure it’s not a TPK when the players break the seal in spite of the many warnings against it in the module.

The God with No Name

The God with No Name is a classic dungeon crawl. An ancient sea beast long ago died and was buried back when this was a desert. Now, dwarven salt miners have excavated it and now their mine is full of danger. Please clear it out.

After you progress through some classic dwarven ruins, with hints of something more, eventually you’ll make your way to a sort of living dungeon. Traveling through rooms like The Stomach, or The Beating Heart. and whatnot. The stomach traps people within and sprays them with acid and whatnot. The mystery here, is that these rooms have Organs of the Nameless God, and constantly secret Void goop and Void monsters. As you travel through the dungeon, you’ll need to destroy the various organs throughout. It’s kind of a fun twist on “get these monsters out of that hole”.

A side note, I was going to complement the cool map and caught it was, as apparently always, done by Dyson Logos. Seriously, every time I go to compliment a map, it’s made by them. So protip, if you want good maps, give them a call.

Overall, I’d say my favorite of the trio is The Bastard King, but all of them are going to get slipped in as side quests for one of my games in the near future.

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