Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tommy's Take on Stealer of Children

In theory, I review games. Haven’t had the time or opportunity to do that in a while. Let’s remedy that, shall we? Starting with the latest release from Small Niche Games: The Stealer of Children.
Yes, there's a REASON the dead guy is in a tree.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: This is another Labyrinth Lord adventure from Small Niche Games, set in the Chronicles of Amherth setting. The PDF is $4.95 and is 31 pages long, and you can order a POD softcover for $7.95. The assumed number of heroes is 3-6, of first level.

Now, I’ve made no bones about the fact that I’m not a big Labyrinth Lord fan, but I sure do like Small Niche adventures, which have all had a quasi-Ravenloft-ish feel to them, which I DO like.

Set in Leandras Row, The Stealer of Children is a fairly open ended adventure. The PCs are assumed to have come to Leandras Row for their own reasons, when they find a farmer being attacked by an undead warrior. This should set the group on edge, but despite their investigations, they won’t be able to do tooooo much…yet.

Soon, a child turns up missing (hopefully just one), and the group is the only realistic hope of calming the townspeople. If the group decides not to get involved, the kidnappings continue…and if the group still doesn’t get involved, the townsfolk begin to suspect that they may be involved, due to the timing of events. While this doesn’t have any IMMEDIATE ramifications, it will haunt the group going forward.

The investigations have a couple of places they can go, a ruined manor and a stretch of woods. The woods are FILLED with encounters that are short enough, but weird enough, to raise the interest of the group, and they can be spun off into their own adventures after the fact. (Unicorn hunting, anyone?)

Though the adventure is meant for level 1 characters, there are tips for scaling it up for larger characters. I don’t recommend using those guidelines, because more capable parties will be able to handle the adversary of the module without the adventure’s macguffin, which in turn takes away from the uniquely awesome finale of the adventure.

WHAT WORKS: A nice change of pace for a level 1 adventure, with one of the coolest workarounds for a level 1 party having to deal with an enemy that’s immune to non-magical weapons. The encounters in the Tanglewood outside of town are cool and potentially awe-inspiring for a level 1 party.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: Nothing that can’t be fixed with a conversion to Savage Worlds or the AGE system, something other than a D&D derivative (purely subjective, of course.) Oh, the color selection for the cover is just downright ugly. I would have picked something, anything, other than pink, I think. And maybe an art piece that fit the theme more closely (though the art is directly linked to the adventure).

CONCLUSION: Another great adventure with a unique adversary. If I were to nitpick anything about the SNG adventures, it would maybe be the production values, but remember that this is coming from a guy who’s looking at the material from outside the OSR fanbase. The art and layout perfectly matches the aesthetic they are aiming for. For the material itself, I have no real complaints, as the adventures have been unique and interesting, with conversion work being no real problem. Stealer of Children continues to fit that pattern, providing low-level fantasy adventure with a weird/horror twist.  

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