Monday, 11 July 2022

Pod Reviews I9 & B9

So a couple of quick POD roundups of those mid 90s tru-tsr originals. Also having read through Nights Dark Terror again I think I like it even more than my original review. It has the UK 80s dnd vibe and maps I like. I was surprised to see a UK star frontiers module also with similar map/layout philosophy. 

Day of Al'Akbar I9 👍
I had this a teen and older gamers and adults cracked up at the pinup harem girls. I thought it was ok at time but didn't run it. It is basically like an early version of AlQuadim setting which came later and has all the baggage of that line. Asians represent podcast probably done a better job at this than I could on that product and its flaws. On one hand hand having non western European late medieval alternatives was welcome and a good idea. It has the depth of someone watching Ray Harryhousen Sinbad movies and other western adaptions and then cherry picked some history. Probaly worth a mention, this was in a time of Regan vs Iran terror stuff and deals and so the comical terrorist bomber in the adventure I'm sure was a sensitive decision. So other than the stuff that has dated worse and the issues of orientalism how does it fare as a game adventure and product. It has nice easily cover, some interiors, wilderness, palac, sewer and tomb maps with one of the better TSR poster maps of a trading town on a hill. The POD version has done one of the better jobs. Basically, you visit a dodgy town, enter the sewers to reach a tomb seeking a relic. This fails so you enter city, explore its interesting loosely goosey non-specific locations system then invade the palace. You can do intrigues or stealth or both and dealing with factions and locals can get you some help.  I think you could reskin or improve this in many desert settings and it has a Hollywood vibe. The city map is the best thing in it the adventure is ok. Probably the best Middle East-themed game product depicting Islam I have read is Iron Crown one and it knows its limits and territory is in a Arthur Rackam art 10001 nights orientalist fantasy. Mixing up cultures and religion and nationality for ppl who know would be a deal-breaker for some. The dancing around this fantasy version of Islam without saying it or dealing with it is a bit pantomime. The tomb and puzzles and players involved a religious coup adventure are better than the skin-deep setting.

Castle Caldwell & Beyond 
This is obviously written to be a step by step adventure for young beginner DMs as they had to keep making new beginners stuff. So it like a few B series explained stuff in expert set and spells not in the basic set. So it does waste a lot of time doing this and is simpler than say B1 or B2 possibly aimed at younger new DMs. Its a Caldwell pinup of an unconscious woman no doubt saved by her kindly drooling lizard buddy. A pic of an owlbear with a scanty chained woman too. It feels a bit mediocre. The maps are not very exciting and the towers and castle walls being thin upsets my Archaeology instincts. It does have some worth as a beginner's adventure. It is 5 mini-3-4 hour sessions adventures to clear out a castle for the first two, then serving the king rescuing a princess then a  prison break and finally a relic quest in a mini funhouse dungeon. It has a bit of whimsy of B1 but a bit more sensible and episodic which seems to be the dominant style. Quite a few empty rooms and stuff I would be too busy to worry about detail while escaping. Like a proper B series adventure, it skips travel, outdoors and non-dungeon scenes or a village or worry about details of the king. The religion in it is a bit weird and Im not sure this is a good fit in any setting especially and its minimal to drive the story and for some adventure backgrounds. As a simple coaching 1st adventure/mini-campaign to get through the basic set and possibly for kids to work through into expert set D&D its fine. Less exciting possibilities like diet vanilla ice cream for an adult now but I do like the lady villain at end. Im sorry for the four 1st lv wizards who attack the party with a spell each and then charges with knives. A terrible plan.   

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