Monday, 13 August 2012

Review: Elder Tunnels - Halloween 2010

Balancing horror and high-fantasy can be a difficult task.

Even in surreal, pan-dimensional warp spaces like the many worlds of Tunnels and Trolls it's a delicate balance. Many of the classic tropes have already been explored in depth by most gamers, either through the classic fiction that most of us will have read or, through popular culture.

Suffice to say, springing a surprise horror adventure on your party can be a difficult task for the GM... That's why we're taking a look at a Halloween product in early August.

Pick it up now, read through it within the next week and, your next session can really bring some bite to the table. Not only will the players not be expecting you to run such a scenario but, to their credit, the two GM adventures included in this issue don't read like horror at all... Until your players are already up to their necks in it that is. ;0).

But what do you get for your money?

The Ephemera Furnace


The first GM adventure in the book has several interesting themes running through it. One of which is a theme that doesn't often make it to my Tunnels and Trolls table in all honesty. That theme being morality.

I have long since thought that it is hard to herald folks that break into the homes of (granted, less savory) folks to steal and murder as heroes but, that would seem to be at the heart of our hobby. In fact, it's such common place in high-fantasy that most of us barely think twice about it. I sure don't when I am at the gaming table. I have even heard tales of a thieving little hobbit in another group, stealing the door knobs on every chamber he passed because they were made of brass!

So it is fair to say that any delver that's made it so far through their career (often having set foot inside their first dungeon is a  good benchmark) has done something immoral. Usually something like mowing down a poorly armed goblin with a broadsword for his pocket change or, hacking up a swarm of rats, just because they're in the way.

This adventure redresses that balance however and, the more black hearted amongst your party could find themselves having a very hard time! Which I think is a good thing. Not only does it encourage better roleplaying by forcing players to evaluate their actions but, it also throws them one hell of a curve ball.

Interestingly and coincidently, I saw a similar dilemma in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager that I had watched only last week.  So if you happen to have a season 1 on DVD and want to run this adventure, I would highly recommend taking a look at "Phage" for some pointers upon the motivations of the NPC's and, possible developments that may occur as a result of this adventure.

Resurrection Missions

I have to admit that when looking at the product as a whole, I find the inclusion of the Resurrection Missions article odd.

In all fairness to the author and the editors over at Peryton Publishing there is nothing wrong with the article. Nothing what so ever. It is well written, has that familiar Tunnels and Trolls take on fantasy about it and, offers three very entertaining short adventures that could be used to either break the ice with a new party or, as a special event to reunite players with their most favored fallen characters from the year that have met sticky ends.

It could be great! But somehow when compared to the other adventures it seems to fall short... Which is where the oddness comes in.

There is nothing wrong with it what so ever, yet I just can't seem to get on with it. I suspect that this may be more to do with me as a reader favoring certain authors, their styles of writing and, the way that they bring the words to life, so should certainly not be taken in any way, shape or, form as a slight on Mike's work. It's just evidently not to my taste.

It is however a fine piece of work and a good solid contribution to the zine, so well worth a read.

The Farmer's Daughter

In fairness to my readership, I must admit that I have not yet had time to play through this and, as not to spoil any of my future adventures I have pretty much tried to avoid reading anything about this solo what so ever.

As such, I can't really review it in any fair manner, so I will be coming back to this one at a later date. One thing I can comment on however is the interesting take on Grant Wood's, American Gothic that it uses as cover art and, that comment would have to be, awesome! Awesome with a capital A!

Trouble Among the Tumbled Stones

Last by no means least is Tom K. Loney's GM adventure, Trouble Among the Tumbled Stones.

Anyone that has read my previous Elder Tunnels review will no doubt have guessed that I was really looking forward to reading this adventure after how much enjoyment I got from the Wuthering Depths. Suffice to say, I was not disappointed.

Continuing in the setting of his previous adventure, Trouble Among the Tumbled Stones takes us above ground and into troubled times as Tom fleshes out this rich world with his vibrant imagination.

As with Christina Lea's adventure, things start out rather unassuming. People are going missing along the main trade road and, this being bad for business the local authorities want to put a stop to things. As such, they hire the party to investigate. Now that all sounds rather tame doesn't it?

Not at all horrific.

Well, that might well be the case if the people weren't going missing right in the middle of Ghoul country! Ghoul's that interestingly enough the locals seem to live a peaceful coexistence with or, at least a have a tolerance for. The Ghouls even have their own settlement and community.

Now hows that for a twist! Normally you'd be charging the Ghoul city with a bunch of angry locals, brandishing torches and pitchforks sure that they were the villains of the piece but nothing is quite that clear cut here. In this instance, the party are likely the outsiders, new to the area and, potentially the subject of suspicion from the Ghouls. Talk about turning the tables!

That's as about as much as I can say before I start throwing spoilers out there (which I really don't want to do) but, for all the great content in this zine I really have to recommend you pick up a copy.

You won't be disappointed.


Check out the Elder Tunnels here.
Take a look around Peryton Publishing.

Pick up the PDF here ($4.99) or, order your dead tree copy here ($7.99).

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