Thursday, 29 June 2017

[REVIEW] Legends of Krshal

Legends of Krshal: The Towers of Krshal Rumours Table Expansion (2017)
by Albert Rakowski

Legends of Krshal
Towers of Krshal easily remains one of my favourite old school supplements. I could cite its use of random tables to create multiple possible ideas of a fantastic city; its powerful and fantastic imagery shamelessly stealing from Lankhmar, the Victorian period, and various macabre sources; its density of content contrasted with its cavalier attitude towards production values, and so on. It is a compelling and original piece of writing, and I think it is great. Legends of Krshal is an expansion on Towers; more accurately, it takes the 50-entry rumours table of the original, and expands each entry with more in-depth random results, some kind of explanation, or a discussion of what the rumour may mean and/or lead to.

This approach makes Legends of Krshal a subtly different product from Towers. The tables in Towers gave you a probabilistic view of the city – at one time, they might tell you that prisoners are being eaten in the Centaur District prison and a faceless woman walks on Lame Dog Street each full moon; and at another, they might draw your attention to the idea that multiple crime lords were killed with black magic six years ago, and a strange multi-handed clock was recently installed in the Temple of the Seven Stars. The potential was there for all (or most) of these things to be true, or at least relevant, but it was the connections drawn through random generation that would lead to interesting juxtapositions and combinations. Towers is an excellent “dream machine” to generate scenario outlines in a specific style, or introduce random elements into an ongoing adventure. It is all there, but sometimes your adventure is about the Centaur District prison, and sometimes it is about the memory of dead crime lords – you needn’t concern yourself with all the other stuff.

Legends of Krshal follows a different path. It gives the rumours table an additional level of detail, where most entries have their own random tables leading to further ideas, connections and tidbits of information, and some have bullet points giving you a complex picture. Sometimes, it is a collection of alternative explanations, or a collection of loose ideas associated with the basic concept. These ideas do not coexist as easily as the ones in Towers; usually, one possibility excludes the other. This gives you less material to play with than you could expect – even if many of the sub-entries are actually reusable.

One of my worries about this sequel was the dilution of Krshal’s original imaginative power. Indeed, some of the entries lose their poetic power when the author tries to expand them into more detailed adventure hooks. In the original table, one of my favourite entries was “Everyone on Boggy Square saw a man falling from the window of the Bat’s Tower but no corpse was found”. This could be worthy of Kafka, Borges or Calvino, so it is sad to see the author fumble around with ideas like “the story is a hoax concocted by muggers” or “tragic love – nothing extraordinary”. Do we really need that stuff?

On the other hand, sometimes the magic works, and we get apocalyptic prophecies, secret societies working on nefarious schemes, and wonderfully twisted personalities. “A two-headed lich beneath the Silver chapel is gathering an army of undead rodents to destroy the sacred place above his lair”, or “Stones excavated from some ancient, cursed tomb were used to build the mansion belonging to the Varnham family” – that’s the stuff that made Krshal so wondrous and original. Sometimes, a single entry becomes a cool little random table of its own – a recently opened sinkhole might lead to “a maze of caverns filled with living, sapient crystals”, or “a tunnel to the Palatial Complex of Mar Gat’nep”, or (my favourite) “the graveyard of the train engines”. There are a lot of fantastic ideas in the product, but they are messier and harder to fish out of a collection of detours and dead ends than from the more neatly structured Towers of Krshal.

Legends of Krshal continues the tradition of Towers with imaginative and off the wall ideas, and it is definitely worth owning as a supplement to the original. It should be used more carefully, and some of the really good stuff is hidden in obscure corners you need to carefully and deliberately look for and attack with a highlighter. It is less immediately useful as a game material, but it is an invaluable idea mine – there's gold in them thar hills, if you are willing to do the digging.

No playtesters were credited in the supplement.

Rating: *** / *****


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for the supplement! Are you planning more for Krshal?