Saturday 29 April 2023

[MODULE] Weird Fates, vol. 2 (NOW AVAILABLE!) and Further News

I am pleased to announce the publication of Weird Fates, vol. 02, a 40-page anthology of four mini-modules by Laszlo Feher. With cover art by Cameron Hawkey, and illustrations by Graphite Prime, Vincentas Saladis, the Original Masters and the Robot Overlords, this collection presents adventures concerned with the strange and unusual, this time mostly in weird dungeons (although an odd, gloomy ruined town is also featured). Each of these scenarios would be suitable as one-shots, or digressions inserted into the ongoing campaign, suitable for 4th to 7th level characters.

“A compilation of four short, open-ended adventure outlines leading to uncanny locales and perplexing situations, this zine offers scenarios that could serve as one-shots or digressions from longer campaigns. Herein, you can visit a comet-struck town living in perpetual gloom, abandoned by its inhabitants but sought by rich eccentrics; resolve an ancient family feud in a place of unravelling time; seek the resting place of a saint in the Undercity to avert a most unusual calamity befalling the City’s dead; and travel beyond space and time to a sanctuary of learning… where the books read you. Some assembly required!”

The print version of the module is available from my Bigcartel store; the PDF edition will be published through DriveThruRPG with a few months’ delay. As always, customers who buy the print edition will receive the PDF version free of charge.

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Artist for hire!

You might know Lithuanian artist Vincentas Saladis from his previous contributions to Echoes From Fomalhaut and Weird Fates, vol. 01. He has also contributed to vol. 02, and multiple forthcoming titles. Vincentas walks a fine line between an almost 19th century-style line art and grim fantasy realism. In any event, he is available for commissions at, and has an Instagram account at I can say every time we worked together has been excellent, so contact him with confidence! You can find a sampler of his art below, one from a published zine, and two from titles yet to be released.
The Gates of Sorrow
Connor the Barbarian, Sole Survivor
The Gates of Panthozar

Forthcoming projects, and where they are

Things have been quiet around here for a while, and that’s with good reason – a lot of my time went into my day job, plus multiple larger slow-burn projects that take time to get into a shape where I am comfortable about releasing them. Thus, here is a minor update of sorts:

  • The Well of Frogs: a Swords & Wizardry adventure for levels 1–2 by Istvan Boldog-Bernad (author of In the Shadow), featuring adventures in a dirty and chaotic city, as well as the dungeons beneath it. This is the most honest module title in history, with more frogs than you can shake a stick at. It is ready to go once Mythmere’s new S&W license is released, although I may delay it a little if Echoes #11 is sufficiently far along at that time.
  • Echoes From Fomalhaut #11: this issue took some time to assemble. However, it is close to complete, and it is going to be a fairly large one, perhaps as large as the Baklin supplement. This issue will be dedicated solely to the Twelve Kingdoms, and shall contain the hefty hex key for the parts of the setting we have played in, as well as a larger and smaller adventure scenario. Layout is in its final stages, and then it’s time to commission illustrations, create the final maps, and that sort of thing. Late June would be a realistic release date. See you soon… On Windswept Shores!
  • Khosura: King of the Wastelands: This is not only overdue, but it will take some time to finish in a way that does it justice. A lot of the material is done (since a large part of it is based on previously published materials), the majority of art is done, but it grew in revision, and that pushed it out of the Q1 2023 window. The more realistic projection is late 2023, or even very early 2024. Those responsible have been sent to the Pits of Lamentation!
  • Caught in the Webs of Past and Present: This No Artpunk I-winning adventure by Gabor Csomos is set for publication in the Fall, for OSRIC.

Thursday 13 April 2023

[REVIEW] Expedition to Darkfell Keep

Expedition to Darkfell Keep
(white borders original)
Expedition to Darkfell Keep (2023)

by Joseph Mohr

Published by Old School Role Playing

Levels 1–3 (I’d assume)

Darkfell Keep (from the noble lineage of Shadowbad, Felldark, and so on) is a ruined keep in a dangerous forest wih a dungeon under it. Orcs, goblins, raiders and bandits have been spotted in the area. Heroes are called for. It is the bland stereotype of a beginning basic D&D adventure, a fifth-generation photocopy of Keep on the Borderlands and In Search of the Unknown without Keep’s solid craft, complexity and curveballs, or Quest’s magic pools and adventurer home base premise. It has the typical vestigial sections which do not add anything to the game, but are somehow required to be included. A rumours table with bland entries like “Other adventurers have gone to explore the keep. Many of them never returned alive.” A half-page wilderness section that’s basically a random encounter chart with entries like “Kobolds (1-6)” or “Gnolls (1-4)”, and a “Sounds in the forest” table that would be an interesting concept if more was done with it. But there is no actual wilderness section in the adventure; there is nothing to explore in the Darkfell, not even a trail to follow to the dungeon, or an estimate of how much it takes to get there (thus the instruction to check for random encounters twice daily makes no sense). It serves no function except take up space. We could start right at the dungeon entrance.

The dungeon uses a Dyson Logos map with 30 keyed areas spread out across a surface section and three small dungeon levels. Not a bad scope for a smaller adventure. However, the encounters themselves are nothing to write home about. A lot of time is spent restating the obvious about basic architectural features. The rest is a crash course of basic dungeon encounters: promising-looking corpses drawing the characters into a monster attack, generic storerooms and barracks, simple mechanical and environmental traps, and the world’s least surprising pressure plate puzzle (you have to place weights on it to open a secure door). The adventure is entirely static, a place of scavengers and the odd group of undead, so much so that unlike the wilderness, no random encounters are provided. The combats are usually with small, isolated monster groups that rarely pose an interesting challenge, and monetary treasure is a trickle of mostly low-value items (although magic items are awarded very generously, so if those can be sold, it gets a lot better).

There are some bits that stand out: a portcullis trap separating the party right next to a combat encounter, or a fairly standard “cobwebbed room” encounter with the obligatory corpses and obligatory giant spider, except this is a proper, cunning D&D spider with an evil intelligence which cannot be flamed out so easily. Creative hiding places for loot are used. Some of the descriptive detail on the ruined environment makes a good effort to spin them into functional encounters. Right around the start, you have a hazardous section of stairs which can result in a broken neck for a beginning character, and you’ve even got a dead goblin sprawled out at the bottom – infested with rot grubs! That’s precisely how intro dungeon encounters should look like: killer, not filler. Unfortunately, a lot is filler.

It is really quite remarkable how shoddily this module is put together from cover to the badly implemented OGL section. This is not the charm of early DTP or something hand-crafted and a little rough around the edges. It is just lazy editing, the bad sort of public domain artwork, and a Dyson Logos map stretched out in a weird way and never fixed despite the glaringly obvious error. Great content could make you forget any of this, but that’s not present here. There are occasional brighter spots, but this module is not really suitable for anyone. The basic dungeoneering building blocks you can find in it are a rearrangement of ideas found in better adventures. The sense of wonder is also missing. If you are a beginner, you deserve a dungeon at least as good as (say) Gatehouse on Cormac’s Crag. Starter modules should never be half-hearted; they should go all in and give you the best. If you are an experienced player, you could play this on autopilot and it’d just be a distorted echo of things you have already seen and solved, so it would not give you much. It is not the worst, but it is plainly dissatisfying.

Ironically, despite claims of thorough playtesting on the product line, no playtesters are actually credited in this module.

Rating: ** / *****