Sunday, December 13, 2015

Midnight Oliviah Review — Good Read, Not So Good Adventure

Midnight Oliviah is a module for first edition (and OSRIC and Advanced Edition Character Labyrinth Lord) from Lloyd Metcalf Inc, meant for 3rd to 4th level characters. I bought the PDF, but it's also a print product. It's described as a "mini mod", but at $5 and almost 30 pages, albeit single column, it's a bit more than that, but still likely representing a single play sessions.

Oliviah is also the name of an NPC, a tavern owner who hires the PCs to work as security for an auction of a special suit of magical armor . An artifact, actually. However, much to their dismay, part of that armor was stolen, so they must track down the thief. This requires a small amount of detective work, but after talking to a few people, they are pointed in the right direction of the suspect. Which involves a dungeon crawl of a necromancer's lair.

The lair itself consists of 9 keyed locations, though the map is a bit bigger than that. There's really not a lot to it, in terms of encounters. The PCs can essentially fight as many skeletons as they want if they decided to loot them. there's an encounter with a ghast, a possible death trap, and then a showdown with the necromancer.

Once the armor is retrieved, the players are set, right? Well, not quite, it seems the necromancer actually stole part of the armor for a good reason, namely because the armor was bought by a fanatical anti-magic using cult which will use the armor (somehow, its abilties aren't explained) to start a crusade against all magic-users.

There's really not any loot to speak of. In the first room the party can loot a gold coin for every skeleton they kill, but after killing 600 of them, the room collapses. And that seems to be the only treasure, period, save the gear owned by the necromancer, which consists of a wand of wonder with 2 charges (which he'll probably use).

As mentioned, this was originally a print product, but there are two versions of the PDF. The original, which I guess was the print version, is surprisingly ungainly and features single column text. There is a revised version of the PDF, apparently added recently which completely changes the layout to single column as well as makes it look much more professional.

While it's meant for first edition, it feels more like a second edition module, or perhaps something out of Dungeon magazine. The players are pretty much railroaded into going into the adventure in the first place. Basically, the PCs have to guard the auction to pay their inn bill because they don't have any money (I guess if the rest of the author's campaign is as stingy as this module, that's possible) and then they automatically fail to protect the armor at the auction, so they are forced into retrieving them. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I think adventures work better with a carrot, not a stick.

Beyond that, while it goes into a decent amount of detail on the NPCs at the auction, it lacks any sort of stats for them. While the PCs probably aren't likely to kill most of them, there is one exception, the annoying auctioneer named Bad Mike (which is a possible reference to the old school rpg dealer) who badgers the PCs as a plot device.

I liked reading Midnight Oliviah, but it doesn't seem like the sort of module most players, at least OSR players would enjoy (which is why I haven't run it). And at $5, it's in the realm of full sized modules, most mini modules seem to go for $2. The added original art is perhaps worth the extra cost, but only for the reader.

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