Sunday, October 6, 2019

Hide in Plain Sight Review — Bait & Switch? Old C&C module advertised as New OSR

Hide in Plain Sight by Bill De Franza is one of the new modules in the new "Ballista" line of OSR modules from Arcana Creations, meant for 1st to 3rd level cahracters. At least that's what the line purports to be. In reality, it's a 10 year old Castles & Crusades module repackaged and re-released. I don't normally cover Castles & Crusades here because I don't think it's particularly OSR-ish, even though you could argue it started things off, it still does a lot of things differently, like the "SIEGE" system and the ability scores as saving throws.

However, since I just spent $5 on the 36 page, single column PDF of it (not knowing its history), I will break that rule. It's got a fairly complex plot. Basically a doppleganger wants to free his imprisoned master, an evil wizard, whose prison is guarded by a couple of former adventurers who have become rulers of a small domain.

The doppleganger somehow managed to murder one of them, taking his place, and then rather than murdering the other and just freeing his master directly, comes up with a complicated scheme for the adventurers to do it for him. He's kidnapped the living ruler's daughter and asks the PCs to rescue her, then pretends to be the kidnapped daughter and as her, tells the party that her uncle (the one the doppleganger killed) killed her father (who is still living) and is pretending to be her father. However, her father is being hidden in an ancient enchanted sarcophagus and they need to open it to rescue him.

I suppose it makes some sense, if the doppleganger can't touch the sarcophagus. But I'm not sure why he couldn't hire people to directly. Or why the two brothers didn't just bury the bad guy under tons of concrete. So presumably the PCs go rescue the doppleganger pretending to be the daughter, then come back and storm the castle (well, manor) and free the doppleganger's boss. Who then murders the surviving brother (the father) and then runs off, instead of killing everyone, even though he's unkillable.

Then they have to go back to the doppleganger lair, look deeper this time, and rescue the real daughter. Which somehow redeems them for their mistake in the eyes of the manor butler. In any event, there's really not much of a reward, with the base pay being 150 gp each and maybe a horse if they bargain hard.  There's virtually no loot, either.

The dungeon designs are fairly straight forward, with one exception of sorts. The secret lair where the real daughter is hidden is guarded by a gelatinous cube (named Gladys). However, its movements can be controlled by a number of potions and concoctions they can find. So they can avoid it, if they realize it's there.

As mentioned, it's 36 pages, but single column. Easy enough to read, but the maps are in the interior, which I find cumbersome to use while running the module. There's a smattering of art.

Hide In Plain sight is not a bad adventure, but it aside from the system, it doesn't feel very OSR-ish. It feels like something you'd find in the 2e era in Dungeon magazine, when the adventures eschewed dungeon crawls and focused more on plot based adventures. And even then, it doesn't seem like it plays very fair.  If this evil guy is so important, why is he guarded in a place where low level adventurers can stroll in and release him? And while experienced players might catch on to the scheme, if someone is actually new to the game, they'll be completely baffled. And the doppleganger villain basically has plot armor.

While I don't think there is anything wrong with taking older modules and republishing them, I do think if they are advertised as OSR or in this case, specifically name dropping Swords & Wizardry, then they should at least be modified for those game systems.  It would have taken, what, maybe 2-3 hours at most to change the stats, references to game mechanics (like saving throws or opening locks), and add loot, something key to character advancement in virtually all OSR games.


  1. Funny to read that something "isn't particularly OSR-ish even though it started things off."

    1. C&C is like 3e DCC: Old School-flavored but not actually Old School.

  2. Are you sure there was a C&C version of this back in the day? I know several of the other Arcana Creations modules were formerly C&C modules, but I don’t recognize this one from before. Ah wait, I found the answer: It was intended to be a C&C module (which might explain things like not enough treasure), but had not been published before: "In addition to these three, we are releasing two new, never-before-published, adventures to round up our selection of five adventures. These are Mystery at Morfurt and Hide in Plain Sight." From