Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tower of the Stargazer - First Impressions

Here are my first impressions of the printed version of the LotFP adventure “Tower of the Stargazer” which is included in the Weird Fantasy RPG’s box set. I haven't yet had a chance to fully read through it or introduce it to my players.

Cover - Great cover art! You can't go wrong with Mullen.

Size - I continue to really appreciate the digest size. My tabletop real estate is at a premium these days. Even if it weren’t for that, I’ve always liked the economy and efficiency of digest sized productions.

Layout - My main complaint here is with the blackened margins bordering the text throughout… I really think this was a big mistake. I’m not sure if the idea was just to be different or to add a another layer of darkness for mood, but the overall effect is to make the already smaller digest sized printing seem even smaller. It really is a detraction and I hope it isn’t duplicated in any future LotFP publications.

The gray shaded sections intended as containing helpful tutorials/suggestions are very appreciated. Even for experienced DMs, they offer more insight into what the designer had in mind when writing up a location or component. The only complaint with these here again is the visual component - these gray shaded areas don’t look right lined up next to the blackened border margins.

Interior art - The art inside is sparse and seems a bit of an afterthought. The whole work is only sixteen pages, and is mostly intended as an introductory module both for new players, for the slightly “weird” setting, and for the rules themselves, but the poorly cropped art on page three gives the impression of a work slightly rushed to print. Some of the art is placed behind text due to space limitations and suffers for it a bit though the intention was good.

Map - I love it. The artwork is great - it is clear, bold, understandable, and printed on a detached front and back cover in a heavier stock of glossy paper than the rest of the module. The map’s layout is well done with a concern for space limitations. Love it. I wish all of the old school adventures I’ve purchased had been able to do this and will somehow follow suit - Lulu sure as hell won’t able to reproduce this.

Price - The price was totally right. 8€ or $10.76 (at the time I ordered)… Sixteen pages, with detachable map, shipped from Finland for Crom’s sake! I paid $10.95 for a print copy of Idol of the Orcs, not including shipping (which with Lulu would currently cost another $3.99.) for eleven pages or less of actual game content. Sorry to single someone out in the old school for comparison, but my point is - if someone overseas can do this so competitively, it might be a problem… Especially if the competition is heating up for old school purchasing dollars. I think Lulu still has a place for individual authors, but an actual game publishing company can do better.

I ordered this without the Weird Fantasy rules. I own LotFP’s People of Pembrooktonshire, Death Frost Doom, and No Dignity in Death setting/adventures (and the Green Devil Face publications - which I hope to see continued.) Based on his previous works, I anticipate the text of The Tower of the Stargazer will contain both equally interesting and unexpected content for myself and my players. But will my sandbox players even get a chance any time soon to explore the tower? I give it about one in four odds considering the compass directions and some hooks I throw them. I’m hoping I get lucky and they do, based on what I’ve seen so far of it and Raggi’s previous works.

I should add that I had some concerns about its survivability especially after a recent post on the LotFP blog - James seemed happy to answer some quick questions via instant message and give some specific examples where I might tweak the adventure slightly if I thought it was overly deadly. In retrospect, I probably should have just posted something about it in the LotFP forums but thought I’d mention it here as an example of plain old good customer service.


Anonymous said...

I have the PDF version of the adventure and I think it's a good read but I could never use it with my group. For a begining adventure it has too many instant death situations - the first one, right at the front door.

That aside, the entire adventure is over if the players release the mage. That would leave you scratching around for something to do for the rest of session.

Some of the ideas seem just plain wrong - for example, the ghost that wants you to play a game for your soul and if you win he opens the door. The players have no clue what's beyond the door so why do it? But on top of that, the designer suggests that you actually play a game of chess to determine the winner. Yep, stop your role-play session and play a game of chess. Erm... no.

It's still a good read with good stealable ideas and I love Weird Fantasy Role-Play but 'beginning adventure?' not so sure.

JimLotFP said...

>>ep, stop your role-play session and play a game of chess.

Connect Four also works.

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