5/31/2013

Frugal GM Review: The Ruined Hamlet by Barrataria Games

Frugal GM Review: The Ruined Hamlet by Barrataria Games
This review is for the Barrataria Games free version of their Adventure Module BL1-2, downloadable from DriveThruRPG. This adventure is designed for use of "classic" fantasy roleplaying games of the basic level.

This adventure, The Ruined Hamlet: Terror in the Gloaming, is one of two offerings from this fledgling publisher. Barrataria Games does not have a website yet, but they do have this adventure, as well as two other offerings, available for printing at their Lulu webstore.

I had two immediate impressions, one bad and the other good. The overall look of this "adventure" was a little off-putting because it is rather plain and visually sparse. The main font used is Soutane Black, which does have more of an "old-school" feel to it, but I find it difficult to read. The file goes 49 pages before anything more interesting than some boxed text appears. Fortunately, this first negative impression is the absolute worst thing I can say about the "adventure". I'm using quotes around "adventure" because of my good immediate impression. At 58 pages long (56 pages of content) The Ruined Hamlet is just about a mini initial campaign setting as opposed to a simple adventure. Instead of a single playing area like you might find in the adventure, the author has put together a group of individual areas set in a wilderness location that is basically an adventure onto itself.

What really stands out as I go through this download is the author's acknowledgement of how GMs might use The Ruined Hamlet. Specific notes on playing this adventure with different level PCs or even with another system are given. Care had been taken to avoid using Proper Names and adding too many details that would make for extra consideration (work) for other GMs to use this setting in their own custom campaigns.

There are a lot of little thoughtful touches that might not seem like much, but they really do add up. Suggestions as to appropriateness for specific wandering monster checks, noting which wandering monsters should be removed from the monster pool, and tweaks to encounters to account for larger or more experienced parties of adventurers. Sure, a lot of these things may come naturally or be "old hat" to established GMs, but even for these groups an occasional reminder doesn't hurt.

While I personally appreciate a lot of the nice touches mentioned above, as well as the inclusion of a blank player's map, there were a couple of minor points that need to be mentioned. First is the fact that a couple of other adventures are mentioned, namely Adventure BL-2 and BL-3. The Ruined Hamlet is obviously intended to be part of a series, but there are no BL-2 or BL-3 listed outside of the text of this adventure, which is dated as 2008. The numbering of the encounters is a little inconsistent and could possibly be a bit confusing. In general the encounters are grouped by area, but not designated differently, meaning there are multiple encounters with the same designation (Encounter 1, 2, 3, etc.). Later on in the adventure the encounters are designated by number and encounter (V1, X3, etc.)
Frugal GM 5 Star Review: The Ruined Hamlet by Barrataria Games
While I would like to see some of the text cleaned up and made a bit easier to read, I think this is a
pretty good adventure and I plan on using portions of it if my home group decides to venture to a particular nearby area in my own campaign. Of course I'll need to make a bunch of tweaks, but they will be easy enough to do. I think most any Fantasy RPG GM will find this a useful product.