Frugal GM Review: Automata Run Amok

Frugal GM Review: Automata Run Amok
Earlier this week i was asked to review a new PWYW adventure called Automata Run Amok and I said, "Sure, why not?"

If I had not been asked, I'd never have even considered picking up this download as the subject matter just isn't my style: "Out-of-Control automata have driven a wizard from his shop. He would like the PCs to solve the problem (without damaging his creations) while his rival will pay for evidence of the wizard’s dabbling in forbidden knowledge."

Nope.....just doesn't work for me.*

This download is 22 pages with cover and comes in at 3.24 MB. While the product page has different stats listed it also says that it is a watermarked PDF, which it isn't. The PDF itself isn't secured and is wonderfully laid out with bookmarks and some internal hyperlinks. Unless you've got a four page document, you really need to use these PDF features and many publishers fall short here. I'm already impressed and I hadn't even read the adventure.

On some levels this rather simple adventure seems a bit padded or "heavy" with a 22 page count, but what the publisher did was add quite a few nice touches to round out this adventure and make it easier for a GM to use. As I started reading this thing I noticed that the information on each area is tightly structured to follow a distinct pattern, making it easier to throw in some flavor text and get to the details the player will probably ask about. After reading the first few rooms, sure enough, there is a GM note box explaining the way the rooms are laid out information-wise. I was kind of surprised that GM note wasn't brought more forward in the document, but it seemed clear to me that it was placed where it was, not only because if fit better there, but because there was an attached tracking tool (something I used to do with my old HackMaster adventures).

Something else I used to do, and would do again when the situation arises, is place simple stat-blocks inline with the encounters. Yep...they're in there, but there is also a small bestiary (with great graphics!) at the end of the adventure.

What I think I liked most were some small additions that really help integrate this adventure into the larger context of the city. Some cool random tables, encounters, incidental NPCs....seriously, who adds some extra NPCs that aren't needed/essential for the adventure? There are also notes on some potential follow-on adventures from NPC reactions based on who the party sides with and makes happy or ticks off.

All this "bonus" stuff makes me feel like the information presented is working to help the GM on several levels. Of course I assume most GMs probably run pre-printed adventures somewhat similar to how I do. First you have to have the initial read-through to get the gist of the adventure and figure out how you'd incorporate it into the campaign. Then you have a more detailed reading where you have to make some notes and make sure you do this or don't do that, whatever "this" or "that' is. Finally you have to be able to grab some details when you need them on the fly as the adventure is being run. I think that Automata Run Amok is laid out with this general idea of GM information flow requirements taken into account.
Frugal GM 5 Star Review: Automata Run Amok
I'll probably never run this adventure, just not my style...but if I do go back to writing adventures I will be using Automata Run Amok as inspiration, along with some other inspiration I suspect Mr. Carlson also benefited from (more along the lines of fonts and rough layout).

I highly recommend picking up Automata Run Amok, and I hope to see more from John Carlson/Dwarven Automata. The price is right at what you want to pay for it, but definitely worth a few bucks, IMNSHO.

*I am deliberately NOT commenting on the adventure itself because I'm clearly biased against the general theme of the adventure. 


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