Thursday, October 28, 2010

REVIEW: The Inn of Lost Heroes

The Inn of Lost Heroes by Peter C. Spahn is a 38-page adventure module written for a party 0f 3-6 Labyrinth Lord characters of 3rd-5th level. Of course, it can easily be adapted to other class-and-level fantasy RPGs and, with some work, one could use it with other fantasy games as well. Released as a PDF for $4.95, the module uses a simple layout and sparse but effective black and white art. The text itself is clear and free from any obvious editorial omissions, while its maps are functional. In terms of overall presentation, The Inn of Lost Heroes isn't going to wow anyone, but it's eminently usable and that counts for a lot in my book. More importantly, the content of the module is excellent, as I'll now discuss.

As its name suggests, The Inn of Lost Heroes is a location-based scenario, set entirely within the Inn of Heroes, a rest stop laboring under a curse as a result of a past tragedy that took place there. In this respect, the module reminds me somewhat of my own The Cursed Chateau (and, of course, my own inspiration, Castle Amber). In each case, a potential difficulty is in getting the player characters to the location of the adventure, since they might well be suspicious about entering it. That suspicion is somewhat easier to overcome in the case of The Inn of Lost Heroes as the adventure takes place in what appears to be an ordinary roadside inn, no different than any other.

Once inside, though, the characters will eventually realize that appearances can be deceiving. As a result of the inn's curse, the building shifts between three different realities: the living world -- the "real" world, though one that still shows evidence of the curse's effects -- the burning world, and the ash world. Each world operates under its own rules and part of the challenge of the scenario is adapting to those altered rules. In addition, each world alters the appearance and nature of the various rooms of the inn, all of which are described in some detail throughout the module. Consequently, the inn is effectively three different inns that all use the same map. Keeping the differences straight is an important part of using the adventure effectively and I suspect many referees will require some preparation beforehand in order to do so. Though intended as a one-shot scenario, The Inn of Lost Heroes is definitely not what I would call a "ready to run" module and referees would be well-advised to read through it several times in advance of actually using it.

As in his previous module, Spahn's great strength is in providing dozens of encounters for the referee to use in running this adventure. Each version of the inn comes with a collection of encounters -- some keyed, some random, some event-based. Certain encounters are more detailed (and important) than others, but they all contribute greatly to the sense of the inn as a place rather than merely as an adventuring locale. Likewise, they give the referee an extensive toolbox with which to make the module his own, using what elements he wishes, dropping others, and crafting new ones to suit the particulars of his current campaign. It's an approach I've really come to appreciate, because, even though I enjoy very bare bones adventure modules, there are times when I need some inspiration to get my creative juices flowing and both of Spahn's modules released thus far do just that. Also included with the adventure are a couple of new magic items and several new monsters.

All in all, The Inn of Lost Heroes looks like a great deal of fun. It's imaginative in its conception, easily adaptable to almost any fantasy campaign setting, and looks to be a real challenge for the ingenuity of the players -- all the qualities I associate with the best old school modules. If I have a complaint about this adventure, it's that it's organized in a way that requires either extensive notes beforehand or lots of flipping through its pages in play. I'm not sure that this could have been helped, given the three different worlds in which the scenario takes place, but it's frustrating nonetheless. For that reason, I reiterate the need to read and re-read The Inn of Lost Heroes to get a solid command of its contents if one is considering running it for one's gaming group. That quibble aside, it's a very good offering and one that's perfect for a Halloween-inspired gaming session. I recommend it most highly.

Presentation:
7 out of 10
Creativity: 9 out of 10
Utility: 9 out of 10

Buy This If: You're looking for a lower level supernatural-themed adventure that can be easily dropped into any campaign.
Don't Buy This If: You're not interested in lower level adventures, regardless of their theme or ease of adaptation.

3 comments:

  1. It sounds like there may be a bit of a Silent Hill inspiration in there. It's something I've attempted to emulate myself on a couple of occasions -- once for Call of Cthulhu and once in a more generic manner -- so I'm interested to see how something similar is handled here. I think I'll be getting this!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bingo kelvingreen. The Inn of Lost Heroes is something of a tribute to SH which I believe is one of the best horror franchises to come along in awhile.

    James thank you very much for taking the time to review this with a double thank you for all the kind words. Yes, the organization of the 3 different worlds did present something of a problem. Those who are familiar with SH Will probably find it easier to manage than those who are not. I probably should have included some suggestions To print out the Inn of Lost Heroes description section So it would be easier to reference The encounters during gameplay.

    Again, thanks for the review. I am currently working on a more traditional adventure That I will be sending your way as soon as it is finished.

    Thanks!

    Pete

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well then. It's payday tomorrow, so you've got one sale guaranteed!

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.