Wednesday, October 13, 2010

REVIEW: The Sanctuary Ruin

The Sanctuary Ruin by Eric Jones is the first adventure module released by Ludibrium Games. Like James Raggi's adventures, it's not written for a specific old school fantasy game system, although its text references both Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC as examples of the games for which it was written. Judging from the actual stats included in the adventure (which are few), I'd say that The Sanctuary Ruin was written using Labyrinth Lord for its rules, but it could easily be used for almost any class-and-level system.

The Sanctuary Ruin is available as a 10-page PDF selling for $2.99 or as a similarly lengthy printed volume selling for $6.99. The module's layout is simple and clean, using two-columns broken up with some atmospheric black and white spot art, also by Eric Jones. The cartography is similarly unpretentious and attractive. The text itself is straightforward, clear, and free from any obvious editorial problems. From a purely technical point of view, The Sanctuary Ruin is very well done.

As its name suggests, this module describes a ruined sanctuary not far from a wayshrine in a wilderness area known as the Ironwood within the Margravate of Blackmarch, which would appear to be Ludbrium Games's house setting. Not many details are provided about the Margravate or the Ironwood, making it easy for referees to drop the dungeon and surrounding locales into another setting. Indeed, the bulk of this module is taken up with the eponymous ruin, so it's really a dungeon module rather than a wilderness one, never mind a sandbox. Given that it's designed for characters of levels 1-3, that only makes sense.

The dungeon is small, consisting of 20 rooms inhabited primarily by goblins and vermin. Like everything else in this product, it's well presented and straightforward, but it lacked a hook or unique angle that made it stand out from the many other humanoid lairs I've seen in other adventure modules over the last 30 years. The same must be said of the inn, the rumors, and the wilderness encounters also included with this module and I feel bad for saying so, because The Sanctuary Ruin is well written and presented. Reading it, you can tell that its author really took his time to get everything right and he largely succeeds.

Unfortunately, what Eric Jones got right is something lots of other people have gotten right repeatedly since the dawn of the hobby. This is a standard introductory adventure and, while I can appreciate that not everyone who starts a new campaign will want to press The Keep on the Borderlands or The Village of Hommlet into service for the umpteenth time, it becomes increasingly hard for me to get excited about yet another humanoid lair on the borders of civilization, even if it's presented as lovingly as The Sanctuary Ruin is. Of course, newcomers will likely have a different reaction, particularly those who aren't as jaded as I am when it comes to the old standbys of introductory dungeons. For old timers, though, there's not a lot that makes The Sanctuary Ruin noteworthy other than its excellent production values and the obvious care to which its creator went to create it. Here's hoping we see more work from Eric Jones in the future and it will be a bit more daring in its content.

Presentation:
8 out of 10
Creativity: 5 out of 10
Utility: 6 out of 10

Get This If:
You're either new to old school gaming and looking for a well-done intro module or are an old hand who simply wants a different presentation of the classic humanoid lair dungeon module.
Don't Get This If: You had your fill of humanoid lair dungeons decades ago.

3 comments:

  1. I'll pick up the PDF of this. I have a soft spot in my gaming heart for low-level, introductory modules.

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  2. I have a review copy of this that I really need to get to. :(

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  3. Oddly enough I like Anthony have a soft spot for these types of adventures, plus I hate to run the umpteenth version of B2 when looking for a good starting scenario I haven't written myself.

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