08 April 2013

Review of The Stealer of Children

Small Niche Games has just released a short but excellent Labyrinth Lord adventure for novice characters called The Stealer of Children, written by Peter Spahn. The plot is inspired by grim fairy tales: a nightmare creature is kidnapping the youngsters of Leandras Row, a small vaguely European village. The PCs are to confront and end the menace causing the trouble, but to do so will take some small bit of investigation.

There are three main areas of exploration: the village proper, a ruined manor house and enchanted Tanglewood. Tanglewood is a particularly interesting location as it can easily support additional material from the DM. That Tanglewood is also the name of a real-life music venue is strictly a problem for my fellow Massholes.

Spahn provides plenty of support for novice DMs with suggestions on how to handle the plot when the players go "off book." The advice helps bring the players and plot together for a satisfying conclusion without ham-fisted railroading.

The production is excellent: great maps, effective illustrations, a classy layout and professional writing. The first time reader can be forgiven for thinking there is a staff of editors managing this manuscript. It reads like a TSR product. This is in no small part due to Spahn's work in Dungeon magazine.

I am a bit jealous and irked at this high quality as this raise the bar for my own work.

I would expect about 4 gaming sessions to be had from the stock adventure. This is not a megadungeon. As I mentioned, Leandras Row can, as fleshed out as it is, can host many other adventures.

This sort of product is exactly why I find the Old School Roleplaying movement so enjoyable. Spahn captures the spirit of the great TSR modules of yore.