Review: The House of Bone and Amber

Posted: 3 July 2013 in Reviews

In a Nutshell: 42-page PDF from Sine Nomine Publishing, containing an adventure for Spears of the Dawn, the African-inspired OD&D retroclone from the same company.

CONTENTS

This is a sandbox adventure in the A Stranger Comes To Town mould; in this case, the PCs are the wandering strangers, and they enter a town where ancient hatreds mean the locals don’t trust each other. Who better to turn to, then, than the Spears of the Dawn, who while uncouth are known to be… well, certainly more trustworthy than one’s fellow townsfolk. This is intended to be a place where, after they have completed the initial adventure, the PCs base themselves for some time. The scenario is likely to leave at least one of the three local factions in their debt, and at least one with a grudge against them.

A Red History (1 page) explains the background for the GM; who the factions are, what they want, and how the PCs are likely to become embroiled in local politics.

Figures of Importance (3 pages) describes 6 key NPCs of the town, both alive and recently deceased, including statblocks (at least for the live ones).

The City of Paraku (3 pages) describes the city itself, local laws and customs, goods and services and their prices, and tips on how to handle the party’s inevitable assumptions and meddling.

The Districts of Paraku (9 pages), rather than mapping the city, presents it as a series of 8 districts, each with its own page describing it and some locations of interest within, and a table of random events. There’s an intriguing system for mapping streets on the fly which I want to try, involving dropping a handful of dice on the table and using each die to represent a small area of the city, one that a PC could cross in a combat round. There’s an encounter table for what you meet on the streets.

The Tale of the Green Stone Bowl (8 pages) is the adventure itself, explaining how the PCs come to be involved, a likely timeline for the 36 in-game hours the scenario is expected to take, semi-scripted encounters in the city, and advice on dealing with parties that go off-piste (as if they would). It’s a Conanesque tale of dark sorcery, thieves, catacombs, murder, riots and a pretty girl in need of help; just the kind of thing my group and I like. The timeline is important here; once things start moving, the PCs have very little chance to replenish spells or hit points, so using both economically will be rewarded.

The House of Bone and Amber (14 pages) – no such adventure is complete without a dungeon, and here it is; the ill-omened ruins of a former despot’s fortress, with several levels of dungeons, location-specific encounters, monsters and treasure. No spoilers here, move along…

The book closes with a half-page of guidelines for converting the scenario to other Old School games, or transplanting it to other settings, and a table for generating suitable random names.

FORMAT

Sine Nomine’s trademark easy-to-read two-column black on white text, with illustrations sprinkled every few pages. But wait… What’s this? ISBN numbers? Coloured bits on every page border? Colour illustrations? A bit more eye candy than usual here.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

None, actually. A nice piece of work all round.

CONCLUSIONS

This is a nice little adventure, set in a small city that would serve well as a base of operations for the PCs after the main scenario is completed. I might even add it into Shadows of Keron as the PCs cross the Ivory Savannah en route to the Independent Cities; I’ve been running a Labyrinth Lord party in Jalizar for a little while by email, and that works well, so maybe turnabout is fair play.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5.

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