Midnight Oliviah Revised (OSR)
This adventure clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This module is intended for 4-6 PCs of level 3-4, using OSRIC as the rules-set of choice. As always, adapting this to other OSR rule-sets is pretty simple.
This adventure comes with 2 new undead-ish creatures, and a briefly noted magic item mainly set apart by the flavor; the module does have a couple of components that may require some modification of the GM’s world, so that is something to bear in mind. On a positive side of things, the book provides a TON of read-aloud text for the interaction with NPCs, but NOT for the respective rooms in the dungeon featured.
Structure-wise, this one is pretty much an extended cut-scene/roleplaying first half, with the second half being a pretty, but not completely, linear dungeon.
In order to explain more, though, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only referees around? Great! So, the retired adventurer-turned-barkeep/entrpreneu Oliviah and her right-hand mate “Bad Mike” exemplify the old adage of the carrot and the stick: The module assumes that the PCs have to clear their tab (perhaps from carousing?) in Oliviah’s establishment, and the lady does have a great suggestion: You see, she engages in hosting semi-legal auctions, and while bribes are in order, she does expect trouble and wants the PCs to act as security. The respective bidders are all noted and explained in detailed, ranging from good-looking and strong, but obnoxious adventurers to local collectors. Beyond an ostensibly bloodthirsty spear (that PCs might well bid for…), the main attraction of the auction is an artifact, namely, the Harness of Ivan Goramavich, a head-to-toe complete armor, ostensibly worn by the hero of the same name, it confers absolute immunity to all kinds of magic. Unbeknown to most, it only does so when complete, so even a single sabaton stolen would wreck its powers.
This artifact has spawned a secretive order of fanatics, the Sons of Ivan Goramavich, who definitely WANT the armor. One of their ilk will be bidding for it, and is happy to pay pretty much any price. The PC’s security efforts are bound to fail, though – a local necromancer in disguise has hired a thief, who used a dust of illusion to switch the gauntlets of the harness. This will, inevitably, be realized during the auction, which makes Oliviah/Mike pressure the PCs into investigating the whereabouts of the missing gauntlets. The auction per se is a great angle, but the lack of a map for the tavern, and the lack of any player-agenda undermines the per se well-written story here – the PCs don’t really have any bearing on the outcome, which isn’t exactly good adventure-design.
The trail pretty swiftly leads to the ossuary outside of town, which houses the necromancer Offul Keyne’s sanctum. The way there may be haunted by undead at night, but a proper note on distance and random encounter table would have been nice. The ossuary start promising, and honestly, continues: While it takes the old “bones-are-creepy”-angle, it begins with a bonehouse animated, and, as a big plus, the secret door to the dungeon requires player skill to find amid the animated ossuary-danse-macabre-statues. The subterranean catacombs are haunted by bony creeper-things, and there is a hallway, where shackled skeletons start pronouncing personalized dooms, draining Wisdom. Only vanquishing the skulls will end the effect, but there is a big issue: The pdf fails to note how many skulls there are, how many hit points they have, and where exactly they are; and no, ranges are not given. Can they be turned? No idea. (Macabre and awesome – PCs that have their Wisdom reduced low enough are shackled and chained and join the choir – so cool, I just wish it…you know, actually worked.) Room #8 is missing its room-header, and the thief-associate that stole the gauntlets, while one of the potential bosses, lacks stats. The necromancer himself is awaiting in a hidden sanctum, which can be found behind a statue’s trap door. (No falling distance noted.) Keyne will call forth “The Rotted”, a big, nasty boss monster – and then die as a consequence of summoning the thing, with a word of warning. What the PCs do with the gauntlets, and the aftermath, is covered in an extensive denouement of the proceedings.
Editing is okay; I noticed a couple of typos, and some oversights and rules-relevant components compromise the integrity of the module. Formatting-wise, we have a lot of deviations form OSRIC’s standards. Layout adheres to a nice two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf employs a mixture of public domain art and amazing full-color pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography of the dungeon is in full color and solid, but lacks a scale. No player-friendly version is provided. The tavern that houses the first half of the module, alas, lacks a map.
This is the oldest of Fail Squad Games’ modules, penned by Christopher Scott Thompson & Ian Graham, re-written by Lloyd Metcalf, who also provided the great artworks.
You know, I should hate this adventure. It is railroad and fails to capitalize on the cool premise in the first half; it has grievous issues in some components…and yet, it has potential. It actually manages to be creepy, but that’s not what made me enjoy this more than I figured. Know what I love about this? In a way, it feels pure. You know, that friend you see once a year, and when you meet, he whips up a nice, unpretentious module to play? One that doesn’t feel cynical or like it’s trying too hard? You know, just a good, old adventuring experience? This module manages to hit that tone. In spite of its blemishes, it is NOT phoned in; it is not bad, and there is enjoyment to be had here. This module does have an identity, and its humble quaintness is a genuine virtue nowadays. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, and it doesn’t have to. While flawed, it is an adventure I’d recommend when looking for an adventure that feels like a capable friend has written it. Much like such a module, it requires some finetuning, some quick judgment-calls, and it shows the inexperience of the authors at that point. Still, I can point towards a ton of modules that do a much worse job; Midnight Oliviah has heart, and as such, and taking the freshman bonus into account, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.
You can get this module here on OBS!