Psychedelic Fantasies: Within the Radiant Dome (OSR)
This installment of the Psychedelic Fantasies-series clocks in at 10 pages, one of which doubles as the front cover/editorial, leaving us with 9 pages of content.
This series adheres to a pretty minimalist approach to module presentation – two columns of black text in a white background. Headers are bolded, but the small statblocks have no internal formatting – this is as minimalist as can be. As for the rule-set, the module does not subscribe to a particular OSR-game or edition. HOWEVER, there is something different here – this has been penned by Gavin Norman, nowadays better known for his superb work on the Wormskin-zine and the Old-School Essentials (formerly B/X Essentials) books – as such, the rules employed mirror the B/X/Labyrinth Lord-standards: MV 12 standard, THAC0-ratings, HD and HP, saves denoted as class analogues – F2 for Fighter 2, for example, and saves that differentiate between types: Saves vs. spell, poisons, etc. This is insofar also relevant, because this contains two spells, which, while not stating for what classes they should be available, they do note their spell-levels, provide proper formatting, etc. – in short,. This is mechanically precise and tight. A huge plus as far as I’m concerned. It should also be noted that the module may be used to transition from one setting to another.
In short, as far as content and atmosphere is concerned, this has only the strength of its prose and concepts to lean on. The module is designated as suitable for six characters of 4th-level. Some basic rumors are provided, and the pdf comes with hand-drawn-looking maps of the complex that also note wandering monsters on that page. No player-friendly versions of the map are provided.
All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
So, somewhere within an inhospitable wasteland or other remote location, there is the radiant dome, actually a part of a transdimensional laboratory of the mighty wizard Ilmaltharex, now inhabited by a moderately friendly tribe of arch-conservative pygmies that celebrate the adventurer-intruders as heroes ordained by the “Ancient ones” – a feat is held, and the pygmies will attempt to sacrifice indentured miners to the PC’s glory. They won’t take lightly to being told no, but in a nice change of pace, there will not be hostilities here unless the PCs attack first. A strong science-fantasy angle in a 70s-ish angle suffuses the radiant dome as a dungeon, but the module does not fall fully into the genre – there are plenty of elements that fall on the gonzo side of what one could experience in a bad trip – from mutant guard pigs to a room that contains the grondian priest caste, there is plenty of weirdness here. What’s weird about those priests? Simple: They basically are clairaudient, living telephones! Unwise PCs can drink weird brew that may drive them insane or allow them to see/hear through the sensory apparatus of others.
I also very much liked that there are machines to tinker with, and these are not save or die; they provide weird effects and potentially are dangerous, but they are no screwjobs. Characters can be reversed by trips to the mirror world, and the amoebatronic monster makes for a unique and strange caretaker caster, and a 4-armed green mutant ape makes for a unique hazard. Why hazard? Well, it’s too large to escape its room, so smart groups can kill it without risking being torn asunder. Did I mentioned disrupted, sentient dweomers? Also cool: The PCs will have a chance to find a guy called Eugene pretty early on, and he’s bad news – he’s not a combatant, but he also has a very clear agenda. He can serve as the referee’s angle to provide context or fill in blanks – until a certain point is reached…Oh, and the PCs may end up on another planet as well. Just figured I’d mention that.
Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language level. Formatting is good – not perfect, but does its job. As mentioned before, layout is essentially two columns of b/w-text, and the cartography is functional, if not much more. Neither player-friendly maps, nor bookmarks have been included.
Thankfully, Gavin Norman’s Psychedelic Fantasy fares better than the first – self-contained and sporting a playful gonzo angle, the module does a good job at depicting a unique environment that is not solely about killing everything. It’s not as far out as I’d like it to be, but it does have quite a few cool angles to pursue. As such, I think this is a solid module worth checking out if the above sounds interesting to you. It’s not Gavin Norman’s best work, but it’s a fun and inexpensive offering, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.
You can get this inexpensive module here on OBS!
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