Tangible Taverns: The Hidden Oak
This installment of the Tangible Taverns-series clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page foreword, 1/2 page advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 15 1/2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This pdf was moved up in my review queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.
The PCs are traveling along a path through the forest, when they suddenly encounter a weather-beaten sign next to a small, but well-used path – the sign points towards “The Hidden Oak”, and after a quarter mile through sunlit, light forest, the PCs arrive at a clearing, where colorful mushrooms and gorgeous flowers provide a carpet that leads straight up to a ginormous tree, which sports double doors, secured to the tree with bronze. Upon entering the place, they’ll see an impressive badger snuffling around the place, as a halfling cheerfully ventures forth to greet them – they obviously have found sanctuary…but they’ll only realize that if they can take their eyes of the oak tree growing from the ceiling of the inside of this place, sending sparkling, warm magical light down upon the common area.
The respective rooms are no less enchanting and the tavern comes with information regarding the cost of staying there. As always, we receive exceedingly detailed rumors to kick off encounters or even adventures, with read-aloud text for each rumor – nice! Similarly, the events that take place here, 8 of which are provided, sport a sense of the relaxed and benign, if weird: When gripplis challenge for a friendly wrestling bout, remarkably good-natured quicklings enter the tavern or visions are to be had, you know that adventure and a nice diversions are right here. The pdf, just fyi, also goes into mouth-watering details regarding the food served here.
Beyond Beatrice the hafling who acts usually as greeter (and is a hunter 11 – don’t mess with her or her badger Lola!), this fantastic place’s owner, at least one of them, mind you, would be Shadril, a dryad druid, whose stats (including an owl companion) are provided. And there would be Crescenzo, an old man smoking a pipe. Yep…and much like Elminster, Gandalf, Veranthus and similar icons, it is a damn BAD idea to cause any trouble around this fellow. He is peaceful, yes…but…well…I could spoil what he’s really capable of, but that would be no fun, now, would it? *cough* CR 21 */cough*Yep, stats provided. No, he’s not the ole’ cliché archmage. No, he’s not a fey lord in disguise either. Yes, I have seen the trope before, but the execution is pretty fresh.
The tavern also includes Kaapo, a grippli martial artist and Thestrel, an elven unchained rogue wandering swindler, who are both engaging in various arm wrestling contests…and a non-statted mockingfey causes mischief with all but the dourest patrons. Speaking of which: There would be Kachina. She has a pumpkin head and walks on vines and is covered with gray shrooms that made her face…well, somewhat disturbing. She is a fungal gourd leshy with a temper (and horribly ineffective in combat, as you can see by her stats)…and she is not the only plant-being here: A treant named Burtsch (stats provided) who has lived through several bouts of deadly fungal diseases, which left him quite sociable and only barely larger than an elf, also frequents this place. He’s been modified with the accursed template, in case you were wondering. There is also a fluff-only atomie called Tat to be found in the Hidden Oak. Padraig O’Bunley the leprechaun would be the final character featured here.
Now, in a piece of 3rd party camaraderie I enjoy, the pdf gives credit where credit is due and instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, features 2 of the culinary magic recipes originally debuted in the amazing “Letters from the Flaming Crab: Culinary Magic” by Flaming Crab Games. Better yet: There are two new ones! One for Mushroom Flowers and one for Fairy Rings – nice, btw.: I tried the recipes and the results were pretty tasty, though I did add some additional spices, since I’m pretty big on those. As a minor nitpick, one provides an untyped bonus, which I’d rather have seen codified.
Moreover, the appendix also features templates and material taking from Rogue Genius Games’ “The Genius Guide to Gruesome Undead Templates” and Rite Publishing’s superb “The Book of Monster Templates.” Nice means of making the builds herein more diverse!
Oh, one more thing: The player-friendly one-page map is by far the most beautiful and creative I have seen so far in the series! Neat work there!
Editing and formatting are top notch, I noticed no significant hiccups. Layout adheres to Dire Rugrat Publishing’s two-column b/w-standard and is printer-friendly. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The artwork featured herein is a blending of original pieces of b/w-artworks and some stock pieces: Ken Pawlik’s drawing of the mug of Crescenzo, just fyi, is pretty much the best drawing I have seen by his hand…it’s pretty neat. The cartography is less barebones and more creative than that featured in earlier installments of the series as well.
Kelly & Ken Pawlik’s “The Hidden Oak” is the best tavern they put out that I’ve reviewed so far; it takes the trope of the enchanted woodland sanctuary, perfect for PCs during prolonged wilderness trips and weaves a wholesome, light-hearted atmosphere that an enterprising GM can turn really grim, if s/he desires to. As written, this is a shelter, a sanctuary, a place for the misfits and the magical, the lone and the lost to find their way and enjoy a positively magical meal. The shout-outs to fellow 3pps are nice to see, and the use of rules provided in these supplements to enhance the tavern and its denizens adds a level of complexity and care to the builds featured herein. It’s frankly nice to see designers do their homework and going one step further. You may have noted a distinct lack of complaints – that would be simply because I don’t have any grievous claims beyond what would be unfair nitpickery. This is an excellent offering, well worth the low asking price – my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
You can get this excellent tavern here on OBS!