The Trail of Stone and Sorrow (NGR/OSR)
This small roadside encounter/mini-module clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Now, this adventure is provided with rules for both NGR and OSR-style games, both of which receive basic tools to allow you to contextualize the challenges posed by the respective beings. Characters can, for example, note that they are “4th level magic-user or alchemist with a random assortment of spells.” As you can see, this means that you will probably need to do some statting work. The NGR-stats are slightly more detailed, offering, for example: “He is 2 part wizard (Sage, Anti-Magic: Dispel, Psychic Potential) and one part rogue (Expert). He has a random grimoires (see Hark! A Wizard!).“ Skills are called, for example „difficult tracking check“ and the like.
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
The stage is set in a small mountain valley, where a local boy found a perfect statue of a bear – probably petrified! There was no contact to a local farmstead, and the townsfolk are concerned that, ostensibly, a warlock living in a nearby chattel, may be responsible. The man is actually not involved – Dr. Brenner may be an alchemist who has currently developed something akin to kerosene, and he has interest in the phenomenon, but apart from being wealthy, he is innocent of the charges fielded by the suspicious populace.
The PCs can, with some cajoling, make nervous villagers lead them to the statue and track, from their, the way to the cliff and valley beyond, which contains a strange cavern with an odd statue, as well as hints of something large having hibernated there. Game trails may also lead the PCs to the cantankerous Ol’Lady Bibic, who is a whopping 27 years old, with prematurely grey hair. She is responsible for the snares that dot the landscape. The aforementioned farm, then, will show the PCs that they’ve closed in on the threat: A few petrified sheep will be seen next to living brethren, and similarly, the sheepdog. A local pilgrim’s wagon and the fully mapped environment, as well as some social interaction should make clear that the ox-sized beast reminds veterans of the Catoblepas…but why the inconsistent petrifications? Why the odd sequence? Well, here’s the part where the “sorrow” from the title comes into play. When you meet the gaze of the catoblepas (which comes with full stats for both systems) you are not only petrified on meeting its gaze, you also switch minds with the monster – the beast, thus, currently is inhabited, tragically by Polde Kosovel, the man of the household, whose petrified remains had been, barely, secured by the family. Slaying the beast does not return beings turned to stone back to life, and thus, this brief module does actually provide potentially much more challenges for good groups – attempting to undo the soul-switching chaos could provide enough motivation for plenty of gaming sessions. Or, well, you could play this as a brief, somber one-shot.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard, is elegant and nice. Structure is clear as well, though I wished a couple of boldings and the like would have made the sequence easier to run for the GM. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. The b/w-cartography and artwork is surprisingly neat and b/w.
Zzarchov Kowolski provides an interesting, fun sidetrek here, one that has a truly intriguing fallout potential that clever referees and players can develop far beyond the humble confines of this PWYW-module. While a few more notes regarding potential solutions for the conundrum presented in the aftermath would have been nice, and while I would have loved a means for really smart PCs to revert the damage wrought by perfectly reconstructing the sequence of events, this is a PWYW-scenario and as such, allows you to take a good look and then determine whether you consider it worth your while. Personally, I think this is very much worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform, as I consider this to be closer to being good than to being excellent.
You can get this cool mini-scenario here on OBS!