Tuesday, 19 May 2015

RPG Review - Ancient Odysseys: More Treasure Awaits!

Ancient Odysseys: More Treasure Awaits!By Brett M. Bernstein

Published by Precis Intermedia

‘Unleash even more of your imagination... pious clerics and resourceful pathfinders join mighty warriors, powerful wizards, and crafty rogues. Their exploits are no longer limited to ancient dungeons and catacombs, as they venture through the wild landscapes of the surface, and face the crime and trade of towns. 

This supplement for Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits! adds new options for play, from creating new types of adventurers and building landscapes to spending time in town and procuring goods to tackling new spells, traps, and creatures. Go beyond the basics, while maintaining the same fast-playing and flexible experience. 

This digest-sized book requires the Treasure Awaits! PDF, Boxed Set, or Pocket Edition. The optional printed softcover is designed to match the size of the Treasure Awaits! Pocket Softcover and fits in the Boxed Set.’

I’m going to be honest - the first thing I thought when I received this slim little book was ‘Great! It’s the same size as the books in my boxset!’ The layout, design and feel is exactly the same as the previous books, and I placed it into the box with glee, and it fitted as if destined to belong in there, and all was right with the world.

It’s strange, but it is true. It means that everything fits into the box and I can keep it together and safe, and it’s easy to transport around. That’s neat and really helpful. As with the original book the artwork is sparse but suited to the design, and the full-colour cover is well designed and atmospheric.

Looks and design aside, this book is a great addition to the original Treasure Awaits! I’m a great fan of that game, I love the simplicity and ease-of-use, but I also love the feeling that you can create a quite well-rounded character with little effort, either randomly or by design. The die mechanic is quick and easy, and we’ve gotten some good fun out of the dungeon bashes we played through. There was always that need to get out of the dungeon, of course, as all game must spread out and diversify as they grow in size and the players explore. We did try a couple of games outside in the wilderness, and used ancient England as our backdrop, but we knew we wanted to explore a much more exotic, unpredictable world.

More Treasure Awaits! gives us more creatures, whole new rules for wilderness and town adventures, newe spells, a new adventure, a world to explore and (most importantly to two of my players) two new adventurer options, the Cleric and the Pathfinder, and a new race, the Draconian. That’s not bad for a book about 94 pages long.

The two new adventurers, the Cleric and the Pathfinder (a kind of ranger) are a welcome addition and give the players more options and scope. I allow my players to choose their optins instead of rolling randomly, but the original book did a good job of random character creation. Instead of adding these on as options, the book includes the two new adventurers in the random tables, so instead of rolling in the original book you now roll in this book. That’s great, but I can’t help but wonder if adding new races and careers down the line might make the random tables redundant, especially in regards to the race and vocation tables. It’s not really an issue - these first few options are fine for beginning games but once players decide to start choosing the character options, with maybe a little randomness thrown in, anything new can be added as a choice.

There are new rules for the wilderness covering animal companions and traps, new actions, and landscape construction. Landscape construction is very much like dungeon construction, except you’re changing out rooms for areas of interest such as clearings and encounter points, with trails linking groves, marshes and the like. It’s designed very much with the dungeon designer in mind, so that the action is easy to navigate and you can funnel the players in certain directions to make sure that you can still control the environment, which is something dungeons are very good at, but there’s nothing stopping you from ignoring that and running open-world adventures as you see fit, or as you have always done. The landscape mapper is useful but certainly not essential, and would most likely suit newer gamers starting their first fledgling wilderness adventures; as Treasure Awaits! was designed with the beginning gamer in mind, it’s a handy tool.

More gear and a lot more spells really fill this book out and spellslingers will love the new options, and a whole plethora of new creatures boosts the bestiary by 52.

Then we hit The Known World, which gives us the bare bones of a world for the characters to explore. And it really is the bare bones - if you’re expecting a full-on gazetteer then you’ll be sorely disappointed as what we get is a simple beginning of a campaign world, with a simple map detailing such places as ‘Elven Dominion’, ‘Draconian Wildlands’ and ‘Goblin Keeps’, with a basic layout, a brief description of each of the major locations (no cities or towns are detailed) and a hint at the history of each location. This is a bit of a shame as once you break out into the wilderness you want a place to explore and experience, but sadly you don’t get that here. You certainly get the building blocks of a world - and you can go nuts with this and create all kinds of fancy places, people and locations - but as an introductory game it should have been a little more fleshed out with a little more atmosphere. Perhaps this would have worked better in a separate campaign book so that there could have been a lot more detail included.

Then we get an adventure, which is good fun and can be played solo or as a group. A few handy charts and tables end the book.

Is it any good? Absolutely - it's excellent. It’s a wonderful, if not essential, addition to the core rulebook and really fills out the gaming potential. I would have liked to have seen a little more of The Known World, and perhaps a little more flavour to boost the atmosphere, but it does exactly what it sets out to do, and that’s expand the options and scope of the Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits! game. I’ve found it a great book that’s given me and my players plenty of new options to explore and routes to take, and we ‘re going to get a lot of use out of this.

Highly recommended.

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