L1 The Secret of Bone Hill

These old modules are much more like local settings than stories. The area detailed is about 16 by 28 miles, based on the wilderness map. That’s approximately 14 six mile hexes. The module starts out talking about the Lendore (also known as Spindrift) Islands, which was slightly confusing to me, until it became clear that it was set in Greyhawk. Indeed the cover does say “This module may be incorporated into an existing campaign or used in conjunction with THE WORLD OF GREYHAWK (TM) Fantasy World Setting.” I missed that because I am used to products trumpeting their brand association with setting logos. Moving on. It contains the following locations:

  • Dweomer Forest. With a temple to a god of chance. This is an example of a cleric’s stronghold with followers, and is presented as a source of information, cleric spells, and a place to sell magic items.
  • Bald Hill. Farmland and a thieves’ lair (orcs).
  • Guardian Peak, Lark Hill, Low Point, Reddy Forest. These areas are mostly a source of potential henchmen: Tolvar (magic-user), Locinda (half-orc thief/fighter), Martin (ranger), and Volcifar (assassin). Aside: my next character is totally going to be named Volcifar; that is the coolest name I have seen in a while. I like the fact that potential henchmen are placed like treasure to be found. It reminds me of finding new party members in video games. I wish my players were more interested in hirelings and henchmen.
  • Pebble Hills, Tri-top, Kelman Woods, Spring Glade. A dire wolf pack and a small gnoll village of six stone huts.
  • Bone Hill and the Dead Forest. Ruined castle inhabited by several different factions of monsters. Lakofka explicitly calls this a symbiosis, which I find interesting, as dungeon factions are usually assumed to be competitive.
  • Restenford town & castle. Every building in the town is keyed, as is every room in the castle. This resource alone is worth the price of admission. You could rename the town and drop it into any campaign setting. The castle and dungeon of the title are an added bonus.

Interestingly, not only are most of the evil demihumans (the bugbears and gnolls) presented as having females and young, the demihumans are explicitly placed in a family setting. There are more children in the gnoll village than adults (six male adults, three female adults, and eleven children). The same is true of the bugbears in the castle ruins. Certainly an example of Gygaxian naturalism, and little care is taken to protect delicate sensibilities regarding potentially fighting demihuman young.

The module says that the town has 315 inhabitants. I’m not counting, but it looks like all the village inhabitants are placed and detailed, most with stats and alignments. Speaking of which, a surprising number of them are chaotic neutral. Lakofka must have known that this was asking for trouble so he includes this (page 17):

The garrison is provided to maintain some degree of order through the town, as you will note the town is mostly chaotic neutral in nature. Chaotic neutral does not equate with brawling, meleeing, spells in the streets, and open mayhem. Be sure you are clear on the meaning of this alignment and that your players understand it as well.

There is also this gem:

DM Note: Only the Baron knows the exact location of the family treasure, and how it is guarded.

This is particularly interesting in light of James Raggi’s true objective of the keep post. I don’t think I need to summarize that argument here other than to say that most of the same points apply (other than the one about the title).

Enough about the setting. L1 also got me thinking about a particular rules subsystem, on which the next post will be focused.

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