Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Manor #3 and a Solo Gamer's Thoughts

It's been some time since The Manor #2 arrived in my mailbox and I had grown quite antsy waiting for issue # 3.
The Manor #3, cover by The Happy Whisk

Zines, of course, aren't generally produced with any regularity or schedule - it's the rare one that ever sees a 2nd issue - I'm speaking here of the broader "zine scene" and not specifically the recent abundance (OK, that's maybe a stretch of the term) RPG related zines, which seem to at least hit issue 2 before they evaporate.

So, when Tim Shorts announced issue 3 was, in fact, ready, I immediately placed my order for a physical copy.

For those of you who prefer them, a PDF is also available on DriveThruRPG . The print option includes a coupon code for a free download.

But, please, spend the extra $1.00 and get the hard copy.

It's only my opinion, but as I see it, the physical nature of a zine is as important aesthetically as the content. I do not feel that way about most books or serials.

In any case, I think I placed the order Friday and I got the download code a short time after.  I didn't have any time to pick up the PDF before Tuesday, which is when the print copy arrived. On top of that, although I was able to give it a quick skim, I spent the bulk of my Tuesday evening helping Lady Shadowmoss make invitations for the bridal shower she is throwing for her friend.

As an aside, may I never have to see pink card stock again.

Last night, I had significantly more time to spend with The Manor #3. After a good read-through, I set about playing the included adventure. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

For your money, you get: an adventure for low-level characters, a fun NPC, two silly jokes that actually made me laugh out loud, a poem about black dragons and a new class for Blood & Treasure (although you can easily mod it for your preferred system).

For the most part, I'm going to talk about the adventure, but I do want to address something about the poem.

According to Tim's introduction, including poetry in his zine is controversial, but he made the decision to print it anyway (if you missed the umber hulk poem in issue 1, go get it). Zines are labors of love and since it's his zine, I think this was absolutely the right decision.

Besides, without it, there wouldn't be a reason to include the bad-ass dragon illustration.

I'll step off my soap-box now. (Admittedly it wasn't much of a rant, but I needed a segue.)

The majority of the issue is dedicated to an adventure entitled, "Mine of Rot & Disease."  It's stat-ed out for Swords & Wizardry, but I have been itching to give Searchers of the Unknown a try and opted to go that route.

And, of course, I ran it solo.

From a solo perspective, I would have liked to have had either the player facing info or the GM info highlighted in grey, as Tim did with issue #1's short adventure, "The Salt Pit" (see my review). However, the entries are consistently organized with player information first, immediately  followed by GM info. While it's not ideal, it's easy enough to work with.

Given the layout, I first thought I'd run the game as a GM and use Mythic for the players, but part-way through, I opted to use the general method of the SoloNexus 9Qs of "Be the Players" , "Be the GM" and alternate. To prevent the experience from becoming a writing exercise, and to keep it game-y, I used Mythic for decisions on both sides, with PC characteristics to aid in decision making for the PCs.

I'm not sure how it happened, but by the end, I was playing the PCs and Mythic was controlling the GM side of things. Apparently, that's my natural inclination.

The party may have been better off with Mythic!

They didn't get past the 2nd cavern in the mine before they had to abandon the mission and get a severely injured comrade back to the village. That was after facing 4 skeletons and 5 zombies. The former they overcame easily, but they fled from the latter, using burning oil to aid in their escape. On the way back they encountered and dispatched a lone zombie - a random encounter.

Tim notes the adventure is for total of 6-8 levels. I had 4 characters, three were 2nd level and one was 1st, for 7 levels total, and basically, they got nowhere. I suppose they could have left their fallen comrade and pressed onward, but their personalities, Mythic, and I all thought otherwise.

So, at first blush, at least, this adventure is a tough challenge for a small party, even if they meet the suggested level rating - better suited might be a larger party of primarily 1st level characters. As my PCs in my own solo game tend to die with clockwork regularity, this is quite acceptable and part of the fun - but I couldn't run this for Lady Shadowmoss, with her new school sensibilities.

Tim does suggest a cleric would be helpful, and with plenty of undead, it's probably a good idea for the party to have or hire one. SotU does not have clerics as a class in the original version - they tend to temples, they don't go off exploring - so, my party did not.

Looking ahead (since I am the GM too, after all, even if Mythic ultimately controls the NPCs), I see that there are two fairly significant foes to face. Here, the higher level characters will be at an advantage, provided they have the HP. I'll be surprised if my small party of mostly 2nd level PCs survives to the end, considering only 1 has double-digit HP.

They'll make a trip back in regardless, as Tim promises states there's a related adventure to follow.

My only complaint about the "Mine of Rot & Disease", is that on page 5, the first sentence of the section labeled "The People of Aberton" reads, "The following villagers are most capable," but, there are none listed!

The NPCs are, in fact, present in the PDF file.

Although I recalled reading that the PDF had extra pages for NPCs, I hadn't realized they were for the adventure. A simple note to see the PDF would help avoid any confusion.

You can't go wrong spending $3.50 on The Manor #3. Even if are a joyless curmudgeon that can't see the fun in dropping Pog Nog the goblin into your game or you think a haiku ode to the black dragon is nonsense, there's an adventure w/ map, new magic items, and ideas and inspiration galore throughout.


  1. Danjou, thanks for the thoughtful review. I've been toying with the idea of writing a solo adventure of some sort. I need to get better versed in that type of gaming.

    1. Danjou, also, thank you for pointing out that my text box was deleted. I had originally put a note in the print version that the PDFs would have the NPCs, but during my editing it got edited I guess. It has not been put back in. Thanks again.