The Companions Islandia Campaign
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Post Posted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 7:43 pm 
 

I don't suppose anyone knows of someone who has Gems for Death available?  I happened to win Street of Gems when burntwire had it up (and it's in pretty good shape, I might add   :D ), but the bidding for Gems for Death got WAY too high for me (over $50)   8O

I would really like to find another copy of that.  Once I do, my Companions collection will finally be complete again!   8)

Any help would be appreciated.

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Post Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 8:49 am 
 

Contact me offlist, fletch... nice to know Foutch spread the word.

  


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Post Posted: Tue Mar 15, 2005 9:56 am 
 

I am quite happy to say that I found a copy of Gems for Death from hikingviking on eBay for a reasonable price (about $15 total). :D  So, now my Islandia collection is complete once again!



Now, if only I could find time to play........



fletch



P.S.  On another note, I have it on VERY good authority that Sacrifices to the Orc Lord never got too far past the idea stage.   :(  Too bad.  It sounded interesting.......

  

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Post Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 4:21 am 
 

Badmike wrote:
Badmike wrote:


Well, I can give a pretty good mini-review of Plague of Terror since I just finished re-reading it, the others I'd have to re-read before attempting a summation.

   .




As promised, here is a mini-review so a would-be collector can get the feel for a typical Companions release.  If my memory serves, Plague of Terror was probably the least distinguished of the scenario packs, but it's still an interesting setting and adventure.

    The main plot is the takeover of the village of Wentworth and its holdings by the thoroughly evil "Sir" Elgar, a villain and opportunist of the highest level.  His many layered plans are worthy of a major bad guy; if you ran this in your campaign, I'd make this guy a major "Darth Vader" like recurring antagonist, one who continues to bedevil the party for years.  His strengths lie not in his abilities or magic items, however, but in his cunning and devious mind, and unravelling his plan will tax even the most knowledgable and experienced party of adventurers.  To further obfustcate his role there are several sub-plots and red herrings present, as well as minor villains (including one so vile and despicable Sir Elgar doesn't look as bad next to him!).

    Much of the set up occurs before the party ever travels to the village of Wentworth, as Elgar's dastardly plans are proceeding along just fine.  It is hoped that the arrival of the adventurers will be the thorn in the paw that eventually unravels all of Elgar's careful plans.  In setting and tone I found the adventure read much like a classic western flick, you know where the man with no name or the group of misfits roll into a corrupt western town and proceed to clean it up.  There is a timeline for the story that proceeds along from when the party arrives until  30 days later when Elgar's plans will be completed by marrying the current Baron's daughter.  Hopefully the party will begin to investigate and foil his plans long before then, if nothing but for the sake of innocent women being tortured and killed by one of Elgar's henchmen (The "Plague" of the title) during the activities.

    Elgar has insinuated himself into the upper levels of Wentworth society by befriending and beguiling the Baron's son, Emery.  Emery was sent away by his father Baron Fallon to learn about the world and grow up; the young impressionable knight was taken in by Elgar's charismatic ways, and Elgar completed the takeover by presenting Emery with a Collar of Obedience, a magic item that works much like a constant Charm Spell.  Elgar returned with Emery back to the Barony, where he proceded to similarly beguile the Baron's daughter with the goal of marrying her; kill the Baron's wife when she got too close to the truth; framed the Baron's loyal guard for treason and installed his own cronies as the new Manor guard; turn the village into his own private criminal empire by recruiting thieves, scum, con-men and killers to take over all the village's enterprises and industries and extorting those that didn't leave when this happened; place his own false priest into the position of the formerly trusted village pastor; open negotiantions with a local tribe of hobgoblins in order to sell them villagers to use as slaves; attempt to kill the loyal steward of Baron Fallon and then poison and kill the Baron himself (after which he will marry the Baron's daughter and his takeover of Wentworth will be complete). As you can see, Elgar is an ambitious SOB as well as being thoroughly evil.  However, most of his evil deeds are done in the background as he uses the completely loyal Baron's son Emery as the front man in his escapades (he has Emery issue all of the orders so he can slide if blame is placed for anything).  

    The main plotline is the devious plans of Elgar and the taking over of the village bit by bit.  There exist several subplots, which are: Destroying the fencing operation run by Elgar on the side; Defeating the fake priest and rescuing the real one; Killing or running off the evil tavernkeeper and the host of "riffraff" that work the inn as pickpockets, con men, thieves and killers; Rescure the villagers being sold into slavery; and in the most interesting subplot discover and kill a psychotic serial killer who is targeting ladies in the town before he tortures and kills them all in his lair (Fensterwald is also the right hand man of Elgar, who doesn't know what his own assistant is up to on the side). Fensterwald has been poisoning ladies who once rejected him (he is of half orc parentage and once lived in the town years ago), having the fake priest declare them "dead" of a plague, then bringing them to his personal torture chamber after they awaken to do away with one by one.  The faster the characters can unravel this mystery and find his lair, the more of the doomed ladies they can rescue.  If not, the dead and tortured bodies of the ladies begin turning up in quite grisly ways (a dog finds the arm of one girl in the swamp; the fingers of another girl are discovered left on her husband's doorstep by the increasing insane killer).  All in all, it will take a lot of time and effort to wrap up all of these subplots and the main plot in a month's time; it could take even longer if the party dallies.

    Each subplot has it's own section, which details the characters involved, their schemes, and the locale they are found in.  All together, I believe the module describes close to 25 NPCs in more than average detail.  A lot of the subplots could be ignored or used in another adventure, but having so much going on in one village gives an impression of a dynamic, living situation that the characters have stumbled into instead of the typical "everyone is standing around waiting for the heroes to arrive" plotline of many fantasy RPG modules.  

    There is a timeline of events, and several planned encounters to go with the freeform investigation that many characters will use upon getting involved in the village's affairs. It is entirely possible that characters will focus on a few subplots and the main plot and either ignore or chose not to delve into the others.  The author uses several very good methods in order to get the characters involved, and doesn't make this seem like "railroading" the party or using the old fashioned "You all wake up in a jail cell together and you have to do a favor for the king to get out..." crap.  The events and encounters, and the characters involvement therein, all flow naturally and logically.  For example, the set up of the entire adventure involves the characters as they are on the outskirts of Wentworth meeting the fleeing loyal manor guard as they escape combat with Elgar's men who have trumped up charges against them and forced them to flee for their lives.  The character's are asked to provide a priest for healing the injured members; later, when the loyal guardsmen are found butchered in the woods, it sets the stage for seeds of doubt to creep into the characters mind that the new Manor guards are truly moral and trustworthy individuals.  The PCs aren't beat over the head with this introduction by having either the bad guys or good guys "overact" the part and immediately force the player's to choose sides; later, when more bad things in Wentworth become evident, it merely becomes one more link in the chain of evidence that leads to Elgar and his schemes.  

   As noted, the environment is not rigid, and if the party does not get their asses in gear several helpful NPCs will be killed off (chief among them the Baron's steward Sir Ricard and Lady Penelope, the Baron's daughter's lady in waiting) and Elgar's hold on the village will intensify.  I've never actually played this campaign, but it seems that if the party waits until the Baron is eventually killed (which occurs on Day 21) they may have waited too long; past this date they have few allies and they better get ready for one clusterfuck of a battle with Elgar and his troops (probably at his wedding for the most dramatic effect).

  Lots of possible endings, battles and resolutions for this scenario are what I like about it (and the other Companions items).  I don't see how any two gaming groups would play this alike or have even remotely the same wrap up.  As a matter of fact, it's entirely possible the players might get sidetracked with the subplots and utterly fail to stop Elgar from becoming the new Baron; this would lead to a intriguing continuing plot as he would probably start hunting down the party as soon as he consolidated his power in the area.  

    Well, the mini-review was far more than that, but as you can see the respect myself and others have for The Companions items are well justified.  I would recommend anyone get at least one of these scenarios (they pop up on Ebay all the time, and are not too expensive) and at least read it if not play it, the ideas alone are worth chasing one of these down. If anyone else has used one of these in a campaign world, let us know how the adventure turned out!



Mike B.




Hey Guys I bumped this up, it's been a calendar year since I posted this review and in respect to the new interest due Companions items due to the ridiculous price recently paid for Brotherhood of the Bolt, I thought someone might be interested.  Anyone want to post a review of another Companions item?  I seem to have misplaced my collection of these otherwise I'd pull one out and tell you a bit about it....



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Post Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 1:36 pm 
 

Mike, how about a review of your favorite Companions item?  I don't have any, and would like to know which to avoid :D


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Post Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2005 7:57 pm 
 

Well, I got one better than a mere collection... I got a lecture by the guys behind Companions.



Not the ful-fledged weekend retreat they used to advertise in Dragon, mind you. Just a two-hour leture at Gen Con back when it was at UW-Parkside. Still have the notes somewhere, of course, they are like 20 years old or something, written by a much, much younger and less coherent me...



It was that lecture, I think, that really helped to mold my game mastering style. Filled with information on creating a living, breathing world, especially for the day. I only have one of their products today (all the others long gone, when I was selling off my collection over the years), but in the rest of them, apparently, you can find real world geography, because the first thing they told you to do during the lecture, when you were building your campaign setting, was to steal it. Steal it from the real world. The island of Islandia, IIRC, is actually the eastern United States, sunk to a point under water, with that remaining above ground the Appalachian mountain range and related spurs and such.



I also remember the lecture including discussions on populating your world with "realistic" levels of monsters, adventuring classes, treasures, and so forth. The whole ecology thing, and why, when you turned a corner in the dungeon, you should never encounter six balrogs...



Tons and tons of good information for a kid just starting out. I oughta dig thos enotes up and transcribe them, what I can read of them... not that I was much of a note taker in the day...  :roll:


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Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 12:24 am 
 

grodog wrote:Mike, how about a review of your favorite Companions item? I don't have any, and would like to know which to avoid :D




I wouldn't consider any of these worth avoiding, they all have a certain minimum level of quality.  I seem to remember Streets of Gems and Gems for Death being my favorites, but haven't read either in years.  The subject was child slavery and as the standard with Companions items was pretty rough and hard hitting, I remember running one of these about 20 years ago and the crimes of the bad guys were so despicable that my group couldn't wait to find and very nastily and fatally punish the perpretrators.  TSR always seemed to shy away from the truly terrible acts evil men or monsters can do, whereas The Companions used it to good effect for realism.



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Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 1:39 am 
 

Just a minor interjection in TSR's favor....  They were the leaders in the hobby and under much closer scrutiny than any other company.  They avoided truly frightening levels of human evil because they were the ones who were likely to get hauled into court to defend their publications.

 

    I had the chance to work with James Ward a few years ago.  He told me that a part of his old job at TSR was to testify in court proceedings as a witness for the prosecution.  Every defense lawyer with a teenage client tried to blame D&D for his client's crimes.  Every civil case lawyer tried to collect money by tricking credulous juries with silly claims about D&D.



    TSR's careful choices when it came to depicting graphic evil were not the result of a lack of institutional balls.  It was the result of TSR's awareness of their legal vulnerability and their responsibility to young (often very young) gamers.  



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Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 1:20 pm 
 

MShipley88 wrote:Just a minor interjection in TSR's favor.... They were the leaders in the hobby and under much closer scrutiny than any other company. They avoided truly frightening levels of human evil because they were the ones who were likely to get hauled into court to defend their publications.



  I had the chance to work with James Ward a few years ago. He told me that a part of his old job at TSR was to testify in court proceedings as a witness for the prosecution. Every defense lawyer with a teenage client tried to blame D&D for his client's crimes. Every civil case lawyer tried to collect money by tricking credulous juries with silly claims about D&D.



  TSR's careful choices when it came to depicting graphic evil were not the result of a lack of institutional balls. It was the result of TSR's awareness of their legal vulnerability and their responsibility to young (often very young) gamers.



Mark  8)




    I'm probably one of the only posters around here that would admit they were happy when TSR officially renamed Devils and Demons in the game and in the monster manuals.  Didn't have a single problem with it actually, still don't if they want to keep calling them Baatwzeu or whatever.  It's the same as calling certain creatures "angels" which they never did anyway. I think that one move ultimately got the pressure off the game and to where it really belonged, namely heavy metal music and video games  :twisted:

    It's too bad really TSR had to waste so much time with that nonsense.  Now judges and juries are much more apt to toss out such ridiculous claims, if they even make it to court nowadays.  The free ride for society's "victims" that blame everyone for their problems seems to be coming to a halt.  Not only that, but on appeal large jury verdicts when they do happen are getting reduced to basically nothing.  Not very many know, for example, that the woman that spilled hot coffee from a MacDonalds on herself, sued and won for the fast food place having coffee that was too hot got a fraction of the 3 million dollar verdict (the judge awarded her 480 thousand, then to avoid appeal she and her lawyer supposedly settled for even less than that). I'm not sure if a "D&D made me kill" case ever won a verdict, I'm almost positive it did not.

    I blame TSR itself for a lot of it's woes, it had a horrible public relations machine working and was almost accepting of it's position as a whipping boy when it came to people labeling it "that devil/cult/demon worshipping game".  Basically, Gygax and company and whatever lawyer they had hired to represent themselves did a terrible job when it came to defending the hobby in public and educating the public about the game, I seem to remember most of the best defenses came from gamers themselves who would stand up and say "Look, I'm a doctor/minister/father, and I play D&D, what's the problem?" Anyone remember the just horrific appearance of Gary and his legal counsel on 60 minutes back in the day?  I blame a lack of sophistication on a general naiveity on their part, but it still never got the message out.

  Having said this I have no doubt TSR could have raised the level of violence (or realism) in their adventures through careful inference and innuendo rather than blatant exploitation and had no problem. The content was generally tamer than PG rated movies that a lot of those kids were watching.  Running scared doesn't excuse the content being bland, it was a corporate decision on their part and while I can understand it I think there were lots of ways around it. They should have marketed original D&D towards younger players, while AD&D could have been marketed to older more mature players and had more mature content.  I know the industry is getting away with murder now (Book of Erotic Sex, Book of Vile Darkness, Books of Torture, whatever there is being published) and you can't really compare the witch burning hysteria of the 80's, but TSR in general did a poor job of both marketing and defending it's product in the early days.  



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Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 1:42 pm 
 

Yeah, I remember Gygax's performance on 60 Minutes being pitiful.  He just seemed not to understand the nature of the TV medium and how the powers that be at CBS would edit his meandering responses to almost nonsensical snippets.  Gotta be pithy when the TV folks interview you.

I also didn't mind the changing of the names "demons and devils" as long as they kept Asmodeus, Demogorgon, etc but they didn't in the second edition MM, right?  Even with 1st Ed. they went too far appealing to kids with the dolls and stickers, and the game's products lost their edge.  No more Eldritch Wizardry covers... The game is complex and should be marketed to high school students and older.  Forget the little kids, leave them to the Pokemon flavor of the day, and then preserve the D&D brand as an adult product and pasttime.  

I bought the Book of Erotic Fantasy for kicks, but it was so sleazy and tawdry I was embarrassed to own a copy and sold it on frp.marketplace (my last sale there IIRC).  Do we really need an "Inflict STD" spell?  Puhleaze....  :roll:

  

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Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 5:23 pm 
 

Including Demons and Devils in the 1st edition Monster Manual was probably the single worst public relations decision in the history of gaming.



    It makes no difference whether or not AD&D gamers should stand up to the "religious right." (Whoever they are...the definition seems be, "whoever criticizes me.")  The fact is that the Demons and Devils added little to the game and could have been covered in other publications.  I am glad to see them re-named even if the cow is already long gone from the barn.



    Gygax's tendency to dig in his heels rather than roll with the market punches ultimately hurt TSR and the genre.  



    Gygax himself called it, "The Angry Mother Syndrome," and his company did not take it seriously enough soon enough.   :cry:



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Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 5:31 pm 
 

sorry but i didnt see what the big deal was myself  :?



i think ppl generally look far too much into things.



you only have to see how simple games have developed over the years.



demons and devils? bah thats nothing ...



just as an example as thing that can damage society. have you seen some of the video games available to teenagers these days? when do they ever play a "nice little game"? its either got swearing/violence/weapons/sex etc in it. you cant tell me that kinda stuff doesnt influence ppl in society, the same way the "do-gooders" tried to imply demons etc affected it in the 70's



same old thing to me. cept nowadays, nobody has the balls to stand there and do anything about it.



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Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 6:41 pm 
 

MShipley88 wrote:Gygax himself called it, "The Angry Mother Syndrome," and his company did not take it seriously enough soon enough.  :cry:




Ah. But I think TSR owed its popularity to these so called scandals and the like. The old saying is 'there is no such news as bad news in business'. Especially the business of entertainment which gaming fits under in my opinion. It all served as free advertisment and sunk into the conciousness of society in ways that mega ad campaigns could not achieve.



Business was not hurt by any of this 'devil' press accusations at all. TSR's demise as a business was wrought onto itself from product development toward the mid to late 80s.


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Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 10:35 pm 
 

Adam Shultz wrote:
MShipley88 wrote:Gygax himself called it, "The Angry Mother Syndrome," and his company did not take it seriously enough soon enough. :cry:




Ah. But I think TSR owed its popularity to these so called scandals and the like. The old saying is 'there is no such news as bad news in business'. Especially the business of entertainment which gaming fits under in my opinion. It all served as free advertisment and sunk into the conciousness of society in ways that mega ad campaigns could not achieve.



Business was not hurt by any of this 'devil' press accusations at all. TSR's demise as a business was wrought onto itself from product development toward the mid to late 80s.




TSR could have really helped itself by hiring a good public relations firm. It's done all the time and would have helped immensely. They could have countered a lot of the crap by showing the intellectual prowess needed to play D&D, the social aspects of it, how sitting around a table with friends throwing dice was better than hanging out on the street corner stealing hubcaps with criminals, etc.  It was very unsophisticated response (Gary comes off in the famous 60 minutes interview as a angry more than anything) but sadly very typical of a lot of companies.  

    A case in point, the president of a savings and loan I worked for in the 80's needed a bail out from debt; it was one of the savings and loans going bankrupt in the 80's as the result of bad loans (not my boss's fault, he was running the S&L after the former owners were getting booted into prison).  Instead of having his very able secretaries write the letter that was to be delivered to over 100 potential investors (it was during lunch hour, they were gone, and he wanted to get the letter out right away), he typed up something himself, and told me (I was the only employee there at the time) to photo copy it and send it out by fax.  I happened to glance at it and it looked like it had been written by a 10 year old monkey on crack.  Mispelled words, run on sentences, non-sequiters, it was incoherent.  Of course I held it back until his assistant got back from lunch, where she proceded to almost have a heart attack imagine leaders of the business world receiving this drivel from the president of a S&L. The point being, you can be the best there is at something, but you need to know your limitations and abide by them.

    So Gygax was not alone in making this mistake, I'm sure he thought he could do the best job of defending his life's work but the problem is sometimes we are too close to a situation to do it justice.  

    All this aside, I guess the Companions stuff works because they were NOT TSR and could get away with stuff like serial killers, child slavery, etc.  When you are flying under the radar so to speak, it's easier to buck tradition.  

    Meanwhile, still digging through boxes to find another Companions item to review....anyone else here want to give it a shot?



Mike B.


Last edited by Badmike on Mon Jun 02, 2008 8:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2005 11:08 pm 
 

TSR tried all kinds of things that could be construed as a sophisticated PR approach. For example, they started marketing programs towards educational programs. (I wish I had more of these materials but I do have a bit). Also, the investor's/marketing packet goes on about the virtues of gaming on personal creative develop, etc. etc.

I am not so sure they didn't hire a PR firm to help them along. Does anyone actually know?



But at the end of the day the damage was already done. Everyone in the United States and beyond was hearing about this game called Dungeons and Dragons. Everyone either had to have the stuff or at least see it. Most parents could care less as it could only reasonably construed as 'fantasy'. This includes mine, thank god! My neighbors parents were not so accepting as they burned all of my friends D&D in a barrel behind their house and chanted, yes chanted! To please the lord or something. hahaha



It was a really fantastic event in retrospective. Playing the game was 'dangerous' and continues to hold my attention to this day for this very reason.


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Post Posted: Tue Apr 04, 2006 2:07 am 
 

    For general info, The Companions Product line consisted of campaign items and play aids.  I'll leave out describing the hex and grid paper they also offered.  In terms of campaign items, these consisted of The Curse on Hareth; Plague of Terror; Brotherhood of the Bolt; Streets of Gems; Gems for Death; and the disputed Sacrifices of the Orc Lord (disputed because even though it is listed in both the product line published on the back of modules, and in Schick's Heroic Worlds, I've never heard of anyone actually seeing a copy in the 20 years it has supposedly been out).  Play aids include Places of Mystery I: Chilling Chambers; Places of Mystery II: Alluring Alcoves; Places of Mystery III: Sylvan Settings; Treasure Troves I: Cards of Power; Companion Pieces I & II: Fantasy Furnishings.  
The format for the Places of Mystery series is 10 short settings per item, very fully described, with suggestions for scenarios or adventures using the room or area as a backdrop.  This are also highly recommended, if nothing else they can give a ton of really good adventure ideas.  The Cards of Power describe lots of new magical items.  Fantasy furnishings are sheets with crack and peel furniture designs for filling in 25 mm maps (sorry I think I used up all mine back in the day and no longer can find these!).


I started looking at this old thread and realized it was something like two years since I posted the review of Plague of Terror.  I'm going to try to start doing one review a month of the other Companions items, and maybe some other oddball gaming stuff like Midkemia or Dimension Six just for the fun of it.....

The only Companions item I have handy right now is "Places of Mystery IV: Highroad" (which for some reason I left off the above list).  It is typical of the other "Places of Mystery" supplements in the series, which all describe a setting in detail and leave the monster/treasure placement up to the DM. I'm rereading it tonight and a review will hopefully follow in the next few days....

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Post Posted: Tue Apr 04, 2006 9:33 pm 
 

Review of "Places of Mystery IV: Highroad":

    Highroad is typical of the other "Places of Mystery" supplements in the series, which all describe a setting in detail and leave the monster/treasure placement up to the DM.  Highroad keeps to the general plan by having ten places, all outdoors on roadways, described in detail following a pattern.  First, every area is described several different ways, each about a paragraph or more long.  There is "The Approach", which describes the area as the group/character comes upon it; "Rapid Glance", which is meant to tell the viewer what items of interest are readily visible; "Detailed Look", which is a more careful inspection of the area presumably as the characters have approached it closely; "Brief Search" if the characters happen to rapidly check out the area without much effort; "Thorough Examination" which is a longer and more exacting search that reveals all hidden or trapped items or areas; and "Hints for Play" which gives various ideas and sometimes backstory of the area so as to give the DM ideas for play in his own campaign.
    As usual with Companions items, the writing standards are superb even though each area has a different author, and only one is by Peter Rice (one of the mainstays and creators) although Wm. John Wheeler did edit the collection so presumably he might have touched up one or two offereings to bring them in line with the "Companions" way of writing things.  Some of the descriptions are only a page long; others are 3-4 pages long, and all have maps although most are crudely drawn and of low quality.  However, I found the handdrawn maps really were quite evocative of the material (reminded me of Judges Guild type stuff) and the maps for "Hobgoblin Burial Ground" (IMO the most interesting site) are just perfect in setting the mood for the encounter. It must be noted also that like all Companions items the writing type can cause eyestrain, it was their habit to cram as much as possible into the pages so the type was typically small and filled the entire page!
  Just to stress again, all the encounters are given without monsters or treasures, which is actually a very good idea as the area can be used as a backdrop to whatever way the DM wants the encounter to go.  Some DM's might be put off by such an approach as not enough of the work is done for them; however, I found the descriptions interesting enough by themselves and immediately thought of several adventure type ideas evoked by the settings.
    The encounter areas are "Byway Crossroads", "The Woodland Stream", "The Drawbridge", "Hobgoblin Burial Ground", "Doan'ts Crossing", "Sacred Soil of the Sprites", "Sentinel Elms", "Grunder's Gorge", "Geyser Pass", and "Volcrax's Toll".  Of these, I thought that Byway Crossroads, Hobgoblin Burial Ground, Doan'ts Crossing, Sentinel Elms and Volcrax's Toll were the most evocative, with Doan'ts Cross, Sentinel Elms and Volcrax's Toll being one gaming session encounters of particular interest even without adding any opponents (although the addition of any one creature would add greatly to the settings of these three or any of the above, making it a complete mini-adventure).  Doan'ts Crossing is an eerie, abandoned river crossing complete with ferry, and a secret that has lain undiscovered for years....this one is good if the backstory (included) is known first, having the characters investigate the area after hearing the tales of hidden treasure, and perhaps placing an encounter with a group of treasure hunting bandits or the undead spirit of the late ferryman.  Sentinel Elms reminded me of the sort of writing Ed Greenwood or Gary Gygax did when they were really "on"; just a short description of a interesting place (this one a flagstone path between two elms with many hidden secrets) with lots of hooks (written by The Companions own Peter Rice); Hobgoblin Burial Ground is just that, intricately described,  with lots of spooky atmosphere.  The encounter would be interesting enough without any opposition, although it's almost expected that something has to come to life during the trek through here to attack the party! Volcrax's Toll is a very evocative looking encounter area (pictured on the cover) of a massive bridge/dam and the ominous warning of toll to be paid; DM's are left to decide if characters can pay or not without reprisal from some elemental, spirit or monster.
   All in all, the publication is quite good, but nowadays not really a spectacular product. With the gigantic glut of 3rd edition products running along the same lines (off the top of my head, the "Locales" series and the "En Route" series springs to mind and I don't even play 3rd ed), this can be seen by a lot of gamers as quaint at best and not detailed enough to be useful at worst.  When it was released in 1984, there weren't many of these sort of products and it might well have been quite a bit more useful.  Still probably worth seeking out for the Companions completist, you won't be disappointed and you might get a good idea or two from the site descriptions for use in your own campaign.

Mike B.

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Post Posted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:31 pm 
 

Mike, great review!

You should also post it over in the Forums on Dragonsfoot.org. They have a dedictated section for Reviews. It's been slow lately and your review is just right for it.

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Post Posted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:51 pm 
 

I really like these reviews, Mike.  Thanks  

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Tue Aug 08, 2006 12:01 am 
 

Does anyone know where in Mystara's oceans that Islandia was going to be placed before BX1 was canceled? If not, does anyone have William John Wheeler's email address? I hope to ask him some questions and post his answers on the Mystara Message Board.

Shane

  
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