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The Manse on Murder Hill
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/18/2015 16:29:38
The Manse on Murder Hill is a Labyrinth Lord Adventure for character 1st to 3rd level written by Joe Johnston. The PDF is 50 pages which includes 2 title pages, 2 blanks and an OGL page.
Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this pdf in exchange for a fair review.

Ok now that I have that out of the way I also want to add that this is also the exact kind of adventure I would have sought out. Especially these last few weeks. It is "Basic Era" so already I like that and it is a haunted (or so they say!) house. So pretty much I am sold and I have not even gotten past the cover yet.

The art includes work by Stuart Robertson, David Guyll (whom I have been enjoying a lot of his Dungeon World material of late) and Tim Hartin. I want to take a moment to talk about the art. IT is great and really helps set the mood. This module feels different than other "old-school" modules and it is a nice change of pace really. The art and overall feel of the module make this feel more like something you would play with Chill than Labyrinth Lord. Maybe Joe and his team could redo it for something like Cryptworld, Rotworld or Majus. Course the monsters would need to be changed to something else, but it still works.

The adventure itself is for 6-10 characters. I am not sure what the survival ratio is supposed to be, but that seems like a lot. I would rather reduce the party size a bit and have higher levels go. There is a lot going on here, so the larger numbers do work. I think one of the issues some Labyrinth Lords might face is a party "splitting up and searching for clues".

The feeling of this adventure is old school, but old-school+. Like I mentioned above there are modern sensibilities here. Yes, there is a great rumor table (which has a nice XP award system attached), but there is also a backstory to what is going on. The village of Little Flanders feels like something you would have found in a book from a red box, but there are other touches as well.
Characters should feel free to search the village, but keeping in mind that a village is not a dungeon.

The titular Manse itself is not very big. It doesn't have to be really. The place has the requisite eerie feel to it and the table of random "illusions" (I would have called them "hauntings" or "phantasmagorias" but that is me) help. There are also some wandering monsters.

Truthfully I kept picturing #12 Grimmauld Place from the Harry Potter books when I was picturing the Manse. There is plenty of great descriptive detail, but anything more you can add while playing is great. Don't forget the smells and the little noises too.

The module progresses until the goal is discovered, the lost children.

The module is quite flexible. I could not help but think that I could change the monsters to Bogarts and Goblins and have a Faerie-lands sort of adventure. Change them to degenerate humans and suddenly we have a cult to break up. Change them to various types of undead and...well you get the idea.

It should be a perfect rainy-afternoon sort of adventure. Which also happens to be one of my favorite kinds of adventures.

Maybe it can go without saying, but I will say it anyway. This is a very flexible adventure and you can put it into just about any campaign world you want.

Now lets talk about the price. At $2.00 this is criminal steal. Seriously I have very recently paid twice as much for far less adventure than what I got here. This a great adventure.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manse on Murder Hill
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The Manse on Murder Hill
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/15/2015 11:28:27
Reading through Taskboy game's The Manse on Murder Hill is like reading through an EC or precode horror comic but its done in such an entertaining style that you forget that your reading an old school rpg adventure. This is the type of plot that you want for a low level party of adventurers, something exciting gritty and entertaining for you as well as the players. This review and commentary is for the updated as well as expanded adventure on Rpgnow and Drivethrurpg
The plot is like something lifted right out of a pulp magazine, 'Several children of Little Flanders have gone missing near an abandoned house of evil repute. A desperate town has begged your heroes to exorcise the house of evil spirits and rescue the children. Will you brave the dangers of the Manse on Murder Hill.'
For a Labyrinth Lord adventure for levels 1-3 this product takes full advantage of every aspect of the dungeon adventure trope and has it twisted into a solid direction that actually follows a nicely handled plot with goals, treasures, and gives everything you need to play in a two dollar product that is worth the money.
The artwork in the product as I've said in a past review of the product looks like it came out of a Hellboy comic and that's a good thing. The mood here is right in line with the swords and sorcery aspect of Little Flanders. You've got NPC's here that fit the local space, lore, rumors, and menace lurking around the corner. You've got places of interest, equipment, and high weirdness. Whist reading through this I was reminded of whiffs Robert E Howard's Solomon Kane, traces of Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea and bits of a low level Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The product oozes with atmosphere and weirdness in a low level sort of way that one generally doesn't see with products of this cost. There is a lot of quality here.
The PC's might wander where they will but this adventure takes full advantage of a solidly done investigation with full rounds of dungeon and location crawling in three spots or more. There is lots happening in Flanders and its on the level of a Twin Peaks meets Solomon Kane kinda vibe. Even though this adventure could be used with any sword and sorcery system including OD&D. And yet this is a straight forward adventure with plenty of action happening below the surface as well as on top. This product reminds me of at at least several old school fantasy comic books from the 70's with traces of late two thousands game design sensibilities and that's a good thing. But make no mistake, one wrong move in this module and your adventurers are dead meat. The second thing that I love about this adventure are the maps, handouts, and attention to details that the author has done. There's something very pulpy reading through adventure and seeing these. Its like an invite into the world of the adventure. And this is where The Manse on Murder Hill shines, the drawing in factor of this adventure.
For the Labyrinth Lord retro clone Manse on Murder Hill is a must. Seriously this is an essential adventure for the DM to have and its solidly done. But if PC's make mistakes your going to be dead meat.
Scattered throughout this product are three or more campaign hooks that could see the DM fleshing out the events of Little Flanders. And to be honest while this adventure is designed and executed for Labyrinth Lord. I wasn't thinking of that game while reading it at all. I was looking thoughtfully over at my shelf and contemplating Lamentations of The Flame Princess or Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea for running this one .
Now there are several reasons for this and number one is the fact that Little Flanders could easily be tucked into the peusdo historical realms of LoFP with little problem, making it a perfect little local starting place for adventurers of the freebooter type.
For Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, this is a nice and even low level starting adventure where you've got locations recovering from the Green Death and on its way back to the road of recovery but in dire need of adventurers. In point of fact I'd go so far as to say that besides the efforts of Corey Ryan Walden. Manse on Murder Hill is great starting adventure for low level PC's with enough action, excitement, and engagement for your PC's for a very long time to come. Now with enough bang for your buck for two dollars, I'd say that this adventure could be adapted for OSRIC, Fantastic Heroes and Witchery, and other advanced clones but this might require some juggling with the stats and adventure elements & materials within this product but I think its well worth it.
In point of fact I'd go so far as to say that using this adventure you could take the location of Little Flanders and pop it right into a post apocalyptic isolated location and still have the action, flavor and adventure intact. To take this further with a little imagination you might have the adventure taken further afield into the Cthulhu Dark Ages rpg . But then again that might be going to far a field for a solidly done and well written game adventure. The best one's spark the imagination and get the players and DM thinking in just that sort of way. Five out of Five in my book!
Eric Swords and Stitchery blog

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manse on Murder Hill
by Shane W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/13/2015 16:14:58
Everything about this module drips beautiful!
I am serious. It's amazing. The layout, artwork and the writing are top notch. From now on this is one of the modules I am going to go to when I'm designing my own. As usual, I am not going to give too many spoilers other than the above product description. The layout really caught my attention, it has its own feel, although its mostly B&W, the little splashes of the blue make me smile. It isn't the typical "old school" module look, but it does reference it a bit here and there (2 columns, B&W artwork, etc). Now onto the actual writing.

First off, I'll say this, there isn't one thing that +Joe Johnston didn't think of. There's great rumors (including false ones), everything is labelled well (all maps), there's player handouts, all the monsters & NPC's are stated out. (Labyrinth Lord Compatible BTW). There is political intrigue!

The one thing I quite liked was that the town does not really have much in the way of adventuring gear. This could be a interesting thing with some newb players that assume you can buy your bastard sword + 9 anywhere.

There is an air of creepiness within the module (I refer you to the title). There are shades of Lovecraft within the writing. A good GM will play up the creepiness of the mansion. Speaking of which there's some wonderful tables throughout the module that help to do just that.

Another thing that I quite like (and strive to do as well), is to create adventures that are open ended as far as specific campaign settings are concerned. Joe does just that. This adventure can easily be plopped into your existing campaign world with little to no fuss.

The adventure is labelled for a party of balanced 1st level characters with approx 6 -10 players. (I'd love to get 10 players - side note). Of course the author suggests that it is best to read thru the entire adventure first, and change/balance things the way you like.

Oh did I mention there's a few extra monsters? YUP! there's a few extra monsters.

(don't swear Shane).....

A fucking love this adventure. I can't wait to run it. Considering I am going to be playing a little 5e I may go ahead and convert it, its either that or I'm running it as a one off with basic rules from 81.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Evil of Witches Fen
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/02/2015 10:31:37
More detail reviews are here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/

This adventure is really more of hex-sandbox. It is two pages and the central conceit is the characters are stranded here till the next boat arrives so they might as well figure out why the place is dying. There are some suggested quests and some points of interest. There are a couple of witches mentioned. The Gray Lady is the spectre of an old witch. She is also a quest. Dispatch her to help bring the area back from extinction. There is also the remains of a witch cult. They are not described in any detail.
This is a pay what you want product, then by all mean plop down a buck for it. At two pages (no title page or ogl) there is a still a lot here. You can find out more at the author's website: http://games.taskboy.com/#tbg-b
Does it work with The Witch? Yes. Only in teh respect that the adventure has so little detail that it works with anything. Now for some people this is perfect. Indeed I can see a number of sessions based on these two pages alone. You can drop it into any game as a break from the regular campaign. But if you want more meat to your module then this might not be for you.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Evil of Witches Fen
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Tranzar's Redoubt
by Jeremy Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/26/2015 05:16:28
Really well designed module, with unusual encounters (with many new monsters), a handful of things to make players think but not overly punish them if they don't. Also an excellent product, well laid out and with a lot of extras like pregenerated characters. It's a steal at $1.99.

My only real complaint is that the map is broken up over two pages.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tranzar's Redoubt
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Tranzar's Redoubt
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/14/2015 19:40:47
Wizards have always have been a problem,but there are some that are completely bat crap insane who cause problems. This adventure is about one of those wizards, Tranzar is the type who demands the attention of adventurers. With wonderful artwork by Joe Johnson and maps by the magical pen of Dyson Logos this is an adventure that pits your party against a wizard whose made a pact with a demonic tree. I kid you not and it only get's worse from there. If you like Hellboy and the Evil Dead films then this adventure is going to be right up your alley. This adventure clocks in at forty four pages of delicious old school fun and a devilish romp through the imagination of Mr.Johnston.
The dungeon here is a living, breathing, horror filled pit of OSR adventure that drips with atmosphere and weirdness while accessing some of the deeper viberational weirdness of stuff that many other adventures miss. Here the 80's vibe is online but not not in a way that echoes some long lost nostalgia but in a very solid and fun way that makes your PC's think or die.
This is a straight up Labyrinth Lord Compatible game adventure with nice maps and a well drawn set of maps and features that ties the whole product together in such a way as to make it easily accessible for the DM. Everything from random plant life hazards to weird dungeon dressing is clearly laid out. Here's where the whole thing shines like a diamond, the cave complex of Tranzar is fantastic adventure location and there are clearly defined reasons for the party of adventurers to be together in point of fact four of them. The adventure reminds me at once of some of the best part's of 80's fantasy films without the stupid bits, the adventure has a nice assortment of random tables in certain areas. And this is an adventure that makes the PC's think or die horrid deaths of doom. Right off the bat, I love the graphic presentation of the elements of the adventure the visual tone of the product is kept throughout and its a very well done bit on the author and designer's part. The NPC's throughout the product are very well done and have motives of their own. The set up is different without being too alien and going far afield from the rest of the adventure. The traps in this adventure are different, dangerous, and at times lethal if played with wrong. On a whole the dungeon elements and NPC's should never be underestimated at all by either the DM or the party of adventurers.
Tranzar's Redoubt has lots of interesting trappings scattered throughout that make it a really nice addition for a sword and sorcery style of game. I can see adapting this adventure to any number of retroclone style clones. The amount of spit and polish that went into this adventure shows. But is it worth the purchase price? At two dollars the answer is a simple yes, the module accesses many of the tropes of the 80's but does so in such a way as not to be stupid, tiresome, or dumb. This is a smart, cagey, and at times whimsical adventure that can be easily played in one sitting or with a bit of baiting can be stretched over a couple of sessions. In point of fact I can see using some of the elements in this one in other adventurers. I wonder if this will be last we see of Tranzar? Well only time will tell but if your adventurers are lucky then he will meet his end completely.
Parts of this adventure reminded me of Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. Technically this adventure could be used as a cross adventure with Mutant Future's Mazes and Mutants campaign option. With a bit of adapting the adventure location could be used as the focus for a rather twisted and strange campaign side option for Mutant Future. A few things to pay attention to first off is the level of the PC's, this adventure while designed for levels four to six could easily challenge higher level PC's because of the clever bits and encounters. If the party plays this one wrong there are a few TPK points in this adventure. The encounters have not only a back story to them but a mini history at times that reminds me of early TSR modules mixed with a midnight Saturday evening movie. Joe Robertson and co. did a bang up job with this adventure marking well the old school influences while fusing their own energy throughout the product. The ideas in this module are fresh but a word on treasure and relics in this one, your going to have to scale this adventure to the party and retroclone system of your choice. This adventure would also make a fine addition to the Lamentations of the Flame Princess line, the weird pulpy elements are solidly well done and the value for this module is clear. This adventure set's a pretty high bench mark for those DM's looking for something new, different, well done, with lots of play value. Taskboy Games continues its solid performance and edge in retroclone adventures. A definite four out of five for this great old school beast of an adventure! Very well done and a great value for the money!
Eric F Sword and Stitchery blog

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
How to Hexcrawl
by Joel R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/22/2015 15:05:35
The hex crawl has a lot to offer with a myriad of ways to handle it. Unfortunately, this PDF offers very little that isn't already in the core books, whether it is Labyrinth Lord or the classic Expert set. In all fairness, it does say in the description "Compiled directly from the Labyrinth Lord core rulebook," but I expected at least a commentary on those steps with perhaps alternatives. Without that additional material, this PDF has little to offer. It is a PWYW product with a low suggested price, but it should be billed as a primer priced at $0.00. The most useful part was the resources section with links to blogs that offered much more content.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
How to Hexcrawl
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How to Hexcrawl
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/11/2015 14:50:34
This is a twenty four page 'pay what you want' basic primer for all things hexcrawling awesome. The hexcrawl is the unsung underbelly of the old school game that has appeared countless times over and over again. There is a reason for this, because it works so well. This pdf is a primer for this method of adventuring and goes into everything that a DM or his players might want or need to know. All of it is laid out in a step by step stereo instruction method of OSR preparation and go to it. The author knows his subject and traces down everything that you need for hexcrawling right out of the gate.
Want to know the small history and back story to this method of adventuring, that in this title as well very quickly done with all of the ins and outs for mapping, adventuring, and more. This information can be applied across the board for any type of campaign from fantasy, sword and sorcery, and even westerns should you design it that way.
How to Hexcrawl is the easy step by step title to get you started and even for the veteran gamer this is a good chance to brush up on your skills set and move forward with incorporating one of the best methods of old school adventuring out there. How To Hexcrawl is worth the price of admission and very well done. Money well spent if you haven't gotten into a solid title lately this is it.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thank you for your kind words! I\'m glad you found this useful.
The Manse on Murder Hill
by Asaph L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/06/2012 22:22:32
I found myself reading this entire adventure. Clear, concise and very intuitive in its flow. A few format issues and some grammatical errors' oh and the font too, barely takes away from this great 1st level adventure. Joe Johnson's style of writing is both traditional and modern, getting at the root of the move to "old school" where the adevnture was the product, was cheap and simple, and made sense. The big publishers could learn a thing or too about not getting lost in modules and ignoring the audience who's trying to put it all together. I could see Johnson's world, his people, his town; I didn't need artwork and fonts and borders and gloss and a companion World Guide to figure it out. That's why I love RPGNow, fifteen years ago I wouldn't have dreamed we could have so much access to material like this from all over the world. By the way, somebody please hire this Joe Johnson to make these, we RPG veterans have cash to spend on good product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Manse on Murder Hill
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for your kind words. I am working on the next module in the series, but I expect to produce a few 1 page adventures before then.
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