[Version with useful links can be found on my rpg review blog]
Did somebody say "Old School RPG"? (I know I did)
This supplement from Silver Bulette's Ian McGarthy presents a collected Undying Orbs campaign. This time there is no confusion, no 5E Fantasy logos. This collection of adventures is meant for Swords and Wizardry Complete rules from Frog God Games' Matt Finch - the man almost single-handedly responsible for the OSR (I really should review Swords & Wizardry).
Another page, another resource
This wonderful campaign is unabashedly old-school in the best ways possible. To begin with we are getting an overview the city of Redstone, its districts and important locations - including the previously reviewed Silvery Moon Tavern, as well as groups of interest. These are followed by a timeline that presents the events unfolding as the adventurers progress through the campaign. Although the main events are presented as happening in a linear fashion the order in which players decide to go through the adventures is entirely up to them - completing a selected orb retrieving quest progresses the timeline by another chapter.
Depending on the location/environment and time of day different random encounters may occur and that is where the next section comes in. Not all of them involve combat and those that do are contained on several pages of illustrated creatures with stats and short descriptions ready to read out loud as the encounter begins. This is followed by 10 unique encounters that, again, are not all combat based.
Stone Temple Pilots
After a short introduction of the quest ("Go fetch the MacGuffin and there may be more work thereafter") the players will embark on a dungeon/temple crawl. They will not be alone as there are other groups hired t perform the same task. As far as the adventure is concerned there is an evocative keyed map and descriptions of rooms, again with text ready to read in grey boxes. Inclusion of creatures' stats in the text is a great quality-of-life feature - you will still need the Core Rulebook for Swords & Wizardry to reference spells but if you know the rules already that saves you flipping the bestiaries.
As with the outside encounters, not all of them are combat. There is a good mixture here of fights, exploration, puzzles and traps. My favourite is a room with subversion that looks like combat but is actually a trick, where upon entering the adventurers see two skeletons raising swords as if to strike - it turns out they are just puppet skeletons on a string connected to the door, but the players will probably assume that these are undead.
Gotta catch 'em all
After completing the first mission the timeline progresses, the story opens up and the players can choose which one of the quests ("Fetch the following MacGuffins") to take in which order. The three following temples/adventures each contain keyed maps, lists of varies encounters (combat, puzzles, traps) and stats for - in many cases illustrated - enemies. After collecting (or loosing to the other parties) all the Pokeballs... erm... orbs, there is one more place to be visited with the fifth temple - a pocket dimension Plane of the Orbs. Here is the final challenge that the adventurers will have to face, and should they fail it will have terrible consequences upon the world. No spoilers but the campaign makes you rethink certain type of monster as being, well... a terrible monster and not a romantic conflicted anti-hero.
What follows are appendices with NPCs, new creatures, magic items, player handouts and the Orbs themselves.
Get to da shoppa!
Yes, the campaign is really good. It has the old school RPG vibe and clearly was written with S&W style of play in mind and not hastily converted to OSR type game. There is a lot for the players to do in here: fights, traps, puzzles and social interactions (mostly with either their employers and competitors but still). It gives the DM handouts, appendices, lists, stats within text, grey boxes with almost ready to read introductions to the encounters.
I loved it. It is challenging, occasionally funny and weird, and always engaging. If you are running S&W or any type of old timey D&D OSR retro-clone type of game you should definitely get it. Silver Bulette delivers a very solid product for just a few of the Yoosan dollars.
4.5 Orbs out of 5, would temple crawl again.