I know how time-consuming it can be for DMs to create custom adventures for their players. I also know that it’s even MORE time consuming to develop an on-going campaign, complete with a “base of operations” and familiar NPCs and establishments for players. With the new 5th edition D&D rules released, there are probably a number of new DMs who might be finding themselves in need of some help with jumpstarting a campaign. If you’re a DM looking for that help or a player with a new AND nervous DM, you might just want to check out a new resource from Art of the Genre that has me grinning ear to ear.
The Folio is intended to be a six-part series of OSR modules … “old school rules.” The first module, ROS1 Beneath Roslof Keep, has just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign and delivered the printed copy to backers. (Digital copies were also available at a lower-priced backer level.) This version was created for OSR 1st edition rules (aka AD&D), but the way the module is designed and organized really lends itself to an easy conversion to other D&D versions or other fantasy RPG system.
Note: In addition to the digital and print copy of ROS1 Beneath Roslof Keep, creator Scott Taylor also made available to backers a PDF of the module converted to 5e rules.
Before I get into the details, a few bookkeeping details:
- Full color heavy card-stock cover, double-sided — A beautiful cover front with nice teaser description on the back, and just like old-school modules, you’ll find maps on the inside that include 3D maps of Roslof Keep and the first dungeon level beneath the keep.
- 24-page Roslof Keep Gazetteer — This is the booklet that really defines the campaign that Taylor has created. It provides some history of the Keep, numerous NPC descriptions plus the various establishments inside the keep that includes businesses and the Greater Houses (I’ll explain these shortly).
- Dungeon Master notes and Adventure Synopsis — Inside the Gazetteer, DMs will find additional assistance that include suggested ways to play the NPCs and guide players in directions that will provide more encounters and help them become part of the underlying story that is developing.
- Monsters Stats, Old and New — New monsters are provided (complete with stats) as well as familiar ones. In addition, there are special “roving” bands of creatures (that players will encounter) that get a deeper bit of explanation.
- 16-page ROS 1 adventure — Here you’ll find the “dungeon” described — boxed areas contain text to read to players and everything else is for DM’s eyes only. It’s a well-designed dungeon crawl and my favorite part has to be the bonus white/blue old school graph paper version of the dungeon on the back of the booklet.
Now, the story in a nutshell is this — Roslof Keep sits on top of a very famous dungeon that is continually being explored by seven companies with their own agendas. These companies like to hire adventurers to head down into the deep, and that’s the basic setup for your players — the keep becomes a home base as they develop their skills and return home for rests and healing. Inside the keep are a number of NPCs who may or may not be friendly to the players, and that’s just on the surface! Beneath the keep, players will encounter competing bands of adventurers along with creatures who have developed their own reputations and are spoken of in whispers. As the players develop their characters, they will discover a few side-stories that are developing that involve the individuals who run the companies and the keep itself.
If this first module is typical of the remaining five, I’ll be backing all five projects. (I’ve already backed The Folio #2 — it has 20 days and counting as I write this post.) I’ve read over the OSR version and the 5e version, and here are my personal thoughts:
- The quality of the material (cover and booklets) is very high. The printing is quality work, and the text and artwork in the two booklets is printed on a marble-like background that I like. (In a few areas, the randomness of the marble pattern occasionally “conflicts” with the text — you can still read it, but some backers have requested it to be lightened a bit and Taylor has agreed to make the change.)
- The artwork is fantastic — from the great cover to the black-and-white pages inside, the artwork is well done and very professional looking.
- The writing is also polished and edited. The font and font size selected is also easy on the eyes, and the mix of text and art doesn’t feel “crammed in” – the layout of all the elements is efficient and you can tell a lot of work went into the overall look and feel.
- The maps are top notch stuff. I love the 3D view (isometric view) of the keep and the dungeon but Taylor has also gone the extra mile and provided 2D versions of the dungeon (one b/w on the inside of the cover and another larger version in blue/white on the back page of second booklet). The Keep is amazing looking – a legend provides names and locations of all establishments inside the keep (and the dungeon rooms), but there are dozens and dozens of additional building and a small village for a DM to find many more places to add new adventures.
The Folio #1 was delivered on time. This was a BIG deal to me — I’ve had dozens of Kickstarter projects go late (a few have even failed to deliver), so getting this one on time was not only a surprise but also appreciated. Also tucked into the shipping envelope was a Thank You note from Scott Taylor to backers — it also mentioned that the artwork and printing were all done in the U.S.A., something that many US backers might also appreciate.
If you missed the Kickstarter for The Folio #1, you can still grab it over at artofthegenre.com OR back to pledge for The Folio #2 at the $30 level and get Folio #1 and #2. I cannot wait to see what comes next for players who go deeper beneath Roslof Keep.
Note: If the name of the keep sounds familiar, it’s because Art of the Genre is a fan of artist Jim Roslof, who did a lot of artwork in the early fantasy RPG days that included the cover for a module many of us older D&D players are fond of — B2 Keep on the Borderlands.