Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Weird That Befell Drigbolton, A Review

I am a sucker for buying indie RPG stuff, mostly because I eschew the power mad game apparatus and would rather lock myself in a half sunken laundry room to concoct rules governing the chance of parasitic infestation. Close inspection of the cover artwork shows a skull dripping blood from a hole in it’s forehead and wearing a red wig with two ponytails. Enough ribald banter.

The Weird That Befell Drigbolton is really good. Here’s why:

Drigbolton is well organised and not overloaded with bloated text blocks delineating invisible poison needle traps hidden in every third sock. All of the descriptors are perfect for any master running the game who only needs a concise description. I have been analyzing old TSR modules lately and they are overstuffed with lengthy descriptions of how some useless doodad in the background was beautifully carved out of bla bla bla. The makers of Drigbolton unprovides you this needless detail. Thusly shielded, the Master is then free to flesh out mundane details on the spot as god intended.

The prose itself has a certain mocking tone, much like the first few dry lines of a Monty Python sketch. The text itself however, never quite drives into pure parody. This is the perfect manner to offer this up, as it perfectly preserves both player’s and master’s agency to create the style of narrative they see fit.

The artwork is excellent. It perfectly sets the tone of the module and doesn’t over define anything. I have a huge pet peeve for the super slick images you see in the big name offerings. Too much photorealism robs the participants of their own ability to be creative.

This module is not a railroad. Players are dumped in and it’s their job to figure out stuff before the proverbial star stuff hits the fan. The scale of the map hex (at 6 miles) allows players to move around quickly. They just need to decide where they want to go. Information learned within these areas lead naturally to one or more others. Random events also conspire to drive the story to its “unnatural” conclusion. 

There is lots of great Player/NPC interaction here too. The Master will have many opportunities to talk like Thurston Howel the Third, Clint Eastwood and any of the various Rat Bags from MP’s Flying Circus. Make sure a glass of your favorite beverage at hand to keep your pipes lubricated.

There is a lot of weird stuff. Not just weird “Horror” as is the current flavor in the indie RPG community these days, but Drigbolton is just “off”. Like your uncle Carl from the war. And this is how it should be. If everything you encounter is weird, it all becomes the same. There has to be enough of the commonplace to push the odd stuff into the light. There are a host of random encounters in the back, broken up into groups. The designers created a simple and effective bit of mechanics to parse them out as the timer of the module runs out. I promise you will not randomly encounter two goblins with their weapons drawn looking for a fight. Maybe, instead you’ll run into “a maiden of innocence who is merely a lure for…” Let’s not give it away.

Lastly, the whole thing is easily mutable, allowing the Master to easily change things to suit his/her/its group. Sadly most of the stuff I buy is useless or too much of a PITA to alter for my game. Drigbolton will fit in perfectly within my world of Yogi-Rabbis, royal mobile armored thrones, and rectal port miss-fires.

When I convert this adventure to run, I’ll post my notes as a public service. The fine makers of Drigbolton promise more material in the future. Assuming this is not a hollow threat, I will gladly buy the next. Empire was better than the original, right?

The Weird That Befell Drigbolton
Suitable for Labyrinth Lord or any other fine FRPG
Gavin Norman, Greg Gorgonmilk writing and design
Andrew Walter illustrations
Kevin Green cartography