Friday, August 3, 2007

REVIEW: Dark Raiders of Misty Ridge

After I advertised his newest stuff, Thomas Scott of Magique Productions, Ltd contacted me in regards to doing reviews of the two products in question in return for free copies. How could I say no? After all, that’s what this blog is about.

I’ll cover Dark Raiders of Misty Ridge first, and then review The Forgotten Isle in a later post.

Dark Raiders of Misty Ridge by Thomas J. Scott is a module tailored for 1st edition games… you know the one… but designated as an OSRIC product. Set for 6 PCs of levels 4-6, it’s really suitable as a one-shot adventure for throw away characters, or for inserting on that gaming evening with the DM is caught with his pants down for something to run. Dark Raiders is more than capable of filling any gap by giving the players a fun evening.

Without spoiling the plot: the basic idea is a village in trouble from mysterious raiders who appear in the mist. The village elders send out a plea for help; the PCs answer the call. Pretty basic idea… easy to handle. Scott takes an old concept and does an excellent job of making it challenging.

Dark Raiders has 15 pages of pertinent information (with the obligatory license tacked on the end) and four pages of maps. The entire product has a very professional look to it that rivals anything produced by TSR in the first half of the 1980s.

The module itself introduces one monster… the sprat (a magical hybrid of rat and spider), and one new race…the Skeeth (a rather nasty sharklike humanoid), and the Half-Skeeth… but stipulates that the Half-Skeeth is strictly NPC.

The first thing that captures the eye is the killer artwork on the cover. Paul Daly’s rendition of the module’s bad buy looks equally good in its original black and white form on the inside cover (the outside version was colorized by Santiago Iborra… the guy responsible for some first rate map-work in this product). The outside cover for Dark Raiders is visually appealing and brings to mind TSR products circa 1984-85 or so for their B/X modules and their second generation PC record sheets. Not my favorite era, but memory provoking nonetheless and scored serious marks with me in the quality department.

Iborra’s maps are a pleasure to behold… crisp, clean, and no mistakes that I could find. The trained eye can tell that he used some great software called AutoRealm for at least the village map. I’m assuming Iborra also did the interior illustrations, which are sharp, detailed, and non-obtrusive, yet lend to illustrating the module details well.

Scott’s manuscript is easy to read and extremely detailed (see below). He uses a DM device that I have mixed feelings about… “read boxes.” Each encounter has a text to be read to the players. I’ve seen this done well, and I’ve seen it done in horrible fashion. Gary Gygax used it tastefully in Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun; there are other examples in which it greatly slowed down game play. Fortunately, Scott’s read boxes are brief and meaningfully descriptive… he tells the players what their PCs see and that’s all. Good enough for me.

One technical detail about Scott’s prose is his habit of using short sentences to convey information; he should consider using a few more compound sentences to link pertinent info together in one sentence. As it is, his prose comes off slightly choppy and doesn’t flow well. This is just a minor detail that I’m sure he’ll work out in future releases.


PRO: excellent artwork, mapwork, and module design. Simple concept, easily plugged into any campaign (though it’s set for Scott’s Arkonus world). Good for a short evening’s play or to introduce new players to the game with pre-generated PCs… or perhaps as a prelude to a bigger scenario.

CON: attention to detail can get repetitive and boring at times. In line with old-school philosophy, Scott should consider letting the DM handle some of the detail in future works.

WOULD I BUY THIS PRODUCT: Yes. The PDF is marked at $3, which is extremely reasonable and worth what you’re getting.