[Review] The Beholder #13; Traders Row

Beholder is starting to stabilize but shows no signs of stagnation. Innovation is attempted and articles and topics remain fresh. Unfortunately for us, the fruits of innovation are failure, more often then success.

Life After Death (Graham Staplehurst): An intriguing concept that is really much broader then its allotted 3 pages allows for. The possibility of continuing one’s character after he has died and play an undead being or reincarnated outsider with power commensurate with the level they held in life is fascinating, but extrapolating what the campaign format would be and how the character would interact with an existing adventuring party is far beyond the scope of the article. Any one of the possibilities mentioned in the article could be expanded into a booklet. If treated as a theoretical proposal rather then something that can be applied directly it is interesting, and the creation of subsequent material like Ravenloft’s Requiem: The Grim Harvest or more recent OSR offerings like Perdition show that, at the very least, the subject remains one of continuing fascination.

A Chronicle: Outlawed. Further play reports about the City State of the Invincible Overlord and its environs. Purple prose and filthy storygaming galore as the characters venture into the wilderness after finding a mysterious ring on the body of one of the secret police, and soon encounter a band of Altanian barbarians on a strange case of destiny. Confusing use of perspective makes this one a bit hard to follow. Turning a meandering session of wilderness wandering into a coherent narrative takes time, practice and skill, apparently.

Traveller: I need to get Settembrini or someone else who plays Traveller on board to tell me if any of the items or classes described here would be interesting additions to the core gameplay. Scanners that can detect the presence of life-forms or minerals aboard a planet in the manner of the Star Trek enterprise seem nice, but I have no idea if entire stretches of gameplay might become invalidated thereby. Is the burrowing Tank adequately described? No tech level listed for the various devices, and the price of 100.000.000 for a portable black hole device with a destructive radius of 3 parsecs seems surprisingly cheap.

Trader’s Row
Keith Andrews

AD&D 1e
Lvl 1-2

Burglary adventure for 1-2 thieves, describing an affluent Inn. It is almost good. A guard schedule, plentiful valuables and knicknacks scattered throughout the various rooms, and even a few interesting surprises. War Dogs in the innkeeper’s room is a nasty trick, one of the guests being an assassin also there to rob the place is quite another. There is not much in the way of fantastical elements to tide you over but it should suffice for a session or so of street level adventure. A short paragraph notes lighting, which areas are barred at night, and when dinner is served so all the guests are in the same room.

There are a few omissions as well as some missed opportunities. Including an order of battle in case the alarm is sounded seems a no-brainer. The occupants as well as guests are all given some characterization (i.e. Solida the half-elf trader is sleeping with the innkeeper’s daughter) but in a straight up heist, much of this is going to be lost. It is even possible to bribe the Assassin’s bodyguard for example. It would have been much more interesting to cover events like the PCs casing out the joint, or renting a room only to rob it from inside (again, this plan seems obvious).

Treasure placement would be irritating in a regular adventure but is actually great here. Many items have value but are bulky or unwieldy to carry (portraits, rugs, paintings, a desk etc.), there are concealed caches of wealth that only the owner knows about, there is a clearly very valuable statue with a magic mouth alarm on it (very good, obvious trap) and, once again, many ways to enter and leave the place. Appropriate in a thief adventure, direct confrontations with the guards and some of the guests are likely to end in disaster for the would-be thieves.

As a little treat, a play report is tucked in the back, ending in the discovery and death of the would-be thieves. Oh well!

As is it would be alright to run, perhaps as an introduction to the thief class for 1 or two players. Expanding it a little so it becomes possible to cage the place beforehand would improve the quality considerably. Fashioning a cheatsheet with the location of each NPC at various times in the house is recommended. The total treasure seems acceptable for a 1st level thief, although it is extremely likely only a fraction will be carried off.

I’m tempted to give this a ** because it is not special but unlike most Solo thief adventures it is not horrible, it is open-ended and organic, you CAN actually run and play this and you might even have a good time doing so. A meagre *** it is then, the copper standard for Solo thief adventures.

Monster Summoning: I don’t know but I’m not feeling the entries today. Now I know what you are saying, Prince that’s because you are hungover. And that is a fair point, but hear me out. Some of these feel almost like a stretch. A race of bird men with leaders with illusionist AND druid powers, natural attacks, swooping, a feign death ability that is not explained…it’s a bit much. The White Dwarf derived Aaracockra would eventually make it into Fiend Folio in 81′, and it would be interesting to see who came up with the Bird-man race first. A Grendel monster that is 2 HD (a waste!) and has no special abilities. A ghost of a child with its heart removed, that’s great, but then it can only be hit on a nat 20 with no notes on how they are affected by magic. Then a walking stirge variant, and a lock spirit (to add to the Earworm, rotgrub, mimic, yellow mould family of bastard monsters) I guess this issue is more mythology heavy? It’s not all bad: The 5 HD Cerberus is perfectly respectable, there is a strange skull-faced fiend in bronze armor riding a demonic camel that feels like it leapt from the pages of an unpublished Moorcock story.

DMing MUs: Decent 1-page article on the proper use of wizards as antagonists. Tips on how to create them (i.e. what details and why), balance them, have them use the geometry of the dungeon they inhabit to form ‘killing zones’ into which to lure the PCs, use of familiars and some notes on more higher level wizards. Roughly analogous to something you would see in a good reddit thread (I miss you guys too!) albeit with more intelligence, a focus on actual play and useability as opposed to individual creative expression.

Magic Jar: Good collection of magic items. The boots and gloves of spider climbing would later be replaced with slippers. A potion that amounts to a smoke grenade, another potion enchanted with illusion to always appear empty. Two extremely powerful items, one makes one immune to level drain and radiates a constant 10′ protection, but if it is ever damaged it will explode in a fireball dealing 1 HD/level drain prevented. The possession necklace functions like the magic jar spell on death but there is a 60% chance the necklace is already inhabited when found. The items are nice, but the note that states GP and XP values were deliberately omitted based on reader feedback that these are considered “stupid and some are just absurd” raises some eyebrows. Was this a british thing?


12 thoughts on “[Review] The Beholder #13; Traders Row

  1. PoN film recommendation:

    Dead Man’s Shoes 2004. This is grim like Requiem for a Dream or Kill List but these films have their place, when in the mood, as long as they are good films. Meadows has learned from Mike Leigh but this is a violent film.

    The theme is bullying, real bullying, not fake leftist post-2000 micro-offences. Bullying is a spiritual infection. The bullying idea seems to be that the suffering of a weak individual is more than compensated for by the pleasure in amusement of the bullying audience. This is extremely common in adolescents of both sexes, but can subsist in pathological adult communities. This is the theme of the film.

    Paddy Considine, of recent excellence in House of Dragons, co-wrote and starred in Dead Man’s Shoes.


    1. Sounds heavy. I’ll give it a watch when I am in one of those brooding moods.

      Our recent watch was Dr. No (1962). They have not quite nailed the formula (the ending perhaps too abrupt) but it was charming, stylish, witty, exotic, the soundtrack is of course an actor in itself. The slower pace and actual investigative work that Bond has to do give weight to the climax. Connery must be the best Bond.


      1. ***of course Connery is the best Bond***

        If you’re interested in Connery movies, you should check out The Hill about soldiers in a British Military prison.


      2. If you liked Dr. No, try From Russia with Love (1963).
        Best Bond depends on which aspects of the character you would like to see emphasised: if it is a brutal edge, Connery is a good choice; if you want a range of emotions from vengeful assassin to loyal friend, maybe Dalton; for the witty quips, Brosnan was better than Moore although he was saddled with some mediocre films after Goldeneye (and
        maybe The Spy who Loved Me is the most fun). The Craig films vary wildly in quality.


      3. I will concede on this point but you will not budge me from holding that Moore is the worst. The formula becomes rote and the dressing around it increasingly daft during his tenure, and he compounds that with an arch performance that ensures nobody involved is taking things seriously. Bond works best when the character is wry but grounded (cf. Connery, Dalton and, to be fair, Craig, when he’s trusted to show it).


    2. ==Sounds heavy. I’ll give it a watch when I am in one of those brooding moods.

      So true. You will know when you are in the mood. But it is best to recommend a film when it is fresh in the memory. It is pretty hard describing films you like when time has passed.

      I was drawn to it by Considine and I assumed you watched House of Dragons and enjoyed his performance.

      I love Connery as an actor, but the Bond films don’t hold up for me except for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I think Lazenby is as good as Connery, with better music, plot, production etc. Connery and Caine in The Man Who Would Be King is a wonderful film for me, and Connery and Richard Harris in The Molly Maguires is an excellent film.


      1. I agree that OHMSS is the best Bond movie (and, honestly, the only one I’m ever tempted to rewatch), in spite of George Lazenby’s lameness. John Barry’s score does a lot of the heavy lifting, and of course Diana Rigg is good in everything. It was the best of Fleming’s novels and the producers made the wise decision to just do a straight faithful adaptation, pretty much the only time after Dr. No that they ever did that.


      2. Casino Royale takes many elements from the book of the same name, and like OHMSS benefits from a great performance from the female lead (in this case Eva Green). It is my favourite of the Craig movies.
        Lazenby is excellent in the fight scenes, but it needed an actor with a good dramatic range in the part. A time machine and early Connery, Dalton, or possibly Brosnan could have made OHMSS the undisputed best.


  2. == in spite of George Lazenby’s lameness

    I know Lazenby had no career to speak of but I think his performance here is excellent.

    For me writing and visual artistry are most important. Bresson’s attitude towards actors is very interesting, it would be good for film as an art if they became secondary.


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