Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tales of Stercoran: Five Mini-Solos from Tavernmaster Games

Tales of Stercoran is a collection of five mini-solos published by Tavernmaster Games last year. Each of the solos consist of approximately 20 paragraphs, so they are easy to play in a limited amount of time. For me, play time was between 10 minutes (the first solo) and 25 minutes (the last solo). But, just because they are short does not mean they are not richly detailed, fun to play, and replayable. The solos are written by four different authors from the Tavernmaster team including Sid Orpin, Jason Mills, Andy James, and Andy Holmes. This makes for some nice shifts in voice, style, and game play. There are also some excellent examples of how to make the most of a solo adventure set in a limited space, whether it's a small tower, a simple cave, or even a rock in the middle of a bay.

The five solos are linked, following a consistent storyline centered around two coastal villages and a sea god named Stercoran. There is even a cult of a rival god that turns up later to wreck some havoc. The first four solos are designed for a 1st or 2nd level character with no more than 20 adds. That means that these four adventures can easily be played one after another with the same character, provided your character survives of course. The fifth solo, however, takes a more experienced delver. The recommendation is "for characters up to level 4 with no more than 50 adds" and that's about right. If you want to use the same character you used in solos 1-4, you'll need to send him or her off on some other adventures first.

After a few attempts and delvers I was able to make my way through the first four in succession. The last one I completed with a higher level character. As I mentioned before, the great thing about these solos is that despite the limited number of paragraphs, there are a lot of choices to be made and, as a result, many possible outcomes for each one. There are many ways to win and lose each adventure so that even if you come out victorious, it's worth trying again to see if greater rewards are possible. There are even options to bail entirely; there are obviously consequences for such actions, but I view any adventure that does not end in death to be at least a small victory.

I highly recommend Tales of Stercoran. You can get a PDF for only $4.00 from the Tavernmaster Games store at RPGnow. As with all of Tavernmaster's products, all profits earned go to the Jeff Freels Transplant Fund so you're not only getting some great solos, you're donating to a good cause.

I wanted to provide some brief descriptions of the five solos and my thoughts on each one. As a result, there might be some information ahead that you may not want if you've not played them before. While I won't give anything away, it is possible there may be some spoilers included.


***Possible Spoilers Ahead***


In the first solo, Stercoran's Shrine by Sid Orpin, you find yourself in the small fishing village of Hakesend waiting for your ship to be repaired. You are sitting in the local tavern (of course), drinking and minding your own business (or not) when you are given (in a couple of possible ways) a map to the lost Shrine of Stercoran, the local deity, with an offer to split any loot you may find fifty-fifty. You can accept this quest or not, but being an adventurer the choice is pretty obvious. The map leads you to a sea cave in which you find either certain death or the Shrine of Stercoran. There are some important choices to make along the way and the possibility of a good fight at the end, unless you have a charming personality. There are a few possible final rewards depending on the actions you take, each with a different value. Which one is best is really a matter of personal opinion.

The second solo, Attack of the Morgawr by Sid Orpin, you return to Hakesend which is currently being terrorized by a great sea monster that has been attacking the local fishermen. This creature has been dubbed the Morgawr. Someone has to take care of it and that someone is you. To fight this monster you are given a harpoon and sent out to sea either standing alone on a big rock in the middle of the bay or (if you're lucky) in a boat with someone to help you. Given that you are hunting a sea monster there is a chance that it will never come to face you, so there are a number of Luck Saving Rolls to make. Even if the monster does strike and you succeed in killing it, there are more challenges to face. The sea is cruel after all.

The third solo, Getting the Bird by Jason Mills, occurs in the aftermath of your activities in Stercoran's Shrine. It seems that someone (who?) has looted the Shrine of Stercoran and stolen the god's idol. The result has been a string of bad luck and misfortune for the people of Hakesend. A representative of the town arrive in the neighboring town of Trondhelm to ask for help with an offer of 50 gold coins for the safe return of the idol. The problem is that it is currently in the hands of a powerful alchemist holed up in a tower outside of town. The tower turns out to be a rather small structure, only two stories. Once inside you must deal with the strange (and disgusting) guards that the alchemist has set in place. There are also some fun liquids and powders to play with (as you'd expect of an alchemists home) that could help or hurt you (or both). I followed my favorite bit of advice and followed the directions. As with the other solos there are many possible outcomes to this adventure. The tower is quite small, but there is a lot of trouble to get into and many different rewards and punishments. Don't be afraid to sacrifice a little and watch out for that alchemist.

The fourth solo, Guard Duty by Andy James, gives you the opportunity to escort the idol of Stercoran back to Hakesend. Of course it cannot be as simple as that; there's always someone looking to steal that idol. Here we see the arrival of outside forces wishing to capture the power of Stercoran. It's up to you to steal the idol back, or not. You have full control of what you want to do here; some choices are less moral that others, but sometimes tough choices need to be made. Just be sure you can handle the opposition. This is guard duty after all, make sure you're equipped for it.

The fifth and final solo, Blood for the Tiger Cult by Andy Holmes, plays out what happens after someone steals the idol of Stercoran back from the Tiger Cult. They are obviously not too happy about that, so they arrive at Hakesend looking for a little pay back. Of all of the solos, this one is the most combat heavy. You can fight your way around town taking out the bad guys. Just be aware that some are tougher than others and you can quickly get overwhelmed. Don't worry though, you are often given the chance to abandon the town and save yourself. It's a nice touch that I always like to see in solos. Keep in mind that the final enemy and the key to ultimate victory in this solo is very tough, so you will need those 40-50 adds mentioned in the instructions to succeed.

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