I've finally got around to writing a review of The Maze of Nuromen and,
again, wanted to share it first here for feedback before posting it to
The Maze of Nuromen is a short, introductory adventure module for use
with the BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules. Just as the BLUEHOLME rules are a
retroclone of the Holmes edition of D&D, “The Maze of Nuromen” is
meant to evoke the sample dungeon from the Holmes edition, without being
a direct copy of it. In this the module succeeds greatly. The map of
level 1 of this dungeon is reminiscent of the layout of the sample
dungeon. The background to both are similar, as is the geography above
Like any good sample dungeon, there is a good variety of combats,
tricks, hidden treasures, and things to do. There’s a stolen item to
retrieve, a useful password to look for, and even a riddle to answer.
For an Old School module, there seems to be a dearth of traps here.
There’s also very little opportunity here for role-playing. We know what
the elves are up to, but the bandits and goblins have no reason for
being here, nothing to learn from talking to them.
Many of the old D&D basic modules for levels 1-3 assumed you were
starting with a party of 1st level characters and would level up 1-2
times in the course of play. This adventure is probably too dangerous
for that unless the players go in with a large party, bolstered with
hirelings, or with a smaller party containing at least one 3rd level
The artwork is too grisly and unpleasant for my liking. Others may find that very appropriate for the sort of games they run.
My last minor complaint is that I feel an opportunity was missed here.
It would have been nice had there been at least some hint as to how to
combine the Holmes sample dungeon level into this dungeon to make a
deluxe, 3-level dungeon.
All minor complaints aside, it IS a pretty solid adventure, very Old
School, highlighting its simplified style with one-line stats for almost
every encounter. With 25 rooms on 2 levels, there is plenty enough here
to do for multiple game sessions.
Up front, I want to say I bought the City of the Gods eBook hoping for
more of a gazetteer-type book. I wanted a big map of the whole city and
block-by-block descriptions of what I would find there. That’s what I
was hoping for. What I got was an Expedition to Castle Greyhawk-style
adventure module that uses a plot to railroad you along just a selective
path through an expansive setting.
Now, that’s not necessarily bad. I really enjoyed Expedition to Castle
Greyhawk, but that was because I already had several other Castle
Greyhawk-related titles to help me fill in the blanks. In this case, I
was going into City of the Gods blind, as it were.
So I guess the real question is, did I learn enough about the City of
the Gods to make this a worthwhile purchase? Of its impressive 108-page
page count, I got 5 pages of introduction, a whopping 48-page
wilderness adventure taking place in the Valley of the Ancients around
the City of the Gods, and 33 pages on the City itself. Some of the
stuff inside is neat, like the table of effects of mixing magic and
science, the list of mutations from radiation, and the table of
laboratory specimens, but already having S3 Expedition to the Barrier
Peaks and DA2 Temple of the Frog, a lot of this felt like déjà vu to me.
In the appendices, there are 11 pages of new monsters. Most of them did
not excite me, but the fire nymph might fill a niche outside this
particular environ and the thermal godmite is impressively spectacular.
There are 4 pages on new equipment, half of which is pretty neat
hi-tech gear treated as magic items (which is very Blackmoor-ish), but
some of it seems weirdly out-of-place, like elven bucklers.
The maps are pedestrian. Most of the art is good, but some images are
inappropriately full-page, seemingly just to fill up space. I highly
recommend this book – BUT, only for someone who doesn’t already have
Expedition to the Barrier Peaks or any of the DA module series. For
owners of those products, this purchase is entirely optional.
I just learned tonight that I've been breaking the rules at DriveThruRPG by posting reviews of other people's products there, something publishers are not supposed to do. Thank goodness I hadn't written any more than I did! I'm taking them down off their site, but I hate to let anything I've ever written go to waste, so I'm saving them here.
For a dollar, and what it is (essentially a big list), this is pretty
good. The 100 hirelings are grouped by type into 10 shorter lists, each
getting a 1-2 sentence description. Some are thought-provoking; all
are at least decent. Names tend to be English, with both some other
real world ethnic names and some fantasy gibberish names slipped in.
Rare and welcome are the level 2-4 adventure modules (or, “What to do
after you finish a basic level module”) and this level range does seem
appropriate for the adventure. This adventure is very short on story
and background, but long on utility. Notes help the DM place this
module for adventurers heading straight to it from civilization, or
already exploring the underworld and just stumbling across this place.
Opportunities for magical healing abound, making the locale not too
difficult for exploring all in one expedition. Inverting the typical
dungeon design, the bottom level seems like it would be the easiest.
The pod men seem reminiscent of the old D&D vegepygmies, while the
shroom is a tongue-in-cheek evil version of the old D&D myconids.
Matt Finch is the “double-danger” of a writer who can draw as well and
the interior black and white art is both suitably weird and engaging.
If the product has any weakness, the maps are rather boring to look at.
This book is a retroclone – one of many out there – this one of the true
second edition of Dungeons & Dragons, edited by Eric Holmes in
Part 1 is a very introductory introduction, more than the Holmes edition
had and more, I feel, like how the 1981 Moldvay ed. spelled everything
out for the novice gamer, especially in terms of spelling out all the
different uses of the word “level” in D&D.
Part 2, though, is an excellently organized approach to character
creation and the simplified tables are an improvement on the original
version. While the rules do not deviate from Holmes ed. D&D, there
are clarifications on almost every page, like how dwarven perception
works or which weapons are “legal” for the cleric class. Information is
grouped together better, like how scroll creation rules are now right
there in the description of the Magic-User class. Elven multi-classing
is explained better and we get a clearer graph of how a five-point
Alignment system works.
Curiously, for a retroclone that otherwise adheres so closely to the
original rulebook, the 2nd level Magic-User spell list includes several
new spells, dealing with the heightened importance of Dexterity in this
edition. The Dexterity spell makes sense, but the Ray of Clumsiness
spell is mis-worded to apply to Strength and -- I've already been told
by the author -- will be corrected in the next printing.
The combat section attempts to add some new rules with mixed results.
The explanation for hitting with flaming oil is an example of a good
addition. A confusing addition is separating weapons by light, normal,
and heavy, which seems to have no game mechanic purpose here, though
I've been told it will make more sense in the Compleat Rules. Other
things are more clarification, like exactly how “infra-vision” works.
The section on how combat works is nicely written. I particularly like Strangelove the Cleric.
The monster section is very deadly for 1st-3rd level characters, with
monsters like the purple worm and the vampire included for completeness’
sake rather than any likelihood of being encountered (under all but the
meanest DMs!). The carrion crawler and shrieker are revived here under
new names (I doubt I would ever get used to calling a carrion crawler a
I like the separation of individual treasure and treasure hordes into
different tables. It is very close to the old treasure types. The
absence of treasure types in the Open Game License has been a problem
for retroclones before and I would much rather use this system than
Swords & Wizardry’s bulkier treasure system.
The magic items section conceals barely any new items, the best being
the Staff of Clouting which I actually prefer to the old Staff of
Spelling has been uniformly switched to British English, a distinction D&D has always had a problem with consistency on.
The sample character sheet looks a bit top heavy, with a silly amount of
space reserved for ability score modifiers (in a game with very few)
and very small space for writing in equipment down below.
The art is good quality public domain art, but really, if given a
choice, I’ll take a D&D book with Trampier and Wham art instead any
The book is currently available as Pay What You Want. Years ago, I had
been lucky enough to buy a used copy of the Holmes ed. for $3. I'd say
this version, as an ebook, is easily worth $4.
Circa 1995-1996, I had plans for creating a stable of
Victorian-era superheroes.I’ve posted
before about what would have been my flagship character, The Century Man before
here. The following is fleshed out slightly from a one-page synopsis I had written back then. The next biggest character I had planned out was The Mystery
Man (also known as The Hood).His story
would begin in April 1888, when a young (maybe just 17) man named John would
wake up with huge gaps in his memory, including how he came to be wrapped from
head to toe in bandages and, beneath that, heavy scarring.He would have fighting ability and enhanced
(though not superhuman) strength he did not remember having, with the
implication being it was somehow surgically given to him.
In May 1888, John would charge into a burning building to
rescue people, discovering that his bandages were also fire resistant.The bandages also allowed him to act
anonymously, being dubbed by the press as The Mystery Man.
In June 1888, the Mystery Man – now combining his mummy look
with a ragged hooded cape to give him a frightening mystique -- would begin
patrolling London in a one-man campaign on keeping it safer.After rescuing an architect from street
toughs, the architect would repay him by taking John on as a draftsman
apprentice.Following the serious injury
of the street toughs, however, Scotland Yard would take an active interest in
discovering the Mystery Man’s true name and whereabouts.
In August 1888, John would have to return to his childhood
home of Gravesend, which was being terrorized by a fairy Jack-in-Irons.As the Mystery Man, John would confront it
In September 1888, Sherlock Holmes would track down John,
having surmised his true identity.After
a lengthy interview, Holmes would decide not to share what he knew with the
police.Around this same time, Jack the
Ripper would be killed by a fairy Redcap, which would begin copying his crimes.
In October 1888, the Mystery Man would corner the Redcap –
thanks to a clue from Holmes – and defeat it.
In November 1888, the Mystery Man would come to the
attention of a man called The Enchanter, a magician using charm magic to move
up through London’s social circles.Ensorcelled,
the Mystery Man would briefly serve as The Enchanter’s bodyguard and enforcer.
In December 1888, the Mystery Man would throw off the spell
on him.He would then work to discredit The
Enchanter and ultimately confront him in a battle that would leave The
Enchanter presumed dead and the Mystery Man badly injured.
In January 1889, John would be convalescing in the care of
the niece of his architect boss.His
boss would not be pleased with this, however, and both fired John and forbad
him seeing her.
In February 1889, John would receive a visit from The
Invisible Man, who would suggest some shared points of origin for them, while
refusing to do more than drop clues.The
Invisible Man would, of course, elude John, but he would run into H.G. Wells,
hot on the trail of the Invisible Man as the subject for a book he was
In March 1889, bounty hunters would lure the Mystery Man
into a trap and attack him.The bounty
hunters worked for a wealthy socialite named Liam Mansfield, though the Mystery
Man does not know this yet.
In April 1889, the Mystery Man would encounter the Jumping Man.John would also, inspired by Wells, become a
In May 1889, the Mystery Man is ambushed by gunmen working
for Mansfield.The Mystery Man would
escape, injured, but this time with the name of their employer.The Mystery Man would go to Sherlock Holmes
for help and information to use against Liam Mansfield.
In July 1889, the British government would contact Mansfield
and give him carte blanche to hunt down the Mystery Man and bring him in alive.The government clearly knows the Mystery Man’s
origin, but not his whereabouts.
In August 1889, the Mystery Man would be captured by
Mansfield’s agents.Liam would explain
what little he had been told of the Mystery Man’s origin before MM escaped.
In October 1889, MM would capture Mansfield, confront him
with evidence of criminal activity, and force a confession out of him that
would end hostilities in a stalemate.
In November 1889, MM would investigate the Seelie Court –
fairies welcome in Victorian society – and disappearances of some of their
In December 1889, agents of the Seelie Court, from the other
side of the Fairy Veil, would contact MM and ask an alliance with him.
In January 1890, MM and the Seelie Court would thwart an
Unseelie plot to replace Parliament with doppelgangers.
In February 1890, MM would cross the Fairy Veil to help take
the battle straight to the Unseelie Court.
In March 1890, MM would find himself in pitched battle with
the Dark King of the Fairies, and win.
In April 1890, Robar the Conqueror would bomb London from
his super-plane, The Albatross.MM would
In June 1890, MM would finally catch up with Robar, the
self-styled Master of the World, and defeat him.
In July 1890, MM would be captured by a now-dying Invisible
Man, along with government men responsible for both MM’s origin and
behind-the-scenes in the Invisible Man’s.MM would free them all, but only after extracting a promise that the
government would not try to have anything else to do with him from that moment