The Peril of Ardun – a Dungeons & Dragons adventure
The word “grognard” (I pronounce it groan-yard) means “an old soldier” according to Miriam Webster. In gamer terms, it’s “someone who enjoys playing older war-games or roleplaying games, or older versions of such games, when newer ones are available.” (wikipedia) Grognard is one of my favorite words, right up there with “bastard.” To me, a grognard has always been a curmudgeonly fellow who thinks nothing good has happened in gaming since 1980. With Peril, Greg Covey has pulled a Marty McFly and brought pre-1980 gaming back to the future.
When I opened up Covey’s The Peril of Ardun and started reading it, that word, grognard – not bastard – came to mind. That’s because this RPG module, published by Unseen Servant Press in 2013 and designed for 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons or OSRIC (The Old School Reference and Index Compilation), is obviously a 1970’s boon for any grognard who is willing to drop the $6.99 it costs. The PDF version is only $2.99, but true grognards don’t normally use those new-fangled technologies, because in their day there were no PDFs, Gygax be praised. Regardless, for much less pain than you’d get from carelessly opening a poison-trapped chest, The Peril of Ardun provides a dragon’s hoard of gaming goodness, for both grognards and modern gamers looking for some old school fun. This 24 page game module is designed for 4-6 characters ranging from 2nd to 4th level (16 total levels for the party), and is summarized as follows:
The Tûran tribes on the high steeps of eastern Tibbenlan have banded together and are on the offensive! They call themselves The Order of the Red Blade, and are moving east, recruiting or enslaving humanoid and human tribes as they go. The Order has entered the territory of Fallmeade, and threatens to occupy its capital, Clydwyn.
You find yourself in the mining town of Craldash, in central Ardun, a country to the south of Fallmeade, just beyond the Oktan Mountains. You are approached by a representative of the local governor who says her employer is looking for a stout party of adventurers to help him with a little problem.
Her contacts have reported some unusual activity near an old, abandoned temple to the west. A garrison of Red Blade soldiers has entered the temple grounds and set up shop. The governor would like the garrison removed or at least run off, along with any other information you can find. Are you up to the task?
Duh, of course we are!
The first thing you notice about the module is the art. There is some great work here, reminiscent of the black and white sketches from days of yore. The artists, Andy Taylor (I so hope it’s the guy from Duran Duran), Andy Hepworth, and Eric Lofgren deserve great praise for the immersion their work provides. It really takes the module to a whole ‘nother level. The maps provided in the module are top notch as well – especially the ones on graphed paper, of course.
The other thing that strikes me right away is the layout of the module. First you get the graphed maps, which give you a visual even before you really know what you are looking at. Then you immediately get a cornucopia of detailed description and background for the game world, the factions, such as The Order of the Red Blade, and the main NPCs (non-player characters). Any game master will appreciate the amount of detail here, as your mind gets submerged in the subject matter before getting to the minutiae of executing the adventure. Kudos to Covey for presenting the material in this way.
As far as the adventure itself, aside from a few twists here and there, the plot doesn’t veer much from the normal D&D fare; Hint – There’s more going on at that temple than your employer thinks. What The Peril of Ardun does is give you plenty of rooms to explore, plenty of traps to stumble onto, and quite a bit of combat. There is also a ton of loot to acquire, which most players crave muchly. One of things I love is that Covey seems to anticipate and account for the different directions in which your players may veer. He provides many situations where, depending on what time of day the players enter an area, there may be some bad guys, or none, based on the logical patterns of those creatures in the “real” game world. There is an amount of logic there that I greatly appreciate. I also thought some of the traps seemed fun in a diabolical, yet fair way. For instance, if you dig up nasty old graves with a shovel, well, you’re just a greedy bastard, umm, adventurer. But if you dig up those nasty old graves with your hands, you’re a greedy bastard that just might get your skin eaten by nasty creatures who are likely to live in dirt where nasty graves get dug up. Again, it’s the little, logical things like that that exemplify the care that seems to have gone into making this module. On a related side note, I’ll bet Covey is an excellent GM.
The only thing I wished Peril had would be the monster stat blocs. I wish there was an appendix that gave the full stats of all the monsters, including their movement rates. Even if it increased the cost of the module, it would keep everything in one place. Then again, if you paid money for a D&D monster source book, I guess maybe you want to use it. Still, as someone who is used to full stat blocs in most of the modules for the more modern editions of D&D, I would prefer to have both options. Even so, this is a minor quibble that most GMs probably couldn’t care less about. As for its reliance on 1st Edition D&D or OSRIC rules (which I had not heard of but glanced through for this review) – I think the depth of background and layout of the module would fit well in most D&D editions, and I could see myself trying to translate Peril into D&D 5th Edition for a future game night.
While Peril seems best suited for a one-off or convention type adventure, there are a bunch of hooks at the end of the module that come in the form of locations in the bigger game world. These provide good jumping off points if you want to make this part of a larger campaign in this world. And that provides even more value to the already economical price point of the module.
Suffice it to say, if you were thinking about picking up The Peril of Ardun, then hesitate not! It is well worth your electrum pieces. Buy it here.