Saturday, December 3, 2011

Review - The Tavern by the Sea

I picked up the Trollhalla Press version of 'Tavern by the Sea' from Ken St Andre at Origins in 2011 at the Flying Buffalo booth (28 pages - 8.5'' x 11''). Written by Ken St. Andre, Illustrations by David Ullery, and a credit to Andy Holmes (imagined by).

The UK edition, published by Tavernmaster Games, is labeled as a Special Edition that I picked up a few months later via Lulu (40 pages - 6'' x 8''). Written by Ken St. Andre and Andy Holmes, with illustrations by Jeff Freels.

First things first, I love the smaller size book. I know that most of the Trollhalla Press books that I have purchased are 11x17 printed pages folded in half and stapled, which for obvious reasons will make in-house or small press printing a bit more cost effective. However, the cover of the larger volume is just another standard sheet of paper, while the Lulu printed UK edition feels more like a book with a heavier cover stock and a binding.

The main difference between the two books is that in the Trollhalla Press edition, the solo adventure is followed by a GM version of the adventure - each of the main story lines that can be explored in the solo are detailed individually for a larger party. In the UK Tavernmaster Games edition, I am presuming that Andy Holmes wrote the follow-up solo that appears that will spin out of one of the outcomes of the main solo. So for the solo gamer out there, the UK Edition gives you two adventures, while the US Edition gives you the single adventure.

The artwork is also different, handled each by two different illustrators. Since both artists were able to effectively capture different scenes and characters from the book, it would be nice to see a volume where both artists' work is featured, but I am sure that makes things a bit more complicated for the small press publisher. Regardless, I do prefer Jeff Freels' style and the layout of the UK Edition. The US Edition does seem to use the same images over and over - most of the artwork is re-used 2 or 3 times throughout the volume on different pages and different sizes.

As for the adventure itself, I think it is well written and appealing, but unfortunately most stories tend to quickly end with a tavern brawl, which quickly makes replay very limiting. I have played it twice now, and in both cases I have pretty much had one encounter with a tavern customer, followed by a resolution that is pretty much unavoidable, ending with the aforementioned brawl. Also, with the frequency of the tavern brawl being so high, it would have been nice to see a bit more difference in possible endings, but there seems to be only three: death, knocked out and waking up in an unfortunate situation, or the last one standing with the same loot each time.

I would like to find a way to the second solo adventure by way of playing the adventure legally so to speak, but I don't know if that will be possible. It seems that once you have embarked on a certain route, there is no turning back to the bar to get another drink or going to another table to start up another conversation. It will only take you a few minutes to finish a trip to the 'Tavern by the Sea', but it will seemingly take 10-15 different trips to see everything it has to offer, and more than likely you will get into 10 tavern brawls in the process.

Delving Dwarf Rating: 3.5 (out of 5) Mugs of Ale!

12/12/11 Edit: Almost every time you are called upon to make a saving roll in this adventure, it is against Luck. There has to be other things that a writer can use for SR's in various situations other than Luck.

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