Automata Run Amok

Mini Review – Automata Run Amok by John Carlson

As I have mentioned multiple times here on the blog, I am in a weekly Wednesday night AD&D [Aff] campaign, Graveyard of Empires, on Roll20. We hit session 132 on November 23rd. John Carlson, our DM, has published an adventure on DriveThruRPG [Aff] & RPGNow [Aff] based on our first few sessions in the game. Being one of two players still running the same characters from session 1, I can say that this look behind the scenes is interesting.

You can read the release announcement on his blog Dwarven Automata, which is the name of his publishing venture.

Here is the marketing blurb:

Out-of-Control automata have driven a wizard from his shop. He would like the PCs to solve the problem (without damaging his creations) while his rival will pay for evidence of the wizard’s dabbling in forbidden knowledge.

This is an adventure suitable for four to five low-level characters written to be compatible with OSRIC and early editions of the world’s most popular RPG.  In addition to full details on a tinkerer-wizard’s tower overrun by rampaging automata, this module includes:

* Random tables to generate elements of a bustling port city situated in the tropics and titles for books on both magic and techno-magic

* Twenty unique magical items of variable usefulness and danger with which to tempt players

* Several unique NPCs and monsters, from a clock maker revolutionary to a brain floating in a machine animated by the spirit of a long-dead racist dwarf

* Eight illustrations by the wondefully talented Luka Rejec

This twenty-page adventure should provide between four and eight hours of Old School fun. Enjoy!

I will say up front that I admit my bias. I think John is an excellent DM who has detailed his world and it is a living campaign where player actions influence the flow of events. Looking back on this from what we have learned over more than 100 sessions shows just how much planning went into this adventure. Even though it is PWYW, and I have  the pre-release, I am buying it.

This 23 page booklet has it all, art by Luka Rejec, maps, new creatures. tables with rumors, random encounters, new magic items, and an introduction for a setting with promises of more cool stuff to come. Luka Rejec is also credited as the editor.

The premise is that a mage has been driven from his tower by ancient automata he has activated but drove him from his tower. The party has multiple ways to get involved with working for the mage, and can even end up working for a rival. Politics and rivalries within the city of Midmark are outlined, and there are suggestions for the GM in different contingencies the players may take to accomplish their mission(s). It is suitable for 4-5 players of 1st or 2nd level.

Luka Rejec’s art is awesome! I love the front cover. Having lived through this adventure in the campaign, my mental images are totally different than the characters and creatures depicted in this booklet. However, that is a personal thing and in no way is a slight to the pictures within.

Of course, John left out things that we haven’t learned yet in the campaign, or that might influence us. What he put in place is a well thought out adventure with various options for how to handle the players depending on what kinds of things they might do in an effort to wrangle the automata.

Our group had opportunity to see the PDF before the art and make suggestions. Finally, we had a look before the PDF was released for final comments and typo spotting.

What I liked:

  • The art and layout is sharp.
  • There is vocabulary to learn.
  • The table of contents is hyperlinked.
  • There is a one page isometric map of the tower showing how each level fits, and each section on each level has the level map.
    • On the following page it completes a DM Quick Reference Sheet with a timeline tracker, options in case of party retreat, and lose ends and future opportunities.
  • New monsters are stated out with a checklist for the DM to keep track of them.
  • There are suggestions for how to deal with the various puzzles/challenges present in each level.
  • There is a table to generate random book titles that is useful beyond this module.
  • Bestiary for new monsters.
  • Table of minor/interesting magic items the players might find searching different locales in the wizard’s tower.
    • These are some very creative items that many will easily find a use for in their game.

What I’d Like To See:

  • In all honesty, there’s not much else I’d like to see, other than the actual DM notes….
  • Seriously, I can’t think of what I’d add. As I mentioned at the start, I am biased and impressed with the scope and breadth of John’s campaign.
  • In the author’s note, I don’t think the bit about ascertaining his talent is needed. A quick glance will show John’s talent.

In John’s blog, Dwarven Automata,  he writes about his campaign and reviews session write ups by the players from his perspective.

I look forward to more modules in the future.

I interviewed John about our weekly game hitting 100 sessions here.

NOTE: Links followed by [Aff] are affiliate links where a portion of your purchase price supports this blog and helps buy products for use and review.

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