The Forgotten Outpost, by Bryan Meadows, M.S. Jackson, and Michael Garcia (“The Crazy GM”), seems like it was designed largely for the former group. It is a straightforward, lair-based adventure for parties of 3rd to 5th level characters that can easily be dropped into a campaign already underway with minimal disruption or need for tweaking. Further, Meadows and company provide a good amount of back story and context given the light 15-page length, giving the adventure itself a nice extra kick of character. This material is one of the stronger points of the module, offering canny GMs or enterprising players a wide range of options to gain traction in the setting and to interact with the local NPCs even outside the immediate context of the cave-exploration which is the centerpiece of the adventure.
Jackson’s maps are another highlight of the module. The style is charming and clear, the design functional and a refreshing step away from the tried-and-true TSR graph paper style of map that is so common. In their better moments, Jackson’s maps remind one of some of Dyson Logos’ work, though without a grid backing a key to scale would have been useful, since many room descriptions do not include information on room dimensions.
The room descriptions are evocative, and have a strong sense of purpose and setting to them—there is not a room in the module that is dull or without interesting features, and some of the monsters are likely to provoke a gasp of fear, excitement, or at least amusement from your players.
The module’s layout is clean and efficient, though without any special touches to really make it pop or enhance its visual appeal (or to aid reference especially, though at only 15 pages that’s not a big issue). In addition, there are a number of simple illustrations scattered throughout the length, all apparently by Mr. Jackson, and this breaks up the content well.
On the practical side, there are a few false notes over the module’s length: first is the “random monsters” list, which is numbered but doesn’t provide supporting information—for example, whether it’s designed for wilderness or in the adventure locale itself. One would assume that it’s for the dungeon, but the dungeon itself is just JAM-PACKED with encounters and adding a random monster table on top of that seems like a recipe for disaster.
Additionally, while the “random NPC” list can be used to great effect by an enterprising GM (the personality trait listings for each are especially evocative), it is just dropped in the module without any reference or sense of purpose. In the background text, the town’s inn is noted as a possible hang-out for adventuring types, but none are included, and while the adventure is for Level 3-5, the NPCs are all level 1—suggesting they are probably not pre-gen characters, though this might be an oversight in the module’s design.
The final things that seem slightly off on an initial read are a couple of minor dungeon design flaws. First, the complex is divided between a short initial section and a longer follow-up area of greater interest and danger, and the only path between the two is a single secret door with a 50% chance of detection, which seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Additionally, there is some odd scaling of “mandatory” monster encounters, including one real killer, and the treasure feels a bit light compared to the suggested character level and deadliness of the complex.
Overall, however, this is a solid first outing for a published adventure by Meadows, who is to be commended for some interesting monster selections and combinations. While the module as a whole will not be a go-to for most GMs after its initial use, it does provide some very good examples of how to build on an adventure idea to establish hooks in a locale that extend beyond the current play session, and is a model of clean design where you’re looking to simply drop an adventure into your ongoing campaign.
Presentation: 7/10 -Strong point is the maps.
Originality: 6.5/10 -Employs standard tropes without too many twists, ending is interesting.
Execution: 7/10 -Some snags in the dungeon design hamper performance, but adventure backdrop is a model of efficiency.
Overall: 7/10 –I would recommend this to those interested in producing modules as an example of what to do right in setting the location, or for GMs looking to drop a no-fuss adventure into an ongoing campaign that won’t stir the waters too much.