Friday, May 29, 2015

XSOLO1 - Lathan's Gold

You may have guessed that I am a fan of solo games and gamebooks.  My mom and dad started me off on this with Choose Your Own Adventure Books and the various knock-offs, since like a lot of kids back then I was into fantasy and sci-fi because of Star Wars.

Flash forward a couple of cartoon- and comic-soaked years later, add a dash of Moldvay and AD&D and stir it in a crummy neighborhood in Miami and you get me, bored and needing a game. What I got were the BSOLO and XSOLO modules - the former I've raved about and the latter I'd like to rave about, now, despite some of its flaws.

XSOLO1 - titled Lathan's Gold, is the Expert Set answer to The Ghost of Lion Castle. Of the two, BSOLO is my preference, but upon digesting the thing for 30 years I find Lathan's Gold to be a masterwork of solo gameplay. It has a couple of flaws - it's somewhat dry and spare but I imagine this is owing to the format. It's a standard TSR module with 3 columns and it needed to house rules for encounters and movement.  the scope of it is fairly broad (the Sea of Dread!) and although Lathan's story is foremost it is replayable via use of pregenerated PCs (each has a quest of their own) and random PCs the player might bring to the "table".  It's put together so that time pressure and resource management are serious concerns, which is something I found I liked when I encountered Barbarian Prince only a short time after.

You can sail around, get lost, encounter pirates and monsters, get sucked into a vast whirlpool. Experience a mutiny.  Trade with locals, hire sailors and marines and other NPCs. Dig up buried treasure, fight a bandit leader to the death over a woman. Climb a gold-spewing volcano.  The sheer number of things that can happen is very impressive given the space constraints and I wonder what might have been left on the cutting room floor.  It could even be used as a basis for a Sea of Dread campaign if the DM used it as the guide (culminated with the exploration of the Isle of Dread, naturally!)

I've given some thought to making an alternative quest list for the thing, since the 6 main quests can be rather played out in a rainy afternoon. But you know what?  That would maybe appeal to me and like 2 other people on the planet (not a good reason not to do it, I know).

It is frankly the basis of my next DCC solo module, in which an adventure for thieves is wrapped up in a high-seas hijinks kind of thing.  The focus will be on complex emergent solo play, of which XSOLO1 and Barbarian Prince are my favorite classical examples, and I think maybe the Kabuki Kaiser stuff is the best free-wheeling recent example.  This may sound weird but I always sort of enjoyed the desperate, charts and maps thing that Lathan's Gold offered. I may try to get ahold of Midnight on Dagger Alley and Thunderdelve Mountain, also.

alright, back to the workaday world.

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