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TSR Jam 1999

Reviewed by Nicholas HM Caldwell

TSR Jam 1999 was an unexpected addition to my role-playing collection, being a Christmas present rather than a deliberate purchase on my part. Whilst I began my role-playing career with Basic D&D, I've never played, nor do I own, AD&D or any of its supplemental material. So I read TSR Jam 1999 from the perspective of an outsider, rather than as an aficionado of the system and the published world settings, and that is the context of the review.

TSR Jam 1999 is an Adventurer's Guild Anthology, comprising seven different scenarios for seven different settings. Each scenario has references to which existing AD&D publications should be consulted, background to the adventure, maps, site descriptions, NPC statistics, as well as the shaded paragraphs to be read out to the players. Remember them?

"Vale of the Dragon Oracle" is a fairly straightforward adventure set in the Forgotten Realms. The village of Volkumburgh is beginning to suffer depredations from an unknown source. Fortunately help is at hand in the form of the player-characters. A short but dangerous trek will see the player-characters arriving at a newly established dragon cult temple. A competent and relatively cautious group should be able to flush the cult members from the temple precincts without major difficulty. Any overconfidence is likely to be seriously dented by the threat posed by the undead servitors of the cult! A good scenario for an evening's entertainment which could be linked into a longer campaign.

"Return of the Pick-Axe" is a stand-alone adventure set in Greyhawk. A dwarven clan hires the party to help them recover an artifact (The Pick-Axe) from an abandoned mine, now infested with undead. The party's dwarf guide will be killed off early in the scenario, forcing the player-characters to struggle against the horrors and the deadly traps of the Azak-Zil mines. Success will require caution and stealth rather than brute force and ignorance, especially since they will not have a description of the Pick-Axe. Indeed there is an optional section to the scenario where the party can go head to head against the undead hordes (and likely get themselves killed). This scenario would make a useful interlude between story arcs in a full campaign.

"Blood Feud" uses The Illithiad supplement for Monstrous Arcana. A group of strangers hires the party to join them in wiping out the remnants of a city of Mind Flayers, monsters reminiscent of certain Cthuloid horrors. If the party accept the offer, they will be teleported into an underground cavern system. From there, it's a relatively direct jaunt through the tunnels to the refuge of the mind flayers and battle royal, pausing only briefly to eliminate other nightmarish threats en route. An average dungeon-bashing scenario that will satisfy players' hack-and-slash cravings

"The Manxome Foe" is an adventure set in the Planescape multiverse, and is without doubt the most quirky of the seven scenarios. The player-characters are persuaded or coerced into helping to slay the jabberwock which has been frightening the villagers of Brillig on the plane of Bytopia. As you might guess, this provides an opportunity to meet the Slithy Toves and the Borogoves, defeat the Jub-Jub Bird, and travel through the Tulgey Wood. Definitely an excuse for a very light-hearted session! 

"The Heart's Final Beat" is a much more serious scenario set in Ravenloft. A messenger carrying an important message regarding an evil artifact (the Key to the Abyss) has failed to return from a Guardian stronghold. Fearing that the worst has happened, the party is sent to investigate the monk's disappearance. On arrival, they discover that the stronghold has been invaded by vile undead. The rest of the scenario is a desperate race against time to prevent the Key to the Abyss being used to summon fiendish forces from the netherworld. Stylishly dark and grim, this scenario is definitely the most atmospheric in the collection.

The previous five adventures have all employed the AD&D system. The sixth scenario, "Leviathan's Deep", uses the SAGA system and is set in Dragonlance : Fifth Age. The people of Port Balifor are desperate to relocate their city away from the periodic depredations of Malystryx the Red Dragon. The scenario opens with the party on a fishing vessel bound for the accursed waters of Leviathan's Deep. There is action aplenty with attempted mutiny, storms, underwater exploration and the attack of a sea dragon to contend with. A good scenario which could provide a suitable springboard for further nautical adventures in the Dragonlance world.

The final scenario, "Folds in the Tapestry", is for the Alternity science-fiction game. The recently established colony of New Mojave has come under attack by aliens, dubbed "Rugs" by the settlers. The player-characters are from a governmental agency, and have orders to verify the existence and nature of the threat to the colony. The former task will be made simple by a Rug ambush between the landing field and the colony compound. The latter task will require questioning the settlers and tracking the Rugs to their base. With a little luck and an understanding of Rug motivations, the player-characters will have a sporting chance of retaining New Mojave as a human colony ... an interesting and well-written scenario.

Overall, this anthology provides a collection of entertaining scenarios to suit most gaming groups' tastes. To make most use of TSR Jam 1999, having access to an extensive AD&D library is desirable. With some work, referees of other game systems could convert the scenarios into alternative rule mechanics and transplant them into other settings. For myself, I plan to use some of the scenarios to play-test Alternity and Dungeons & Dragons (3rd Edition) when the latter is released.

Editor's Note:

TSR Jam 1999 is published by Wizards of the Coast. Their contact details are as follows:
Wizards of the Coast
P.O. Box 707
Renton, WA 98057-0707
Web: http://www.wizards.com/

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