OSE4 1

Holy Mountain Shaker (2021)

Luka Rejec’s Holy Mountain Shaker (2021) rounds out the official Old-School Essentials adventures that accompanied the Advanced Fantasy kickstarter campaign. Together, I think the whole package makes the successful argument that B/X is as flexible a system as you need it to be. This adventure is the period at the end of that sentence.

Luka could have certainly gone for something flavored like his cosmically weird Ultraviolet Grasslands and I’d have been down — I adore that book. But instead, Holy Mountain Shaker seems more in the mode of Witchburner and Longwinter. It isn’t explicitly set in that world, but it shares the same mix of coziness and strange. And there’s some UVG-style stuff to unearth, too.

The adventure is on a timetable. An earthquake sets things off — surely the God Fish that lives in the bottomless lake under the holy mountain is agitated, so the town hires the players to go find out why. Could it be the mining company that has been blasting away the mountainside? Is it an ancient curse? The revenge of the needle gnomes?

Rather than a tradition square-by-square dungeon crawl, the interior of the mountain is arranged as a pointcrawl, using two-hour watches to measure time and exploration. I like a pointcrawl for overland travel, especially in the context of road travel, like UVG. I’m not sure I’ve seen a dungeon pointcrawl before this. You lose something that is hard for me to put my finger on — I guess a complete sense of space? But you gain a sense of traversal that I find really interesting. It certainly makes the second half — escaping the collapsing tunnels — much more dynamic to run, thanks to the accompanying random tables (there is one master table, but each node in the crawl has custom results that slot in — it’s super smart but also compact).

Luka’s art makes even the most normal seeming locale relentlessly interesting and, at the same time, makes bizarre places more understandable. His palette here is bright and uncomplicated, too, which makes them extra appealing. Getting big Tin-Tin vibes, actually. This is my favorite of the four — it was delayed a few months, but wound up being well worth the wait.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *