Castle Amber (2020)

The Goodman Games OAR of X2: Castle Amber (2020) fits the same basic bill as Lost City, but seems a slightly more off-beat choice. Again, it offers a central adventure that is an under-appreciated classic and a large area for new material to be developed — the countryside and settlements of Averoigne. But…

Castle Amber, the original, is a strange module to begin with. It strikes me as a sort of massive correction by author Tom Moldvay to include the work of Clark Ashton Smith (particularly his medieval Averoigne stories, particularly particularly “The Colossus of Ylourgne”) in the growing tapestry of D&D (Gygax, somewhat bizarrely, overlooked Smith in Appendix N). The thing is, there is a lot of identifiably Smith stuff in the module, but I don’t think it feels particularly Smithy. It feels like Moldvay doing a weird haunted house. Which is fine, because I really like that tone on its own merits — it is one of my favorite modules and pretty unique in all of TSR’s output.

The Goodman material neither feels particularly Smithy to me, nor does it match the odd Moldvay tone. It’s a third flavor. And while I don’t dislike it, I find it hard to reconcile it all as a whole. This applies primarily to the fortyish new entries for the castle. The details on the environs are a welcome treat — since there wasn’t much there to begin with, I don’t feel so jarred when Goodman sets the pace there.

The art throughout is delightful though.

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