The Stew is a reworking of an adventure that Richard wrote for the Dave Arneson's Blackmoor MMRPG, a living-campaign-style series of adventures that were played at conventions and were published by Zeitgeist Games. That adventure, Mountain Madness, was very popular among the Blackmoor player base, and all the quirkiness that made it so memorable is present here. The Dave Arneson's Blackmoor MMRPG told a lot of good stories, and I'm very glad to see this excellent story being made available for this creative new rules system and a new set of victims...errr, players.
In a four hour gaming session, my group of experienced gamers was able to create SS&S characters from scratch and play through the first half of this adventure. I think SS&S is a fun system, and I believe that the slight clunkiness in the NPC stat blocks will eventually be ironed out. I found myself penciling in target numbers in this adventure's stat blocks so that I didn't have to add skill ranks and attributes in my head before every single test. This sped things up for me considerably. Although it only took a few seconds to do this by hand, perhaps Rogue Games might consider editing the standard NPC stat block in future adventures to include combat target numbers already combined.
Based on our experience last night, combat is rather deadly. In the ambush encounter, I would recommend scaling the number of hunters down to the number of players at the table.
There are two very memorable NPCs in this adventure. Gerd and Old Mila were very fun to roleplay in both the previous incarnation of this story and the current version. Based on Richard's wonderful description of Gerd, I tried to channel MASH's Charles Emerson Winchester as I portrayed his upper-class disgust with everything about his current situation. And the creative takeaways from the encounter with Mila were as popular with my players last night as they were when I ran this adventure for Blackmoor players.
But the most memorable part of this adventure has to do with the eponymous stew. I won't go into detail in this review, but I would hide the title of this adventure to prevent suspicious types from jumping to conclusions when you describe the wonderful aroma. It seems to me very Robert E. Howard-ish to hand a new adventurer a bowl of this particular variety of soup, and then to have it color and inform the rest of their adventuring career. Years after the Blackmoor campaign ended, I still smile when I think about the widely varied but uniformly fun reactions from players after the "reveal."
Richard makes great stories. His writing gets in the way of his storytelling just a bit, so I'm giving it a four instead of a five. But this is an Adventure with a capital A. Even if you don't plan to run it, it's worth the ninety-nine cents just to enjoy this inspired set up and delivery.
[4 of 5 Stars!]