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“Ynys Bach”: A Celtic-flavoured one-page island for mid- to high-level play

September 1, 2013

Brendan’s post about Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain books got me thinking about the Mabinogion and Welsh-flavoured fantasy gaming. Which in turn led me back to the Celts Campaign Sourcebook, written by Graeme Davis for AD&D 2e back in 1992. (It’s available in PDF here.) Like the others in that series of “Historical Reference” sourcebooks, it’s a guide to customising your campaign – in this case, to create a kind of pan-Celtic legendary milieu drawing on Roman historical sources as well as medieval Irish and Welsh texts. While rereading the Appendix N-like suggestions for further reading, I noticed that although the Mabinogion is listed (naturally), Davis says only “various translations available”. Which is true enough, but I would advise anyone coming to this material for the first time to get either the Jeffrey Gantz translation (Penguin), which was available when the Celts Campaign Sourcebook was published, or – better yet – the Sioned Davis one (Oxford University Press), first published in 2007. Both have good introductions and notes.

Anyway, back in the day I wrote a mid- to high-level adventure for AD&D 2e using some ideas from the sourcebook and some lifted from the comic strip “Sláine” in 2000AD. The adventure was called “Three Celtic Dreams” and was as wanky as it sounds. I never ran it. However, a while ago I whittled it down from its word-wall verbosity to make a fairly bare-bones, system-neutral One-Page Dungeon (except it’s an island, not a dungeon) and then I did run it. No reason not to post it here, I suppose. Use caution; those fomorians are a TPK machine.


Edit: One last thing. For Ellyll’s curses, try Dyson’s random table here.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. September 1, 2013 4:15 pm

    Very cool. Yoinked for my own game!

  2. September 1, 2013 5:18 pm

    Oh I do like that geas; geases should be used more often as they work quite well in the context of a role-playing game, I think.

    • September 2, 2013 9:32 am

      True. Back in the day, my players put a geas on a thoul to go and find a dragon and call it a prick. Or something like that. They thought that was funny. I decided the thoul would eventually fulfil the geas, whereupon the surprised and indignant dragon might say, “Says who?” The frightened thoul would reply, “Th-these adventurers I met in C-C-Castle Craddock.” Maybe the dragon would rouse itself and go looking for the ill-mannered louts. I was looking forward to the day they encountered the thoul again and he pointed and said, “That’s them!” to his large companion. It never happened because those PCs all died anyway. Pity, really.

      In “Ynys Bach”, a smartarse player might have his character bathe in the magic pool to rid himself of the geas, but (even if I allowed that to work) I’d rule that the geas comes back into force the moment he puts the armour back on. And if he bathes while wearing the armour, he risks it dissolving away to nothing.

      • September 2, 2013 11:04 pm

        Ah yes, I was wondering what you might have in mind for someone trying to wash away the geas.

        I quite like the idea of one of those “you will be killed by a boar” type geasa; the character would swagger around safe in their immortality, but they’d always know that their death is inevitable and preordained.

  3. September 3, 2013 1:17 am

    Ah, like Örvar-Odds saga! I’m very much fascinated by Norse attitudes to fate (I wrote my Masters dissertation on the topic) and I like foreshadowing as a technique in fiction, but it’s tough to get that kind of vibe in an RPG without impinging upon player agency. “Three Celtic Dreams” (the adventure mentioned above that I wrote but never ran) revolved around a prophecy, but in retrospect it was basically a big old railroad.

    • September 3, 2013 7:22 am

      I think you could do it if the fate is related to the player-character rather than the “plot”; death by boar is something that wouldn’t affect the wider world, for example, and I imagine it would have the player-character looking over their shoulder most of the time.

      • September 3, 2013 9:41 am

        GM: “Uh-oh. You’ve eaten a dodgy pork sausage at the inn. Save or die from food poisoning.” 😉

      • September 3, 2013 8:01 pm

        That’s not a bad idea…

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