Saturday, August 8, 2015

Review: EX2 The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror

I mentioned when I put up my EX1 Dungeonland review that I hadn't run EX2. That's only partly true. I lifted elements of EX2 - discussed below - and used them when I ran EX1.

For more reviews, please see my reviews page.

The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror
by E. Gary Gygax
32 pages plus a cover with maps inside
1983 TSR

EX2 is the extension (but also easily stand-alone expansion) of EX1 Dungeonland. It details the Tugley Wood, from Alice's Adventures Through the Looking Glass. It is very silly but potentially deadly.

Like EX1, it's a fairly straight-up conversion of "literary characters" to "things to fight." In most respects the modules are similar - interesting and excellent illustrations, a mix of problems to solve with wits and some with violence (and many possible with either or both), etc. Most of the encounters are in a sandbox layout, but individual encounters tend to be somewhat scripted. It befits the source material, though, to have events just start to unfold despite your actions as well as in reaction to them.

It's not all combat, though. Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee are there, hoping for help retrieving their precious items from a "crow" (roc). The walrus and the carpenter are there, wishing for help getting oysters and pearls. Humpty Dumpty as well. There is an interesting chess-based puzzle, complete with a need to fight the opposing piece. It's not an uncommon idea, but it's a well executed version of "replace the piece you kill" with prizes based on what you take out before you exit the board on the other side.

Much like the other half, the adventure screams out for using player knowledge to deal with the encounters. That will work, to a point. But several encounters are different from their literary sources and much more lethal, especially to a party that isn't on their toes.

EX2 has some marks against it, though - one of the major treasures is just listed as a series of rolls to make on the treasure tables, which is annoying (I'd rather have it done and then change it myself). Another is a magic weapon that's pretty much designed to be not-loot, so there isn't even an upside to finding it - and it feels rather heavy-handed.

EX2 marks the introduction of the giant bee, the giant dragonfly, the eblis (an evil bird-man), lightning quasi-elemental, and oliphant. There are also six new spells: Aid, Murlynd's Ogre, Murlynd's Void, Spook, Whispering Wind, and Phantom Steed. As far as I can tell the two Murlynd spells did not show up again elsewhere. The staff-mace, buckler wand, buckler knife, eggs of desire, and shoes of Fharlanghn all show up here as well.

Tantalizing Hints: "The entry point for The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror will be shown on the proper level of the Greyhawk Castle Dungeon series when it is finally done." Oh, if only.

War Stories

I did actually run elements of this, with GURPS, when I ran Dungeonland for my GURPS 1e group. Specifically, they encountered the JubJub Bird (and killed it), crossed the chess board (we used an actual chessboard), and some other bits as well. I didn't run it as a whole, though. Just used pieces. I certainly never got to use the big setpiece at the end.

I also at least partly ran this for AD&D, based on the usual evidence - hand-written notes and crossed out HP. Wow, they killed Murlynd. That's probably where Pete S.'s bard got his Ring of Invisibility (Improved) and Shoes of Fharlanghn, now that I think of it.

Overall: Like EX1, it's a chance to experience Through the Looking Glass only first hand and with potential loot and lethality. If that's what you'd like, you'll find plenty of it here.

1 comment:

  1. I never ran this when I was younger. They were a great read but never got them to the table.


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