Review: ‘Toys for the Sandbox #4: Hermit’s Island’

So, I agreed to do a review of ‘Toys for the Sandbox #4 Hermit’s Island.’ This books is by Quinn A. Conklin, also known as the artist for ‘Homicidal Transients,’ with cover art by Rodney Ruppert II, published by Occult Moon. It’s a 4-page landscape PDF; the first page is cover art.

The second page gives us a map of an island, and a short description of the island and its inhabitants, namely, a hermit and a small camp of ‘Orks.’ The map has six keyed locations, and each location has a short encounter description, with three ‘twists’ on how that encounter can occur. The map was nice, although a distance scale might have helped; also, a few of the numbers touched on darker map elements, so they don’t stand out as well as they might.

The third page lists each of the keyed locations, with three ‘twists’ or plots that can spring from each location. The twists are just short, one-sentence statements, that will probably need to be fleshed out further.

The fourth page gives a short description of the four important NPCs mentioned so far. This page also has a couple of percentile tables with ‘Items’ (random encounters), and rumors about the island itself.

‘Hermit’s Island’ will work for any fantasy game, as it focuses on presenting the prospective GM with a bunch of adventure seeds all tied to a specific location. I could see using this in Ars Magica (changing the Orks to bandits), Qin (maybe doing the same), Exalted (making the Orks a Wyld Hunt party, or some kind of rampaging spirit), or any number of other games. Heck, with a few wors substitutions, it could work for many other genres; by substituting ‘planet’ for ‘island’ and ‘hostile alien’ for ‘Ork’, it could work for sci-fi games, for example.

The only negative thing I can say is that the visuals could use a little work. I didn’t care for the color pallete; the cover page has a kind of sandstone color, which is okay, but the tables had an almost salmon, clay color to them that I personally just didn’t care for. I’d rather see just flat gray, or black and white, than this shade. Maybe it wouldn’t bother anyone else. The cover has a quick sketch of a bearded man, who I suppose is the hermit, but it would’ve been nice to see at least one, non-sketchy illustration of the hermit, or the other NPCs mentioned. Note: When I spoke with Quinn Conklin, he said that all of the products in the Toys for the Sandbox line have a slightly different color pallet from one another.

Overall, ‘Hermit’s Island’ is the sort of thing that’s useful for GMs like me; we love to game, but don’t always have a lot of time to prepare. It’s short, but for $0.99, it’s not a bad bargain. If you need to get an edventure going without a lot of planning, and you have some NPC stats you can pull for the important NPCs (or can make them quickly), you’re set. I say, if you have a buck and need to get game going, purchase ‘Hermit’s Island.’

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