Tabletop RPG Review: Neverland

Right out of the gate, this book has two strikes with me.  It’s designed (generally) for Dungeons & Dragons, which is very much not my game of choice.  And it’s based on J.M. Barrie’s novel Peter Pan, which has simply never been a story I’ve found especially interesting or captivating, and which has been made and remade ad nauseam.  Along with Robin Hood, King Arthur, and Jack the Ripper, Peter’s story is one I’d love to see retired for a generation…or three.  Yet, I acquired the book.  Why?

Andrew Kolb has taken some tried and tested ideas, given them an interesting twist, and created a sandbox toolkit ripe for adventure.  This is the kind of thing where if your players didn’t know it was Neverland, it might take them quite a while to start connecting the dots.  It’s a “hex-crawl,” where each part of the map has interesting environments and mysteries to discover.  There are actually two worlds to explore here, Neverland and Elphame, the fairy realm.  You’ve got all sorts of factions, from villainous to friendly.  There are NPCs with motivations all their own, who you can ally with or run afoul of.  Environments full of adventure might change depending on the time of day you visit, or the number of times you’ve been there.  There’s a lot of dials to turn and levers to pull.

Though there are some charts and maps that will be helpful to have with you at the table, I don’t think you’ll be running a game “out of the book.”  Many of these things will need to be developed, planned, and expanded upon.  I imagine sitting down with the book in the hours before a game and rolling up various encounters and NPCs for the players to interact with, as well as cementing the ideas for the next place they’ll visit.  As it’s a sandbox, this may mean asking your players to tell you at the end of a session where they plan to go for the next session, and then holding them to it.  Some GMs, who are much better than I at running things on the fly, may not have that issue.

Because of the nature of this book, it’s the kind of thing you could use again and again.  You might run ten groups through it, and never have the same game.  I think that’s pretty cool.  Related to that, many of the charts and encounters could easily be raided for your non-Neverland games.  I’ve already found uses for a few.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this book is also a gorgeous piece of artwork.  From its gold, green, and black cover to the simple but effective illustrations throughout, the book looks fantastic.  And, though designed for D&D, game-specific mechanics are kept to a minimum, so it would not be at all difficult to use whatever system you prefer.  My reason for getting the book in the first place was to use it as a possible island in a larger Dungeon Crawl Classics sandbox game, but after reading it, I’ve thought about using it with Hero Kids, as well as even my old favorite Basic Roleplaying

I recently received a copy of Kolb’s follow-up, Oz as a gift.  I look forward to reading that soon.  I hope he’s able to do a few more of these twists on public domain works.

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