[IF Comp 2019] Arram's Tomb, by James Beck

When you see this game -- the title, the cover art, the introduction -- you have a pretty good idea what you're getting into. Very traditional dungeon crawling, but as a choice-based experience. To be frank, everything about Arram's Tomb also suggests that it will deliver a rather unsatisfactory experience: it is all so clichéd that the characters are even called by their classes. And the image quality and font choice don’t do much to bolster one's confidence.

But I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Yes, it embraces the clichés of the genre. But it doesn’t embrace all of them; in particular, it subverts the idea of being an adventuring party. The constant bickering – reminding me of my first D&D group, from before we had realised how to set up a good RPG session – is what makes it fun, and then the end at which everything suddenly disintegrates is the cherry on top. Also, while some complained about dying frequently, I only realised that you could die by reading another review. Making the sensible D&D choices is what will allow you to survive, which is a fitting celebration of the genre. Arram's Tomb in many ways a slight game, of course, but it entertained me and made me smile.

The area in which improvement is most definitely possible is the text. Most of all the presentation: I’m looking at a pretty unattractive wall of big white letters against a black background. Hard to read. But the prose could use polish too. I’m thinking of sentences likes this: “Barbarian shoved past mage and rushed forward to the heavy stone door and shoved it open slowly.” The double shoved irritates me, and anyway, can you shove something slowly? Nothing wrong with pushed there.


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