Brewkessel: School of Spellcraft and Sorcery #1
We have all heard of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the fictional school of magic from the Harry Potter book series. Harry Potter does not have a licensed roleplaying game, but there is no shortage of supplements that embody its themes for other roleplaying games. Brewkessel: School of Spellcraft and Sorcery #1, hereafter Brewkessel, is another supplement that pulls from the Harry Potter World without treading on its intellectual property.
Brewkessel came to life through a successful ZineQuest 3 Kickstarter campaign in 2021. Brewkessel is written for use with Old-School Essentials but is easily adaptable to any Old-School fantasy game. It is a megadungeon presented over a series of zines, each detailing a section of the “dungeon” and its surrounding area.
Note: Kettlesberg Games provided Rolling Boxcars with a review copy for this article. If you have an item you’d like Rolling Boxcars to review, please visit our Product Review Request page.
Once located near the small town of Kesselburg was an outstanding school of spellcraft and sorcery called Brewkessel. The school catered to the wealthy, providing their children the best magical education money could buy. One day, about 62 years ago, the school suddenly disappeared in a flash of red lightning, taking some of the best, brightest, and future wizards with it—leaving behind a deep smoking hole.
The school’s disappearance had a rippling effect throughout the educational community. Not wanting to repeat Brewkessel’s fate, all other magic schools shuttered their doors, effectively ending the practice of formal magical education.
Brewkessel reappeared in its original location seven months ago. Hearing that her alma mater had returned, the wisened Wendilia acted quickly to assert her brand of authority over the school and its grounds. Today, acting as Brewkessel’s new headmistress, Wendilia manages all the comings and going of those trekking into the old school. She understands the risks involved with the school’s sudden reappearance and welcomes adventurers, but she’s no fool. She requires all adventurers to sign a contract (for a cost) and abide by the condition of that contract, namely profit sharing for her.
Issue 1 includes information on starting your Brewkessel campaign. It features information on quests, rumors, other rival adventurers competing for treasure, random encounter tables, details on the new headmistress, the groundskeepers, a loyal band of mercenaries, and more. In this issue, the Enchantment Department and Facilities are the focus areas. Later issues will focus on other areas of the school, both above and below ground.
The Enchantment Department and Facilities encompass the entirety of the first floor of Brewkessel. Initially, hallways were laid out logically, allowing students and professors to move about easily. However, today, after two hundred years of exposure to magical energies and the 62-year absence, some of the original construction has become twisted and turned, overlapping one another as shown on the map.
Speaking of the map and mapping, this is an absolute high point of Brewkessel. The map of Kesselburg is small, simple, yet functional and will likely serve as the first point of contact for the larger adventure. The map depicting the area surrounding Brewkessel is a little more rudimentary in its presentation but larger and more detailed as it will be the party’s base of operations. There are two maps of the first floor. The first is inside, within the pages of the zine, and the second, duplicate and slightly expanded map, is on the inside of the detached cover. Both are sharp, clear, and very easy to read and interpret. The Brewkessel map is further broken down by location throughout the zine.
Each location keyed on the Brewkessel map is arranged numerically, providing the Referee with everything they will need to bring it to life, including a general description of the location, any special or notable features, traps and triggers, rival and non-rival non-player characters and monsters, and an isometric map of the location or cluster of locations. These isometric maps are lovely and a credit to both the author’s vision of the school and the artist’s talent.
Brewkessel is available as a digest-sized (A5) physical zine direct from the publisher, which includes the PDF, or as a PDF from DriveThruRPG. The detached cover is green cardstock with black line art and a black and white interior on a nice medium-weight paper. The layout and overall presentation are easy on the eyes and make navigating the 64 pages quick and easy.
I have three concerns with the presentation, but none are overly detrimental to the play experience. First, is some of the supporting artwork interspersed throughout is a little jarring and looks like something a high schooler might doodle during class—appropriate but jarring nonetheless when next to an excellent isometric map. Second, the body copy is not black but rather a shade of gray. While not a problem on the white paper, when used in stat blocks and sidebars, where another shade of gray is used for the background, there is not enough contrast between the two for comfortable reading. Lastly, an independent editor could have identified a few niggling editing and proofreading mistakes, polishing the copy that much more.
What I Like
- The clean and usable maps
- Isometric maps that visually pop
- Rival adventurers to compete against
- Well thought out and compelling design, at least for what is here
- A fun take on the wizard school as a megadungeon
- Compelling reasons to enter and exit the school and abide by the contract
What I Don’t Care for
- Being broken into multiple parts
- Lack of contrast with the gray on gray copy
- Some of the cheesy art
While it doesn’t acknowledge the apparent influence, it comes across as the author’s homage to Hogwarts and accomplishes what it set out to do, laying the foundation of this megadungeon. As a megadungeon, the author claims each issue can be run independently, and I easily see the truth in that. However, there are points in this issue where the map leads to areas in other issues not available at the time of this review. I honestly look forward to seeing what issues and beyond bring to the larger picture.
If you’re not an Old-School gamer, a 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons version was recently released. A VTT asset pack is available at DriveThruRPG that provides all of the isometric map parts and tokens for Issue #1.
The long and the short of it, if you like Harry Potter or the idea of a megadungeon in an old wizardry school and you or your players want to venture into a new-ish megadungeon in bitesize chunks, Brewkessel is for you.
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