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Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (Swords and Wizardry) $7.95
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Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (Swords and Wizardry)
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Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (Swords and Wizardry)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Ray C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/29/2018 18:35:20

Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin Review

Reign of Ruin is a 34 page adventure for Swords & Wizardry by Jon Brazer Enterprises, suitable for a party of 6th level PCs. In terms of transparency I received a complimentary copy for review purposes.

The book opens up with some starting fiction and background. The background is a set-up for the adventure, where the descendant of a long-dead black dragon tyrant mobilizes her minions to menace the warm-blooded races who her forebear terrorized so long ago. The backstory is a bit wordy and rather specific with proper names and regions. I feel that it could be shortened considerably to be more generic for the purposes of individual campaigns.

As for the present era, the plot hook for the party to get involved is via a scout’s last dying words of the razed city of Northam and its need for reinforcements. The other hook involves traveling merchants explaining in more detail that the Ixtupi (lizardmen devotees of the black dragon) have come to attack the village as revenge. Once the PCs get to the town, they find it in the aftermath of a massacre, with a few clues pointing to the identities and motives for their attackers in the form of a survivor’s testimony and draconic graffiti. The clues give a relatively good sense of the opposition for a canny group of players (corpses whose flesh seems to have dissolved off their bodies which is the result of acidic breath weapon), but overall I feel that this adventure could have had a stronger start if it began proper with the party arriving in the town. The merchant adventure hook is too much “tell, not show” and ideally the site of an attacked settlement alone should be enough to attract the PC’s attention.

Further encounters before the main dungeon itself include the village of Mistlevy (the raiders’ next target) and a swamp encounter where the Ixtupi are fighting a rival tribe of lizardfolk. In both of these encounters there is quite a fair number of enemies, but also potential allied NPCs to fight alongside. This does a good job of preventing characters from feeling overwhelmed, but on the other hand risks the GM rolling “against himself” a fair bit if their gaming group is slower-paced. A good idea may be to grant the players the opportunity to control said NPCs; I did this in various campaigns, which made my gaming group feel more engaged with the battle.

Additionally the first encounter has a point where the black dragon main villain makes a personal appearance to wreak havoc before fleeing back to her temple headquarters. The intent of the adventure is that the party will face her down in the heart of her lair, with the first encounter as a taste of things to come. Although mobile and strong like many dragons, the old adage “if it has stats, the players can kill it” holds strong. A bad saving throw or lucky attacks may bring the dragon down at the outset, and given that the final encounter is a pretty clever room full of terrain-based hazards, this would be robbing the gaming group of a good fight later on down the road.

The temple itself has three major levels not counting the aboveground entryway. It has a healthy mix of reptilian monsters, undead, animated objects, and other creature types to prevent combat from getting too monotone. The dungeon is the meat of the adventure, and there are quite a few traps. There was one trap that I liked but felt could have been executed better: stone pillars which summon corrupted elementals if a spellcaster uses magic which deals energy/elemental damage while within their vicinity. It takes an otherwise common tactic of “blast them all” to use against the party in a thematically interesting way. Unfortunately said trap is a one-time occurrence so that it is likely to happen without the players growing aware as to their purpose. A repeat appearances of pillars would engender a cautious mindset in players; they would need to weigh whether they risk using powerful magic against the enemies currently arrayed against them, but at the possibility of biting off more than they can chew. Another involves a room which fills with acidic water while dragonblood brutes (who are themselves immune to acid) attack the party. A hidden lever can be found during combat to drain the room. I particularly like this touch; it combines monsters and environmental hazards together in a way I don’t see often in many OSR modules.

As for enemies, there are mentions of what happens if the complex goes on alert, notably in the form of kobold slaves acting as messengers. However, most of the intelligent monsters rarely go beyond their own rooms and instead prepare to attack PCs who come to them first. This feels a bit artificial, and while it makes sense in some cases (unintelligent undead and constructs) it would’ve been nice to have suggestions for what rooms monsters would retreat to or use as chokepoints in case of an invasion of the temple. Lord knows the complex has enough traps to exploit for this purpose!

The final encounter with the black dragon overlord has a good description of the room in which the battle will take place, with descriptions of terrain for both the party and for the dragon to use to their advantage.

Miscellaneous Thoughts: The maps for this adventure are well-detailed. Full-color and grid-based, they cover the entirety of the main dungeon as well as the first encounter. The adventure also makes clever use of existing class features. The “Open Doors” roll, for example, is used for various feats of strength such as escaping from the grip of a giant venus flytrap or pushing a fallen stone block trap to reopen a passageway.

The adventure itself is rather expensive for its size ($10 for a 34 page adventure). Given that adventures have limited replay value for gaming groups, this reduces its viability in comparison to other Swords & Wizardry products of similar length but at more affordable prices. I understand the need to make up costs especially given the detail of the maps, but as a consumer it will not be an attractive option.

In conclusion, Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin rates well for an OSR adventure. It has the core idea of a dungeon delve, but the terrains, traps, and enemies are varied and well-detailed enough to keep the players on their toes. Its low points are that the BBEG shows up too early (and thus risks the potential for an early death), the fact that temple has a high enough number of traps to the point of triggering player paranoia which can slow gaming to a crawl, and the product’s price tag is rather high for a book of its length. But overall the good outweighs the bad in this dungeon crawl. My final verdict is a 3.5 out of 5 stars, rounded to 3 for the purposes of OneBookShelf.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thank you for taking the time to review. If it were changed to $7, do you feel this price would be about right for an adventure of this length?
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (Swords and Wizardry)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/28/2018 15:19:40
I want to first start out with I usually do not review anything. With that said I do have 30+ yeas of gaming and game mastering experience. “The Reign Of Ruin” is well organized and has a nice introduction and back story about the history and lands. It would be easy to drop into any campaign world your adventures are already in, or as a stand alone module. The maps are well put together and you could port them easily to roll20, if you are so inclined. This campaign is not for the faint of heart. The title of the series says it well “Deadly Delves” don’t forget your henchmen. Its not just a hack and slash, your adventures have to think. And not thinking can have its consequences. The Monsters/NPCs are well fleshed out and all the stats are given no rolling dice. This is important to me as a game Master, saves a lot of time setting up. The author even took the time to write a section called “ Thinking Like a Black Dragon” Great Ideas on different ways to setup and enhance the encounter with the “Boss”. I don't want to give anything away so I will conclude my review to say “I cannot wait to run this with my group!”

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thank you for taking the time to review. I really appreciate it.
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (Swords and Wizardry)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/23/2018 20:43:53

Well written, well organized, nicely laid out. Artwork doesn't always maesure up to what we see in Paizo or WOTC, but still pretty good. Cartgograpy is very nicely done in most instances. Only one map seemed less cleanly done than the rest. I was able to easily copy all the maps in my Adobe Reader to use in VTT platforms. Magic items are not very numerous. The monsters seem to be wel balanced for what the party should be capable of doing at the given level and recommended numbers. Interesting NPC's and locations. Info all the way from the background setting to the specific locations helpful but not overwhelming. This will be easy for me to adapt to my own setting. The adventuyre uses a lot of familoiar tropes and locations, but the author gave a good effort at making them still likely to be a unique experience for even the more seasoned GM's (32 years of solid gaming here) in at least some of the encounters. If the adventure summary sounds like something you would like, I strongly believe you will not be disappointed with what you get out of this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thank you for taking the time to review. I really appreciate it.
Deadly Delves: Reign of Ruin (Swords and Wizardry)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/14/2017 08:21:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module from Jon Brazer Enterprise’s „Deadly Delve“-series for experienced groups clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content. It should be noted that the pdf comes with an extra-pdf that contains properly-sized, big versions of the maps – these are key-less and generally player-friendly – with one exception: There is a “S” denoting a secret door left on one of them.

As you can glean from the cover, the OSR-rule-set employed in this version of the module would be Frog God Games’ Swords & Wizardry. We get both ascending and descending AC-values.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, so this adventure begins with a ranger collapsing, talking about the village of Northam being razed to the ground – one of multiple settlements adjacent to swampy terrain. Trying to warn other settlements and find out more, the PCs will soon, in Mistlevy, happen upon their first massive fight – with the lizardmen of the Ixtupi tribe – a somewhat quasi-Aztec vibe accompanies them and their culture as a leitmotif, but more on that later. To their shock, the PCs will encounter a deadly black dragon crash into the clash between the elite Stormhammer guards and the Ixtupi. Thankfully, this dragon, quite possibly the commander of the lizardfolk, does retreat – and she has an agenda. Which brings me to a problem that’s somewhat inherent in the system and the faithful version to the system: In S&W, dragons can be pretty fragile – and compared to her servants, the dragon boss of this module unfortunately adheres to this formula; here, a deviation from the standard rules to account for her boss-nature would probably have made sense.

You see, once, this whole area was rules by a black dragon named Nyrionaxys – the draconic being enslaved all it could find and killed the warmbloods. When the dragon was slain, the victors failed to notice one of the dragon’s eggs – this hatchling, fostered by the Ixtupi, grew into Nyrionaxys II, brainwashed to believe herself the reincarnation of the ancient draconic overlord by being raised by the Ixtupi. To complicate matters further, some more benevolent lizardfolk, tired of being salves to draconic whims, have since then split off, becoming the Tsiikil tribe, who was trying to keep the Ixtupi at bay – but with dark whispers in the dragon’s mind, her time seems to be drawing near: She heeds the call of Tlaloc, who has promised her power – all it takes is a blood sacrifice in her home, one of powerful individuals. And suddenly the blatant provocation of the dragon makes sense – the PCs are walking right where the dragons want them to go…

Still, this leaves the PCs without much recourse – they need to stop the black dragon, asap! Thus, they venture deeper into the marshlands towards the temple of the Ixtupi. Tsiikil lizardfolk can provide support and directions, should the PCs help them. The temple of the Ixtupi is a foul stone pyramid surrounded by a great moat – to even get to it, the PCs will need to deal with potent, dragonblooded lizardfolk; the presence of stormwyts, an alkaline-spit-using wyvern-variant adds a further danger – and woe if the PCs start using elemental magics: The taint of the place causes such magic to spawn tainted elemental spirits…

Breaching the temple is already a feat in and of itself – but exploring the dungeon will not be simple, either: Here, Ixtupi priests, mud-caked lizardfolk zombies, kobold trappers, spirits, mummies and even a dire venus flytrap, stand between the PCs and progress – but to reach further below, the PCs have to pass the mosaic pillar chamber – where multiple unique beasts spring forth from the pillar…and that’s before the traps, which make this transitional area a really nice gauntlet.

The bulk of Ixtupi resistance can be encountered in the lower temple – here, the most potent of the tribe await – alongside glass golems, demons, evil idols boosting the foes of the PCs…and even a half-dragon gynosphinx – and yes, she comes with sample riddles. Ultimately, past all the traps, the PCs will have to delve deep into the place where caustic water and grueling sights await and face Nyrionaxys II…if they don’t fall prey to the hatchling ghosts of her brood mates or the half-draconic anaconda. Or the stormwyts…and yes, all of this doesn’t sound so bad, right? Well, here is a big difference to almost all adventures featuring dragons: Nyrionaxys II doesn’t wait to be slain. A full page is devoted to tactics of the mighty dragon. Still, while S&W obviously uses smaller numbers and her AC and defenses are impressive, at 32 hp, the dragon still remains comparatively fragile.

Speaking of monsters – the stat-conversions to S&W are solid, as far as I’ve seen. Spell-names are adjusted, etc. Big plus, btw.: The hoard of the dragon, while massive, is WBL-appropriate and shouldn’t pose a problem for ongoing campaigns. In fact, being mostly copper, transportation may yet pose some interesting problems…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good. I noticed no serious accumulations of either formal or rules-language glitches in the module. Layout adheres to a really nice two-color full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The maps featured for all major sites are solid and full-color; apart from the minor tarnish of the remnant secret door-relic mentioned before, the inclusion of player-friendly maps is another big plus. The OSR-conversion to S&W is solid and generally well-crafted.

Richard Moore’s “Reign of Ruin” was an honest surprise to me: You see, there are two basic dragon-module set-ups (not counting random encounter dragons): The long, epic one, wherein you defeat a dragon at the end, after much hardship, and with the exact goal of defeating the draconic threat; and the briefer one, where a dragon at the end is basically the boss. The first tends to be represented by mega-adventures, campaigns, etc.; the second by smaller modules. Both have one thing in common: Most of the time, the dragons in them are DUMB, character-less engines of destruction, when ostensibly, they are supposed to be really smart. This module, thankfully, gets that aspect right: The dragon herein is an interesting character, embedded in a dungeon and social environment with an interesting leitmotif; she makes sense. Her proactive strategies can allow the referee to unleash hell upon the PCs and vanquishing her doesn’t break ongoing campaigns – the rewards are significant, but won’t break the game.

In short: While this does not reinvent the wheel, it’s one of the few anti-dragon modules that did not cause my brain to hurt at one point – and that’s a big, big plus. A minor issue of the S&W version, at least if your PCs are lucky, may be the relative fragility of the boss – but that’s something inherited from the system. Still, compared to the other versions, I feel that this version is slightly less compelling – mainly since the versions for the other systems work so well due to the mechanics; to make up for their brevity, more flavor and/or bonus-content for the OSR-version would have been nice. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Thank you for taking the time to review. I really appreciate it.
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