Originally Posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/09/19/tabletop-review-castle-crusades-the-forsaken-mountain/
I’m a big fan of Castle and Crusades and the way it combines aspects of the original Dungeons & Dragons, first edition AD&D and the d20 system into something that seem to highlight the best of all three games. It’s also the first real noticeable system that you can download in Kindle format, which has made me download the both the Player’s Handbook (even though I happily have the 2006 hardcover version on my RPG bookshelf at home) and the adventure Assault on Blacktooth Ridge in hopes they continue to port their entire line into my favorite method of reading. In fact, Assault on Blacktooth Ridge is the first adventure in the “A” series while The Forsaken Mountain, which we are reviewing today is “A8.” Although it is advised that you play all of the modules in order and they form a running campaign, it is possible to play The Forsaken Mountain on its own. Doing this however, will take a bit of work by the GM to make it fit into the storyline or homebrew campaign you are currently running. There are different endings for the adventure based on if you are running the full set of A adventures or not but honestly, I prefer the ending to the one shot format simply because it actually gives you an ending.
The Forsaken Mountain is designed for three to five players whose character range between levels 8-10. The adventure is a love story of sorts albeit in a very different manner than you might be expect. The love is between Coburg the Undying (a major source of evil in the Castle & Crusades A track, and something known as “The Vessel of Souls” which players will end up encountering at the climax of the adventure. I won’t spoil exactly WHAT the Vessel of Souls is, but suffice to say, it is probably not what players will expect when they first hear the name. The adventure involves a lot of travel, from horseback riding to a mystical portal so a good GM should have some optional encounters waiting in the wings to pad the adventure.
Like all Castle & Crusades adventures, this is a bit on the short side when it comes to how long the adventure takes to play but is super saturated with content for the keeper. Everything is highly detailed to the point where the adventure can nearly run itself. For example, the first encounter that sets up the adventure? You are given meticulous details about the surroundings, the enemy camp and even the sleeping patterns of the NPCs. That’s intense. For those that like to crib notes on every possible outcome, you’ll love the adventure just for that. At the same time, the adventure has its shares of typos or missing information. For example an assassin that acts as an evil priest’s bodyguard? He’s missing his hit points in his description. Whoops.
One thing that will either be a positive or negative based on how your troupe likes to play is the enormous amount of magic items in this adventure. I’ll admit, I tend to dole things out sparsely to make them feel more valuable, but I can totally understand why some people to hand out enhanced swords and armour more freely. Well, this adventure definitely caters to the latter. It’s not quite at Monty Haul levels, but there are more magic items in the first encounter than I’m using to seeing in several adventures put together.
The Forsaken Mountain is a very creative adventure, making use of some highly imaginative concepts like “The Dreaming Sea,” which reminded me of a high fantasy version of Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. Much of the adventure is set in this quasi-plane and this coupled with the fact most of the adventure is talking or detective work really made The Forsaken MountainCall of Cthulhu Keeper, I felt right at home with this and hopefully Castle & Crusades players will find it a nice change of pace.
The final encounter of the adventure pits the players against a whopping TWENTY enemies, many of which are spell casters. The adventure doesn’t give spells for this encounter however, which I found more than a bit odd, but it also means the GM can customize things to give his or her players an easier (or harder) time. Personally I found this a bit lazy especially in the face of how detailed the rest of the adventure is. As well, putting a party of level 8-10 against twenty enemies, including a level 12 Wizard, two level 9 clerics, a third cleric at level five and a 7th level Illusionist is pretty far and above what players at the suggested level will be encountering. A GM with any tactical knowledge will see that the three clerics alone will keep the enemy forces well healed. This doesn’t even take into account the sheer number of magic items every antagonist has here. This will be a really unsatisfying battle to players, especially if they find out afterwards they are not meant to come close to winning this. Yes, it’s a purposeful setup to lose so that the A tract of adventures can continue. Still, this battle plus the lack of a real resolution for the adventure (especially as a one shot ) soured me on the entire piece. Couple this with the typos and The Forsaken Mountain feels like it was a bit rushed as well as written for the writer of the adventure himself for than for people to play it.
Overall I give The Forsaken Mountain a thumbs in the middle. It’s a bit bi-polar as a lot of the adventure is high detailed while other parts needed a better editor as things are missing, erroneous or have noticeable errors regarding formatting and spelling. The majority of the adventure is thinking and talking, but then it ends with a poorly thought odd final battle where the PCs are merely a plot device in the writer’s overall story leaving things with an unsatisfactory ending across the board. If you haven’t played the previous seven adventures, it’s very hard to recommend this one while if you HAVE, you’re left hoping A9 aka “The Tower of Night” will be of a higher quality. If you’re looking for a standalone adventure for Castle and Crusades, you’re better off looking elsewhere.