An Endzeitgeist.com review
The final installment of the Crisis of the World-Eater campaign serial clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2.5 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Now, a big plus from the get-go: Unlike previous installments of the series, we get 4 pages of player-friendly maps for different levels of the main adventure locations featured within this module. Big plus!
The book also once more features an odd supplemental article – one focusing on making traps more rewarding. It lists a few red herrings and typical trap tells – and I actually enjoyed it! I really did…but here’s the thing…why, in all the 9 hells and by Asmodeus’ goatee, is this article in this module?? In a level 18 adventure? In a series that required super-experienced GMs to properly run, due to all the rules-inconsistencies and logic bugs? Even if the series was perfect, the presence of this article is utterly baffling to me. It’s not bad, but its presence here makes no sense whatsoever.
Anyhow, the Adversaries of Crisis-bonus-pdf is once more included with the module:
This book, penned by Matt Medeiros with Louis Porter Jr., provides 12 pages of statblocks for high-level gameplay: ranging from CR 17 to 22, the NPCs depicted within this bonus pdf have unique super-power-like tricks, are fearsome to behold…and sport a couple of odd glitches like incorrect ranged BAB, missing gear-lines, italicizations that start in the middle of words where they shouldn’t…which is a pity, for per se, the ideas here are cool: We have a Green Goblin type of character, a super-deadly robot (30d6 force damage infinite gravimetric pulses, range: line of effect…) and similar beings. Per se, I liked these, but even the best designer can stumble with high-level statblocks, and these could have used a second set of eyes. As far as bonus content is concerned, I liked the NPCs herein very much, though. The bonus pdf has no bookmarks.
The NPCs from this file are heavily referenced in the pdf, which makes the choice to have it as a separate pdf feel weird – why not simply incorporate the stats in the module? Since the bonus pdf lacks bookmarks, handling is a bit rough here and there is no reason why the stats should not be incorporated in the adventure. None but that it’d have been more work. Plus, in hindsight, this is pretty much the first time we’d actually need those…
Anyways. This adventure is intended for level 18 characters, and with the dearth of good high-level adventures, you should contemplate well in advance on how to fill in those levels since the Delta adventure. While three brief hooks are provided, the downtime feels odd, considering the situation.
But to elaborate that, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
In the aftermath of the Deliverer of Omega’s defeat at the hands of the superman’d up PCs, the Final Moon broke, and the chains that held planets in the sky snap. In the aftermath of the battle (insert here a transition from Final Moon to the world), once the players have reverse engineered their characters, they witness spectral chains drawing the planets together – cataclysm looms, and the Ark, as well as the chronicler, is nowhere to be found.
Another strange call by the Chronicler speaks of doom (why can’t the Chronicler send these visions all the time?) and the PCs meet Major DePompa (still can’t get past the name) – and we’ll notice something. Or rather, I did. Editing, if anything, is even worse than before, now also extending more than usual, into the prose. “He curses; if he abandons them, he says, the meeting might devolve into bloodshed or even war, and suggests…”; “At the end of this adventure, the party will quite literally have in their hands the power to destroy or save the entirety of the .“ …and so on. Seriously? Even cursory glances should have caught these. sigh
This adds a delightful sense of uncertainty to the proceedings; which is not something you want in a super-high-level adventure. It should also be noted that the precise abilities of the super-powerful Seed of Change still haven’t been properly and precisely codified. This is particularly galling since the module does seem to labor under the belief that self-sacrifice to the seed of change will ultimately be required to triumph – the thing is, while the Delta module made abundantly clear how the Seed works and how it destroys the PCs, the like is NOT noted in this adventure. You’ll have to search through the previous one! And yes, the PCs will have to use the Seed. Yes, this means that, prior to the final boss fight, one PC will be taken out of the picture, probably permanently. Hope you enjoy watching your friends duke it out with the BBEG for hours on end… I get the intent of the heroic sacrifice, but that should happen AFTER the final boss fight. That’s literally game-design 101.
Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, the Ark. You see, turns out that the Onyx Cabal actually had the power to stop the Deliverer of Omega. You see, they have a ton of high-level characters. Sure, they serve Omega, but…why walk willingly into looming annihilation? Without the defeat of the Deliverer at the hands of the heroes, there’d have been no reason whatsoever for them to be needed…but okay. Let’s ignore that barn-sized logic bug and just live with a dungeon full of super high-level NPCs, all right? You see, the commander of the cabal, the Onyx Commander has taken the heart of the Deliverer of Omega, becoming the eponymous inheritor. They tricked the Chronicler and now, the pyramid-shaped Ark is tied to a duplicate, the Inverse Ark, which looms in the shadow plane. If that plot sounds a bit convoluted and contrived, then because it is. We have approaching plants in the sky, we have just crushed the Final Moon. (Which had a star inside that curiously did not destroy the world.) The transition from Delta to Omega Adventure is a bit of a mess, to put it bluntly. The Ark itself is actually an interesting “final dungeon” and comes with a patrol schedule, and, oddly, no real magical security measures. Once more, btw., don’t expect Tech Guide synergy. Plus-side: The more beings are slain within, the worse things get for the PCs, with ever increasing manifestations of shadowy doom. That being said, the precise effects are…kinda ridiculous at this level? 1 negative energy damage in dim light, 1d6 in darkness, 1d6 + in magical darkness? At level 18? The respective rooms also don’t feature read-aloud text anymore and the PCs will have to basically bypass or slog through the Ark.
The PCs will sooner or later free Chronicler and potent allies and duke it out with the Onyx Commander – failure for the first time has no consequence, RAW, as a NPC revives the PCs, but the commander takes the Seed in the interim. Yeah, not taking those items from the PCs or obliterating them makes no sense. The commander is obviously mustache-twirling stupid-evil. As the PCs make their way through the inverse ark (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, anyone?), they finally throw down once more with the proper Onyx Commander. Defeating his this time around ends him for good. FYI: If the PCs get the heart from him, it’s a whopping DR 15/- and 10 hit points. At these levels, the PCs can literally sneeze it asunder.
The Ark then crashes, and guess what? Omega shows up. The Deliverer is back from the annihilated. Sure, PCs can hand over the Seed, but that’s a bad idea, right?
It’s here that the PCs MUST use the Seed and defeat thus Omega. My issues with this course of action have been made abundantly clear above. The pdf does note that the Onyx Commander might suggest this course of action if he’s still alive, but RAW, he can’t make the sacrifice, even though he’d be willing to redeem himself thus. This basically invalidates the choice of the PCs to spare the guy, if they did, and prevents a nice redemption angle. Speaking of confused: The conflict against the Onyx Commander mentions “Dark Phoenix imploding”. Who or what that is? No idea. It’s never mentioned before or after. This is but one instance where obvious lack of any quality control hurts the adventure.
By the way: The Deliverer’s stats are not reproduced herein. Hope you like book-flipping to the Delta module. Oh, and once the Deliverer’s been beaten, if Omega’s been McGuffin’d away, the PCs get to fight a slightly weaker undead version of the Deliverer. We don’t get full stats for this one, which makes handling that phase of the fight even more clunky.
Editing and formatting are bad. As in, even worse than before. At one point, I had a hard time following the plot. It’s already pretty complicated, and a lot of the unique situation happens kinda-somewhat in-between modules, but not really. The editing glitches further exacerbate this issue. Not going to start with the rules-components. This is so sloppy, the bottom of the pages reads “A Warning Too Late” – the same of the prequel. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard and the pdf features nice, full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The non-optional bonus pdf has no bookmarks and should have been integrated into the adventure. The lack of information on crucial components and the BBEG herein is annoying and requires that you flip to the Delta module. In short: This is supremely inconvenient.
Okay, picture me sitting in front of my screen, Captain Picard style, with two hands on my face. That’s how I honestly feel right now.
Once I got past my misgivings about how this KS turned out, I was actually hoping that this series could still be a candidate for my Top Ten list.
Yeah, that did not happen.
Inheritor of the Entropy Heart, the chance for the series to achieve redemption, is rather than that an exacerbation of the weaknesses of the previous installments. The editing is bad and now also extends to the prose; the plot is convoluted and actually feels like a big step down from the cosmic, epic scale of the Delta adventure – if anything, switching these would have made sense. The final dungeon does not require the vast means that high-level PCs have to solve. Sure, the module mentions that skipping past sections may be in the interest of PCs, but high-level modules need to engage the vast capabilities of PCs in a meaningful way, which this pdf constantly fails to do. The Ark/Inverse Ark angle could have provided some unique, planes-hopping problem-solutions, but instead just serves as an excuse for going through the same scenery twice.
The finale is a horrible let-down and forcing one PC to sit it out, is an insult.
I don’t understand it. Michael McCarthy and Louis Porter Jr. had this special thing here. Crisis could have, in spite of not meeting the “Crisis of Infinite Earths”-angle-stretchgoals, become something amazing. Release a brief gazetteer or the world, a few modules to establish factions and NPCs, then the series. If this worked, if it had not this vast amount of horrendous, sloppy errors and handwaves, if this had been properly developed, it could have, easily, made my Top Ten list.
This is the single worst case of squandered potential I have EVER seen in an adventure series. This is a rushed first draft that has never seen any form of critical analysis and finetuning. This oozes a level of disappointment, a “Why bother?” attitude, that sinks what could have been one of the most remarkable series of all time. If this had been properly finetuned and polished, who knows, perhaps we would have had a chance to see those tie-in adventures. As written, this is a trainwreck par excellence in pretty much every formal regard.
Where the Delta adventure stumbled, this one downright falls. With the formal issues, the series so far had at least the high-concept plot to hold it aloft…but even that falls apart in a rather anticlimactic mess here. My final verdict cannot exceed 1.5 stars, rounded down. A depressing end for what could have been a genre-defining series.