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Dungeon Crawl Classics #30: Vault of the Dragon Kings
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/17/2018 08:51:19

This was originally written as a tournament module for Gen Con Indy 2005, and so comes complete with scoring information and pre-generated characters... so it's ideal if you are looking for a one-off adventure or happen to need an adventure to run at a games convention. Or, of course, you can run it with an existing party as part of your ongoing campaign... however the results from when it was played at Gen Con make grim reading in terms of survival rates!

The adventure itself concerns an upstart dragon called Myrkjartan who has raided the ancient and long-undisturbed Vault of the Dragon Kings in a bid to establish the rule of dragonkind (or at least, himself) over all sentient beings. There's plenty of background material to get your teeth into, covering the original Dragon Kings and the vault they built when they realised that their days were numbered, and how their passing gave rise to the multiplicity of dragon types found in the world today... and how Myrkjartan is not quite the villain he appears. Maybe. There are notes on how to involve the party - and just as importantly, notes on what they don't know! There are also notes on particular features of many of the traps in the Vault, of the perils of adventuring at high altitude, and of the mammoth scale the Vault is built to, seeing as it was made by and for dragons.

The adventure comes in three parts, corresponding to the three rounds of a tournament game. Throughout, there is plenty of help and direction for the DM, with sidebars reminding of applicable game mechanics as well as detailed room descriptions and notes for every encounter. There are some complex traps that will take smarts as well as brawn to circumvent. They look reasonably straightforward when you have notes on how to defeat them in front of you, but may well prove a lot harder for the party to deal with. There are hints provided, but will the party recognise them for what they are?

It's a tough and challenging adventure with both traps and combats a-plenty, but there are opportunities to interact with at least some of those encountered in the Vault... but the conversation might get cut short if tempers become short. There's a lot here, including some new monsters, spells, templates and other items. The pre-generated characters are provided as dense blocks of text, you'd better transcribe them onto character sheets if you intend to use them. There are some player handouts, to let them see what their characters see in certain situations, potentially helpful especially with the traps.

It's well presented, well laid out, and oh, so very challenging. A good adventure for groups who like high stakes, difficult challenges for both mind and body, and who are not afraid to lose a few characters along the way. Have fun!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #30: Vault of the Dragon Kings
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #29: The Adventure Begins
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/13/2018 08:43:52

This is a massive collection of low-level adventures, deigned for characters of 1st-2nd level. There are twenty in all, and between them they should provide an opportunity for any party to find their feet and begin to make their names in adventuring circles.

Some have appeared elsewhere - The Tower of the Black Pearl was released a couple of years later as an AD&D adventure, for example - but all are inventive and full of challenges. A well-rounded party including characters that can fight, cast spells, heal and play around with things like locks and traps is recommended for all of them.

Each adventure comes complete with a few hooks to entice the party in and a complete backstory, as well as useful DM tools such as scaling information, a list of encounters, and notes on specific game mechanics of particular relevance to the game. Then there's a detailed location-by-location description of the adventure itself, complete with integrated notes on who (what) is encountered there and how they are likely to react to the party. Whilst it is, as ever, well worth reading through an adventure before running it, everything you need it is there on the page. Maps, handouts, and notes on further adventures are also provided.

Each adventure is stand-alone, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It means you can select which ones you want to use and run them in whatever order suits your needs - but it does lead to a somewhat fragmented and episodic campaign. You might want to create an overarching setting in which to scatter these adventures, then throw out a selection of rumours and let the party roam the setting, playing adventures as they come to them, and making use of the suggestions for further adventures to develop areas that catch the party's interest. A very useful tool if you want to start a campaign but don't have time to develop one from scratch.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #29: The Adventure Begins
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #28: Into the Wilds
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/12/2018 13:35:48

Suitable for a campaign starter, this adventure takes a party of very low level adventurers (1st-3rd level) to a frontier keep that's troubled by a curse and assorted marauding beasties. There's plenty to find in (and around) the keep, which is surrounded by an area called the Wilds. Shall we say that it lives up to its name.

Several hooks are provided to get them there in the first place, and it's suggested that you make use of whatever backstories the characters have. There's also a selection of rumours - each charater should have heard a couple of them before the adventure begins. There's a background story - some of which might come out during play - and notes about what the party needs to find and what they should do with them. The local lordling will be pleased to get them back... but of course, other folk also have their eyes on the prize!

We also find out a fair bit about the area of Wildsgate and the people living there, a vibrant community in which any action will have consequences. It's somewhere a bunch of aspiring adventurers might want to stay a while as they begin their careers, and there are some outline notes that give ideas for integrating your adventures into the locality.

The adventure begins with the party on the road towards the keep... and an introductory combat to remind them that civilisation is far behind. There's plenty more travel in the Wilds before they reach the keep too, and plenty to do and see on the way. The really neat thing is that every encounter happens for a reason, even though they are universally violent and hostile.

Eventually they reach the keep, which is well-guarded. The first task is to get in! Within its confines there is plenty going on. It's quite a hub of adventurer activity, and there are lots of folks to interact with. However the lure of adventure will hopefully lead the party forth again, to the caverns beneath a feature called the Goblin Spires, where there are some well-organised goblins to be cleared out... and of course there is much more besides, beneath and beyond. Eventually the quest reaches its end in ancient dwarven tombs, needless to say, well-protected against tomb raiders. Those defences don't care how legitimate the party's business might be, ether!

There's one last obstacle in their way when the party returns triumphant with their spoils - and the range of options presented for handling this last encounter are impressive. This will determine whether the party can stay safely in the area or will be run out of town (if lucky) so they'd better be careful what they do! The text ends with ideas for further adventures...

Well-resourced with maps, descriptions and everything you might need to make the Wilds and the settlement of Wildkeep come alive, this makes an excellent start for a wilderness-based campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #28: Into the Wilds
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #27: Revenge of the Rat King
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/10/2018 09:12:17

I've never quite understood the concept of revenge, but it sure makes for some good plots... and here's one. It's particularly good if you have played Idylls of the Rat King earlier in your campaign, but if you haven't it is either a case of mistaken identity or just a set-up to catch generic adventurers. Slavers have to get their merchantise somewhere, after all.

After the usual plot summary, list of wandering monsters and scaling information, there are a series of hooks to get the party interested in what is going on. They all revolve around an innkeeper called Gotlieb. It may be that the party has been tasked with finding a bunch of slavers, or someone they care about has been abducted by them - or they might even find themselves rescuing Gotlieb from a lynch mob who are certain he's in on the slave trade... This has all been orchestrated by the Rat King, especially if you are going for the default revenge angle.

The adventure falls into three parts. The first bit is a standard dungeon-crawl through the sewers. Then they get captured. This is a given, by the way. Eventually they should win free, get hold of weapons and equipment, and be in a position to deal with the Rat King once and for all. It's an adventure for the thinking character, however, those who like to rush bull-headed into combat will likely end up in difficulties.

As usual with the DCC line, the adventure begins as Gotlieb opens a door in the basement of his inn giving the party access to the sewers below. How you get them to this point is up to you. Run with the ideas given or come up with something of your own. Once down there it's a good if fairly standard delve, with opponents whose conversational heights run to "I'm going to kill you!" and similar taunts, and a few traps to figure out along the way.

The novel central phase ensues, with the party waking up in a dark cell, without their possessions. The cell is held to be escape-proof. Can our heroes prove this assumption wrong? If they are inventive and careful, they ought to be able to win free and return to deal with the Rat King for good and all in a thrilling climax.

Overall it makes a good adventure, particularly for those who like to sail through dungeon delves beating up everyone they encounter and taking their loot without further ado... if they survive they'll approach their next delve quite differently! Yet there's plenty of brawling and trap-defeating goodness and even some interesting loot to be had. An excellent game to be had here...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #27: Revenge of the Rat King
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #26: The Scaly God
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2018 12:44:30

With a glorious cover picture that seems to reach out and grab you, this adventure involves the investigation of a demolished stronghold that leads the party into uncharted depths and face-to-face with a being that the local goblinoid savages hail as a god.

Whitefang Stronghold perches high in the mountains guarding a pass - just find a suitable mountain pass in your campaign world, probably something used as a trade route. It's a nicely-designed multi-level building highly appropriate for its situation. However a recent caravan passing through found the garrison slaughtered and even the structure of the stronghold damaged. The party is hired by the local lordling to investigate. Oh, and to find a valuable artefact that had been delivered there recently.

The encounter list shows that a lot of the opposition is presented by the local wildlife. There's scaling information should your party be weaker or stronger than that for which the adventure was written, and the interesting point that the first part of the adventure - investigation of the stronghold itself - should not provide a significant challenge to the party: that comes later with the discovery of a nearby underground complex! If your party isn't the sort to hire out to local lordlings, a few alternative ways to get them involved are provided. There's also an extensive backstory that explains in detail how the situation they'll find came to be. It makes for a good story, so do try to weave it in to the adventure to enhance the plotline.

The adventure proper starts with the party in the mountain pass, just as they arrive at the remains of the stronghold. The garrison may be dead, but the place isn't deserted. It's all a bit confusing and the party will have to piece events together to discover what actually happened here. Most of the inhabitants want to fight rather than talk (although some are not above the odd taunt), but as noted above, they should not prove impossible to defeat. There are several points where you get handouts to 'show the players what their characters see' although the descriptions themselves convey the scene pretty well.

By the time they've scoured the Stronghold, the party should have picked up enough hints to suggest that finding and exploring a nearby cave complex. There's a handy list of clues in case you are having difficulty picking them out: they are rather subtle and you may find it necessary to signpost them a bit to ensure that the party knows where they are supposed to go. There's also a Bardic Knowledge check and even an optional encounter to nudge the party in the right direction if all else fails! Getting there is part of the adventure, with local wildlife and a rockfall to make things difficult, and once there the complex is crawling with wandering monsters. Things only get more difficult from here on in, and there's at least one encounter it might be more prudent to back away from.

The cavern ecology is quite fascinating, with several groups in interlocking relationships. Few relish intruders, however, so any attempt to study them will be spoiled by the inevitable fights... but most adventurers come to fight not conduct anthropological studies, so that's no problem. There are three layers, with increasing levels of challenge as you descend... and at the bottom there's the living embodiment of a deity! At least, if you listen to some of the more powerful denizens that's what he is... no matter, he's big and powerful and greets intruders with immediate combat. His tactics are laid out clearly, and it should prove a suitably climactic brawl to end the adventure. Pickings so far have been poor, nut there is plenty of treasure to be had here, as well as the artefact that those parties hired by the local lordling were tasked to find.

This makes for a great 'double delve' - Stronghold and caverns - with a lot going on, and certainly lives up to the ideal that all monsters are there to be fought! The way various monstrous races have been used in conjuction with one another is excellent, with creative and believable alliances and relationships that make it all work within the context of this alternate reality.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #26: The Scaly God
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #25: The Dread Crypt of Srihoz
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/27/2018 12:29:04

If someone suggested to me that it was a good idea to take a stroll along a freezing cold and damp clifftop path where only lichen grew, I think I'd pass... even before finding out that there were vampires in the vicinity. The lure is the vast wealth that the vampire in question has amassed, but of course in reality, he's just hungry.

The opening notes suggest that this adventure can be slotted in to any suitable wilderness region on a sea or lake shore. Prefering quality over quantity, the vampire has made the place tricky to explore so only the best will reach him. The list of traps employed is quite awesome! There's some scaling information if your party is weaker or stronger than that for which the adventure is intended, then we move on to how to get them involved - the vampire actively recruits, hiring minions to spread the word about the fabulous wealth to be had in his lair and even giving out directions! Come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly...

There's s quite extensive backstory to the vampire and how he came to be where he is. It makes for quite a good read, but the party will need to delve quite deeply into local history to find out much of it... unless the recruiters use some of it in their spiels. It does make the entire complex come to life, though, and there are further comments throughout the adventure text.

The adventure proper starts with the party on that inhospitable clifftop track, standing in front of an iced-up door. Getting them there is, as ever, up to you. It would appear that despite the network of recruiters, nobody has actually entered here for many years, maybe even centuries (judging by the smell!). Once in, wall paintings can give some inkling of the history should the party stop to examine them. Onward, then, through various strange chambers with their complement of hostile flora and fauna, not to mention an array of traps magical and mechanical. It's a remarkably inhospitable place, and there's clear evidence of the deliberate thought process behind making it so - everything follows logically in sequence and it doesn't give the impression of a bunch of random traps and monsters but a carefully-considered challenge. And challenge it is, there's a lot that could easily prove deadly to unlucky or badly-prepared parties.

One feature is a massive underwater combat where some vicious squid are the lest of the party's worries. There are plenty of other set pieces too, with challenges to both mind and body - illusions and the use of suggestion spells for example; and there is copious use of weaponised diseases. It's a nightmare of a place. The vampire himself is a powerful wizard who is credited with inventing an offshoot of necromancy that is even more disgusting - and he makes good use of his abilities as shown by the extensive discussion of his likely tactics once the party finally meet him. If they don't finish him off but escape, pure pride will cause him to hunt them down, and even if they do, most of the traps are still active when they attempt to get back out of the complex.

It's a well-constructed and deadly adventure, those surviving will have reason to be proud of themselves. There's no scope for interaction, that isn't its purpose, but if you are seeking a purposeful challenge, a dungeon that has been carefully crafted to be deadly, this one fits the bill admirably.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #25: The Dread Crypt of Srihoz
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Wr20 Handbook for the Recently Deceased
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2018 13:57:48

Released in advance of the core rulebook for Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition, this work is made up of three sections, one aimed at players, one explaining the concept of Shadows, and one for Storytellers. The whole idea is to explain what the game is all about, give prospective players and Storytellers a handle on what is going on, and expand knowledge of the Underworld for those who've prior experience of Wraith.

There's a particular emphasis on the newly dead, a likely point to start a new campaign especially with inexperienced players. It explains a lot of the novel terminology used in the game, as well as its distinctive mechanics. These are chiefly Passions and Fetters, which affect all characters, and the operation of Shadows. The Storyteller section is aimed at both new Wraith Storytellers and those who are running their game for newly-deceased characters (whether or not their players are new to the game).

The Player section opens by explaining how important it is to realise that your character is as dead as a doornail. That's fine, though, because your character has somehow managed to hang on somewhere in the fringes of life instead of moving on like most dead people do to whatever lies beyond. You have a second chance to maybe influence mortal affairs. Maybe there's something you need to set right, or something left unfinished that you really, really wanted to complete. In effect, you've shaken a fist in the face of Oblivion (or whatever afterlife you think you are going to) and insisted on hanging around a bit longer.

However, hardly anyone knows what to expect when they die. Leaving aside religious belief, most of which have various promises (and threats) for what comes next, nobody really knows. So a lot of the game is about finding out about this new place you have suddenly arrived in, lots of exploration and discovery because the afterlife as presented in Wraith doesn't match up to any existing theories or beliefs about what happens after death. Time to ask lots of questions. Some your Storyteller might answer for you, but most you will have to find out for yourself. The process of arrival is explained - Storytellers might want to not release this information until it's played out, for shock effect - and the landscape that surrounds new arrivals is explained.

We also find out about Fetters, which are those things that have held you from proceeding onwards to whatever awaits most of the dead. That unfinished business or whatever it is you are here to attend to. You may choose to get on with dealing with them, but there are others things you can get up to here as well. If your character is lucky, someone whose been here a bit longer might be good enough to explain things to you. Or you might be unlucky... We also hear about Passions, the things that drive your character so powerfully and which are centred on powerful emotions.

There's a massive amount going on, and a lot to explore. There are cross-references to the core rulebook as appropriate: this work is more about concepts and ideas than game mechanics. This could make it useful for at least Storytellers to read this book before they get down to the nuts and bolts of how the game actually works, although with players new to the game they may prefer to let them experience all this through play rather than read about it first.

Next comes the section on Shadows. This is something that can be hard to grasp, especially when you are new to the game. It is the negative part of a given Wraith's personality and it has one objective: to drag that Wraith into Oblivion as fast as it can. The mechanic is interesting - another player at the table plays your Shadow, as well as their own Wraith. It's not intended as an outright competition or tug-of-war, though. It's more insiduous than that. For a start, what does the Shadow really want? It may want the now-Wraith to admit they were wrong about something they feel strongly about, for example. The 'Shadowguide' - that's the person playing the Shadow - needs to get to know their Wraith really well, to know their weak spots and their triggers, and then use them, creatively and relentlessly. There's a balance to be struck between standing back and letting the Wraith get on with business without interference, and being a complete and utter pest, in their face all the time. Plenty of advice here about how to develop your skills as a Shadowguide. The Shadow may even be as confused and lost as the Wraith at the beginning, or it may already have an agenda mapped out. There are hints and tips for Storytellers here as well, as they need to decide how things will work in their game. At times, the Shadowguide will have to work with the Storyteller, especially when setting up set-piece events called Harrowings, which basically put the poor Wraith on the spot.

Finally, the section directly aimed at Storytellers. It can be quite an overwhelming task, especially if you and your group are new to Wraith. There is a lot to take in, the good news is that the Storyteller - like newly-deceased Wraiths - can acquire the knowledge slowly and steadily rather than all at once. You just need to be a step or two ahead of your players. There's a wealth of advice here and one of the most important bits is to be aware of your players. They are here to have fun, even if their characters are not. If anyone gets uncomfortable, stop and find out what you need to avoid for the game to continue being enjoyable for all participants. There are lots of ideas for initial adventures too, many of which are designed to help you ease your players into their characters' new existence.

This doesn't replace the core rulebook, but it does lift the lid on the underlying ideas and concepts on which the game is built. Storytellers certainly ought to read it. Players may want to wait until they have been playing for a while before diving in, as it explains concepts that might be better discovered through play. Once they have met the concepts, though, this can deepen their understanding of them. It's a good way to get a handle on a quite difficult game, one with novel concepts and processes quite unlike anything else.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wr20 Handbook for the Recently Deceased
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #24: Legend of the Ripper
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/03/2018 09:46:17

This is a low-level adventure that provides a good opportunity for a party new to the adventuring game to make a name for themselves. It's based on the story of Jack the Ripper, of course, but with some neat fantasy twists that make it credible within the alternate reality of your campaign world and means that even the most enthusiastic student of the real Ripper will still need to work at this challenge.

It all starts in a city. Pick one from your campaign world, it may be where the party started off their adventuring career - or they might be country bumpkins, drawn like moths to the candleflame that is the lights of the big city. Even the investigation is left open. What is known is that the ghost of the last victim of this city's Ripper, who cut a murderous swathe through the city over an hundred years ago, has started walking the streets where she met her doom and there's been an uptick in unsolved vicious murders in that neighbourhood. Under pressure and getting nowhere fast, the city watch call in some outside consultants in the shape of the party.

If you think your party would enjoy an investigation - and you feel up to inventing the details - you can, or you may simply say that the watch have discovered what they believe is the lair of the present-day Ripper and want the party to clean it out on their behalf... because it is at the entrance to that lair, based in and under that last victim's former home, that the adventure text begins.

The preparatory material for the DM contains the usual material: a wandering monster table, scaling information in case your party is stronger or weaker than that envisioned, notes on character death (a real possibility) and on the fact that this is a horror story as well as a fantasy one, and a fair bit of background material.

The adventure proper begins in the squalid back streets of an area known as Miller's Court, where the original Ripper murders (as well as the latest crop) took place. This section involves some investigation and exploration as the party homes in on the particular building that they seek. There's plenty to do and see as they work their way to Mari's former home and the tavern that adjoins it. These form the setting of the second part of the adventure, which is the upper floor of the tavern.

Finally, the party's investigations will lead them into the cellars and sewars beneath... and to dark places beyond. Throughout there are clear descriptions for all locations and encounters, with necessary game mechanical information and notes on the likely actions of those encountered. Sidebars contain expanded information and other useful notes and snippets of further background material which you may weave in as you please. None of this adventure is easy, but the final stages are particularly tough, especially for the low level party that the adventure is intended for. The outcome isn't certain either, whatever the party chooses to do has consequences. Apart from these, there are also several ideas for follow-up adventures - most work best if the party is still welcome in the city, but others can be run regardless.

This is an outstanding and atmospheric adventure for a starting party to really make their mark on the adventuring scene!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #24: Legend of the Ripper
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #23: The Sunken Ziggurat
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2018 12:50:11

The premise for this adventure is simple: a recent earthquake has exposed a long-buried structure and for whatever reason, the party goes to explore it. Needless to say there's all sorts of bad stuff around and the looming threat of evil being released across the land to goad them on...

The material for the DM includes an overview of the adventure, scaling information, wandering monsters, several ideas for how to get the party to investigate, background information that can be discovered through a little research, and even notes on translating inscriptions within the ziggurat. Well, it's been buried a long time and nobody speaks that language any more! There's also a bit of background story, which may or may not be revealed during play.

There are various ways that the party can get to the ziggurat, once they have decided that it's worth a look. However, no more than a brief outline is given, you will have to come up with the details yourself as the adventure itself begins just as they arrive at the ziggurat. There appears to be a localised storm brewing over its apex, but that's the only way in... and from the outset, there's plenty of opposition to the party's investigations. Indeed traps and monsters are present in abundance throughout the ziggurat.

Everything is explained clearly, with all the information, explanations and game mechanics you need to run each encounter supplied just where you need it. In certain places, as well as a verbal description, there is an illustration to show to the players. As the party gets deeper into the ziggurat, things get progressively worse and - especially if they haven't guessed what's here - weirder. Spirits abound and any paleontologist would have a field day with all the ancient bones. And right at the bottom? Suffice to say, something that the party will really, really hope stays dead!

Every creature here is indeed here to be slain, not interacted with. There's some loot to be had, but rather low considered the difficulty of obtaining it. There are quite a few new monsters, which are given a full write-up at the end as well as having an outline within the body of the text where you need it. There's no follow-up adventures, there again if the great evil escapes there is unlikely to be much of a future for anybody.

Quite an interesting delve based on an unusual premise, but definitely for those who like deadly hack'n'slash delves... it's an excellent example.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #23: The Sunken Ziggurat
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #22: The Stormbringer Juggernaut
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/24/2018 07:31:05

Intended as a sequel to Assault of Stormbringer Castle where the party dealt with a storm giant clan that was extorting protection money from the local community, this adventure sends the party to clear up the consequences: the storm giant in question transferred her life essence into a massive 800-foot long giant-scaled assault ship bristling with weapons of war... and it's now advancing on the coastline!

If your party played Assault of Stormbringer Castle they ought to be aware of this problem and feel obligated to do something about it, but if they didn't (or see no need for their further involvement) just have the local lordling call them in to explain the issue and ask for their aid. Clerics or paladins might be sent orders by their religious superiors, while any elves or dwarves may have relatives amongst those who have been conscripted to construct and man the vessel.

The notes for the DM include scaling information, a list of wandering monsters, and notes about the 'living ship' as well as more detailed background material. It's likely that the party will begin by going to the island of Cairvos where the vessel is in the final stages of construction. There's a little bit of description, but much is left to your imagination. Oddly, although it's stated that the storm giant's husband - thought to be dead - isn't, and has built himself a colossus to stride along the seabed, it doesn't turn up anywhere in the adventure. Something you might wish to conjure with...

The actual adventure provided is a deck-by-deck exploration of this massive ship. Everything is mapped and described in excellent detail, with all the game mechical information presented just where you'll need it. Several new spells have been designed to facilitate certain aspects of the ship's defences, and they are written up in the standard manner should you want to use them elsewhere. There is plenty to find, puzzle out and fight during the exploration.

Finally, in the bowels of the ship, the climax as the party finds the storm giant's 'spirit gem' and hopefully destroy it. Get it right, though, as a mistake might tear the ship apart and sink it. Further adventures are covered - particularly if the spirit gem survives the destruction of the ship. Some new monsters and five pre-generated characters round off the book.

This makes for an interesting and unusual adventure, scrambling round a giant-sized ship.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #22: The Stormbringer Juggernaut
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Capharnaum Quickstart: THE TEARS OF AMPHAROOL
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2018 09:17:08

Lushly presented, we have here a rich fantasy world that is Arabian in style. In this world, certain individuals are born with a birthmark on their backs shaped like a dragon's claw. It is belived - and expected - that these individuals are capable of great heroism, of achieving great renown... or notoriety, should their astonishing feats tend to the evil rather than the good. The player-characters are all marked thus: what will they accomplish? What songs will be sung about them, or stories told?

Colourful adventures, political, military, and magical intrigues await the characters in the land of Jazirat, once annexed by a crumbling Empire that itself was built on the remains of the Republic of Agalanthia. Jazirat is a vast peninsula with a big desert in the middle and Capharnaum to the north, regarded as the centre of the world, while the nation of Kh'saaba is found to the south. Many peoples with their own traditions and beliefs mix here, sometimes at peace, often not.

Scene set, we move on to the Quickstart Rules, a cut-down version of the full Capharnaum rules. The GM here is called Al-Rawi, which is the Arabic for 'storyteller', and task resolution is by rolling handfulls of d6s... you'll need a lot of them. The number rolled depends on your score in the appropriate attribute (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence or Charisma) and where appropriate you add in the number of points you have in an apposite skill. Most attributes and skills are rated 1-5, so normally you'll be rolling up to ten dice at a time. You then add up the best rolls, using the number of dice derived from your attribute - these are your Result dice, and you want as high a result as possible. This is compared against a target or against what someone else rolled if it's an opposed task. Sounds simple, huh? But there's more. Every time you roll, one die is designated the Dragon Die and if you roll a 6 on that, you keep that 6 and reroll, adding that result in as well... and so on until it rolls something other than 6. Only the Dragon Marked get to rill a Dragon Die. There are also extra effects if you roll three dice the same, called a 'Constellation'... and there are other bits as well. It sounds complex but once you have got your head around it, you'll find it works quite well, even if it makes the die-rolling a bit intrusive into the flow of the game.

The rules bit then goes into great detail about combat. It's a round-based system with everyone involved rolling initiative each round, then taking their actions in turn. Needless to say, there are a lot of different actions to choose from. There are also different classes of opponents from Champions (who give even the Dragon Marked a run for their money) to the hordes of 'Babouche-Draggers' who fall over at a harsh look and are there for local colour rather than real opposition. It's all intended to create a cinematic feel for combat, and flamboyant moves are encouraged. This is followed by a brief look at magic, which is supposedly flexible and profound; here it's limited to discussion of a single improvisational style practised by both of the magic-using pre-generated characters provided. In this, to cast a spell the player states which 'Sacred Word' (Create, Destroy, or Transform) is to be used, then describes the effect they are trying to create and then roll for the success (or otherwise) of your spell.

Next comes the adventure The Tears of Ampharool, which begins with the party travelling in a caravan across the desert when a sandstorm hits. Eventually an opportunity opens up, rather neatly it doesn't matter whether or not the party take up the offer, Whether or not they decide to explore a mirage palace that appears before them, there's plenty to do in the desert. It is all well constructed and hangs together neatly, leaving the party with the impression that the choices they may really do make a difference.

Finally, there are five pre-generated characters to choose from. Each is well-rounded and detailed, complete with charming illustrations.

Perpare to be swept away on a magic carpet of adventure. The game mechanics seem complex when you read through them, but become less clunky as you get to know them, with the magic system lending itself to some spectactular results if you are prepared to put the effort into designing your spells. There's a glorious immersive feel as this rich setting takes over and embraces you.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Capharnaum Quickstart: THE TEARS OF AMPHAROOL
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #21: Assault on Stormbringer Castle
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/10/2018 10:26:55

Recently, several coastal towns have been battered by storms that have wrecked property and taken lives. Locals believe the storms have been caused by a storm giant seeking to extort tribute, and are in need of adventurers to raid her castle and put an end to her antics. It's a tough challenge for sure... is the party up to the task?

The introductory material for the DM covers an adventure summary, notes on scaling the adventure for parties stronger than the recommended 4-6 characters of 12th-14th levels (it's suggested that weaker parties will only be going to their deaths!), an encounter table, and a few hooks to get the party involved, all based around the 'locals ask for help' premise. The backstory explains why the greedy storm giant has been asking for more and more money in 'good weather tribute' - something the party may or may not find out for themselves, she's certainly not seen fit to inform the locals she is extorting - and a little about the coastal towns affected.

The adventure proper starts with the party approaching the storm giant's castle, which stands on a mountain by the coast some ten miles north of the towns. The first part of the adventure involves getting up to the castle itself without alerting her or her minions, which involves getting past assorted monsters she permits to live on the mountainside. Options include going up the path, climbing the mountain or taking to the air, and means of dealing with pesky adventurers using any of these routes are provided. Once up there, the castle grounds are enormous - and of course, must be crossed to gain access to the castle itself. There's no shortage of monsters in the grounds and on the curtain wall to stand in the party's way.

Once the party reaches it, the actual tower is built giant-scale as well - not very surprising seeing as the storm giant lives there, but it's good to see it designed that way not just scaled up a bit to accommodate her. It's filled with wonders - and some perverted plants - and a tome that brings a whole new meaning to being lost in a book! The climax is, of course, a brawl with the giant herself... but this ends in a way that leads neatly on to the next adventure in the series.

There is a lot to do, see and fight here, plenty of inventiveness in the surroundings and good use of giants - and their cohorts - for what they are rather than the same as anyone else only bigger.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #21: Assault on Stormbringer Castle
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #20: Shadows in Freeport
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/09/2018 09:50:36

This adventure is interesting in that it makes use of another publisher's setting - the city of Freeport from Green Ronin. You don't need to have any of Green Ronin's books on Freeport to run this though, just understand that it's basically a den of pirates dressed up with a thin veneer of legality. Against this backdrop, the present adventure runs. There's something odd going on, and it soon turns into more than the kidnappings the party are asked to investigate...

The introductory material for the DM includes an adventure summary, notes on Freeport, encounter tables, scaling information, and several ways to get the party involved. The default one is that parents ask them to find missing children, but several others reasons are given to get them to enter the dilapidated manor house that is the setting for the delve. There's also an interesting section on how to cope with pesky parties who insist on doing something other than enter by the front door - useful when, as always, carefully designed plots fall apart as soon as the party arrives! As well as a full and detailed background explaining what is really going on, there's a section on how to handle character insanity, should anyone become unhinged due to the horrors within! And horrors there are, this is funadmentally a haunted-house mystery with gross, bloody and terrifying scenes... be warned if any of your group are easily upset this might not be the best adventure for them.

The adventure itself begins with the party standing in the street outside the building in question. Once they venture in (by whatever route they choose) the horror soon begins, and continues without let-up during their visit. Most of the inhabitants, alive or undead, are off their heads. The building consists of two floors, a roof garden and a basement. Every room is described clearly, with notes on what (and who) is to be found there and all necessary game information to play out encounters. Quite often there are associated handouts as well, to let the players 'see' through their characters' eyes. Whilst there is plenty of horror to be found above ground, the basement is the true dungeon of this adventure, and it's here that the controlling evil genius will be found and the climactic battle fought... but there's plenty more to explore, monsters to fight and traps to evade before the party gets that far.

There are a few sketchy ideas for further adventures, a whole bunch of new monsters and some new magic including a Madness Domain. Four pre-generated characters are provided if you want to jump straight in to the adventure, although the way they are presented means that you need to sift through the notes and put them into a more sensible format (maybe transcribe them onto a character sheet) before they'll be of any use.

The stakes are high, the very fate of Freeport itself hangs in the balance. Indeed if the party dawdles, the final assault may be launched and they'll have one last chance to stop it. If you like a good twist of horror to your delve, this is well worth checking out, while if you already use the Freeport setting, this could provide an interesting twist in your ongoing storyline.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #20: Shadows in Freeport
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #19: The Volcano Caves
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2018 08:28:29

There's something odd going on in a local dormant volcano. For a start, any flame bends to point towards it. If that sounds odd to you, maybe it's time to investigate...

The DM is provided with an adventure summary - it's a fire-themed delve - as well as encounter tables, scaling information and a more detailed backstory to explain just what's going on down there. There are also some quite innovative adventure hooks to get the party interested - for example, during an earlier adventure, someone casting a fire-based spell gets an irresistable urge to go visit the volcano in question. It's worth noting that the volcano is no longer completely dormant, and it's hot in there. Party members in heavy clothing or armour are going to suffer, and everyone needs to keep well hydrated. There's boiling water and magna to contend with as well.

As usual, the adventure proper begins with the party on the threshold: in this case, standing outside a cave in the volcano. It won't be long before they meet some of the strange inabitants, including a new race called klaklin, lobster-like humanoids who seem immune to heat. Anyone who enjoys exotic wildlife will have a field day here, there are plenty of strange creatures to study... if they don't try to eat you first. With the remnants left behind by previous inhabitants and new arrivals there is a lot to do, see and fight... and even a talking sword which has some useful background information (a neat and novel way to share the backstory with the party).

There's quite a lot going on down there under the mountain, yet when the party returns to the outside world everything seems just as it was. Will anyone believe their tales and recognise them for the heroes that they are? There are some good ideas for follow-up adventures based on some of the encounters. There are new races and monsters, a couple of magic items, and even four 8th-level pregenerated characters if you want to jump right in (well, you would benefit from transcribing them onto character sheets) as well as handouts and illustrations galore. A thoroughly enjoyable and origninal delve.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #19: The Volcano Caves
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #18: Citadel of the Demon Prince
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/05/2018 09:00:20

Rescuing local farmers from a bunch of evil cultists who have been terrifying the neighbourhood should be relatively straightforward for a high-level party... until they find they have to travel to other dimensions and battle a demon prince on his own turf before he completely wrecks their world! Small stakes, hun?

There's a note that this work references the Demon Hunter's Handbook published by Goodman Games, but that you don't need to have a copy to play. Anything you need has been reprinted here. Still, if you like battling demons, you may find it worth getting hold of it. There's a synopsis of the adventure, notes on adapting the plot to fit in with your own campaign, encounter tables, scaling information, and a whole lot of backstory to help you get set up. Recommendations are made about dealing with planar travel and dimensional effects, and there's a note that one or two bits are a bit graphic and if your players are young you might feel the need to skim over them a bit. There are a few hooks to help you get the party involved too, and ideas about how to feed them information. This last is good, because there is a lot in tbe backstory and it would be a shame if the rest of the group never found out its depths and complexity.

The Cult of the Broken Word hang out in a dark abbey, a former temple of light that they took over and corrupted ages ago, and the adventure proper begins with the party standing at the main gates of the abbey grounds. The first part deals with their passage to the front door... not as easy a task as one might expect. Notes are provided on how to deal with parties inconsiderate enough to suggest flying or teleporting to the front door. Once they reach the abbey itself, the next task is to actually get in, which is not as easy as it might be. Various routes are suggested, each with their own problems.

Once in, things don't really improve. It's a suitably perverted mockery of a monastery, with plenty of perils in the shape of traps and monsters to contend with. There is a lot to explore in even the 'normal' parts... and then it begins to get very weird indeed. There are dimensional echoes, the result of a failed attempt by the cultists to transport their home to the Abyss, then there's a rapidly-arriving chuck of the Abyss - the demon prince's palace that he's ripped out of its home dimension and is attempting to bring to the Prime Material as part of his dastardly plot. There are a couple of massive magical/technological devices that he is using to power these plans, with the party will have to figure out, at least enough to know that they ought to destroy them. These make for a suitably epic backdrop to the final battle with the demon prince himself, a finale worthy of the name. Of course, the party then have to get themselves home again...

Well-resourced with maps, handouts, good descriptions, all the game mechanics you need to run each encounter and more, there are several ideas for further adventure. There are notes on the surrounding area and on new monsters including several types of demon, and new magic items - all of which can be used as appropriate in your own games. This is an epic adventure of world-shaking proportions, quite cinematic in scale.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #18: Citadel of the Demon Prince
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