It has been happy times since the classic ‘Dragon Warriors’ game has seen the light of print once more, and the republishing of this 1986 classic is a fine addition to the product line. This module excels on a number of levels, especially as an introductory adventure, and I really can’t recommend it enough for any gamer who is either an ‘old school’ devotee, or simply newer gamers after something of that milieu.
The great strength of ‘Dragon Warriors’ has always been in that the world is recognisable enough as a quasi-European Dark Ages, but with strong points of differentiation. It has always had a sword and sorcery ambience to the environment, the characters and in the way that the world works (even down to the choices of monsters included in this world). The background story about the wizard Elvaron and the forging of the crystals has a strong mythic element, and this is carried forward throughout the encounters in the module (my favourite being the Lyre of Ornas – this feels like something straight from a folktale). Again the recognisable elements of a kingdom that has fallen from glory, and artefact that can save it, and three quests all play to the sense that this is a legend unfolding for the characters.
The adventure is essentially three interlocking modules that form one continuous story. The locations have been well-chosen (the first is a forest, the second a castle and then on to a seaside village) and each has a distinct flavour that really does well to set each chapter apart from the others. There is also a great blend of underlying genre, moving from an almost fairytale-like story, to one that is almost classic dungeon crawl and finally onto a very creepy horror story. Whilst there is a fourth instalment (the heroic conclusion), this doesn’t take too long to run, hence my focus on the other three parts.
The encounters in the modules are challenging, but well-balanced, and in a ‘Keep on the Borderlands’ style, there are some NPCs who can be hired to even the odds. There are plenty of opportunities for canny characters to take advantage of terrain and creatively approach encounters; rather than a simple ‘stand and fight’ approach to combat. Scattered throughout you’ll also find a few homages to earlier fantasy games.
Overall, this is a brilliant experience. I’m also looking at ‘Sleeping Gods’ and ‘Prince of Darkness’, but I have no reason to believe that they will be any less than excellent. Serpent King should be congratulated for allowing this adventure to see light of day again and also for faithfully staying true to the original ‘Dragon Warriors’ game.