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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

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!


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

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.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

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.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

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...


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

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!


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