Part II of my review:
Editing and formatting are very good - although there are a few formal deviations and typos here and there (one references "IReland" instead of "Iceland"), the pdf generally is professionally presented. Layout adheres to 4 Dollar Dungeons' printer-friendly two-column full-color standard with a nice blend of original and stock artwork in both color and b/w. The pdf comes in two versions - one optimized for the European A4-paper standard and one for the US-letterpack paper size. Very cool! The jpgs are a nice bonus as far as I'm concerned. the pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.
I have never read a module like World's End. This module is utterly epic and the most high-concept low-level module I have ever read. At the same time, it is grounded in an almost hilarious sense of mythological realism. Let me explain that contradictio in adjecto: I love the Norse myths. A main reason for that love lies in the deities being...well. ...humane in their faults and behaviors. Unlike comparable pantheons of deities, they may behave like pricks, but usually not towards the mortals. This grounds the whole mythology as far as I'm concerned, makes it seem more plausible and relatable. It is into this context that the PCs stumble and the module deliberately asks them, in the 8 riddles in the beginning, to judge the faults of the deities and their behavior, to present their moral perspective.
And indeed, when the PCs then meet the deities, they may be taken aback, they may argue - but the PCs are not penalized for their opinions. This module is epic, but the conflicts the PCs face will be ones that are based on scale - they are thrust literally in a world where humble vermin can pose a threat and thus, if your PCs object to feeling small...then this module does its job. You see, the module plays with physical and metaphysical size and power; the humble 1st level PCs may not have actual, physical size and power, but they still help the gods; they are, in a metaphysical sense, participating in, nay, writing mythology. If you're familiar with Norse myths, this alone will make you grin from ear to ear...and if not, then chances are you'll be intrigued after completing this module.
Rereading my review, the module does sound a bit like a tour-de-force of mythology, but the matter of fact is that you can decelerate the proceedings however you want; similarly, you can speed everything up. The transitions alone could each carry a whole session worth of gaming, if you're inclined to work with them. The PCs are stranded in a strange land and much like many a mouse-protagonist of popular children's movies, they will be swept along to a degree; they will bear witness and interact, make a difference. Weave the myth presented herein.
At the same time, World's End is NOT, and let me emphasize that, "Norse myths - the module"; quite the contrary. It does not focus on the often quoted legendary beasts, on wartime, epic battles or the like - and shines a spotlight on the very human, almost always neglected aspects of the mythology. And it does so in a hilarious manner. I haven't laughed so hard while reading a module in ages. The themes and topics highlighted here, while founded in mythology, by means of their contextualization take on the shape of a comedy of manners with a delightfully dry and deadpan humor. This is, in short, the funniest module I have read in a while, with some of the jokes reserved for the GM, yes...but several situations in which the PCs will find themselves are very comical as well. It should also be mentioned that the respective vignettes can, for the most part, be recombined as the GM sees fit - they can easily be expanded upon...or even be cut.
Now there is one potential fact that can be problematic - and that would be to make the PCs accept that they're outclassed big time. Granted, at level 1 not too hard, but there are some personalities that can't cope with that....but then again, these folks may benefit the most from playing this module. You see, the leitmotif of "comedy of manners" also includes a certain humbling; everyone in this module is treated as a fallible being. The deities and PCs alike are subjected to circumstances that undermine self-importance and bloated egos - not in a mean-spirited way, mind you, but in one that invites players and GMs alike to take a step back and smile for once.
This is at the same time one of Richard Develyn's easiest and hardest modules to recommend. This module exists in the sharp contrast between the epic and the mundane and it makes this field of tension work perfectly; similarly, the lines of the comedic in the module receive a tinge of tragedy when read in the context of the whole mythology. I would not recommend this module to groups that have no sense of humor. But then again, perhaps those groups might be cured of that. I don't know. World's End is easy to recommend for its stints in the epic and fantastic, for its refreshing take on a mythology usually coded as violent and grim; at the same time, it can be recommended for how it manages to convey the "You are 1st level characters. The world is big and scary."-trope...without resorting to making the PCs literally meaningless in the context. They are, after all, mortals in a larger than life world of gods!
You can emphasize this, by expanding the day to day life between quests; you can de-emphasize it and make everything feel more like a dreamy, hazy journey that may or may not be taking place as written. World's End is very elusive in its tone and it is nigh impossible to adequately describe how it works.
The best I could come up with would be: A divine comedy of manners, wherein the PCs get to write and participate in myths, with "An American Tail"-like scenes and the ultimate goal of contextualizing judgments of people and putting deities in perspective." (Yes, Dante-reference intended - after all, the PCs, for most of the journey, do have guides!)
Fans and scholars of Norse mythology should consider this to be an absolute must-have offering., but that goes without saying.
This does require an experienced GM who can make the mythology shine, yes. And yes, I can see some players not coping too well with the requirements of this module. But at the same time, I am overanalyzing this big time. For most groups that play this, this will probably end up being a downright hilarious experience that will provide more scenes for the gaming annals than pretty much any other module I know. "Remember that time, when we witnessed Thor's "wedding"? *snicker*"
In short, this module is no joke; it is NOT easy. But it is delightfully funny and one of the very few modules that manages to be funny without being ridiculous. It makes sense...and is epic at the same time. And, as always, it's ridiculously inexpensive. I mean it. For 4 bucks, you get a TON of truly creative adventure and scenes that you and your group will never, ever forget. Enough to get much, much more out of it than the price and scope would suggest.
Well-researched, with a palpable love for the source material and a strong, distinct authorial voice, this module delivers in all the right ways and presents a type of experience I have never had before. That alone should justify getting this gem. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and, no surprise there, as a total fanboy of humorous RPG-supplements and modules as well as Norse mythology, this also receives a nomination for my Top Ten of 2016.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine, posted here, on OBS, Lou Agresta's RPGaggression, etc.
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