By Matt Finch
Frog God Games
Swords & Wizardry/Pathfinder
I’m digging deep in to my pile on this one.
This is a D1 clone.
Seriously, if you take the core of D1 and replace it with a new hex map and replace the entries on the tables with new entries then you essentially have this product. The hex map has a player’s copy that is incomplete. The hex map has major and minor encounter areas. The corridor types are primary, secondary, and tertiary. The wanderer table has caravans on it. The major/minor encounters are not really described.
I’m doing this from memory (of D1) but that pretty much describes D1, doesn’t it? The fascination with Underdark Hex Crawl is beyond me. This must be the fourth or fifth D1 clone I’ve reviewed and they are all the same. Three tunnel types. Partial player map. Two types of encounter area. Caravans. Is it seriously the assertion that nothing new has happened in Underdark hex Crawl innovation in the last forty years? Wait, hang on, I don’t need innovation. But NOT just copying the format of D1 … is that the end all and be all of underdark hex crawls?
There’s one area described. It’s a steep canyon down with a small “weird thing” area at the top that allows you to teleport past the canyon, avoiding its many environmental hazards. There’s an interesting anti-magic effect here in one area that makes magic flight dangerous. It’s some anti-magic steam coming from a bubbling pool at the bottom. It does that strangest of things: not screw the players! By this I mean that you are allowed to bottle the steam and use it as as a grenade weapon for an anti-magic effect! Imagine that, something in the environment that can impact the players either negatively OR positively! More adventures needs to do this. Far too often they are written in a more adversarial style that keeps [insert whatever] out of the players hands. It’s too evil. It doesn’t work. Blah blah blah. It’s far more fun when you give the players a way to exploit what they find. The ones that think to anyway.
The language here is weird. It’s got a distant, archaic and round-about way of speaking, especially in the first few pages, which reminds me more of Webb style than it does of Finch’s.
So, it’s a D1 clone. Do you want a D1 clone published by the Frogs? Do you already have D1? Not the D1/D2 thing that TSR did, that would have far more content than this adventure. Just D1. Or maybe you have Down the Shadowvein? How about The Rebel Faction? Under Shattered Mountain? No? None of those? Then Congratulations, I present you something new.
This is available at DriveThru.
If you want something extremely different as far as underdarks go, look at Paolo Greco’s Chthonic Codex v3: Mysteries & Mystagogues. Pages 36-45, although most of 46-60 will probably amuse you as well.
The rest of the Cyclopean Deeps are really a very good underdark setting. I don’t understand why they also released the first chapter as an adventure separately.
I agree w/ Anon – I was deeply skeptical of Cyclopean Deeps until I got to the Ques Querax chapter. The descent is not strong enough to stand on its own. Ques Querax is where the Matt Finch adventure you expect to experience suddenly oozes out of its carapace and transforms into an evocative, dark, alien, and extremely deadly sandbox.
The standalone print versions of CD 1 and 2 were just kickstarter high pledge bait, and probably designed to tempt buyers into the entire CD series, not to stand alone. Though they’re still available separately, which is kinda weird. It’s not like FGG gives you a discount on a compilation after you buy an individual chapter 1 or 2 pdf.
Taken as a whole, I find these two adventures to be the most interesting take on the Underdark out there. Sure the beginning is a bit like D1, but so what? How many copies of B2 are out there? The foes are more interesting and the deeper you get, the stranger it gets. There are lots of Lovecraftian elements and the pseudo-Indian city of the Dark Folk, Izamne, is awesome. I keep finding ways to tie sections of this to my homebrew campaign so I’m totally getting value out of this product. And hey, you can even tie it to Rappan Athuk in the highly unlikely event that your party gets that deep…