By John Bertani & Aaron Fairbrook
Gold & Glory/2e
The Crimson Legion has gained a foothold in the Dragonback Mountains. Having taken over Trollback Keep, they’ve gathered wealth, power and now seek to expand their territory. Villages of man and gnome have been sacked or enslaved. And now the Crimson Legion may be close to discovering the lost Shrine of Deralugos. Lord Brie and his men are busy fighting the raiding bands that are ravaging the area. He’s offering gold and glory to those who can find the source of this incursion and help put a stop to it!
This 34 page adventure details a couple of dungeons and wilderness encounters in a small region. The humanoids have a keep they are launching raids from, and there’s a gnome shrine and dungeon also. It’s a good well-rounded environment with lots of opportunities to get in to trouble … exactly what D&D should be.
Well, it looks like SOMEONE has been paying attention. The wanderers in this are doing things, like orcs congratulating themselves over an elk they’ve downed. AND there’s a reference sheet of monster stats/locations. AND the there’s some cross-referencing of information. AND most of the information is related in bullet form. AND there’s some new monsters and magic items. The astute among you will recognize these as all things I bitch about. That having been removed, I will have to find to find new things in this to bitch about. 🙂
I REALLY like the dungeon map in this. Laid out around a river, it has elevation changes, stuff carved out, the water can be used as a bypass, there are islands, same level stairs, features on the map. The river naturally divides the place in to some little sub-areas. It’s visually interesting with lots of features for the party to explore.
It brings some faction play and interactivity to the table. Gnomes can be added to the parties forces, and they can clue you in to some barbarians nearby who might want to ally … but they don’t like the gnomes. There’s a captured giant to free and the various humanoids in the keep could be turned on one another. It’s a complex social environment and that’s great interactivity. Beyond that the dungeons proper have interactivity, like a corrupted fountain that, if cleaned u p, comes to life for a moment and blesses the party. Part of the place is a gnome temple, which is an excuse for a few funhouse elements, like the boulder roll halfpipe from Dragon’s lair. They don’t come off as odious gnome tricks at all, which is an achievement in itself.
The area keys start with a nice little description. A recently gutted and oozing elk carcass hangs from a tree near a cauldron next to a pile of crushed goblin corpses. An especially warty and fat orcs stirs the cauldron occasionally. Good imagery.
Some of the descriptions get long. Some of the bullets get long. As length increases the ability to scan drops off. It doesn’t delve in to the history of a place, or trivia, but lets say instead there’s a wealth of pertinent information presented. There’s some correct balance here and, while its not bad, it strays a little close to the “too much” line at times. A lot of times. Because of that you don’t get the sense from the text that it’s easy to scan and run. I’m not saying its NOT, I’m saying you don’t get that sense. Looking at it you might sigh, but it IS well organized.
Well, mostly. There’s a thing where they put the monsters at the end of the encounter, bolded, at the same indent level (or, rather, a lack of indent) as the room key proper. This can make it seem like the monster is crowding the next room and lack a kind of intuitive layout. Page ten room 2&3, I’m looking at you in particular.
Also, the art choices are a bit weird. It’s not clear why you might choose to include a generic barbarian pic over a pic of the new translucent snail people who you can talk to. Likewise, a pic of the main keep could have been nice.
And that last point is related to the largest miss in this. There’s a part of this adventure that MIGHT be: gather some NPC people and siege/invade/sneak in to the keep to kill the humanoids. That could have been handled better. An iso view of the main keep, and a littlre more attention to “things high nearby that let you look down in to the keep” or other elements that support a base assault would have been welcomes. There’s a kind of order of battle and some day night notes in places, as well as guards and alarms, but I think that needs to come as part of a package. More variety in the keep yard to hide behind/use in combat. More features in the area around the keep. Some more notes on NPC tactics, etc. [Fair warning: Far Cry 1 is in my top 5 list and I loved the open-ended nature of the base assaults there. And I loved playing Danger International and the base assaults we did in that. So … yeah, I love base assaults and have lots of thoughts on them.]
But … this isn’t a bad adventure. It’s a good one. It’s organized ok, and has interactivity and dynamism to it. I’m fond of the emergent play origin story of the adventure also (I rolled three monster checks in a row and wanted to piece them together in a larger picture.) Man, I’m not gushing, am I? It IS good, just pushing the boundaries of thick a bit and the layout/summaries/bullets, while helpful, could use some tweaking to make the points come across better. I’d say MM have just about cracked the code of producing good shit on a schedule.
This is available for $5 on DriveThru. Easily worth that. The preview is 8 pages. Pages 5 & 6 of the adventure show the orc camp/chef I talked about, and more of the preview shows you the writing typical of what the adventure is.