By Ray Weidner
The city of Blackrock is in peril! An army of shrieking demons marches inexorably closer, less than a week away from putting its people to the knife. The Duke puts out a call: brave and resourceful heroes are needed to recover the sacred words that will unleash the power of the Sealing Stone. Words that have passed beyond the world – and so these adventurers must pass beyond the world, into…The Magician’s House!
This 132 page adventure uses about seventy pages to describe a 25-ish “room” wizards house. There is little of the heightened reality that most DCC adventures have, making this a pretty straight forward conversion to your favorite gaming system. There is a depth to many of the rooms that makes them seem more like mini-vignettes or set-pieces, without even really overreaching in to being jaded or expectating Yet Another Set Piece. Lots of minor polishing issues plague the adventure but it never really falls in to any major traps. I think it’s a delightful little romp through a gentleman magicians home.
What Ray has created here is a point crawl wizards house, thanks the extra-dimensional flavour afforded by being a wizard. You’re searching for either the wizard or some magic words, giving you drive to explore. The extra-dimensional aspects are leveraged in more than just “the dungeon layout is weird.” Mirrors transport you to mirror world. Or you can go to Faerie. Or the moon. Speaking of faerie and mirrors, you might recognize some Norvel/Strange references. In fact, the baddies here are fey right out of that book, with the adventure leaning to that sort of fey.
The wizard in question is Mordank the Irregular. Tales are told of his feats … like when he saved the town from poisoned grain by summoning a huge army of rats to eat the grain. And who then died in the streets and stank forever. Mordank is my kind of wizard, both in holistic thinking and in being a weirdo.
There’s absolutely a Wizard House vibe this. There are some ruined houses in town with no real walls or doors. Except for one, which is the wizards doors. The backside looks like a normal door. That’s wizard shit. Weirdo servants? Wizard shit. Keeping fey captive? Wizards shit. Weird stuff to fuck with? Wizard shit. Mirrors you can walk through? Wizard shit. Thing place feels like a wizards house.
It helps that you can talk to just about anything. Slime creatures on the moon? They are actually guests of the wizard, nice people, and happy to talk if you don’t try to gak them at first sight. The servants? They talk … and try to get you to go back to the visitors lounge. The guards? Same thing. But their captain also needs some sneaky types to help him get back at the servants … The fey king, and other fey? Sure, the kings hobbies are Games and Hating Mordank. There’s a great deal of interactivity. If I had a complaint in this area it might be that it could use a little more challenge. There’s that Ed Greenwood thing where you just walk around looking at weird shit. And in LOTFP fucking with anything is usually a bad idea. In a Gold=XP game the allure is usually loot, motivating you to fuck with stuff. In a one-shot (which is what this is oriented toward. More on that later.) or a story game then you motivation to fuck with shit has to be in service of the story. I’m not sure that comes through as well as it could. In some places it seems more like Greenwood interactivity. Not an obstacle, but an experience, and you can be left with the “just dont touch anything” mindset.
In THIS adventure the pregens provide some motivation in that area. They all have objectives ad “side quests” from their backstory. Discover the source of the wizards power and report back. Get cash. Spread the faith. Find a book in the library about a certain thing. Things to get you moving around the map, if this were a hexcrawl, beyond the simple main quest.
A high page count with low room count usually means word bloat. While this isn’t a masterpiece of editing, it doesn’t really have the problems associated with word bloat. Each room is contained on two or three pages. You get a little mini-map, an initial impression, and then a separate header and paragraph, etc, for each interesting thing in the First Impression description … or a feature inside of another feature, for example. This is then followed by an explicit stat block, a section on treasure, and then a note on exits. Whitespace and section headings a bullets are generous. Taken together this explains how the depth of the rooms are handled and how it gets past the word bloat issue. Ray thought about the issue and found a solution.
Well … most of a solution. At two pages per room I am ON. BOARD. with this format. Facing pages, open behind the screen, the entire room available at a glance with whitespace, headings, bullets providing me help to find things. At three I suddenly need to page flip. A third page containing just the stats and/or treasure/exits could be ok. A third page referenced during exceptions, like a fight breaking out or leaving the room. Then a page flip seems ok. But a third page, or more, to look up simple room stuff? At that point I begin to drag out my Everything is a Guideline mantra, and Too Much Devotion to a Things is Bad mantra. Messing with the margins, the whitespace, the font size, rethinking Major Headings vs Minor Headings, all all in game as things that could be sacrificed, temporarily at a minimum, on the altar of “all the main shit on two pages.”
That might be my major complaint and I think falls in to the realm of Polishing. In that same realm are a large number of other issues. Some more work on mirror world to handle the transition rooms better, those being necessarily more complex. A major NPC, the wizards drinking buddy, is lacking almost any detail at all. Like, what he knows about the house, the situation, etc. Some of the words from the First Impression features do not appear as section headings. Looking Glass in the impressions with Mirrors as a heading for more information. That’s a crude example, but gets the point across. Other places need someone to point out some flaws in the writing. A little model of the solar system is in one room. A party member can shrink and fly toward the planets … at 20’ per round. They are unrecoverable at 100’. I don’t really get this. The solar system toy, the shrinking, the distances, they don’t make sens to me together.
But, these are polish issues. There’s some very find magic rings with non-standard effects. A gem you can swallow (Hey hey hey! Dungeon of the Bear!) and great rumors. The wizard is built up exactly the way you’d want one to be … powerful and little bizarre without going full out gonzo or silly. The Gentlemen Fey thing goin on is just icing.
Good adventure. Lots of room for polishing. As a one-shot it supports the DM with pre-gens with motivations to help drive action beyond the main plot. I can handle something that needs more polishing; The Best doesn’t necessarily mean Perfect. This is a great first effort.
This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview is 21 pages! You get to see several of the complete rooms, in their two to three page layout glory.
EDIT: I review above is the one I originally wrote. Ray had asked for feedback so I sent him the review and, between writing it Saturday and publishing it Wednesday, he released a second edition. It helps mitigate the gaps around the drinking buddy knowing the house, clarifies the solar system toy, and, notably, messed around with the layout of each room to try and get it to two facing pages OR move the reference material to end to get the core room on to the two facing pages. Now, if everyone else in the world listened to me this much then my entitlement issues would be resolved, although in the wrong manner.
Thanks again Bryce for both the kind words and the criticism! It’s definitely a better product for the latter…I can already see that it will play better at the table in its current form.
Sounds good! I downloaded the (final?) draft of this adventure from your website a few weeks ago. Haven’t read it yet but it looks promising and very polished– Is my copy basically the published version minus the Bryce revision bits?
Mostly…I fussed and tweaked until the release, so there are probably a few other small changes. They are probably all pretty minor.
Probably the most significant one I can think of in the last few weeks is that I added a very short section entitled “What actually happened?” to page four. It doesn’t change anything, but it clarifies things that weren’t otherwise explicit.
The revisions I made in response to Bryce were visually significant but the content only affected three paragraphs. As he says, every location now contains its major information on two facing pages. If you want to run this at the table, I think it should be pretty helpful.
When I read the first para of your review I had great trepidation given its for levels 1-3 but then I realised it was for DCC and it was all good. This sounds like a cracking adventure.
Bryce, don think there’s something innate to the DCC rules set/vibe that seems to help with good adventure writing? I ask because the standard of quality for DCC seems to be higher than for other systems.
I thing Goodman Games have to approve your product before they let you use the DCC brand? That’s the impression I got, at least.
It wasn’t terribly hard to get, though. I just emailed them, they asked for a PDF copy, I sent it, and Joseph Goodman mailed me back in less than a week to say that they were cool with it. It felt pretty easy going, but maybe TMH is just that awesome 🙂
Excited to check this out. Picking up a copy.
Bought this on account of this review because I needed a wizards house for my campaing. One session in (playing DCC), and it’s already turning bizzare.
I changed the hook. The players are entering the house because they’re searching for the Rune of Creation – Ymae the witch has sent them here, she needs a way to animate her deceased husband (a former PC) and turn him into a flesh golem. She’s heard about Mordank, his golemic arts, and something about a “rune of creation”. (Can be found on the golem or in the library).
The players enter the house in full armor and armed (I asked, they confirmed). This makes the servant understandably nervous. They mutter something about “bringing refreshments” but the player’s don’t bite, they jump the servants and capture them. Also Lutz. All of them are bound and interrogated. Lutz threatens that Mordank will make them suffer but also says something in the sense of “maybe he’s just spending time in the garden”.
The party, dragging the captives, enters the hallway. I roll a random encounter! Another group of servants. They see the party dragging the captives, so some servants run for the guards. The players decide to run through the hall while opening all the doors. This quickly turns into a shouting match with some 20 goblins, including the chief steward and the captain of the guard. The soldiers are grabbing their weapons and chasing them but the party manages to run into the garden first.
They slam the door and the wizard casts Ward Portal, locking the door from the hallway and making it disappear for 120 hours.
But he forgots about his mercurial magic effects: everything in 5′ catcher fire. That means the hair and clothes of the rest of the party. His comrades, now burning, of course run directly into the faerie stream.
One character (a 0 level slaver) becomes the most beautiful man in reality, radiating an aura of unforgettable beauty… and the vanishes from reality forever.
One character (his slave, also 0 level) sprouts dragonfly wings but forgets the last 7 months, so he suddenly find himself in a bizzare elf, surrounded by strangers and his master is nowhere to be seen. He’s flummoxed.
One character takes some water from the stream into her waterskin. The party navigates the garden and meets Burrock in the study. After some talking, Burrock threatens to burn them with his flaming ring. The character takes her waterskin and threatens to spill faerie water on his outstretched hand. Burrock, not understanding the danger of it, taunt her to do so, which she does. At the same time, he screams „bluebell“ and the room is engulfed in flames. He aims poorly and doesn’t hit anyone. I rule that faerie water makes Burrock’s hand grow thick and large.
The wizard casts charm person, Burrock is suddenly friendly, boasts about stealing the rings and explains how to use them. He gives them the two from his left hand but he can’t take down the ring of dragon breath and the invitation from his newly thick fingers… He also doesn’t tell them the trigger words of these two rings because that would make him cast the spells.
One character decides to solve this problem by slitting his throat. The others gasp and try to stop thim. I have them roll initiative. The murderer wins and kills Burrock. Then cuts of his fingers and takes the remaining rings.
Yeah. So much for “it is hoped that the presence of children NPCs will give even the most stone-hearted player something to worry about beyond mere pillaging.”
Also, the players don’t figure out how to open the mirror. Instead, one of them takes the ring of invitation, points at the mirror and starts trying random flower names. She actually succeeds in guessing the correct word and is transported into the mirror world. I roll the number of charges the ring has… 1. Not spent. She can’t get back. Ooops!
Even more fun: this player actually carries the book on magic mirrors so the book is with her, in the mirror world, with the text mirrored and basically unreadable.
So the situation after the 1st session: The party is in the study. One party member trapped in the mirror world. Burrock killed, his body burned in the garden using the flaming ring. Lutz, still being dragged by the party, is scared, getting more and more drunk, and muttering something about how Mordank will kill them once he finds this out. I’m getting worried about Lutz’s future.
Wow, that’s a GREAT session report! I’m very glad you enjoyed it so much, and I just love the chain of events that your players stumbled into. One bad mercurial effects leads to the murder of a child and one PC stuck in the mirror world, plus a host of bizarre mutations. I couldn’t have planned that if I tried. Your players are in good hands.
Also, I like your hook a lot. That’s a tie-in to Doom of the Savage Kings, right?
Thanks for the kind words!
Indeed. Doom of the Savage Kings was the first adventure of this campaign. Then, in an unrelated sidetrack into The Ucharted Swamp (https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=5883), the character who married Ymae was killed by a group of frog-licking savages.
They brought the dead body back and asked Ymae if she could somehow bring him back. The grief-struck Ymae – she became widow again just a couple of days after finding a new husband – started making plans…
This was about the same time I read this review here so I just ran with it and used this module as the target of the quest.
Your module makes me nervous a bit because it leads to the Faerie, into the goblin tunnels, the mirror world, the library world etc… so there’s the chance of my players leaving their world (which I have prepared as a sandbox, hexes and everything…) completely and me having to scrap my world and improvise something else. Seeing what they have caused, it’s not unlikely they will try to escape through Faerie or the library. Oh well… thanks for taking me on a ride, I guess 🙂
– The Queen of Elfland’s Son. I will probably use that if they go to Faerie.
– Veins of the Earth. I will use this if they go into the goblin tunnels. No idea how to actually run the thing but I will die trying.
– No idea what to use if they try to escape through the library. Could be pretty much anything.
Look into the Stygian Library for your last point. It didn’t work super well for me in a one-shot but I think it would be much better in an established campaign.
The Stygian Library is a great suggestion. I had been working on my own hexcrawl for adventures in the Cosmic Library since it’s not uncommon for a PC to stay behind for one reason or another. But TSL covers so much of the same ground that it would have been a little redundant. And it’s excellent!
Gah, so many typos! Sorry for that. Seems I can’t edit the post, though.
Well at least it’s in the spirit of this blog.