By Chainsaw North Wind Adventures AS&SH Levels 6-8
In the far reaches of Hyperborea’s Crab Archipelago lies a small, mountainous island known as Crystal Point. Passing sailors recently have witnessed a crimson glow in Crystal Point’s waters and beams of russet light shining up from its steep cliffs. Too, unusually frequent lightning storms in the area have torn the sky in blinding flashes, shattering the air with their awesome sound. The seedy wharf taverns of Khromarium and elsewhere buzz with these strange tales—some even speculate that Crystal Point may hold the lost treasure of Atlantis!
This 68 pages adventure OOZES with flavour. Primarily a “dungeon” of tunnels & caves, it also includes an island exploration to get there and little social adventure in an “evil” village to learn of the island. It, finally, lives up to the promises made of AS&SH. Flavour & interactivity abounds … diminished only by the layout (and editing?) choices made. Buy More. Buy More Now, and Be Happy!
I was not looking forward to this review. I’m off, and lazy when I’m off work. And it’s an AS&SH adventure, and I’m not fond of those. And a 68 page slog through crap is no fun AT ALL when you have holiday things to do. But wait … what’s this? Talanian didn’t write this? Chainsaw did?Hmmm, He’s on my internal mental list as “Not a complete fucking idiot.” (And to be clear, this ranks right below “Bryce is fanboy Of” … there’s a big gap there that explains many things about me psychologically speaking.) To my delight Chainsaw has finally produced an AS*SH adventure that FEELS like a pulp adventure. It’s full of flavour and action and interactivity and is evocative as all fuck.
A zombie has a map tattooed on his back, or a toothless sailor with glinting eyes grins and shows you a platinum coin, or a noble “of little renown” has gone missing. Even my own fucked up summaries of the hooks communicates some of the awesome of these hooks. Not long, but PACKED with flavour.
And this continues in every part of the adventure. Onboard ship to get an island there’s wandering monsters, of course. I often lament “they attack!” encounters … but these are different. They have flavour. “A group drifts into the party’s path and crawls hand
over hand up their ship’s sides.” or “Giant tentacles burst from the water,
attempting to rip the party’s ship to pieces.” This communicates the encounter vibe well. One short sentence and the DM has something to work with. Evocative writing is important in an adventure, especially these days. Most of us have packed lives. By writing evocatively the designer communicates tone, tenor, flavour of an encounter directly to the DM’s brain, and then the DM can take over and build upon it. Encounter after encounter after encounter does this.
The very first location is an “evil” village. The people paint themselves red, like crabs. It’s full of crab parts. The blacksmith has a birth defect that looks like a crab hand. They keep slaves. They have two dudes in hanging iron cages …errr … one, the other, his brother, was burnt to death in his cage. There’s … oh fuck, why am I even trying. This is place is PACKED. Several subplots in just the opening village. The dude in the cage, another brother trying to free him, the village elders hiding a crab conspiracy (duh …) and a villanous merchant, a … it’s just fucking packed! And the island is also … including a mi-go automaton with rudimentary intelligence that has broken free and is repeating why me WHY ME” over and over again. Fucking Flavour. And, it should be obvious by now: Fucking Interactivity. More than just combat. Telegraphing. Plans to be made. Plots to be foiled. ADVENTURE!
And, as per usual, it’s fucked over by the layout and editing. There ARE cross–references, and bolding, and some indents, all of which make things easier to find. There’s also the usual mania found in all Northwind adventures to laying out every word in a paragraph style. I don’t know if it’s in the designers manuscript or not. But I do know that the editor and “development person” should have done something about it no matter who did it. Unless they did it. In which case BAD! YOU’RE BAD PEOPLE! You can’t just bury information in a quarter page paragraph of small font type. I’m scanning the page, looking for the encounter description. I can’t read a column before relating it to my players. Get it? Do you get it? No? You don’t get it? That’s why it continues to show up in adventure after adventure? Look, I’m not saying you have to sell your soul down the river. What I AM saying is that you need to find another layout and editing style that both works for the “Howard wrote this a hundred years ago and look out layout looks like that!” and “usability at the table for quick scanning.” Do some work and find something that works for you from now on. And keep publishing from people like Chainsaw that know how to write.
I can poke some more holes in this. A reference sheet for NPC’s in the village. A kind of “overview look” for the large open vistas, like when you enter the village, see the island, etc. Landmarks, first things you see, etc.
Chainsaw writes viscerally. You FEEL the encounter, NPC, etc.
Plus, there’s a Lightning Reactor in this adventure. With levers you can pull. FUCK! YES!
This is a great place to adventure and a great adventure module.
This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is broken! Fix the preview!