Escape from Miklagard

By The Fictionaut
Stellagama Publishing
Level 1?!

The largest metropolis in the continent is burning! The emperor amassed the largest mercenary army seen in history without the funds to maintain it, and now companies of sellswords unleash their wrath and greed upon the city. Whatever the reasons that lured you to the Great City, you now must escape before ending as a corpse littered on the streets, enslaved by opportunists, or worse; and if that wasn’t enough a host of frost giant Vikings is approaching the city with ill intentions!

This 75 page product details the party escaping a city under siege. It is a toolkit, not an adventure. The generators are bland while the specifics are quite interesting, if long winded and a little … Ironclaw? I dub thee Not An Adventure.

The greatest city on the planet is burning and under siege and in civil war. Toss in a bunch of looting. Toss din an imperial army. Toss in a fuckton of mercenary factions, including a fuck ton of neighborhood watches. Oh, also, Frost Giant Vikings are about to land and destroy everything. You should be leaving now …

A buried little piece of text tell you that you have about encounters, on average before you get to the city gates to escape, so you’ll be doing seven-ish things if you are just moving toward them. There is a random table to roll on to see what you encounter. This can, for the most part, be pretty mundane. You meet looting mercenaries, or the neighborhood watch, or an army patrol, or a trap set by a former resident, or something like that. There are not many details, at least not many in the way of specifics to help bring the encounter to life.It’s the kind of abstracted stuff that is hard to work with. When it DOES get specific, in a few special locations, it can get pretty interesting. “Some fools thought it was a good idea to defile a crypt, angering restless spirits which now run rampant on the streets. In most cases, these will be intelligent wights who fight as the legionaries of eras pasts” I fucking love some chaos and this thing can bring that. We’ve got some dudes in church doing some sacrificing, or taking it over in the name of new gods, or some gladiators/athletes trapped in a sauna … but ready to join up and help you rumble. This is all great. Specific, without necessarily being too long winded. You really get the idea the designer was trying to get across to you, the vibe of the encounter. And that allows you to run it pretty well. And when the adventure is doing this it’s great. There’s a list of potential rival adventurers in the back that is stellar. Exactly the kind of thing you want to hang your hat on. And there are notable places around town … with a lot of platinum, that are interesting as well … although perhaps out of place in the sheer length of the descriptions and the cumbersome way that would cause the adventure to run.

So the random encounters, that make up the bulk of the adventure, I think, are quite abstracted, in general, unless you get the specials. And then it’s also abstracted but more interesting than “a faction looting homes.” But, man, this thing …

The city has 117 harbors. (There’s no map, this is a pointcrawl, in that you’re having sevenish encounters on the table. I think it’s like rolld 2d6 for the number of encounters it takes to get to a gate.) There’s not much details on the various districts, except to note that one of them is inhabited by mimics, and people keep them as pets also. Yes, it’s one of those. As far as decadent capitol of a great empire goes, I’m kind of ok with it here. A monkey man is The Last Legionnaire or the former empire, come from far away to beg the new empire for help in their desperate final days … but caught up in politics. Not bad. There are a lot of weirdo creatures though, so be warned.

But, back to the lack of focus. The party doesn’t know how long till the frist giants get there. Or how long it will take to get out of the city. WHich makes planning hard. It’s a timer, but not exactly a timer and I’m not sure how I feel about this, from a pacing and fairness standpoint. 

The various factions also have a tiered escalation list. From they don’t know about you to the cops stopping you, to them hunting you, to them putting a big reward on your head. I like this, and I like it existing the chaos of the city. I just don’t see it working well in 7-ish encounters.

And that’s the problem with most of this. I just don’t see it working. There’s is A LOT of content. And it’s abstracted. I you’re not going to get to … 90% of it? 95% of it? As a generic city thing it might be ok … if the city were in perpetual chaos. But as a ESCAPE the city thing? Most of it is not being used. And all of that mountains upon mountains of backstory and motivations are lost. 

Is this a city supplement? Or a escape the city supplement? It doesn’t seem like the designer quite had the focus to decide. Adding more specifics  to, say, a dozen or so encounters, in a true pointcrawl/map style, would have been better, I think. Then you might get something like Slumbering Ursine. But, as this is, it’s a toolkit. And this in spite of the blurb right up front that says “Our goals are primarily to publish enjoyable and immediately playable supplements, settings, rulesets, and adventures for our fellow players and referees.” Not this time, I think. 

Here’s an example of one of those abstracted encounters: “Panicked riding mounts or beasts from a menagerie escape from their enclosure and run amok in their frenetic attempts to achieve freedom or survive. If the PCs do not want to be trampled, they must make a Breath Weapon Saving Throw, and if someone fails, they will take 2d8 points of damage. In case of success the Referee must roll 1d6 to see which kind of creature they do engage or if they have to fight at all: 1d6 (1-2=No beasts to fight; 3= 1d4-1 Basilisk; 4= 1 Grisly Bear; 5=1d4 Flame Lizard; 6= 1d6 Terror Bird).”

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is nine pages. There’s not really anything in that to help you make a purchasing decision, at all.

I also bought “25 Apparitions, Spirits, and Hauntings”. It was just a generic monster manual of ghosts and one page of generic Whats haunted and why. I was hoping for some tragic unique stuff, but instead got genericism.

This entry was posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Escape from Miklagard

  1. The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

    Another product abstracted into the suckitude that is point crawl. Yawn! Hard pass. I just don’t get the appeal of point crawl. This could have been interesting flashed out as a full city and the PCs have to figure out a way to get out in time. Instead, we get no map and randomly generated encounters to be overcome before getting out of Dodge.

    As Bryce says, most of this content will go unused when run at the table. Why create all of this when PCs will only see a tiny fraction of it?

    • Beoric says:

      It could work as a pointcrawl if each point was, say, a district with unique challenges, advantages and risks. A party could then plan its path, find its path obstructed so it had to find other routes, or get chased off its intended path.

      My go-to for running a city (short of mapping the whole thing, which is time consuming for a small centre and prohibitive for a larger one) is to run it as a hex crawl, with districts comprising several hexes. Major thoroughfares are like roads in a regular hexcrawl, in that you move faster along them. Otherwise you are moving through districts, which can impact speed of travel, types of encounters and the types of merchants. And you can make a city faster, because you only have to key hexes, you don’t have to draw the streets that are in them.

  2. Sevenbastard says:

    The idea sounds amazing, but the amount of work it would take to write something that lives up to the promise is daunting.

    Executed right the while thing would be a exercise in risk and reward. The player planning a route to maximize looting and still make it out if town. “If we want to rob The villa of Halstra the Fat the fastest way is to cut through the gutter district, but it’s neighborhood watch is on a drunken lynching spree, alternative we could head north through the temple district but I hear some priest let lose a crypt full of undead legionaries who think the living are invaders.”

    A ton of work, a bunch of content the party never sees, but the adventure you want not random results where choice don’t matter.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Reach exceeded grasp. Write a good orcs in a hole first.

  4. Artem the Elf Blood says:

    Miklagard was the Viking name for Constantinople. And, IIRC, Thyatis in the Known World setting was also a not-Byzantium.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *