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C2: Goblin Cave

Hej everybody,

 

today I’ll take a look at AaW’s second classic play module,

 

C2 -Goblin Cave 

 

This module is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving 25 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

 

This being an adventure-module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion. Oh. The module is called “Goblin Cave”. Guess what you’ll get? Goblins. In a cave? Perhaps. Yeah that might be it. Seriously, though. The title is lame as hell.

 

Still here? All right! The village of Svor has recently suffered from incursions of goblins that are oddly well trained and since the isolated village is rather small, it falls to the PCs to put an end to the threat. After a round of investigation gathering (if desired), the PCs can track their way to the cavernous hideout of the goblins and it’s all old-schoolish dungeon crawl from here on out: In order to enter the cave situated at the edge of the murky lake, the PCs will have to wade through stagnant water and then best goblin sentries and make their way through a complex, in which they’ll be challenged by slippery cooking oil, worg-riding goblin cavalry and even make an uncommon ally: Grog the former chief of the tribe of greenskins is now a ghost that has been supplanted by the wizard Taraxian.

 

In an ironic twist, neither filth fever, nor poisonous spores make for the most deadly hazard in this place, but rather an overstocked storage area that might have the PCs buried in an avalanche of goods. Have I mentioned the rust monster that will add both to the chaos and frighten the players fearing for their precious goods…

 

Both the stolen goods and Taraxian’s library are rather detailed and the finale is also rather neat, offering not only a classic tactic, but also a circle which is a representation of the Circulus Sanguinus-spell the wizard employed to take command of the goblins. Whether with or without the help of the goblin ghost, the PCs will have to face down the wizard and hopefully manage to avoid slaying a  controlled acolyte. If they have helped the ghost, he may even point them towards his hidden treasure stash, which is a neat mini-puzzle to end the module.

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Conclusion:

 

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to AaW’s two-column standard with a white background, following the standard of the C-series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and will get herolab support, though the files have not gone online as I write these lines. The cartography provides us with an awesome full-color map of both the dungeon and the overworld, with the latter coming in two versions, one of which is player-friendly – kudos!

I expected to hate this module. It’s rather short and has one of the most boring titles imaginable. But, here’s the catch: It’s actually rather good and has some memorable moments:  If worg-riding goblins flinging disgusting, hot goblin soup at PCs doesn’t sound like fun, what is? The option to unearth a hidden treasure (even one as paltry as a goblin’s) is also rather iconic and a cool idea and the complex storage encounter is neat as well. All in all, this is definitely a solid, well-written module, but also one that sports a distinct lack of je-ne-sais-quoi. The spark. The additional environmental challenge. The encounter that will have the players talk about it for days to come.  While it won’t win any prices for ingenuity and lacks the vast iconicity of C1, it is still a low-level adventure that has its moments. I’d also consider it a good introduction to old-school play-styles since it can be difficult, but not nearly as deadly as comparable modules like C1 or the offerings of Frog God Games. Also, the module is rather on the short side and in the light of all of this, I can settle for a (at least for me) surprising verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform –  for a module named “Goblin Cave”. Yeah. I still can’t get over the title.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

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C1: Alagoran’s Gem

I’m going to take a look at Adventureaweek.com‘s first module in their Classic-Play-Series, which is wholly devoted to old-school gaming, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Alagoran’s Gem

 

This module is 48 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (& recommended reading for those not familiar with old-school style gaming) and 1 page SRD, leaving us with a total of 44 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the first of AdventureaWeek.com’s C-series of classic modules in the spirit of old-school gaming!

This being an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion. All right, still here?

Let’s take a look! Intended for levels 3-5, the premise of the module is rather simple: A wealthy merchant once named Alagoran sought a way to keep his belongings safe after a burglary and thus invested his fortune in a magnificent gem. Edged further on by his paranoia, he had a deadly complex crafted to keep both him and his prized possession safe. Alagoran has vanished. He stopped showing up for rations and, while some time has passed, none have yet returned or claimed the prize of the magnificent gem. Enter the PCs, who should then feel like a certain famous barbarian who was known to have pulled off some deadly heists in his youth. Props if you got that reference.

So yeah, via 4 different, albeit simple sample hooks the PCs are recruited to test their mettle against the dungeon paranoid Alagoran has crafted – but can they prevail? From the very start, a sense of puzzles and antiquity sweeps the PCs, as they get a chance to avoid a fight with a powerful undead guardian by mentioning a correct name and mundane, yet still sickening mildew, green slime and magic mouths that taunt them. Oh, have I mentioned the traps and the twisted ways in which they can actually be bypassed?

Pit traps and acid arrows are the least of the PC’s worries if they don’t take care – especially if they activate a certain magical door and get hit by a wave of energy that may not only pummel them into a pit, it may also eliminate ALL 1-use magic items and activate those that can be activated! Rod of fireball? BOOM. Potions and scrolls? Ruined! OUCH! PCs hit by this one will complain, but honestly – it can be avoided, it’s iconic and it FEELS just right…so kudos for including this rather nasty effect! Speaking of nasty: Even before they have went to the inner rooms of the dungeon, the PCs can find a mushroom forest including ogres, unhealthy puffball spores and be infected with dysentery (Yes, not filth fever or slimy doom. Seriously. I like it when not every damn dirty place features the same two standard diseases everyone seems to use…) even before they have to pass a gauntlet-style corridor full of magic-imbued arrow traps. Also nice: a trolley-based refuse-system leading to an otyugh’s nice home…
Where the module starts to become interesting is with a circular room, which can be considered a many-phased, complex trap that has no easy way to solve and cannot be simply deactivated by a successful disable device roll – instead, the PCs will have to brave the danger with brawns and use their brains to pass the trap – have I mentioned that the trap features rancid boar’s blood, acid, the chance to drown and a pack of starving ghouls? Speaking of acid: Hanging, tilting platforms over a sea of acid can also be found herein – guarding a nice bluff of a fake treasure room that has the iconic three chests, of which, of course, all are the wrong ones. The dungeon also features yet another false gem guarded by an Indy trap as well as an alternate entrance, an owlbear, an option to parlay with a tribe of orcs, a carrion crawler and undead ignited by a gas leak that may blow the PCs to smithereens. There is also a river of lava including… *drums* a dead magic zone! Yes! We have not nearly enough of those in most current modules and I’m not ironic there – magic should never be too predictable and challenges like this, where magical prowess alone does not suffice, add to this sentiment. Before the end of the dungeon, though, we have yet more lava, animated ropes (trip, trip, trip the adventurers into the river of lava…), superheated, unhealthy, sulfurous air and then, the final room, in which the PCs have one more chance to use their wits – if they fail, they will have to contend with a rather lethal array of traps and might even be petrified (though that is reversible by concluding the module). If they by now have a good grasp of Alagoran’s personality, they might be able to avoid these traps and even find the true, fabled gem – provided they can defeat its final guardian.
The module closes with stats in both 3.5 and PFRPG, which include 4 ready-to go replacement PC-stats should any perish in the module as well as a player-friendly key AND trap/secret-door less version of the map -Bravo!

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Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly white background and is otherwise the standard 2-column standard we’ve come to expect from AaW, including color-coded boxes for rules, read-aloud text etc. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and is scheduled to get herolab files, but at the writing of this review, these have not yet been added. The cartography of the dungeon in full color is beautiful as I’ve come to expect from AaW-publications and the player-friendly map sans traps and helps, secret doors and keys is awesome to have and should be industry standard.

I honestly didn’t expect much from this module, seeing how often “old-school” is used as a synonym for “nothing new/creative” here – that’s not the case here. Yes, the story is simplistic, there is not a grand mini-game or some other twist – but know what? The design-philosophy, much like in the excellent modules by Frog God Games oozes this sense of antiquity, of looming danger and death, of unpredictability and the NEED, not the option, to use your brain in order to survive. This is not dungeoneering for people who cry when their character dies. This a module that oozes old-school flair, that evokes a sense of accomplishment when completed and, while it is a harsh mistress, remains a fair sojourn – this is no meat-grinder, it is a hard, challenging module. Not Rappan Athuk-level hard, mind you, but hard. And boy do I like it for that – the use of hazards, traps (that are not disabled via 1 roll) and enemies make this not only a blast from the past that evokes nostalgia via its themes and design, it also makes this module a stellar first offering for the C-series. I’m completely and fully recommending this very cheap module and look forward to seeing how the rest of the C-line will hold up to my scrutiny. If what I’ve written here even remotely intrigues you and if you’re looking for a well-written dungeon-exploration – here you go. My final verdict? 5 stars, endzeitgeist seal of approval.

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

 

Endzeitgeist out.