VIRTUAL TABLETOP MAP
This month there’s a grab bag of content from the AaWBlog for folks to enjoy! In addition to the normal magic items, traps, haunts, GM articles, sidequests and creatures you’re used to, for April we’ve got some high-quality maps by Jonathan G. Nelson with Web Extras – Maps!
These are ideal for GMs running Rise of the Drow, but can be used by any group in the Underworld of Aventyr (or other subterranean locales). Below are a map for the Gamemaster’s eyes only, one for players to use, and another ideal for use with VTT programs!
VIRTUAL TABLETOP MAP
Want to know what it’s like to run AdventureAWeek.com?
Check out this episode of Gamer Lifestyle, where the inimitable Jonathan Nelson breaks it down for Johnn Four (of Gamer-Lifestyle) and Brian “Fitz” Fitzpatrick (of Moebius Adventures)!
Jonathan tells all – the struggle to get started, the Do’s and Don’t’s of publishing, what programs and services are the best value for what AdventureAWeek.com provides, how to get started in the gaming industry, the pressures of publishing the hardcover monster that is Rise of the Drow – it’s all inside this interview.
If you just want the really good stuff, where he plugs me, check out the last 5 minutes. ; ) -Mike
Today I’ll take a look at AaW’s latest classic play module,
This module is 27 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a total of 24 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? The Sufferhorn Orc clan, leaders of the Gorrok empire of Orcs (also having subjugated ogres, trolls etc.) is trying to expand the borders of their empire and unfortunately for all other races, they seem to be succeeding: The PCs are hired to take Mosshammer castle, which has fallen to the Boarhut tribe, themselves related to the Sufferhorns.
Now logic dictates that retaking a castle, even when manned by orcs, is not that simple and indeed, the approach of the PCs can be rather sandboxy, enabling them to e.g. take out a hunting group to thin the ranks, pass undead former human soldiers guarding the castle unharmed etc. Smart thinking is rewarded – a sidequest, for example, would have the PCs enter the former chapel of the castle to retrieve a relic – unfortunately, the chapel is now home to not one, but 4 dire boars. If the PCs have found a particular set of bottles and douse foes with the “pig sweat”, they can actually have the creatures attack the doused foe exclusively – great way to reward smart thinking. Speaking of side-quests – a treasure map (provided as a hand-out – the second after a one-page rendition of the castle exterior) could lead the PCs to a place where they can unearth a treasure – provided they survive the journey.
But back to the castle: The orcs have truly created a monstrosity: A *drum roll* DEMON SHEEP! (which is actually undead) -hilarious and awesome and yet another way for stealthy characters to sow discord and sabotage their foes! To triumph truly, though, they’ll have to vanquish chief Dolaken Boarhut and his sorcerous brother Harveken – once these two are done for, they castle will finally be back in non-green hands: But for how long?
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to AaW’s two-column standard and the module comes in two versions: One with a background and one rather printer-friendly one sans the background. The module is extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks and comes with two nice player’s handouts as well as a player-friendly map of the castle, which is nice to have.
At first, this module may seem simple and uninspired. Take back a castle from orcs. Yeah, ok. There’s something about Sufferhorn, though, that makes it interesting and it’s not only the nice sidequest, but rather it’s the details and the obvious sandboxy intention of confronting the players with a situation and have them either try to grind through it or use their wits and guerrilla warfare to succeed. Smart PCs can avoid the worst battle in the module and even turn a significant potential asset of the orcs against them. If they’re dumb, players could die, yes. But much like “Goblin Cave” (seriously, Goblin Cave?), this module is a solid challenge and a great introduction to the mindset and playstyle of the classics. Add the nice humor inherent in one creature that had me grin and we’re in for a good module, though not one that can stand up to the stellar C1. Much rather, consider this a nice, short sojourn that will provide a fun time for you and your players without taxing them to their utmost limits or being too easy. In the end, it is a solid, good module that can be considered a good piece of writing. It is only due to the module’s shortness that the final verdict will thus be 4 stars.
today I’ll take a look at AaW’s second classic play module,
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.
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.
This module is 23 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with a total of 19 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
Now this being an adventure review, the following review contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here?
After a short introduction to the area in which it is set in the default campaign setting of AdventureaWeek.com – essentially, the PCs will be people of the Klavekian kingdom, largest of the human realms and sent to the icy frontier of the kingdom to help the settlement Rybalka, which lies right at the border of Vikmordere-territory: Feared savages that could be considered a wild blending of Viking and Native American cultures. That out of the way, the module kicks off without much ado – the PCs are traveling en route to Rybalka for fame and fortune and on their way, they’ll need to pass the notorious “Crow’s Rest Island”.
When passing the island on their ship of Vikmordere-build (which comes fully mapped in gorgeous detailed full color with maps (on deck, below deck, in a snow-storm and in full-blown snow-storm – awesome), they are forced ashore by the weather and see a weird white crow. In the island’s woods, they encounter a party of kobolds and it is also here, the PCs can start to piece together what has happened here. When kobolds were washed ashore on this island, their shaman summoned an ice demon to get rid of the local Vikmordere population. The wild men, confronted with the demonic entity faced annihilation and in order to save them, an adopted Vikmordere attempted a ritual that was interrupted by the kobolds. This ritual gone haywire has trapped the spirits of the Vikmordere on the island. The lavishly illustrated village of the Vikmordere contains the remnants of the kobolds and there, amid ghostly visions, the PCs can secure the missing item for the ritual and help the spirits of the dead find peace.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to AaW’s latest 2-column standard with its more streamlined boxes and easier to read fonts and the artworks in full color range from awesome (vista of the village) to not-so-awesome (cover). As I’ve come to expect from AaW, the cartography is simply stellar and especially the weather and its effect on the ship is AWESOME. A great idea and something I’d love to see used in other modules as well. If you register at Adventureaweek.com, you can also download for free all artworks (including a handouts through a spyglass), profiles of the AaW-iconics, high-res jpegs of all the maps, png-tokens for NPCs and adversaries and herolab-files. While usually I would complain about a lack of a backgroundless version of the pdf, this module is free, so it gets a pass on this one. The pdf is extensively fitted with nested bookmarks.
There are sometimes modules that as written are not too exciting, but spark the imagination via iconic locales, nice presentation etc. and this is one of them: The location presented in the module is cool, creepy and offers quite some potential for expansion by the DM – and expanded it should be, for the simple encounters fall flat of the awesomeness of the backdrop. Indeed, I wished this was not a free prequel module, but rather a full-blown haunting-investigation. Think about it: Traps in the wood, a deserted village, the sense of being watched, mysterious crows, weather worsening and keeping the PCs stranded on the place and then, the strange hauntings begin – every DM worth his salt can construct a complex investigation from this yarn instead of handing out the solution to what happened on a silver platter to the PCs. Were this a commercial module, that would exactly be what I’d complain about. It’s FREE, though, and every module that excites me enough to even contemplate expanding it like I just described is worth downloading and in fact, does a great job. Were I only to rate the module as it can be seen in the pdf, I’d probably go for 4 or 3 stars, depending on a hypothetical price. But since this pdf is free, comes with good production values and sparks one’s imagination, I’ll instead settle on a solid verdict of 5 stars – come on, it’s free and you know you at least want to scavenge the maps. 😉