EZG reviews Puncture the Blackened Vein

Hej everybody,
it's been some time and let's just say it wasn't pleasant on my end. To take my mind off things, let's chek out

Puncture the Blackened Vein

This adventure is a whopping 71 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving 64 pages for the fourth installment of the Road to Revolution campaign arc.

This being an adventure review, the following contains massive SPOILERS.

Potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.
Still here?
Seriously, you don't want to SPOIL this one.

All right! How does one Top the potentially furious finale of a Dock Ward set ablaze? And how does one do it with the blandest (at least in my opinion) ward of the Great City? A Kortezian Clan, Gimbros, sees the Great City as the promised land of their patron deity W'Jur and a female scion of said clan has lately made the acquaintance of Azindralean loyalists and over them, started manipulating a helmate of Adhelmus Oxda called Bizby Eialla, servant to the patron god of the oppressors to take the fall for the things to come...

Be it via the broadsides or one of their various employers from earlier installments of RtR, the PCs are pointed towards Erromin's (also known as The Crusader's Inn, including a detailed map) where the adventure might kick off with a brawl - hopefully the PCs are smart enough to talk the crowd down and gain their trust. After some good brawling and/or investigating, the PCs are pointed towards the Holy Smokes, a hookah-café that doubles as the favorite hangout for the scions of Clan Gimbros, a rather powerful group of adventurers (including a flesh-golem disguised as another one of the crew who is not only smarter and deadlier, but has a literal heart of gold) called Brandy-Foxes. The group of Gimbros is led by Larina Beltimont-Gimbros and after an immaculate conversation of misinformation she send the PCs off to the warehouse where the masques for Adhelmus Oxda's impending, solemn Masque are  kept.
The two-story warehouse gets very detailed maps featuring huge chains to pull up papier-mâché floats and even cut out versions of the chains for use as impromptu, slow, but deadly weapons. Why would the PCs do that? Well, their breaking into the ware-house is a set-up and legendary enforcer of Adhelmus Oxda, Bonnabel Treach attacks with his hypnosimians, mistaking them for accomplices of Bizby. This encounter is simply awesome, evoking not only the feeling of fighting a smart, well-trained troupe of elite-enforcers in a unique location, but also offers cool environmental hazards. If they survive, negotiate, defeat etc. Bonnabel, they'll have some questions and be none the wiser, returning to the Holy Smokes.

Back at the Hookah lounge, they'll have to eventually deal with Reth Grimbos, one of the Brnady Foxes and his animated opium-fumes-spilling Hookahs. Once they defeat him (and find 2 of the copious handouts provided), they'll have to attend the great and solemn masque of Adhelmus Oxda to find Bizby.

In a great piece of meta-humor and twisting of roleplaying clichés, Bizby is clad in a red herring costume and the encounter that has the PCs trying to spot Bizby at the masque is complex cool, and comes with a whole page of complications, culminating in Bizby announcing the advent of Adhelmus Oxda's temple before using a special kind of dust to escape to the sewers, the PCs hot on his trail. Following him through the sewers, the PCs might find the entrance to the legendary Blackened Vein, where the revolutionary, legendary hardy brutes once held their last stand. There, the PCs might find a prominent general's bunker (fully mapped), now inhabited by an underearth man and offering a puzzle-encounter that can be at once considered a nod to e.g. the Fallout series and rather unique in its set-up.

Finally, the PCs reach a (once again, fully mapped)  limestone cavern, where Bizby tried to use a clockwork bomb, just to be interrupted by a dread aberration - whether Bizby is killed or not, has been caught or not - several possible outcomes may come from this. Bizby has the clockwork detonator to the bomb and cripple, the fleshgolem with the heart of gold, stand ready to destroy the pillars of the cavern with brute force, if necessary. Should both fail, the Brandy Foxes launch an all-out assault, making this one of the several possible conclusions of the adventure. But why do they want to blow up the cavern? Blowing it up will kill Bizby, drain the temple ward's Lake Idyll directly into the caverns weeping the PCs along the blackened Vein into a cavern, where the floating, sub-terranean temple of W'Jur while putting the blame on the adherents of Adhelmus Oxda.

After hopefully surviving the flush through the vein and the attacks of the golem, the PCs are flushed into from a waterfall into a huge cavern that is starting to fill with sewage, slowly lifting the temple of W'Jur upwards. The ascent is controlled by 4 huge chains and the PCs, once they have reached the fully-mapped, floating temple will have a climax of the most epic proportions on their hands. Not content with discrediting Adhelmus Oxda, the rising temple features a detonator pole that, during the rise, sets of explosions that will start to annihilate the respective temples of the temple ward, blowing them up from below. The PCs will have to try to save the castrati children choir singing praises to W'Jur while fighting said god's adherents, the Brandy Foxes under the command of Larina and contend with more complications: Bonnabel Treach and his allies attack via hypnosimian-dragged rattan baskets. If that was not enough, a now defunct goddess of slaughter and one of her mad adherents have infiltrated the W'Jur-priests, thus a huge, deadly Zaelamental rises from the sewage and sluge, as the buried power of this goddess is once again unleashed. Have I mentioned the potential for single chains slacking and tilting the temple? If this finale seems awesome, but daunting to run, fret not, for a several pages are provided for you to make running this mega-battle actually EASY and manageable with minimum preparation. I managed to run a flawless finale with just 2 read-throughs of the whole adventure. Depending on the  finale, the temple may rise or not, get jammed in the shaft, the PCs might be wanted fugitives or not and the temple ward might lie in shambles, piety and trust in the gods broken beyond repair. W'Jur may have ascended to the rank of a greater deity due to being the one to emerge from the destruction and lastly, the mistress of slaughter might be on the rise again...
The pdf closes with new stats for monsters, to be more precise, the Hypnosimians (CR 2), the Underearth Man (CR 10) and the Zaelamental (CR 13).

Editing and formatting are very good, while there are some glitches, they didn't not impede my ability to run the adventure and stay out of the crunch-information. Layout adheres to the classic b/w-two-column standard and the original pieces of B/w-artworks rock. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks and the handouts are available in b/w and full color and amount to a whopping 7 pages. The cartography, as we've come to expect from 0onegames, is top-notch. Let me come out and say it: As far as investigations go, this adventure is simple, especially when compared with other installments of the Road to Revolution. However, that's the point! This whole adventure is a tour-de-force, a rollercoaster-ride of awesome encounters brimming with iconicity and excitement, offering a neck-breaking pace of extremely smart battles, environments and ideas. The plot to be uncovered is complex and megalomaniacal, but its execution is smart and makes it potentially work.
The opposition is no bunch of cackling fools and makes use of their powerful spells and abilities in the smartest way conceivable. While the basic narrative structure of the adventure remains linear, its plethora of fail-safes by the foes, alternate strategies and wide array of potential climaxes and aftermaths ensure that the DM does not have to railroad his players. Then there's the finale. I've rarely, if ever, read or DMed such an AWESOME climax. Epic in location, fighting, strategies, the finale puts almost all movies I've seen to shame. Lou Agresta and Rone Barton have created an adventure that is distinctly different from their last contribution to the Road to Revolution arc and while I adore the former, this adventure is completely different in tone, pacing and design, being very easily transplanted to any other big city with ethnic tensions and some temples. The stellar quality of the Road to Revolution arc manages to keep its lofty perch, resulting in another adventure that would deserve 6 Rudii, could I rate it that high. My final verdict thus will be 5 Rudii and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval.

All right, that's it for now, see you next time and hopefully sooner!

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,
Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews Tides of Blood

Hej everybody,

last time I announced I'd be back to the Great City and back I am - this time, to stay for a bit!

Without further ado:

Tides of Blood

The third part of 0onegames' Road to Revolution campaign Arc is 43 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 36 pages of content for the third part of the campaign arc.

This part of the campaign arc takes place in the Great City's dock ward and takes a detour from the open, (and inc ase of part 2, rather horror-themed) investigation of part I and II to take us on a rather furious ride while taking into account the different possible endings of part 2 of the arc.

That's about all I can say without going into details, so from here on, the SPOILERS (also for Part 2!!) reign - potential players please jump to the conclusion.
Still here?

Ok, so this adventure has a hard challenge ahead of itself, seeing that the PCs could have either destroyed or even forged an alliance with the dreadmanse from Part 2, implying two vastly different starting requirements and agendas. Surprisingly, the adventure manages to provide for both alternatives without resorting to reprinting information/wasting space on alternative plots. The adventure kicks off as many others have over the time, by an assassination attempt on the PCs, only that this set-up is smarter than usual and the mastermind behind it has taken the opportunity of failure into account, luring the PCs after the attempt into a desperate fight in a ware-house, from which they are hopefully saved by a street urchin in service to the baroness, a legendary, corpulent madwoman who, after a tragic life indeed, has taken to raising street urchins and teaching them the arts of thievery.

Unbeknownst to the PCs, her erstwhile lover, Blood Senator Vulgrax, is also one of the major players behind the recent upheavals in the city. Note that possibly the senator might be their employer instead, depending on the outcome of part 2. The baroness, however, wants this man destroyed for breaking off their betrothal and beating her to miscarriage for her affair with an unknown soldier, initiating her descent into desolate madness. The PCs are now to invite said senator to a dinner or otherwise distract him so her children can steal the senator's ledgers. However, not all is rosy with the madwoman either and she proceeds to send the PCs after Gulga Feck, dread necromancer and kidnapper, who has allegedly abducted the child with the ledger. Never mind that the baroness has seen to it that Gulga gets his hands on the ledger in order to get rid of him once and for all.

After the PCs deal with the sick necromancer, they finally reclaim the ledgers and get a hot lead: Wiggan the Bold seems to have an insidious plan that will bring the two plot-lines back together again: The man has operated a salvage-operation via some degenerate Fish-people (the Siluri) and an assault on his ware-house will give the PCs a hard time - after all, Wiggan knows full well how to escape through the sewers and a lot of deadly foes await the PCs desperately chasing the escaping conspirator - from degenerate Roachkin  to a Chuul and aforementioned Siluri, they'll be hard-pressed to catch Wiggan. Even worse, when they finally dealt with him, the plan he hatched demands immediate attention: A ship, chock-full with explosives under the magical command of the Siluri is heading for a warehouse of Vulgrax which is conveniently stuffed with alchemical fire, resulting in two possible finales, one of which is the blaze that threatens to engulf the dock ward and the other has the PCs trying to board and stop the ship.

The adventure concludes with a 5-level PrC class of the sewer runner, fluff information on the roachkin and the stats for the new fish-men, the siluri.

Editing is good, though not perfect - I encountered some typos that could have been taken care of with another pass at editing. Formatting is top-notch and layout adheres to the b/w-two-column standard that is both printer-friendly and elegant. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. The artworks are b/w and generally of good to very good quality. Special mention should be given to the cartography, as each location has its own artwork and if you own the great city blueprints, you get even more out of e.g. the dinner-scene.
The adventure feels quite different from its predecessors, which is not a bad thing per se - though I enjoyed them immensely, the action-laden romp we have here is a fine example of good adventure design, managing to provide for 2 different storylines in one adventure and offering a furious finale in which something truly is at stake.

While this makes for a satisfying and nice adventure, it also means that this installment of RtR is more linear than the predecessors and slightly less brainy, i.e. more on the brawn-side than the prequels. The plot also hinges on PCs trusting dubious NPCs or at least helping them, which may pose problems for some groups. In the end, though, this is still an excellent adventure, though not one that can stand up to the astronomic quality of "the Bloody Fix", as it lacks the sheer density of awesome ideas - while there are some (baroness!), the adventure felt just like a "very good" adventure. Be aware that I'm nagging at a very high level and that this is still worth the asking price. However, due to the lack of handouts (which accompany all the other RtRs) and the minor editing glitches, I can't find it in me to give this one the full 5 stars, my final verdict will thus be 4.5 Rudii.

All right, next time I'm going to revisit one of the reviews that still used my old alias, CountCain - namely the 4th part of the Road to Revolution and re-examine the venture to the temple ward.

Until next time, thank you for reading my ramblings,
Endzeitgeist out.