Today we'll take a look at one of the rare modules that managed to blow me away:
This module for the Midgard Campaign Setting is 23 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right! Still here? This module is all about epic high fantasy – at 2nd level! Simez Rothgazzi, leader of the high order of geomancers, has a proposal for the PCs – They are to visit the island of Karn’lothra, domain of the dreaded lich-queen and secure her permission to open a tomb and secure the Book of Vael Turog. The journey per se will turn out to be as laced with dangers as you want to and several different “random” encounters are provided to help the DM add minor complications: Whether they learn the way to the lich queen’s undead paradise by her undead mermaids or by bargaining with a dragon, they are set for their destination and on their journey may barter with the leshy of a seaweed Sargasso, they may also meet a spark trying to possess them during a storm and have a skirmish with a small goblin warship.
Karn’lothra (which comes with a great map and detailed further in "Journeys to the West") should make for a creepy place to visit, with the ominous harbor of last hope, its giant gold/white marble-flecked statues lining the coast and the relative proximity to Nethus’ maw. When evening falls, the ghost of the ankeshelian Mad Prince Deland escorts the characters to the court of the queen, provided they don’t annoy him overtly. There, the audience should be creepy as well and full of tension, since a) an audience requires the adventurers to relinquish their weapons and wands and b) they are hopelessly outclassed anyway. On a particularly vicious botch in diplomacy, the queen may actually take a liking to one of the players – with final consequences for the poor sod.
After securing her permission (or doing it stealthily behind her back), the PCs are off to visit the tomb of the minotaur prince Qoraz, where not only traps, but also red-mist emitting braziers, vampiric mists and a couple of shadows await the PCs – hopefully, they’ve conserved the scroll of protection from undead they got from Simez – or they can try to gain control over and use the lesser sphere of annihilation to waste the undead… The thing is, that the queen, true to the evil of undeath, has sent minions to off the Pcs and claim the book for herself. The book, however, also might be their best chance, for the thing is intelligent and can provide not only a potent protection, but also a summoning ritual that should make the breackneck flight from the island interesting.
When the summoned leviathan island (again, more details in Journeys) makes its appearance, the PCs should be all about going for it, for the mobile island is moving. Braving reefclaws, the adventurers are now stranded again, lavishly with a map detailing Leviathan Island . Only said island is heading towards the end of the world and is inhabited by mongrelmen intent on subduing the PCs and feeding them godsflesh to add them to their ranks. Whether they sit out the time or manage to find godsflesh and commune with the leviathan, they should soon notice that the huge being is actually headed towards the end of the world – whether for spawning, death or rebirth, they probably won’t be able to tell.
A sense of foreboding and imminent doom should be now suffuse them – until the leviathan plunges into the starlit sea, from the very edge of the world. Starbearer-scouts will inform the players that the leviathan is on its way to the star citadel, compelled by the ancient eldritch magics that summoned it – though this by no standard means that the PCs are out of danger – an array of weird creatures ranging from oculus swarms to vargouilles wait in the wings to challenge the brave explorers. The star-shaped citadel awaits them and it is here, they may plead their case before the court of a million stars and its king and queen, for the rulers intend to kill the leviathan, stranding the Pcs in this strange realm beyond the world. In order to seize control of the ancient beasts, the PCs will have to negotiate with Abdiel (an NPC-cheat sheet is btw. provided), the current master of the bridle- unbeknownst to them, though, he wants to control the creature himself and with his ally, a traitorous starbearer, tries to poison and subdue the PCs. The finale, whether it will be trial by combat, varying degrees of success for the villain or the PCs triumphing, should be definitely memorable and result, in the case of victorious PCs, an interesting choice: Do they set the leviathan free or do they steer it back to the western sea? What about the strange egg in the alchemist’s tower?
And by the way, I haven’t even touched on the short sample NPC-list of inhabitants of the strange citadel, not have I yet touched upon the 10 sample events to spice up what is going on in this wondrous place.
There is a good reason Wolfgang Baur is the legend he is and this pdf shows VERY well how his formidable reputation came to be. Doing adventures that evoke a sense of grandness, of epicness and at the same time trailblaze ahead and provide iconic locales is hard. Doing so at low levels is even harder, especially if you want to keep the players from doing stupid things that could get them killed – like challenging a certain queen, trying to find ways to control a certain beast etc. This module takes an experienced DM with a good mojo to run properly, but OH BOY. If you manage to pull this off, then your players will be talking about it for years to come! The iconic scenes and locales in this module are enough to weave at the very least 3 whole modules from the content and the fact that this much AWESOMENESS fits in these scarce few pages is mind-blowing. And it manages to do it without feeling misplaced in the level-range. This is high-fantasy at its very best and if I had to nitpick one thing, then it would be that the module by design requires almost to be set in Midgard or a similar flat world, since it is so steeped in the world’s contexts. That being said, this still perhaps one of the best low-level modules out there and deserves to be added to your library – especially at the ridiculously low cost. My final verdict? Easy 5 stars + seal of approval. This would be a 6-star-candidate, if that was possible.