Reviews and Ramblings
MIDDENARDE - PART 7 by PurpleXVI - 12/12/16
MIDDENARDE - PART 6 by PurpleXVI - 12/12/16
MIDDENARDE - PART 5 by PurpleXVI - 12/12/16
MIDDENARDE - PART 4 by PurpleXVI - 12/12/16
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GM Startup Guide by PurpleXVI - 06/10/09
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DORF FORT ELLPEE by CAPSLOCKGUY - 10/19/08
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So far the only piece of art I haven't liked. In parts of this piece it just looks like there's pixelated artifacting at first glance.
2 - BESIEGED
After the art, this bit starts off with a :wikipedia copypaste: dump of historical trivia that has literally zero bearing on the setup for the adventure, which is as follows: There's noble infighting in England, the PC's are on the receiving end of a siege. This is gonna suck. On the bright side, here the PC's are starting at level 12 and so they can begin the battle with some of the gamebreaking abilities mentioned earlier in the review. The players are outnumbered about three to one, however, so even that would probably take a bit of cleverness. Additionally, if the players haven't actually earned a knighthood in the previous adventure module prior to playing this one, the GM is encouraged to just have them as squires to whoever's actually leading the defense, meaning they don't get to really make any important decisions unless they also
have the social skills necessary to mind control him. Or kill him and take his place.
We're given a description of the castle in text, but no maps or similar overviews, which is strange considering that the game encourages using maps and grids for all your combat. In fact, none of the .PDF's have even included a map of England or similar for a sense of scale and distance, presumably assuming that the players can just go ahead and google themselves up a map of 1450's England and work off of that.
You should have informed your players before the game began that they would most likely not be leaving Castle Lawshall, so they should have made their characters with useful long-term skills that they can pass the time with.
They can also take a break and relax, socializing with each other or their superiors if they have any. The GM should strongly characterize a handful of NPCs for the players to repeatedly interact with, whether they be the castle’s lords, high-ranking soldiers, the chaplain, older servants, or whoever else may be residing inside its walls. This will be important for building tension and intrigue in the days to come. Conflict between these NPCs, and the NPCs and individual players, will drive the social aspect of the adventure, as the players can choose to try and diffuse tensions or exploit them for personal gain. Inevitably, hundreds of people trapped in close proximity to each other will not get along.
, as mentioned, encouraged to bring in characters from the previous adventure module, which will almost certainly have ended in a TPK if the players invested in any long-term or crafting skills at all, rather than raw combat prowess to match their NPC opponents. And of course, the lazy fuck who wrote this piece of garbage didn't write up any NPC's like that himself, offloading the entirety of that effort to the GM. Of course, he does offer SOME help... consisting of a bunch of meaningless minor events such as chickens escaping the coop. A servant committing suicide and...
A horse being exercised in the Ward bucks its handler, and its loud whinny startles one of the practicing archers, whose shot goes wide and hits someone nearby, possibly one of the players.
Players randomly getting hit by arrows with no warning, save or anything. Awesome. Mostly the random events are either A) "someone's having some harmless fun, like playing some dice or having a snowball fight in the yard."(the siege is during winter) or B) "someone does something implausibly retarded." Like bored soldiers letting out a fucking captured boar
and teasing it in the middle of the castle. Like what. Boars are fucking scary and actually catching one alive probably risked several lives in the process. I know people do stupid shit, but Jesus, that one just seems implausible even in a fantasy setting.
So anyway, after the first couple of days of the siege littered with this random garbage, we get some actual events, which are also garbage. Like, in theory it's not a bad idea to have some enemy soldiers infiltrate the castle at night... except they kill a patrol on the walls and put on their uniforms, then pretend to be friendly soldiers, gathering intelligence and preparing to open the gates on a future day. Because yeah, everyone's just gonna believe they're part of the defending crew because they're wearing the right uniforms. No one will miss the three or four guys who are mysteriously gone. No one will see the great big ol' fucking blood spatters on the tabards. Stelath is a bit more complicated than goddamn Hitman
. A force of 200-something isn't a place where it's easy for someone to disappear or for others to vanish into the crowd.
If the players don't find the infiltrators after they start cutting more throats and stuff inside the castle walls, they'll manage to stay hidden for ten days
before opening the gates. Maybe the first day is plausible, but that's about it. These infiltrators are literally also all that happens, minor GM-invented events aside, for the first week of the siege. Then we get more minor events, and just like the first, they're characterized by the fact that they're just shit that happens to the PC's and other defenders, not, for the most part, anything they can react to, or try to head off with clever planning and good management/leadership. Just "this guy dies" or "this stuff gets broken" or "lol now you have less food" entirely at random.
Next, fourteen days into the siege, the attackers have tunnelled under the castle and into the basement levels, where there's a catacomb, and have started sneaking men in and mapping the place out as best as they can without getting discovered. Also snatching a servant away to interrogate about the layout and defenses... then pulling the same moron Hitman
trick with him by stuffing someone else into his clothes and hoping no one fucking notices. In general, it feels like this would be a way more interesting game from the perspective of the besieging force, since they're really the only ones actually getting to do shit, if their deadline wasn't "we run out of food" but "reinforcements arrive to break the siege," and they had to come up with tricks to break the defense. Like digging tunnels, sneaking in, using magic, bringing a squad of Trailblazers to harass the defenders with sonic booms, etc.
At three weeks in, the attackers finally mount an actual attack, assuming they haven't managed to win by sneaking people in to take the leadership hostage or open the gates already. After surviving this, which is just more straight-up combat, the GM is finally supposed to suggest to the PC's that: "Gee, you're fucked if you don't go call for some help!" and now the PC's have to sneak out and summon help from a nearby castle. You'd think this is one of the first things the defenders would try to do, if they didn't have it on good authority that there was help already on the way.
Anyway, blah blah, the players ride off, the trip is pretty much trivial since they're at least level 12 and can ice any common soldiers who try to stop them or bandits they might blunder into unless the GM is an absolute retard. Then they reach the nearby count, who just wants to be promised something
in return for helping, really just about anything will do it, and then...
"With Count Ipswich’s army behind them, the players can feel confident that they will win the day if they return to the castle before it falls. Since there’s no significant threat to the players anymore, the last session or two should be spent reflecting on the trials they’ve overcome, the friends they’ve lost, and the horrors of war."
"Now have the PC's spend two entire sessions doing fucking nothing." And then it ends on the PC's getting a bit of money and the chance to participate in more exciting medieval warfare
which the adventure module leaves thoroughly and utterly undetailed. Also, again, why would you make two adventure modules heavily featuring large group combats, or even army vs army warfare, without any rules for making those proceed faster other than "kill 1dx soldiers from each side per round" for the siege?
3 - INNOCENCE LOST
This time, we're going to Wales! Basically, the players are Welsh, they're being dominated by the English who want their magical Welsh gold. So he sends some goons into the Welsh mountains to prospect, they don't return, so he goes down to the local village and asks some peasants(the PC's) to go poke around the caves and find out where his mans went. The PC's, presumably, accept, otherwise this is gonna be a pretty short adventure. Also according to the writing, Welshmen hate being farmers and prefer having dangerous adventures. All of them.
So, the baron's men show up and make the proposal to the village at large. Surprisingly, the PC's are the only ones who consider it seriously... oh wait not fucking surprisingly because the offer is to leave their lands behind to go on a potentially dangerous adventure into the mountains, to a location that may already have killed one group of the baron's men, in exchange for barely enough money to buy a fucking bottle of wine. And not a GOOD bottle of wine, they can afford one of those
if they all pool their rewards together.
But anyway, assuming that the PC's are fucking morons, they go into the mountains and find out that the baron's men were eaten by a fucking griffon. Which was badly wounded in the fight and has a fucking polearm sticking out of one eye socket. Ow. It has a pretty good chance of mangling at least one of them before they get the better of it, though it being wounded gives them a better than normal chance of winning. The cave contains a bunch of garbage and decent equipment(all already pre-damaged, enjoy keeping track of those fucking durability scores, nerds!), and a locked chest which the PC's will likely flub lockpicking(DC 15), and if they break it open, lol they smash the potion inside, which also ruins the scrolls inside, basically depriving them of the best loot in the cave.
Then they come back, get paid worth a bottle of wine by the baron's men, go to bed, and some other
baron, jackass that he is, attacks their village. The attacking soldiers are, in fact, more dangerous than the gryphon due to their larger number, meaning they both have more HP and get more attacks. Also we're just told there are "far too many soldiers for them to fight," so presumably if they do
try to stand their ground rather than legging it into the woods, you're supposed to give them a TPK. This situation, we're also told, is supposed to make the PC's want revenge on the raiders, meaning that their entire motivation from this point on is to kill or severely ruin this guy who's destroyed the village that the players have known for all of one session. Maybe have it last a bit longer so the players will actually give a shit, Mr. Writer Man.
The players will soon realize that they have no hope of doing anything to the Baron Cruciaith and his army without allies and power. The allies they can hope to make by diplomacy and bribery. The power will only come through training and adventuring. Fortunately for them, every town and city in Wales is rife with gossip about ruins and ancient sites which are said to hold artefacts of magical power.
So far, the game's wimpy magic available to the PC's is distinctly superior to the physics-breaking fuckery that Knacks can provide, so just signing up as mercenaries or becoming tradesmen or something would probably be a safer way to get the means necessary for revenge. In any case, the text now dumps a ton of potential places to explore for power and money on us but, as is usual, no fucking map.
GRAVE OF THE WOLF SPIDER
The players are warned away from the spooky grave by the local peasants! The spooky grave is spooky as they approach! There's a fresh corpse inside the spooky grave! ...and ultimately nothing happens and they just get some free money and a free sword.
A clearing with a MYSTERIOUS RITUAL CIRCLE that compelled a monk to kill one of his brethren when said brethren advocated razing the ritual circle for being heathen and awful. The players won't find out about it unless they happen to get this one particular random monk in a tavern drunk, and then they have to either force him into the wilderness or poke around his old abbey to find it. Their reward for finding it is a pittance of gold, a scroll of healing and having to stab a monk(because the monk is angry that they're desecrating the place for loot).
GRAVEYARD OF SAINTS
So, there's another spooky burial ground, but this one is in the mountains and requires hiring a guide to take them most of the way there. They'll be warned off by a guy who lost his arm trying to loot the place before them... but not really told why or how he lost his arm there. Just: "BEWARE, THIS PLACE WILL CUT YOUR ARM OFF." Then once they get there they get attacked by fucking SKELETON WARRIORS. Their reward for killing all the skeletons and looting the graveyard is finding an ANCIENT DRUID in MAGICAL HIBERNATION whom they can awaken as a level 7 ally who'll just help them as thanks for waking him up. Though, this is the weird part, despite being a Celt, he confirms that the Devil exists(Satan put him in magical hibernation for tricking him out of collecting a soul).
Why are there no rules for divine shenanigans in the game? If Satan canonically exists, God must as well, Miracles must as well. Prayer ought to have real power and stuff. But no, the only magic is DRUID MAGIC and GYPSY MAGIC.
LIBRARY OF ANVALLUS
This time, while the party's passing through a town, a guy who's angry about the shoes he just bought, spots the PC's and immediately cheers up, feeling that they look like ROUGH DUDES who would be up for going to Ireland with him and raiding the LIBRARY OF ANVALLUS. Getting to Ireland goes off without a hitch, and then they get searching!
Every hour they search, allow the party to make a Very Difficult Visual Acuity (DC 16) check to find the ruins of the library. If they fail to find it before nightfall, they can return to Kilmacthomas and come back the next day. Be sure to make it entertaining; that is why Brendan is there, to guide their search and keep their morale up. He should lead them across the mountains and talk to himself and them about his thought process.
I'm sure you can all see why this is fucking stupid. I doubt I need to comment much. Keep in mind, the PC's are rolling 3d6, at most 3d6+1 or 3d6+2, to hit that DC16, but more likely just straight 3d6, and there are four of them. But anyway, eventually they probably find the library, either because the GM gets tired of all the failed checks or they pass one. They find their way in, with their guide waiting outside because he knows damn well its dangerous. Upon arriving they discover that most of the library's contents have been eaten by glowing worms, and then 500lbs of rock block the exit and a stone golem with a sword animates and tries to kill them. Thankfully the Golem is a huge chump, it has really minimal armor, despite being made of stone, and is basically incapable of dodging any attack, so there's a good chance the PC's will have it dead before the first round of combat is over.
The reward is, as usual, a bunch of generic magic potions and scrolls with their boring D&D-lite magic.
SHRINE AT RHOS
Again, some RANDOM STRANGER just happens to have a clue to a major celtic artifact site and decides to let the PC's in on it. In this case he's just a bored guy who wants to prove he knew the right hints to find the place, not someone who asks to come along and get a cut. Actually finding the orb at the SHRINE OF RHOS(yes, it's just a big glowing blue orb) has no real challenge, the challenge is that the Orb itself basically has a save-or-die effect for anyone who touches it or looks at it too much(how much is too much, or how long is too long, remains undefined by the author). Even attempting to use Attunement to figure out what the Orb is all about has the same save-or-die effect.
If they succeed, though, they basically have an ORB OF MIND CONTROL, though they have to pass the check again every day or it turns on them and tries to brainwash them. Other than the orb, just some zombies and some cultists guarding it. Forgettable.
In general that describes all of these locations so far. One item, and then on to the next. So I'm just gonna start skipping the remainder unless some of them have SOMETHING interesting in them. Like, about the only interesting thing about the next place is that it has angry merpeople. A ruined castle that has some bad poetry, generic monsters and some CRYSTAL GOLEMS that are actually moderately threatening. And then they go to a Welsh castle through a magical portal, kill some bandits, kill some more skeletons, kapow, more generic magic items. And now the adventure's out of dungeons to explore, so they gotta go get their revenge on the Baron who burnt their home village down.
Or just, you know, retire, rich and happy, in Ireland or something.
Hilariously, the last part, about actually getting the revenge, is incredibly threadbare. We're not even given the baron's stats, we're just told where he lives, and what his daily routines are, and the rest is left up to the GM to decide himself. And then there's a Welsh pronounciation guide.
Jesus, these adventures were some tepid trash.
EDIT: That's it for everything Middenarde so far. But if the creator carries through on his promise of a heavy rewrite, I'll review that as well, if the changes are large enough to warrant it.