By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Frog God Games is 60 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 55 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Thus, I encourage potential players to skip to the conclusion of the review.
Still here? All right! This time, we’re going up to the topmost levels of Orcus legendary sanctuary – in this installment, the PCs will have to brave not only the upmost levels of Orcus’ citadel, but also their inhabitants and oh boy, they are HARDCORE. Even the regular guardians consist of modified creatures and e.g. Gray Render-zombies. The creature “Soulless” would for example be a glabrezu juj-zombie – but that’s not all – home to the most corrupting rites and chambers of the elite of Orcus’ host. Gibbering mouther fast zombies, mirror fiends, the most depraved of fey and a slew of high-level vampires await the PCs, seeking to end the incursion of these meddling mortals.
Have I mentioned that Soul Reapers prowl these halls? Crucifixion spirits and fallen angels stand ready to end your groups and end them they might – the senshal, major domo (btw.: cleric/disciple of orcus/fighter mummy) and other major players in the hierarchy await to truly challenge the mettle of the group. Corrupted planetars and legendary champions of good remain, now tarnished by Orcus’ pall in these halls and a sense of extreme, deepest bowels of the abyss-level evil and despair pervades these halls and offers the PCs a glimpse into the vast corrupting power of Orcus – n’gathau, legendary demons, balors, broken spirits – rarely, if ever, has a module featured such an array of extremely deadly foes, such a who’s who of complex rogue-gallery-style legends and, if foreshadowed correctly (something DMs of teh campaigns hould definitely do), meeting these legends and what they’ve become should prove to be a jarring, potentially extremely disturbing experience indeed.
The true climax of this part of the module, though, lies not in fighting the foes herein, but in finally reaching the Crown of Orcus, where the knowledge of the PCs will be tested in a contest of riddles (YES!) that are based on whether the PCs have found out about the background story and can correctly interpret what has happened here. Rewarding thusly clever rpging and investment in the epic, this section is truly my favourite part of the dungeon so far, as the story of Tsar and piecing together what has happened here finally reaps rewards. And pieced together it has to be – the saga does not offer the details on a silver platter, but perseverance is rewarded – if the PCs manage to defeat the now corrupted legendary hero Lord Bishu, one of the CR 21 bosses of this module.
The appendices contain the stats for the dretch megaswarm-monster, 1 page containing a new magic item and a property, the disciple of Orcus PrC, two handouts (one being the Grand Cornu’s testament) and 10 pages of maps, leaving only the very last part of Tsar for the PCs to explore – after these challenges, though, they will probably dread the things to come – and hopefully rightly so!
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. The pdf adheres to FGG’s b/w-two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The handouts and maps are of the quality we’ve come to expect from the series and I look forward to the player-friendly versions of the maps in the final, epic tome. The foes in this installment finally do it: They’re smart. They’re dastardly evil. They can be considered true bosses. They’re deadly with a capital “D” and they pull no punches. This installment finally feels like the PCs have entered one of the deadliest, vilest places to blight the planet and perhaps the multiverse and in order to triumph, they will be challenged in all regards. This is epic. This is brilliant. This unfortunately does not work half as well if you haven’t read the whole saga. But who cares – this is, indeed, a fitting climax and several of the foes herein would make for valid campaign end-bosses. But they’re not. The true masterminds are still waiting in the wings. The climax is coming. After reading this, I expect a challenge of epic proportions, a finale of truly epic and dreadful revelations and challenges. I loved this installment – 5 stars + Endzeitgeist seal of approval.
Slumbering Tsar: The Hidden Citadel, Part 5 – The Mind of Chaos is available from:
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