By Thilo Graf
This adventure from 0one Gamesis 64 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 57 pages for this instalment of the Road to Revolution-saga.
This one is a special one for me, after all, it was the first review I ever wrote. It was uninformative, short and did not do this adventure any justice and today, finally, I’m revisiting this great piece!
This being an adventure-review, you will see A LOT OF SPOILERS from this point on, potential players should jump to my conclusion. I mean it, this being a mystery-adventure and a good one at that, you’d really spoil yourself a great treat.
Still here?? SPOILERS ABOUND!!!
All right, let’s delve in! When the PCs in part I of the Road to Revolution cracked down, hard, on the skullcrackers, the fighting should have stopped. Instead, the fight clubs as vents for the racial tensions have begun to pop up all around Azindralea like shrooms on a decaying trunk, codified and supposedly safer than before. Something stirs, though, and champions have begun to die in battles and accidents and thus, the PCs are contacted by an old acquaintance, Marcus Galwatty, the stone-walling army-bureaucrat/warrior from the last adventure who has received an Ehrenrood, a fighting stick that, via social and political pressure, forces him to fight soon, but he also knows that the set-up will result in his death, one way or the other. Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, Galwatty asks the PCs to help him in his investigations and find the true mastermind behind the deaths, the fight clubs… and of course, save his hide. All that in just a couple of days, but thankfully, street urchin and information gatherer extraordinaire Eddie Gin is on the side of the PCs and will help them if they get stumped. Assuming the PCs want to help him (and a plethora of non-altruistic reasons are given as hooks), the investigation is on! It is here I should note that once again a whole set of broadsides as handouts are provided to bring the city to life.
The investigation is kicked off by the PCs looking for the suspects and informants Galwatty etc. and extensive information on how to get the PCs back on track and/or avoid investigative dead-ends. First of the suspects, a cruel money-lender named Mona who lairs in an Inthoso-den, including its very own, high-quality mini-map. What’s Inthoso? Well, it’s a hallucinogenic, synesthetical drug that can make for quite some interesting additional roleplaying encounters. Mona is definitely not a nice gal and not among the most cooperative suspects. Even worse, some of her answers might lead the PCs to suspect that something is amiss with her…
The next suspect’s trail leads to a butchering yard in a villa (again with a map) now occupied by a rather hostile gang, including a dire mongoose guard “dog” – the PCs will have to use their wits or stealth in order to save this particular suspect from the attentions of the gang – nice hostage situation included. The hostage, though, is disturbing – cowered in self-inflicted scab-marks that spell out dread warnings, the lingering sense of dread and something being amiss further intensifies.
From this rather creepy portent, we move on to, get this, a poetry-slam in a rather nice tavern against a former champion of the moon goddess! Ever did something like that in an adventure? Thought so! Even cooler: After the bantering, the PCs might find their 3rdsuspect, shrunken and hiding in a tea-pot. Once again, good interrogation skills may provide another clue for the PCs and another, almost supernatural stonewall that seems to stupefy their every move.
Next up on the list in a mid-to high class brothel (including map), where diplomacy might get the PCs to a hot clue, finally – if they act smart, they’ll be pointed towards a certain tower, in which one Gentlemen Jimmy Gems is in the course of killing his latest offering to the mastermind behind this dread plot and drain her blood via an invisible pipe into the sewers. And yeah, birds sometimes perching atop it are mentioned! That is, if the PCs are truly superb – otherwise they’re in for a cool little parcours-like chase-scene against Jimmy, who is not to be trifled with…
The menagerie of cool interrogations and investigations continues with a potential bar-brawl in a legendary insurgent’s bar with Galwatty’s foe in the battle to come – who promptly tries to insult the PCs and, looking at the colorful sample-insults the pdf provides, I can definitely see him succeeding in provoking them. Hopefully they don’t miss a rather uncharacteristic lapse in his tough-man’s bearing.
If the PCs get stumped (or you want to make sure they realize not all is going well), an encounter with the now half-mad, nightmare-haunted Marcus is up any time the DM sees fit.
All while this investigation is happening, a huge array of modular hauntings and cool attacks can happen and be sprinkled in, gradually building tension – from ghostly nursery rhymes to mime-monks attacking, up until the PCs had enough investigation. Once that happens, they will have encounter a Galwatty who has fallen prey to a cursed attack and can’t fight. Thanks to alter self, once again the PCs might have to save someone by climbing into the fight club’s ring – even better, depending on the course of the adventure and the initial hook used to get the PCs involved, motivations are given aplenty – commendable in adventure-writing! Unfortunately for the PCs, their trusted side-kick has been kidnapped and they’ll have to act fast to save the poor street-urchin – a rather gruesome letter by the crimson medusa that wants the PCs away from the crimson cup, where the fight will take place.
Part II sees the PCs infiltrate said locale (a map once again is provided) – that is, a part of them will. While their employer has his own agenda, one of them will fight in a force-cage against his opponent while not only the crimson medusa poses a threat, but the mysterious hooded lady, agent to the villainous mastermind, uses a potion by a quite legendary alchemist to turn half the people into slavering dog-man-things out for blood – carnage, confusion and a worthy battle are likely to ensue, as is the first fault of the hooded woman – a direct link to said alchemist and subsequently the chance to catch her and get the final, crucial piece of evidence they need.
This leads us into the furious finale of this adventure and once again, I’m calling for a spoiler-alert. Even if you ignored my first one, please, if you have any chance of playing this adventure, don’t spoil the revelation.
SUPER SPOILER ALERT
Still here? Ok.
The enemy, as it turns out, is the whole mansion, brought to life via a dread tragedy that the players, by piercing together clues from their investigation and the finale, might destroy. Brute force won’t help them that much and the supremely creepy, smart collection of encounters with the mansion, while navigating it, coupled with flashbacks that offer some discrepancies to their findings. While at first the true nature might not be evident, unscrupulous players who fail to (or don’t want to) defeat the mansion can ally themselves with this dread foe. Among the haunted house climaxes I’vre read so far, and I’ve read a lot, this one ranks supreme at the best one. The final pages of the adventure are taken up by discussing its conclusion, giving huge lists of abilities for creatures like the main villain as well as the remaining handout.
It should be noted that the handouts can be downloaded for free in a full color version. The PFRPG-conversion for this adventure is free as well.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice a single formatting error and only two minor typos, not enough to detract a star. The adventure is bookmarked and layout adheres to the elegant two-column b/w-standard, offering quite a bunch of original pieces of b/w-artwork that serve to capture the flair of what is happening. This adventure was my very first 3pp-review, and for a reason. Good investigations are hard to pull off. Good horror adventures are even harder to pull off in roleplaying settings, where the PCs are actually hard and can fight their threats (unlike CoC or ToC) – this adventure manages to pull off both stunts at once. The sheer imaginative playfulness witch which surreal, yet very cool ideas like a certain shrunken person and his vantage point as well as the villain and several others are presented and compressed into the pages of this module, is simply staggering. Usually, I’m quite glad if there’s ONE good idea per adventure – this one, though, brims with them, going above and beyond to keep the investigation modular, yet easy to run and alternating between potentially humorous and terrifying encounters, hurtling the adventurers to a climax that had my players chewing their nails. I am jaded and so are my players, but quality like this is seldom seen for any system and I can gladly announce that in spite of the experience I’ve amassed since reviewing this for the first time, it has not become one bit stale – rather, I can today more than then, appreciate the stellar quality of the writing of Lou Agresta and Rone Barton’s cooperation. This adventure is a modern classic and ranks among the best urban mysteries I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. My final verdict, predictably, is 5 stars and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval. Quite frankly, I’d go for 6 if I could. If you have somehow missed this until now, give it a try. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
Random Woodland Encounters II is available from: