The Road to Revolution: The Usurpers
By Thilo Graf
This adventure from 0one Games is 67 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 60 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-review, this following Review contains SPOILERS. Potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! With the potential of the prior two adventures ending cataclysmic and the PCs hard-pressed to explain their recurring hand in these conspirators, they are summoned to the castle to attend a meeting of the Blood Senate. Any PCs venturing through the Great City immediately should recognize how grievous the situation is. Arriving at the castle, they will have to contend with a lot of pawns of their mysterious enemy – From one person with a semi-legitimate claim to the throne, a lich, the drunken revolutionaries Hardy Brutes, Ariana Blackwell and just about all movers and shakers of the Great City. Among the people present are corrupt guards, elite assassins, a doppelganger and foes from previous adventures of the Arc – if they survived, that is! The castle is detailed in extensive detail over 5 pages of maps and the e.g. a page of scullery maids and similar NPC-encounters are provided to keep the adventure dynamic.
The opposition of the status-quo wants to spring their claim for the throne and assassinate Lord Erasmus and thus, once the usurpers move, the whole castle erupts in a glorious, messy chaos of shifting allegiances, attacks by Lich Thralls and a complete shut-down – it’s up to the PCs to either support the new order, their benefactors from previous books or keep Erasmus alive – each of the movers has his/her/its own agenda and the whole adventure, from the point where the meeting escalates, becomes a sandbox. Generally, the uprising takes place over 3 Phases at the end of which we’ll know whether the pawns of the BBeG triumph or not – however the adventure ends, the PCs will have seen the advent of change, as the leaders are occupied in the castle and the BBeG tries to waltz into the city to establish HIS new order, which conveniently diverges from the one of his respective pawns.
Editing and formatting are ok, while I did notice some glitches, there were not too many there and they did not impede my overall enjoyment of the book. Layout adheres to the 2-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks rock. The cartography of the castle is awesome as well.
I can only pull my hat off to author Tim Hitchcock for what can only be considered a task most daunting – providing an escalation to the last two adventures as well as a complex, believable scenario for the coup d’état that has been in the making since 4 adventures. Even worse, the sheer amount of variables leading up to this adventure make me wonder how exceedingly difficult it must have been to write this adventure. Being smart, the adventure is written in sandbox-style, guided by 3 general phases and thus making running it as versatile an experience as possible. The detailed plans for the major NPCs and amount to detail provided for the castle makes running the Usurpers manageable. HOWEVER: This adventure is still HARD on the DM – given the scope, this is not surprising, but extensive preparation on parts of the DM is a requirement for running this sandbox, and it still can be daunting and is definitely a challenge to even experienced DMs. It is an immensely rewarding experience for any DM to run, but also a challenge that separates the wheat from the chaff. A matrix of the respective rooms and phases would go a long way to make this adventure easier to run and also facilitate determining the final outcome of the module – as written, a lot of checking who holds which room etc. might be in order. That being said, this adventure is a one-of-a-kind insurrection, a hard-to-run, extremely complex sandbox with severe repercussions and more outcomes than most campaign finales. For experienced DMs, especially people who have run the several adventures in the Great City or a similar urban environment, this module offers a challenge that should be answered with preparation, skill and patience. The result is an epic adventure. However, novice DMs will be severely pushed to the limits by running the Usurpers. Thus, my final verdict will be two scores: For novice DMs, this module means A LOT of work and 4 stars. For experienced DMs, though, this is a 5 star-module of the intriguing kind.
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