By Thilo Graf
This adventure from 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming for 4-6 PCs levels 8-10 is 52 pages long, 1 page front cover, 3 pages editorial and ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank inside back cover and 1 page back cover, leaving 45 pages of content, so let’s check the adventure out!
Being an adventure this review contains SPOILERS, so potential players beware and skip to the conclusion.
Still here? All righty!
The adventure per se is very straight-forward – the PCs stumble across a map that leads to a wandering store that sells extremely powerful items and weapons, even to the point of being able to supply large warbands. The PCs are hired by a local duke and venture forth to seal the deal he struck with the owner of the shop. This wouldn’t be an adventure, were it not for the complications, though: An assassin in the employ of a powerful evil priestess is hot on the PC’s trail and makes the dangerous journey to the shop even more strenuous for the PCs. In contrast to what you’d expect, the adventure is actually focused on wilderness travel and does so in a laudable way: We get flavor-texts and individual tables for the random encounters for each day, thus ensuring a high replay value. There are also some fixed encounters along the way: A large scale ambush by mercenaries, the attack of aforementioned assassin, a ruined village full of undead and the final battle against the evil priestess and her retinue. While the first three encounters are deadly and cool, the latter felt strangely anticlimactic, possibly due to the climax of this adventure actually being the shopping tour in Albion Armitage’s arsenal:
The shop is actually a vast, trans-planar location to shop that is kept by a demi-god-level Wizard and his (non-evil) succubus-manager/lover. The transcendent, multi-planar feeling of the location is reminiscent of the Planescape days of old and even the ability of the shop to travel to other technology-level-realms is hinted at, which is a nice touch. The location and its ideas are absolutely iconic and rock. Two new kinds of constructs are introduced, Albion’s human-like drones and a terrible siege-golem. The new weapons and armor, both mundane and magical, add a nice additional touch and there even are rules for Berserk-style huge swords (Behemoth swords). The warbrand weapon felt a bit overpowered, though. It should be noted that, although the NPCs of the Arsenal get their own stats, no XP are provided. With Albion alone ranking at a whopping CR 30 and home-advantage, combat is not advisable anyways. The shopping-tour and return home constitute the end of the adventure.
On the handout-side, we get the map to the arsenal, the duke’s receipt and 4 pages of full-color maps with grid to use with miniatures for the encounters.
Layout adheres to the printer-friendly, two-column standard, the artwork is b/w and we get high-quality artworks for all the NPCs. The artwork for the siege-golem (also seen on the cover), at least in my humble opinion, is the one bad piece of artwork in the book, which makes it a strange cover-choice.
Editing is top-notch: I didn’t notice a single typo or glitch – Congratulations!
The encounters per se are cool, but the elaborate back-story of the villains plans is mostly lost on the PCs, with the adventure amounting for them to a string of wilderness encounters culminating in a final fight with a villain the PCs/players don’t have a stake in defeating. I have the biggest problem with the climax/villain-encounter in the end – it’s a) too easy in contrast to the other lethal encounters and b) the siege golem would have made a MUCH cooler final encounter. Or have the villain with the siege golem attack the starting city and have them tipped off about that attack by Albion. The shop ROCKS and the items etc. are iconic and great, but adventure-wise, there is not too much to write home about: The wilderness-encounters are cool, but I can’t help but feel that the adventure somewhat falls short of its own potential. If you as a DM want to use the arsenal, it absolutely rocks and can change the political landscape of your campaign and redefine warfare. The siege-weapons and mundane weapons are cool, as are the characters of the arsenal. I’m hard-pressed to rate this adventure: On the one hand, we get a great location, on the other hand, we get a rather run-of-the-mill, yet detailed wilderness track with maps, handouts etc. Separately, I’d rate the shop 5 stars and the adventure 2.5 stars. In the end, I’ll settle for 3.5 stars, depending on what you’re looking for – if you want to build cool follow-ups/want an iconic shop, go ahead – you’ll love this. If you however want to GM an adventure that is story-heavy and moves towards a stunning climax and are not interested in the location, this might not be for you.
Albion Armitage’s Astounding Arsenal is available from: