By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Frog God Games is 68 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 62 pages of content, so let’s check out the latest installment of the epic Slumbering Tsar saga!
This being the first review of the final section of the Slumbering Tsar-saga, this review not only contains SPOILERS for this particular installment, but for the whole saga. Potential players might want to skip ahead to the conclusion to avoid the massive SPOILERS.
Still here? All right!
The end of the epic exploration of the deadly temple-city of Orcus has the PCs use the legendary statues called disciples to call back Orcus’ Hidden Citadel, a statue of the demon-lord of undeath as tall as a mountain and this adventure quite literally takes place at (and in!) the feet of Orcus, as the PCCs journey into the true palace of the dread demon-lord of Undeath. The adventure recaps what has gone before as well as the myth behind the demon lord and comes with adventure hooks for the saga. The pdf also includes an extensive set of rumors regarding the citadel and its factions as well as a recap of the effects on the dread aura of corruption infusing the fortress, the pall of Tsar.
As with many of the Tsar-installments, this one also features a series of ready-to-drop-in encounters that happen when a specific story-goal is reached (which often allude to future installments) – these ones especially emphasize the epic proportions of the saga – from the ultimate fate of a celestial spy, the truth behind the midnight peddler and the possible redemption of an artifact, the themes featured herein are sufficiently epic for the higher levels. In case you wondered, the way to defeat the pall is also included in these pages. However, if you’re out there to scavenge these encounters, you should be aware that they are rather high-CR and deadly, in fact harder than this particular installment of ST, as they allude to things that happen over the course of the whole exploration of the Hidden Citadel.
The feet of Orcus can roughly be separated into two areas, the great temple and the Death Chambers. It should also be noted that a one-page table fills us in about the ultimate fate of the 51 knights, most of which have been assimilated into the cult of Orcus and converted into undead (and other!) monstrosities. The temple makes for a challenging environment, even for high-level PCs.
The Death Chambers are deadly. The huge, advanced gibbering mouther (predecessor of the things to come – see one of the creatures from the encounters – Bell, the gibbering lich…) as well as the dread silid goblioids who adhere to the Deathbringer order make for deadly foes – their witch queen being an especially smart foe.
The pdf also has a monster appendix featuring the CR 16 Flayed Angel and the CR 2 Toxic Mudman.
The Deathbringer Cult gets its own special weapon quality and a certain artifact gets a haul-over, as its true power is unleashed. Even better, we get 4 pages of player hand-outs and 4 pages of maps.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. layout adheres to the 2-column, printer-friendly b/w-standard we’ve come to expect from FGG. The maps are brown/grey and the artworks are neat. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. This is a part of the ST-saga that is rather hard to rate – on the one hand, the adventure is great, the dungeon deadly and the foes iconic. However, while the pdf is good, it also did not have this extreme iconicity I observed with other ST-installments. On the other hand, a lot of disjointed narratives and subplots come together and in rather interesting ways, especially in the metaplot encounters. However, this is also where the format of the serial pdfs somewhat falls short – the mega-dungeon that is the citadel is an organic environment and as such it somewhat suffers from being cut into pieces and, more so than previous ST-installments, this one points towards as of yet unreleased pdfs, which makes running the installment a bit harder. Since the dungeons form itself is very iconic and atmospheric, I’m also not sure whether the adventure would profit from being used to scavenge parts, though the two areas and themes do lend themselves to this endeavor. When all’s said and done, this is an awesome installment for everyone following the ST-saga. For everyone else, though, there are better ST-parts out there. Don’t let that fool you, though: Greg A. Vaughan delivers and this is once again an excellent pdf – my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.
Slumbering Tsar: Temple-City of Orcus, Part 3 – The Harrow Lanes is available from: