Steve Kenson, the designer of the best-selling Mutants & Masterminds delivers a superpowered new role-playing game, inspired by the fast-playing old-school games and the new generation of narrative role-play! Within its pages are complete rules for character creation, abilities and powers, random adventure generation, a rogue’s gallery of villains, a complete adventure and all the superheroic action you can handle!
This is more like it for a game and a company the calibre ofDungeons and Dragons andWizards of the Coast. Although my previous posting about the Dark Sun adventure was far from complimentary, WOTC has proven they can do it right when they want to.
For starters the cover illustration is by one of the best established and most experienced fantasy artist, not to mention one of the most talented, Wayne England. He has the amazing ability to capture the atmosphere and spirit of whatever is necessary. His extremely meticulous painting and his incredible attention to detail makes him a virtuoso with the brush (and yes, he still paints traditionally). With that, this adventure was on a good start.
And it continued on the good side of design, but let’s go one step at a time.
Product quality. It is pretty good for what it is. It will last long enough for the adventure to be played and then as long as you want if you don’t drop coffee (or any other liquids!) on it. The paper is heavy enough and the printing is very good. The illustrations are clear and the colours vivid, the wording perfectly readable and the maps very clear. The maps for all the encounters come printed in fairly sturdy paper and although they do the trick, the seams will break if you don’t handle them with great care. Shame WOTC doesn’t do limited editions with laminated maps. Still, the cartography is terribly well done, which is not surprising as it has been designed by Jason Engle, a young artist of great talent.
Graphic and art direction. It is pretty good, though nothing to start the fireworks for. The illustrations are very good, the cover art is amazing and the maps are terrific. If we had to judge the whole thing based on just that, this would get a 10, but we can’t, so it deserves a 7. To be picky, the fact that the lines are not aligned between columns. It is a little thing, but it does show they cold do better.
Story. It is solid enough, though once you leave the initial presentation or introduction phase, the chances of role play are extremely limited. You will meet some interesting characters and they will give you good motivations to go into the adventure. The encounters are tough, but not impossible and they keep coming. There are a lot of encounters (if you want to find how many buy the adventure… it’s worth it!) and they’re all great fun. Lots of traps, lots of puzzles and lots of orcs and other creatures you’d expect to find in any good dungeon crawler, which is what this is.
It could be better writen, mind you. If your party decides the cues given to start with are not strong enough to follow the adventure, the GM might need to do a bit of crafty rail-roading to get the players into the encounters. Some of the explanations given in preparation for the encounters are not all that clear either and some more background information would have been very welcome. Still, none of this detracts from a good experience and a good adventure that would fit perfectly in a much larger campaign as a way to help your characters level up to face more perilous dangers.
Overall this will keep your party happy for about 3 sensible gaming sessions or a weekend of constant gaming (which I know some of you do indulge and I envy you for that!). It is very reasonably priced for the amount of time it will last and its presentation. Takes about 2 hours to have it all ready to be played. Very well balanced regardless of the classes your payers choose, though some trap disabling will come in extremely handy!
Oh… and you do get to get rid of lots of Orcs. Do you really need any other excuse to play an adventure?
Let me put one thing straight from the moment go. I have been praying ( yes, praying) for Dark Sun to come back to publishing since the moment it was abandoned over a decade ago. It was my first setting I actually run when I was a young man and it was the first set of books I bought from eBay 7 years ago when I started collecting old TSR settings.
I LOVE Dark Sun and I was mega happy when I heard it was coming back on my table.
Fast forward to the recent past. I ordered the Dungeon Tiles, Deserts of Athas. I received them with cautious rejoice. Cautious because they were very standard. There was nothing unique to them that screamed “Athas” to me. Still, it is a sound product, good quality and, no doubt, will come in handy when I run the game.
Come to the even more recent past and think of the Open Gaming Day on the 19th of June. I run the first adventure for the Dark Sun setting. I was overjoyed. The adventure did capture exactly what I remembered of Dark Sun. The danger, the brutality, the inhospitable, yet gorgeous environment and the weird and wonderful fiends and friends one can expect in the Tyr region. Bring into the equation the good quality of the product itself, with lovely illustrations, great cartography and very good, sturdy pre-gen character sheets and it was onto a a winner.
Now come to the present day. WOTC decides to launch a mini campaign to aid the reawakening of Dark Sun and comes up with this feeble excuse of an RPG adventure.
I will not lie, there is very little I like from Fury of the Wastewalker.
I’ll get the good points out of the way. Great fights. That’s it.
The encounters are well balanced for 1st level characters and I am sure the players, if they are new to DS, will have a great time slaughtering the fiends sent their way. To make matters more interesting, the encounters are meant to run without a rest, so lateral thinking is even more important than good roll of the dice. A good skirmish session.
There are 4 interior illustrations. They’re good.
Now the bad. Everything else. It sucks, it really, really, really sucks.
For starters the cartography should be illegal. That’s how bad it is. Imagine you take your dungeons tiles, arrange them haphazardly and photograph or scan them. That’s what the maps for this so called adventure look like. It is so bad the cartographer is not even in the credits. Maybe there wasn’t a cartographer, which would explain that horrible mess. Or maybe he/she saw what rubbish was produced and didn’t want the name to appear on this product. Can’t be blamed!
The so called Art Director on this one, Mathew Stevens, should be really ashamed of himself. This is a very amaterurish product. It seems and feels it’s been put together by the junior staff at WOTC.
The plot is really sad and the adventure is terrible. Can’t be any more cliched. Guide a caravan from a city to another and get into trouble in the way there. How original.
The editing is not great either. I am no proof reader, but I can see the difference between Silt Runner and Slit Runner. Please M. Alexander Jurkat… you’re meant to be an editor. Edit!
I don’t know who to blame for the next one, the writer, Nicolas K. Tulach, or the guy in “Development”, Andy Collins. It seems that either no one has read about Dark Sun, that Dark Sun is going to fall from grace, or that they give a toss.
You ready for this?… there are goblins in this adventure.
If you’re new to Dark Sun, this will mean nothing to you. If you’re a seasoned Dark Sun player, you probably have your face in your hands now.
One of Dark Sun’s greatest points of interest when it came out, was that it didn’t have all the usual creatures, and provided with a huge amount of new ones to use. Off went the goblins, kobolds, orcs, trolls, knolls, dragons…. all of them. Out of the question. Why? Because someone in the setting, millennia before the events in the adventures, had committed genocide. All races except the few surviving ones, exterminated. And yet, in this adventure we have gobbos!
I pre-ordered the Dark Sun setting books as soon as they were available in my favourite online book retailer. I still plan on buying them, but I am bracing myself to be very disappointed. I am not one for changing adventures, settings or general material given by the publishers. I don’t have the time, to be honest. But if they change so much that they make this setting a common, un-charismatic one, I will probably do more than change the material they give me, and change game altogether instead.