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.
This month, Wizards of the Coast has ramped up the production on 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons books, releasing four new volumes! They cover the gamut from an exhaustive look at the Abyss and the demons who live there, to revisiting a classic 1st Edition adventure location: the Tomb of Horrors!
The Demonomicon presents the definitive treatise on demons and their masters, the demon lords. Whether you’re looking to introduce demons into your D&D campaign or plunge your heroes into the heart of the Abyss, this book has something for you! More than just a maelstrom of chaos and corruption, the Abyss is an exciting D&D adventure locale for paragon- and epic-level heroes to explore. Within its many layers lurk powerful demon lords and fiendish hordes eager to be unleashed upon unsuspecting worlds. This tome brings demons into the world of D&D, updates classic demons to 4th Edition, provides statistics for various demon lords, and introduces dozens of new horrors from the abyssal depths. It gives Dungeon Masters ready-to-use encounters and mechanics to make demons exciting elements in their home campaigns.
For generations, the Tomb of Horrors has held an inescapable allure. It draws adventurers to it like a beacon, then it devours them utterly like some monstrous predator. Within its sepulchral, trap-ridden halls and chambers lay the secrets and treasures of the demilich Acererak and, some say, the demilich himself. Tomb of Horrors features a modular design that allows Dungeon Masters to build campaigns around the events herein, or pick and choose from the various chapters for use as standalone adventures. It presents a variety of challenges, from intricate combat encounters to traps and tricks evocative of the classic Tomb of Horrors adventure. This D&D adventure is designed for characters of 10th to 22nd level and includes a full-color, double-sided battle map designed for use with D&D Miniatures.
Orcs of Stonefang Pass is a standalone D&D adventure is designed for 4th-level characters and can be easily inserted into any D&D campaign. Stonefang Pass wends its way through the mountains of the Stonemarch, home to brutal tribes of orcs. The time has come to clear the pass and gain a foothold, so that it can be used for trade between the town of Winterhaven and the lands beyond the mountains. Brave adventurers are needed to rid the pass of monsters and liberate Stonefang Keep from the orcs. Who’s up for the challenge?
Vor Rukoth presents a fully detailed, ready-to-use fortress ruin, complete with secret locations, maps, adventure hooks, monster and NPC statistics, ready-to-play encounters, and a full-color, double-sided battle map. The book is perfect for Dungeon Masters looking for a mysterious adventure location that fits instantly and easily into their existing D&D campaigns. Once a stronghold of the tiefling empire of Bael Turath, Vor Rukoth has fallen into ruin and become a haven for monsters. Within its vaults, the treasures and mysteries of Bael Turath wait to be unearthed! In addition to an adventure location, Vor Rukoth holds many hours of excitement and adventure.
I haven’t been to a gaming convention in 15 years or more, and the last one I went to I organised. Also, I will point it out now just so you can stop reading this if you decide not to like me, I don’t like Birmingham, which is where PaizoCon took place. So, as you can imagine, I was well of practice and out of my comfort zone.
For about 10 minutes.
Lets start at the beginning. The venue. Aston University is located in the city centre. About 15 minutes walk from New Street Station (one hour if you stop by Forbidden Planet on the way there, as I did). The Business School, which is where our rooms were located are extremely smart. A new, clean, modern and with terrific facilities for food and relaxation, welcomes visitors with a rather nice and charming receptionist. If that is not impressive enough, the personnel at the bar and restaurant are also absolutely fantastic. Polite, friendly and terribly helpful, they were always there to answer questions, fetch food at very acceptable times and give any help you could need. The food choice was excellent and the quality of the cooking at a par with that of the building and its staff. It sounds as if they teach business in that building, and they do indeed mean business too!
The rooms were light, spacious, well stocked with strong tables (we’re gamers, we need those!) and comfortable chairs. They could host some 40 to 60 people, all around tables, and not feel terribly squeezed. Water dispensers at the ready, glasses supplied, whiteboards should you choose to use them and an efficient air conditioning system (silent too!) made for a really good gaming environment and I do have proof of that.
Take this test. Throw a bunch of people in a room (they don’t need to be gamers) and let them do whatever they like most for some 11 hours. Then leave the room, wait a couple of minutes and come back in. If the smell doesn’t kick you back, it means the air conditioning system is VERY good. Well… the smell didn’t kick anyone back.
Upon arrival you’re greeted by a smiling and charming Dave who has taken a lot of effort in organising the event. Badges at the ready with everyone’s names on them (Thanks for spelling my surname correctly, by the way. You’re in a very small, yet highly respected minority!). Explanations about how to find everything are given, a table allocated, a character provided, miniature provided and the fun can begin. And it does!
Tables are of around 6 to 8 players with an experienced GM. There are two slots of gaming per day of about 5 hours each. The players are allocated randomly for each session so you’ll have the chance to meet quite a few of the players while you do your adventuring. This works remarkably well considering we’re all perfect strangers. The setup of the adventures and the setting gives a common ground from the moment go, so there is no need for awkward introductions or chance for split objectives that could lead to arguments and disagreements. The second day, though, you’ll have the chance to play with the same people you played the day before, so that gives the perfect chance to swap stories and rekindle conversations and gaming goals.
The adventures are new material designed specifically for these events, sponsored by the Pathfinder Society. How it works is fairly simple. Paizo has organised the Pathfinder Society, which anyone can join for free and has forums, goodies and events. Once you arrive at the event, you have a character that’s “official” and you play the official adventures. Every three games you play, your character goes up a level and, if you manage to sort out all the faction quests, you also get prestige points that allow you to buy materials and magic objects of different value. Once the game if over, the GM will handle some paper to let you know how much gold you get, what magic items you can buy (if you have the cash) and keep a record of your character’s level and prestige. All characters belong to the Pathfinder Society and a faction. Faction goals never collide with another faction’s, so there is no need to argue, but it gives each character a chance to develop further and to interact with other players of the same faction. Terribly clever.
There was also a chance to try an experiment that worked rather well. Basically all the tables were part of the same adventure, but each table was doing something different according to their levels. Accomplishments would help other tables get new items, unlock areas, shut doors, weaken enemies and so on. Achievements were delivered by messengers, who would inform the relevant GM of whatever had happened to aid their table.
Although no doubt hard work for the GMs, it was terrific fun. Hearing screams from another table takes on a new dimension when you know their actions can make your life easier or more difficult, so it is very easy to feel empathy for the rest of the game and wish they do as well as they can (for purely altruistic purposes, of course!).
It was also a pleasure to meet Joshua Frost, the official representative from Paizo and their events organiser, who’s been in a tour of Europe. A really likeable chap only too happy to engage in conversation about anything gaming and Paizo. It does reinforce the general knowledge of Paizo people being real gamers who are just as passionate about the games as we are.
Not all was perfect. On the second year running and with 70 people playing, PaizoCon is a big success that needs a bit more thinking and a bit more space. Bigger rooms wouldn’t go amiss, by the end of the second day, we were very, very noisy. Something other than a badge to remember the day by would be good too. A certificate of attendance, the possibility of buying a t-shirt, access to the adventures run… all those things would make PaizoCon an even more memorable event.
Also going with a friend is recommended. Please note that this is not compulsory and it won’t detract from the enjoyment, but it will enhance it. It is really nice to finish a game and join a friend to talk about the adventure with, specially because it is very unlikely you’ll play them together all the time. However the attendants couldn’t have been any more welcoming and charming. A crowd of anything between 25 and nearly 70 and with a substantial presence of women, this Con is indeed for everyone.
I truly can’t recommend it enough. It is fun, inspiring and well worth every second of the journey!