Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reviews that Were on DriveThruRPG - pt. 2

BLUEHOLME:  The Maze of Nuromen, by Dreamscape Designs.

I've finally got around to writing a review of The Maze of Nuromen and, again, wanted to share it first here for feedback before posting it to DriveThruRPG.

The Maze of Nuromen is a short, introductory adventure module for use with the BLUEHOLME Prentice Rules. Just as the BLUEHOLME rules are a retroclone of the Holmes edition of D&D, “The Maze of Nuromen” is meant to evoke the sample dungeon from the Holmes edition, without being a direct copy of it. In this the module succeeds greatly. The map of level 1 of this dungeon is reminiscent of the layout of the sample dungeon. The background to both are similar, as is the geography above the dungeons.

Like any good sample dungeon, there is a good variety of combats, tricks, hidden treasures, and things to do. There’s a stolen item to retrieve, a useful password to look for, and even a riddle to answer. For an Old School module, there seems to be a dearth of traps here. There’s also very little opportunity here for role-playing. We know what the elves are up to, but the bandits and goblins have no reason for being here, nothing to learn from talking to them.

Many of the old D&D basic modules for levels 1-3 assumed you were starting with a party of 1st level characters and would level up 1-2 times in the course of play. This adventure is probably too dangerous for that unless the players go in with a large party, bolstered with hirelings, or with a smaller party containing at least one 3rd level character.

The artwork is too grisly and unpleasant for my liking. Others may find that very appropriate for the sort of games they run.

My last minor complaint is that I feel an opportunity was missed here. It would have been nice had there been at least some hint as to how to combine the Holmes sample dungeon level into this dungeon to make a deluxe, 3-level dungeon.

All minor complaints aside, it IS a pretty solid adventure, very Old School, highlighting its simplified style with one-line stats for almost every encounter. With 25 rooms on 2 levels, there is plenty enough here to do for multiple game sessions.

City of the Gods, by Zeitgeist Games.

Up front, I want to say I bought the City of the Gods eBook hoping for more of a gazetteer-type book. I wanted a big map of the whole city and block-by-block descriptions of what I would find there. That’s what I was hoping for. What I got was an Expedition to Castle Greyhawk-style adventure module that uses a plot to railroad you along just a selective path through an expansive setting.

Now, that’s not necessarily bad. I really enjoyed Expedition to Castle Greyhawk, but that was because I already had several other Castle Greyhawk-related titles to help me fill in the blanks. In this case, I was going into City of the Gods blind, as it were.

So I guess the real question is, did I learn enough about the City of the Gods to make this a worthwhile purchase? Of its impressive 108-page page count, I got 5 pages of introduction, a whopping 48-page wilderness adventure taking place in the Valley of the Ancients around the City of the Gods, and 33 pages on the City itself. Some of the stuff inside is neat, like the table of effects of mixing magic and science, the list of mutations from radiation, and the table of laboratory specimens, but already having S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and DA2 Temple of the Frog, a lot of this felt like déjà vu to me.

In the appendices, there are 11 pages of new monsters. Most of them did not excite me, but the fire nymph might fill a niche outside this particular environ and the thermal godmite is impressively spectacular. There are 4 pages on new equipment, half of which is pretty neat hi-tech gear treated as magic items (which is very Blackmoor-ish), but some of it seems weirdly out-of-place, like elven bucklers.

The maps are pedestrian. Most of the art is good, but some images are inappropriately full-page, seemingly just to fill up space. I highly recommend this book – BUT, only for someone who doesn’t already have Expedition to the Barrier Peaks or any of the DA module series. For owners of those products, this purchase is entirely optional.

Cupid Must Die!  Kobolds Ate My Valentine, by 9th Level Games.

Not as funny or creative as the rulebook, but an interesting mini-scenario that might require more problem solving than laughs.


Michael Thomas said...

Thanks again for your very fair review. It's interesting how you made the potential connection between Zenopus's dungeon and the Maze of Nuromen - that had not occurred to me. What kind of connection were you thinking of?

Scott said...

Since they are thematically similar, it would be very easy to have them be separate levels in the same dungeon -- Maze of Nuromen just needs some stairs added in the right places, as Zenopus' dungeon already has stairs leading to nowhere specified.