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Thread: Chaos Rising
Tuesday, 1st January, 2002, 06:00 AM #1
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
The Amulet of a Demon Prince
In a few days, the rising blood moon will reveal the resting-place of the soul amulet of a forgotten demon prince. A dark lord seeks the amulet, and if he finds it ultimate power is within his grasp. Someone must stop him and his diabolical scheme before evil is unleashed! But for the heroes to beat the dark lord to his prize, they must travel through time and conquer demonic foes!
A Battle Throughout Time
Chaos Rising is a classic dungeon exploration adventure by Jim Collura, designed for 4 or more characters of at least 12th level. It details an ancient and abandoned dwarven citadel where the demons amulet is hidden and provides unique encounters allowing the players to travel back in time to shape the very future itself! Chaos Rising supports monsters found in the Tome of Horrors. This product is a 64 page softcover and will be priced at $12.95.
Thursday, 6th March, 2003, 06:00 AM #2
Lama (Lvl 13)
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- Jan 2002
- Chicago, Illinois, United States
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ø Block JoeGKushner
Chaos Rising is perfect for those looking to add some deep dungeon crawling to their standard campaigns.
The adventure starts with the players being hired by a patron. The good thing about this generic set up is that it allows the GM to customize the event for their own campaign without too much rewriting of the internal material. Want to have the priest of Corean hire the party? Want the party to stumble across this information? No problem. It provides customization without hindrance.
The party is hired to find a potent item, a demon prince's amulet. The reasons, once again, can be customized. The bad news is that the amulet is in an ancient dwarf hold atop a chunk of rock known as the Devil's Finger. What's worse is that the players aren't the first to be looking for this item as an army is already encamped here searching for said item.
The party must be wise enough to avoid Raob and his men even as they gain access to the dwarf hold. Of course nothing is ever simple and the party will find themselves cast through time not once, but several times as they must battle the undead again and again, influencing the fate of the hold again and again.
The module doesn't hold your hand. It doesn't make you follow a specific path. Instead, it acts as a guide and allows you to customize. How will the dwarves react to the players as they move into the citadel? This of course depends on the actions the players take and what they do, but some things are set in stone, allowing other factions to move through time with them. Take for example the numerous NPCs that are provided for inclusion when appropriate. While there are several areas that the NPCs can be thrown in, they are not forced into the campaign. This allows more freedom for the Gm to craft the module to suit his own campaign instead of moving the campaign around the adventure.
One of the most original of these groups is the Brotherhood of Ooze. This merry lot is a strange group brought together by their love of all things slimy and their worship of the Faceless Lord. Not only is this group dripping with personality, but there’s a PrC, in the Appendix, the Brother of the Ooze, with several new spells to augment his powers with. Need to clear some breathing room around yourself? Use an Ooze Bolt to make them understand you’re power.
Another thing this module does well is not relying solely on power to win the day. There are several things that are just going to take brainpower to figure out. My party’s least favorite thing was moving the key, a massive device that they almost missed completely. In addition, several of the combat scenes are what you’d call neat. For example, a confrontation with the Faceless Lord takes place on a sea of slime in a demi-plane. How about a fight with iron golems on platform where the platform isn’t stable? Great scenes.
Is the module perfect? It does a good job of bringing together various elements and allows the GM a lot of options to customize the module for their own purposes but there are a few areas I think could have been improved upon.
For example, it makes reference to Necromancer Games Tome of Horrors, a monster compendium. It does this several times. Not a problem in and of itself, but it does so without indicating a page and doesn't always follow the same pattern. For example, most references are in bold, and others not. Minor complaint.
I'm also not a big fan of traps that require a lot of metathinking. Sure, there are some times when the players shouldn't be able to make a DC against a spot or listen roll, but there should be a lot of ways that the players gain information necessary to solve a problem. This doesn't happen often here. Instead the problem and solution is presented. Sometimes this results in very high body counts, even for a group of 12th level characters. There are also some issues with the final confrontation. I’ve never been a big fan of “Do this or Die.” And while the ending isn’t quite like that, it’s going in that direction.
The maps are crisp and clean, using both interior covers and the interior of the book as well. Art, while sparse, varies in style as Brian LeBlanc uses multiple styles to illustrate the module. Editing is fair with a minimal amount of errors and no gaming mechanics jumped out at me. For a 64 page module, price is about average.
Chaos Rising has some great things going for it. It’s easy to insert into almost any type of campaign while maintaining a high fantasy flavor that could be lost if your world wasn’t appropriate for it normally. It allows a lot of customization and crafting to be added by the GM to make it his own. If you’re looking for a meaty adventure for your 12th level characters, then with some preparation, Chaos Rising can provide nights of oozing entertainment.
Sunday, 1st June, 2003, 06:00 AM #3
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Chaos Rising is an adventure for four to six characters of 10th to 12th level and above. This is your classic dungeon crawl/save the world adventure, pitting your PCs against a variety of bad guys (monsters and NPCs) where the PCs need to find the key and retrieve the Demon Prince Amulet before the forces of evil (or the forces of good, depending on your group) do, with a little time travel thrown in to spice things up. This adventure is broken down into six chapters. Each chapter deals with a specific part of the module, ranging from the introduction to the final conflict. As with any adventure there is ample room to modify and customize it to fit your campaign.
The first section is the basic introduction where your PCs find out what the adventure is about from a generic patron. This chapter also gives a break down of the adventure, chronology of events, and a section on planar travel. Also included are map and encounter numbering, dungeon characteristics and a small section on playing NPCs.
Chapter One is the start of the adventure offering the first challenge, reaching the area to be explored which just happens to be surrounded by an army looking for the same thing the PCs are. While offering a variety of ways that your PCs could accomplish their task, you still have to prepare for the unexpected.
Chapter Two details the various groups of NPCs that are trying to stop (or help) your PCs. These groups range from the comical Brotherhood of Ooze to the insane undead dwarf Imbo the Undying, along with suggestions as to where they should be placed. There are also two new magical items, both of which belong to the Brotherhood of Ooze, included in this chapter. The end of this chapter gives a brief description of the Citadel that will be the major area of interest. The thing I like most about this section is that even if you don’t use the groups of NPCs as part of this adventure you can use them as a stand alone NPCs in your own, perhaps to pester the PCs after they finish their mission. This is also the chapter where some of the problems begin. While not affecting the flavor of the game, there were a few problems with the game mechanics. One example is the NPC Muckcreeper. He is a fourth level rogue, third level assassin and fourth level Brother of the Ooze (a new prestige class included in the appendix). While I agree there is a certain amount of creative thinking and ideas into making an NPC, said NPC should at least be correct in a game sense. This NPC does not have the prerequisites for either of the PRCs he is in, adding together his ranks and stat bonus he still needs at least one more level of rogue to be the assassin and for the Brother of the Ooze he has a plus one to his will save from somewhere.
Chapter Three is the first jump through time, sending the PCs back 3,000 years in the past. This puts the PCs in the middle of an invasion of demons trying to get the key to the vault holding the demon prince amulet. During this time the PCs can either help the dwarven defenders to repel the invasion, if the PCs are a evil group the can help the demons or even do nothing to help either side and concentrate on the retrieval of the key. The events that occur in this chapter affect the following two chapters with a possibility of affecting the world. The main problem that I have with this chapter is the varying EL’s ranging from EL 11 to EL 17, while this would be fine for higher level parties, if not played smart by the PCs there will be a lot of player character deaths.
Chapter Four is the second jump through time, sending the PCs to the present. It is also where the PCs attempt to acquire the key to unlock the vault where the demon prince amulet is hidden. Here some of what the PCs have done or have not done in the last chapter will have consequences. A few of the NPCs from the former chapter reappear here - some to help and some to hinder the PC’s quest.
Chapter Five is the third jump through time. This sends the PCs back in time 1,200 years, a hundred years after the last of the dwarven defenders fell in battle against an army of undead lead by a necromancer named Giltz. While the ELs are variable like the last two chapters, if done correctly a least one of the encounters could be avoided.
Chapter Six brings the PCs back to the present with enough time to fix things (recover the key, etc.) if the adventure did not go quite as well as the party planned. Also this is where they must deal with that pesky army that just happens to be camped around the vault. And last the PCs must deal with the final conflict - a classic do or die situation, with the final guardian of the demon prince amulet.
Last is the appendix which introduces a new PRC, “The Brother of the Ooze,” a strange PRC mainly dealing with all things slimy. The Brother of the Ooze gains abilities like Ooze Armor, which grants a dodge bonus and an escape artist bonus equal to his class level. Another one of their abilities is Everchanging Shape which allows them to turn into a small or medium sized ooze once per day. Following the PRC are eight new spells, all dealing with slime, and two new monsters. The last few pages are the maps which are easy to read.
I like the idea of the adventure, it is well written and while being vague it offers enough information to be run as a stand alone module or easily adaptable to fit an ongoing campaign. With that said there are a few problems with it, one which is a personal view is the time travel. As it states in the adventure the PCs are going to alternate planes where time travels the same rate as in their own plane and yet there is still enough time for the PCs to save the world no matter how much time they spend in the past. I don’t like this; the PCs are of a sufficient level that there should be a time restriction placed on them to accomplish their task. Another problem is the adventure should be for higher level PCs, as it states on the cover for 10th to 12th level is too low, in my opinion with some of the ELs being as high as 17 or higher I think the party should be at least 14th level. And the last of the problems was game mechanics, while like I said not a very big deal to some this is the one thing that really bothers me. The problems were not major ones that would take a long time to fix but if not fixed they could cause a problem, too low a bonus here, too low a penalty there, this may cause a few PCs or NPCs their lives making the adventure easier or harder to finish. The adventure does have its good points, being easily adaptable to any campaign good or evil, whether single or in groups the NPCs were very interesting, good art and easy to understand maps. As a full adventure it is average, but if used in pieces (an NPC group here, an encounter there) it is even better. I will not be using this module as a full adventure but a few of the things in here will find there way in to my upcoming adventures hopefully giving my PCs a hard time. So if you like time travel, don’t mind a few mistakes and want a challenging adventure to put your PCs through than this is for you.
Monday, 2nd June, 2003, 06:00 AM #4
Thank you for your review! I really appreciate the comments. I wanted to point out a few things.
I appreciate you pointing out the problem with Muckcreeper and potentially others. Having a great number of NPCs (I think over 20), I tried my best to present creative and unique NPCs. Unfortunately, these errors did occur and I am not happy about it (with myself).
I have a new system in place since this module to check each and every NPC stat and I hope that there won't be that type of error again.
I am not a big fan of the EL system for the reasons you stated. However, all ELs are calculated per the DMG.
In playtesting level 12 was adequate for the adventure.
On the time travel, planar issue. The adventure as originally conceived used time travel. In heavy playtesting this proved to be problematic. I then changed it to planar travel. Thereafter a new round of problems was created - including the fact it was harder to explain. In the end I compromised and gave the DM the option of either, both or neither.
Thursday, 5th June, 2003, 06:00 AM #5
This adventure tackles one of those areas of fantasy and science fiction literature which are underrepresented in adventure gaming: time travel. Pulling it off has always been tricky, especially in a game where player influence may easily mess things up. To be completely honest, I am not sure if Chaos Rising got it completely right.
The main plot revolves around the return of a long forgotten demon prince, the Faceless Lord, supreme master of oozes, slimes and the like. Currently, he (and the amulet holding his power) is contained in a cubelike vault which was originally devised by Jubilex to protect the talisman from harm. Unfortunately for him, Dwurfater, patron god of the dwarves managed to close access to this vault, which is only accessible under very special circumstances. Since the event (the rising of the blood moon) will happen in no more than two weeks, it is imperative that the key to the vault doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. These wrong hands are already present: a large company of evildoers, led by the evil Lord Raob and Sleera, a necromantress, is currently excavating the dwarven ruins around the vault to learn the secrets needed to use the demonic artifact to their own end.
Chaos Rising is a fairly linear quest: first, the party needs to scale a 750 feet tall stone outcropping called „The Devil’s Finger”, somehow avoiding Raob and company. Then, they must travel though a temporal gate to the past, when the proud citadel of the dwarves still stood. This bastion of goodness is under attack by the demon lord Orcus, and the players must be careful to negotiate well with the dwarves if they wish to avoid being attacked. To complicate matters, they are not the only time travelers: there are others, and they have their own agendas, which may or may not result in confrontation. These companies may be encountered more than once, in different time periods.
After dealing with the dwarves, it is time to travel forward to the not-quite-so distant past and recover the key in an underground maze full of traps and evil. It will not be an easy task to get it, and even then, transportation may prove even more hazardous, as the „key” is a heavy platinum anvil that radiates an antimagic field. The dungeon is a nice change of pace from the busy and chaotic dwarven fastness – it is a place where there is little dynamism and everything seems to be still.
When the key is recovered, the party doesn’t return to the age of the dwarves as they would except – instead, they are deposited in the citadel long after it fell to forces of evil. They must again travel through it – but this time, there is a new assortment of foes to combat. In a way, this is the strongest idea I found in the module – the desolation and despair after is a stark contrast to the older „heroic age”. Some encounters are sure to creep out even more adept dungeoneers – like ghostly dwarven jewelsmiths, who still try to work on their creations when their incorporeal fingers can no longer even touch the materials they work with. The NPC groups (including Raob and Sleera if they survive and learn of the way to penetrate the time gate) are also back.
Returning to the present in time to enter the vault, there is one final test – to finally get the prize, the heroes must again embark on a journey to four small demiplanes for enchanted gold tablets. None of these locales are described in detail, and I would either leave them out alltogether or use Dimensions of Flight instead – it has four pretty interesting settings which a DM could use instead of the recommended ones. Of course, once someone recovers the amulet, the Faceless Lord also appears and he has absolutely no intention to let it go too easily. A party must possess quick wits if they want to survive and (in the best scenario) banish the Demon Lord again.
Chaos Rising, while a good adventure, also has some problems which may distract from enjoyment. One of the prime factors, in my opinion, is motivation. Since a „Blood Moon” (the time when Jubilex’s vault can be accessed) happens only once every 400 years, a party may not want to go through all hoops to get the amulet. Since there is only one way to open the gigantic obsidian vault (with the special anvil-key), they may (correctly) decide to either NOT go after this item and simply annihilate everyone and everything that gets near the Devil’s Finger until the danger passes. A sufficiently mobile high level party (remember, they should ideally be 12th level or higher) could easily construct a security net against just about any kind of foe they may find in the adventure. Baddies emerging from the planar portal with the key? Oh, they will not be nearly as well prepared and rested as the player characters. An assaulting team from below? Unless they use the same methods as the party, they can be easily detected and dispatched.
Even if they obtain the key, they may not want to use it. Why not let the amulet stay in its old prison when it is just a matter of transporting the key to somewhere else – sure, it supresses magic, but if it is well hidden (say, shielded by lead in some containment facility, or in the depths of the sea, molten lava or some other hard to reach location), nobody will find and free Jubilex for a few millenia – whereas if the demon amulet is removed from safety, it can easily be captured by a force of evil.
Another complaint I would like to register is the module’s linearity – it may be expected in an epic quest, but it almost feels painful now and then. Sure, a freeform time travel scenario could cause a lot of trouble... But the players may feel railroaded by the scenario – with a good reason.
Despite these gripes, Chaos Rising is a solid adventure. It may not be among the greatest, it may not be the biggest, and it may be tricky to adapt, but it is still good and should provide a few nights of epic, high level fun.
Thursday, 5th June, 2003, 06:00 AM #6
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
This is a partial playtest review; I undertook the first part of this adventure online, DMed by the author. There are major spoilers contained within this review.
Chaos Rising is a 64-page time-traveling dungeon-based quest to retrieve an item that can be used to control the demon lord Jubilex (note spelling), a.k.a. the Faceless Lord. The first 54 pages consist of the introduction, an overview, and the adventure, while the last 10 pages hold maps, new spells, and a new prestige class. Refreshingly, both inside covers are used for maps and there are no pages wasted on advertising.
The adventure starts out with the PCs being hired to infiltrate a base atop a 1,000-foot tall stone spire in the middle of a wasteland, where some evildoers are excavating, hoping to uncover the medallion that will control the demon lord mentioned above. The PCs need to reach the top of the spire somehow, defeat or evade the evil troops, and enter the dungeon. They are then transported back in time, where they must aid dwarves against a demonic invasion. Assuming they are successful in this, the dwarves give them the means to move to the inner tomb area where the key they need to open the vault holding the demon lord's medallion is hidden-this area is once again set in the present, and PCs may encounter spirits, sometimes dangerous, of dwarves that they had only just spoken to.
Once they get the key (a massive, antimagic-radiating anvil), they must get it back out through the dwarven fortress, once again set in the past, though not as far back. They will need to get through a gauntlet of invading evil dead creatures to win free to the present day.
Finally, the PCs must wait for the blood moon to rise, enter the vault, and retrieve the demon lord's medallion. To do this they need to access four demiplanes that are briefly described but not detailed, retrieve four parts of a riddle, and answer it. Finally, the Faceless Lord himself makes an appearance, and the PCs will need to negotiate with him, using the medallion as leverage (or they can try to control him if they want to risk annihilation), and escape.
In addition to the set encounters listed above, there are several NPC bands, including a group of dwarves seeking payback for wrongs they feel the PCs did their clan during the demon invasion; a highly skilled lone assassin; a group of comical but dangerous slime-worshippers; and minions of Orcus. These groups can be used dynamically by the DM to provide further complications and interactions, or even possibly alliances, to aid or hinder the PCs' escape.
Formatting and font are standard for a Necromancer Games product, with the usual skulled sidebar, and decent use of font size and space. The heading font is the same as in previous NG products, but does not suffer from the compression as was seen in What Evil Lurks. The maps are good, drawn by Chris Boll, and the illustrations by Brian LeBlanc are his usual charcoal-shading work, though you can tell that his artistry has improved in the time he has served as the Necromancer Games' primary interior artist.
1. Time travel is always fun, in part because it allows PCs to witness the long term consequences of their actions in the past. While I don't think the concept was fully utilized here, it is at least kept sufficiently constrained that the DM should have no trouble handling it in game, unless his players are loose cannon types that like to perform unexpected, campaign-altering actions, like annihilating the dwarves in the first part of the adventure.
2. I particularly liked the challenge of getting the vault key back out of the dungeon; this provides both the logistical challenge of maneuvering a massive platinum block through dungeon hurdles without the use of magic, as well as an opportunity to use the antimagic field it generates to their advantage when taking on opposing forces.
3. The NPC parties provide an interesting means of regulating the flow of the adventure; they usually oppose the PCs, but also oppose each other and many of the creatures the characters may face, so the DM can use them to provide an additional challenge if the party is doing well, or send them against demons or undead if the party is having their asses handed to them. They also provide an ongoing threat which the PCs may meet several times throughout the course of the adventure.
4. I thought that overall the dwarven fort, though small, was laid out reasonably well, and had no problem with the dungeon layout or contents either. As mentioned above, the thrust of the adventure will be more on dealing with interlopers (demons, undead, NPC groups) than locals anyway.
5. While the adventure does follow a fairly strict plotline, I felt there was enough maneuvering room in each section that PCs would not feel overly constrained in how they take it on. And the NPC groups add a dynamic element as well, to keep things interesting.
1. I was disappointed in how the dwarves were handled tactically in the first part of the adventure-the way they are set up, they pose more of a hindrance to the players than a boon. Examples of this are discussed in the playtesting section below. Fortunately, it should be easy for the DM to alter the adventure slightly to give characters more breathing room before the main demonic assault, and allow them to rearrange dwarven forces and layout as they desire.
2. If the DM plays the adventure as written, and pulls out all the stops, he could easily wipe the floor with a band of even 12th level adventurers. This is due not only to the encounter situations that are designed to complicate battle (again, see playtesting below), but also by the fact that players won't be expecting to deal with a demon invasion when they first enter the dungeon complex, and they aren't given a chance to repick spells.
3. I never felt that the time travel concept was fully exploited, particularly when the characters go back through the dwarven fort on their way out. Why not alter the layout of the fort? Perhaps one section is collapsed, while a new section has been opened up? Instead, PCs will be able to make a beeline for the exit, avoiding most of the level. The adventure compensates for this by placing the bulk of the invading undead as random encounters, and encouraging the DM to once again use the NPC groups to challenge the players. I still feel as though this is a missed opportunity, however.
4. One major disappointment for me, and one that cost this adventure a point by itself, was the final section in the vault, where the adventure made several mistakes.
The biggest of these is the fact that PCs are expected to go on a quest for four items in four demiplanes, but the demiplanes are not detailed beyond a short (but interesting) paragraph of text. To me this feels like a cop out, like only 3/4 of the adventure had been written. The DM will need to ad-lib these, develop them himself, substitute out other short quests (like those in Maze of Zayene 2: Dimensions of Flight, suitably adjusted for the character level and party composition, and probably with a "slime" element thrown in), or ignore them entirely. Yet if you ignore them, then I think the vault section is too short, and you deny the adventure a chance to build up the tension level for the final confrontation with the Faceless Lord.
And that leads me to my second problem with the ending. I understand that Jubilex does not confront the PCs until they have the medallion (since he himself is trapped in the vault, and cannot go free until the medallion is removed). But why does he confront them once they have it? He could easily sit back, wait for them to leave, and then depart himself, liquefying the party on his way to wreak havoc on the prime plane. The answer to this question is, sadly, that he only confronts the characters so that they have a chance to defeat him through negotiation and bargaining.
Some specific elements of the bargaining also bothered me: the Faceless Lord won't keep most agreements, but must abide by any agreement to self-banishment. Why? How would the PCs or players know this?
And for that matter, why would the PCs want to enter the vault at all? This point was discussed in more detail in Melan's review, and it is a good one, I feel. PCs would be much better off destroying the vault key, or hiding it somewhere, or bunkering down and attacking anyone who comes trying to claim it.
In short, the ending feels as if it were hastily put in, without full development, nor were the motivations or goals of Jubilex given to my satisfaction.
I played through the first part of this adventure, run by the author in an online chatroom. Our group was commissioned to stop the plans of the excavators and retrieve the key and medallion, and deposited in a valley some distance from the Devil's Finger. We reached the top with relatively little difficulty, and though we did set off an alarm system, we were able to avoid combat and get into the dwarven fortress without much difficulty.
Negotiating with the dwarves was trickier than it might otherwise have been due to the party leader being an elf, and the dwarves being particularly paranoid and distrustful. Nevertheless, an agreement of mutual aid was reached, and we set off to the lower level to fight us some demons.
Our first major encounter, in a room populated with dwarven warrior types with the entrances sealed off, was quite difficult. I didn't care for the setup, as it put the dwarves at a tactical disadvantage which I thought not in keeping with their purported experience at defending the keep. Indeed, a hezrou demon broke through the top part of one of the barricades, and quickly slew the dwarves with a blasphemy spell, instantly leaving the PCs to fight unaided against this powerful adversary, who has 90% cover from the blockade. I would have been much happier if we would have been allowed to rearrange the dwarves, perhaps by tearing down the seals and rearranging the rubble into breastworks that would instead provide the dwarves with cover, and allow them to use missile attacks against oncoming threats.
Nevertheless, the group did force the hezrou to teleport away after doing enough damage, and the group proceeded further into the complex. Our next major encounter was with the dwarven "mommies" in the forge room; these two succubi succeeded in just three rounds in charming or otherwise beguiling nearly every member of our party, and were it not for an antimagic field, it is likely our entire group would have been slaughtered. In retrospect, we would have been better served with a magic circle against evil cast before engaging the demons (which would have shielded against the charm effects), but of course we had no idea we'd be facing demons when we selected spells at the outset of the adventure. I suspect that if our entire group had been charmed, the DM would have relented and only killed one or two PCs before some NPCs showed up, but it still underlines the potential lethality of this adventure.
After driving off the succubi (they teleported away rather than fight us in an antimagic field), we returned to the king to report and request aid in ridding us of the charms. Sadly, we had barely gotten there when one of the NPCs-the high level rogue/assassin-slew the king and went invisible. As I recall, he made good his escape as well. At this point, our DM became too busy to continue running the adventure, so this is as far as we got.
Rating this product has been a tough decision for me. On the one hand, I really enjoyed some of the logistical challenges presented in acquiring and retrieving the key to the vault. And I think the variety of NPC groups is interesting, and provides the DM with good tools to keep the adventure challenging without being overwhelming. On the other hand, the underdeveloped and questionable end section was quite disappointing.
I finally decided to give this a 4/5 and not a 3/5 because I believe that many of the adventures above-described deficiencies can be remedied fairly easily by a competent DM, and the rest of the adventure is good enough to be quite enjoyable. I would recommend, however, that this adventure be run by experienced gamers; an inexperienced DM will be heavily challenged with proper use of the NPC groups to maintain an adequate but not overwhelming threat level, and inexperienced players will still probably get slaughtered due to the difficulty of some of the encounters.
Friday, 13th June, 2003, 06:00 AM #7
Novice (Lvl 1)
Chaos Rising is an adventure from Necromancer Games for 4-6 players of 12th level or greater. This adventure was given to me for the purpose of reviewing; this is not a playtest review. SPOILERS ARE LIKELY.
The basic premise of the story is that the PCs must secure an amulet which houses the soul of the Faceless Lord, a powerful demon lord who focuses on oozes (Jubilex from the Tome of Horrors for those interested). The amulet is hidden in an obsidian prison which is further hidden beneath the facade of a dwarven fortress. In order to access the prison, the PCs must travel to different time periods within the fortress and obtain a key. Having done that, they must enter the obsidian vault on the night of the blood moon, the only night the prison can be entered. There, they must gain control of the amulet. The twist is that the demon lord is himself the guardian of the amulet, having been trapped in this prison by a dwarven god. He wants the amulet to leave the prison so he too can leave. It presents an interesting roleplaying opportunity for the PCs.
Buy this now!
The adventure is fairly solid. The beginning is actually quite easy, gaining access to the fortress. My first thought was that it was too easy, but the author has explained that some encounters should be easier, giving the PCs a chance to "show off". Upon thinking about this rationale, I come to find I agree with it. Let the PCs slaughter the wimpy army set to guard the fortress. Things are going to get a lot harder.........
The art is well done; there's a piece for many of the major encounters in the adventure, helping the DM to visualize what's going on. Editing is solid with few glaring typos. Statblocks really aren't my forte, but nothing jumped out at me as being hideously off.
One of the coolest things about this adventure is the fact that there are several other groups striving for the amulet. One is a drow party (don't roll your eyes) that will certainly be a challenge for most parties as they use clever tactics rather than brute force to win the day. By far and away the absolute best thing in the module is the Brotherhood of Ooze. This group is devoted to the Faceless Lord and appears to be bumbling an incompetent. A prestige class and new spells are presented in the back of the book. The Brotherhood is intended as comic relief, but they can really pack a punch. The PCs might laugh when one of the Brotherhood throws a wad of phlegm at them, but will surely cease when that phlegm turns one of them irrevocably into a small green slime. The BoO is worth the price of admission by themselves as far as I'm concerned.
Leave it on the Shelf!
My biggest gripe? Its convoluted. Really really convoluted. Don't expect to skim this thing the night of your game and run it on the fly. DMs will likely need to read and re-read the adventure just to begin grasping how the plot unfolds. The time travel idea works fine, but there's a definite side-stepping of the whole "what if I kill my grandfather in the past" conundrum (which I think is fine but might bug some people).
The final battle wherein the PCs release the amulet, they must assemble four pieces of a riddle. First of all, in obtaining the pieces, there's a very high likelyhood of insta-kill of PCs. Now, this is a Necromancer Games product, so a DM should realize what they're getting their party into. Personally, I don't care for insta-kill, but that's neither here nor there. Secondly, to obtain the pieces of the riddle, the PCs must visit four demiplanes, which I feel adds unneccesary complications to an already somewhat confusing plot. On the other hand, the demiplanes are given a one paragraph description and the DM is encouraged to create the rest. The descriptions are quite interesting and a DM willing to put in the work can add several additional gaming sessions to this adventure quite easily.
Regis, my final answer
There are some very clever encounters present in Chaos Rising, as well as some good roleplaying opportunities and even a moral quandry or two. Overall its a very well crafted piece of work. If you can accept the need to really wrap your head around what's going in order to effectively run the adventure, its well worth it.
Did I mention the Brotherhood of Ooze was exceptionally cool?
Monday, 16th June, 2003, 06:00 AM #8
Novice (Lvl 1)
Note: This is my first review on these boards so please excuse me if I step on any unspoken rule of reviewing here. This little blurb might be riddled with spoilers so for those who are reading this ... consider yourselves warned.
SO WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Chaos Rising is a high fantasy adventure for 4 or more characters of 12th level or above. It features one of the most original dungeon crawls I have seen on ANY version of the D&D game. The PCs are taken through an ancient dwarven citadel in search of a demon amulet. Obviously, there's a trick. The characters must face the challenges presented by this location on three different time periods. As if doing the time warp wasn't enough, the characters are also taken through a wild trans-dimensional ride in order to solve the final puzzle of this module. And then, there's the climatic (and most deadly) final encounter...
WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT IT?
Those who have a taste for old style high fantasy will find that Chaos Rising delivers in spades. Jim Collura has managed to create an adventure that harkens back to the good old days of D&D while at the same time presenting refreshingly new types of encounters. This thing really lives up to the Necromancer Games logo of "First Edition Feel".
Another excellent thing about this adventure is the great lengths that the writer has gone to in order to explain the strange temporal mechanics that govern the PCs journey through the citadel. There's also a great variety of encounters; some are easy, some are killers. Some encounters are optional and some others are left for the DM to flesh out.
The most outstanding feature of this module (at least for me) has to be the NPCs. There's no denying that alot of effort was put into creating those clever NPC parties who are competing with the PCs for the demon's amulet. I am going to be springing some of those guys up on my players long after I'm done with this module...especially the Brotherhood of Ooze.
WHAT'S NOT SO GOOD ABOUT IT?
As many others have pointed out, this module is not fo the lazy or inexperienced DM. It take some genuine effort to understand how the module works, especially when so much detail is given and so many options are presented. Other minor gripes involve inacurate map scales, hit-and-miss artwork (I'm an amateur artist so my criteria for judging this might be a bit skewed), and an ending that may or may not leave your players saying WTF...
SO WHAT SAY THEE?
All in all, I highly recomend this module - especially to those gamers who truly enjoy high fantasy adventures with a classic feel. Those players who are easily distracted or who have problems digesting convoluted plots need not apply. But for those DMs who are persistent enough to read the entire thing a couple of times and understand the basic premise of the module you will find that high level dungeon crawling never had it so good.
Saturday, 1st November, 2003, 06:00 AM #9
I did quite a bit of research before deciding to run my players through Chaos Rising. I wanted a nice high-level module that would be a challenge both for me to run and my players to complete. I read a ton of reviews on here, and Monte Cook also recommended it in his review. I was quite excited about the premise of the module, until I actually started reading it. Unfortunately from now on, I’ll be taking online reviews with a grain of salt. I’ve never so strongly disagreed with the majority on a product before. To put it bluntly, this adventure is an ill-conceived and poorly written mess.
Things start out well enough, however. The party is hired by a benefactor to stop evil Lord Raob and his army from finding a key to an impregnable obsidian vault which contains the amulet of a demon prince, Jubilex. If someone gains the amulet, they can control Jubilex and wreck terrible havoc upon the world. Assuming, of course, they make the will save to properly control the demon prince. The save DC is 25, with the penalty being instant death. Raob’s will save is +6…
The players must reach the key before Raob does. The catch is that access to the key (stored away safely in another demiplane) has been lost for ages, so the players must use a feature of the dwarven-built citadel to go back in time to when the citadel was still populated and convince the guardians to give them access to the demiplane where the key is located. Never mind the fact that Raob has no idea the key isn’t actually on this plane, and that he has two weeks to figure that out before the window of opportunity to use the key (it can only be used for one day every 400 years) is gone. Yes, it’s the entire adventure is predicated upon stopping a villain who in all likelihood isn’t going to succeed anyway. It gets better, though!
Once the time travel begins, things get extremely messy. Or rather, IF the time travel begins. It seems the writer of the adventure encountered lots of problems with believability and consistency with time travel, so he gave the DM two options: time travel or separate demiplanes. The DM may choose to have the citadel either in the past or in a separate demiplane. The problem with this is that neither work and the way the adventure is written is very inconsistent. Sometimes the text of the module assumes the DM is using time travel, other times the demiplanes. As a whole, the “demiplanes” idea does not work at all; the players go to a separate demiplane but the NPC’s there remember who they are and react accordingly depending on the PC’s previous actions. But the players have never been here before, and should never have met these people before. At one point the ghost of an NPC from one demiplane appears in a different one. So I threw it out and tried to make the time travel option work. Hilarity ensued.
The whole point of this time travel is that the occupants of the citadel will be able to use time gates to go back in the past and warn themselves of impending attacks. It sounded like an interesting idea, but the biggest problem with it is the events of the module do not take into consideration the very purpose for the time gates! When the players arrive back in time, the citadel is very soon after besieged by demons. A traitor from within the dwarves opens a gate from the abyss, and hoards of demons sent by Orcus assault the fortress in an attempt to gain access to the key. The players help the dwarves defend, and as a reward are allowed into the demiplane to get the key. The dwarves apparently ignore the fact that the PC’s arrived at almost the exact same time as the demon attack, and write it off as mere coincidence. Also, the lead cleric of the dwarves has been poisoned by the traitor, and is now comatose with 1 con. The OTHER clerics never bother to cast lesser restoration on him, even though they are high enough level to do so. Nobody ever bothered to Detect Evil, either. Naturally, the PC’s discover the traitor, stop the attack, and save the day.
My players, however, took it one step further. I knew I was in trouble when one said “Hey, we can use these time portals and go back to about 30 min before the attack, and stop the traitor from ever creating the gate, can’t we?” The adventure had never taken into consideration the actual use for the time portals! I allowed my players to do so, and then we had a completely new problem: after stopping the demon attack, 30 minutes later, the PC party arrives through the time portal, to be greeted by themselves!
Chaos rising is rife with problems like this. Teleportation is not allowed within the citadel, yet monster descriptions say things like “This monster will teleport next to the nearest obvious spellcaster.” According to the timeline of the demon attack, the traitor casts the spell to allow the lead demon into the demiplane with the key in eight minutes. The casting time for the spell is one hour. NPCs have prestige classes they don’t have the prerequisites for.
And to top it all off, what the players don’t know is that Jubilex is actually trapped in the vault. When the players go in to get the amulet, he either kills them (he’s CR 28), or tricks them into letting him out, THEN kills them. It’s possible the players can convince him to self-banish for 100 years, but wouldn’t it be better if they just don’t open the vault at all, and he’s stuck in there for AT LEAST another 400 years? Yes, this entire adventure has its best ending if the players simply walk away. Raob can’t get the key, Jubilex can’t get out, and Good is victorious.
I wanted to like this adventure. I tried very hard to rationalize and find plausible ways for events described in here to happen. It just can’t be done. Though I do have to say my players did very much enjoy going through Chaos Rising. They enjoyed it because it was, in the words of one of them “laughably, b-movie style bad.” We all did get quite a kick out of finding the 101 flaws and inconsistencies in here. I don’t really think that’s what the writer had in mind, though.
Saturday, 1st November, 2003, 06:00 AM #10
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
This is a good example of why I don't think adventure modules should be reviewed by someone who hasn't actually run the module. Even if a module is read from cover to cover, the biggest flaws in modules are often the ones that seem like great ideas on the surface but bring the game to a screeching halt when put into action.
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