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Saturday, 24th February, 2007, 06:06 PM #1
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
Dungeon Crawl Classics #12: The Blackguard's Revenge
Adventures come in all shapes and sizes these days. Goodman Games has an impressive amount of them in the Dungeon Crawl Classic line and they have a nice variety to them. This module is the twelfth in that product line and one that I had the chance to run my own D&D group through. This is a playtest review and will talk spoilers. If you are going to play through or do not want to know the secrets behind the module please do not read any farther and just know it was a fun module to play and run.
The Blackguardís Revenge is a module for ninth to eleventh level characters published by Goodman Games. The module is written by F. Wesley Schneider and is about forty pages long. The art is really nice in here and the maps are easy to real and follow. The PDF version has book marks and the quality of it is very high equal to that of the hardcopy on would buy in a store.
The module is about a group of paladins and clerics that are being attacked by an undead army. There are plenty of undead in here and their numbers grow as most of them are Wights. When a Wight kills a person it soon rises as a Wight itself and it took my players a little while to realize this. There were a couple of places that a group can get over whelmed by numbers. There is a lot of combat in here but because the players are hopefully here to rescue and aid the Paladins the whole complex need not be explored. There is plenty of treasure but most of it is the Paladins so a group might not want to steal from them and get out of here with not a lot of money.
The module starts with the group traveling along a road. They spot a single female face down in the snow obviously near death. Once healed up some she tells them of her groupís cloister that has been invaded by an undead army. She begs the group to aid as they do not have a lot of time. Using the word army might make a few groups hesitant as I know my own players were wondering if they had what it takes to defeat an army that a group of clerics and paladins could not.
There is an outer wall and the gate presents the first obstacle. There are two towers that undead have control of and will rain arrows down on any group trying to aid them. There is also more undead out side though I would have liked for the module to provide some numbers or a location to where they might be instead of just the random encounter table they have. Once inside it is possible for the group to face a lot of undead. There still could be undead they did not kill in the towers and then there are two places in the courtyard that there are more groups of them. We had a long battle as all three of these undead groups were eventually brought in and clearing the courtyard was a tough and nearly fatal encounter.
There was a pause in the battle after that. The towers they explored and made sure they were empty and found some potions and other equipment that felt they needed. In the courtyard is a fountain that has magical properties depending on oneís alignment. I really liked this and had wished that more of my own players were playing good PCs to really take advantage of this. There is also a well that the group can find a person of importance in as well as a broken staff of healing. Even though repairing broken magical items is not in the core rules the module does have it that this item can be repaired for half the GP, XP, and time by someone with craft staff. Ideally I felt the staff should be given back to the Paladins but my own group kept it.
There are three entrances into the cloister. There is the main entrance that leads to place of worship and two side entrances that are back in the living area and near the library. The cloister is obviously two stories tall and there is a lot of rooms and things going on in there. The main action is on the second floor. The first floor has some wights and there are books being destroyed in the Library as well as wights in the temple area. Many of the rooms are empty at this point and a good perceptive group should be able to find the action on the second floor with ease. Up there is a complicated encounter that the PCs can enter from three positions. They can get lucky and enter on the side the paladins control, they can enter in the middle of a long hallway in a no mans land, or they can really get unlucky and come walking into a large group of a few dozen wights and other creatures.
Assuming the group can locate the paladins they should have a good amount of role playing. There are a few leaders of the order still around though they know they are not in a good position. They are holding out in the hopes of gaining another day worth of spells and turning ability but the undead probably will not wait for that to happen. My group healed up the paladins and then lead an assault on the undeadís position. It was a long hard fought battle and many of the Paladins died and came back as Wights making this even harder. They won that though and were able to save more then a few paladins. After that battle was another good series of role playing as the groups planned on what to do next. To keep the players where the action was the paladins suggest they check out the secured catacombs. Some of the background on what is going on was learned and the PCs could engage with the paladins and really learn it all if they wish.
The Catacombs were secure but the undead got through with their own key. One of the Paladin members died trying to defend the place but he didnít make it. There are a few tough undead encounters and a particular nasty DM might not have them spread out nearly as much not that the catacomb area is really all that big. There are just six areas there though a map the PCs could find else where reveals only four. The final encounter is not with the Blackguard. The players were surprised by that. It is with a Devourer and the box text describing the creature is one of the best descriptions I and my players have ever heard. It really created a sense of disgust, awe, and dread as they had no idea what they were facing and they knew they did not like it. There is also a powerful artifact the creature is after and one I felt was the perfect type of thing the Paladins would have.
Overall this adventure did not seem like a typical dungeon crawl. Only parts of the place needed to be explored and it was a few miner battles and a couple of big epic ones. There is a lot going on here and the player characters are not on their own like in typical adventures. The paladins while not the same level of as the PCs were also not useless and could hold their own for a wile with the support of the player characters. I also like that it sets up a group that can be allies with the PCs and really build on things for other adventures. This module is followed by the Iron Crypt which is where the undead are thought to have come from. It can be run as the next adventure as I did it or the Blackguardís Revenge can be a nice stand alone module.
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