Explore The Whimsy And Danger In The Pages Of The Azurth Adventures Digest

With the Azurth Adventures Digest, Trey Causey returns to the World of Azurth that he first brought to the public in the D&D 5E adventure supplement Mortzengersturm, The Mad Manticore of the Prismatic Peak. With the Azurth Adventures Digest (promised to be an irregularly published periodical) Causey brings the same sense of humor and whimsy that marked the first foray into Azurth, but in a much easier to spell package. The digest is published by Causey's Armchair Planet imprint, which is a part of the Hydra Cooperative group of small press publishers who share resources and talent among each other.

Like the previous Mortzengersturm, the Azurth Adventures Digest marries an old school gaming sensibility with a Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic. But, like with the previous adventure players and DMs shouldn't let that humorous sense of whimsy undermine the potential dangers that lurk beneath the sugary surface of the story.

Also like the previous Mortzengerstrum, the graphic design of the book reminds me of a Gold Key comic from the 1960s. This is one of many little touches throughout the book that help to set the tone for the adventure and the world.

There are two sample characters included in the adventure: The pirate Black Iris and her Hara first mate Rarebit Finn. There are also random tables to help create names for pirate characters, traits and trinkets that characters might carry on their person.

"On The Boundless Sea," the adventure contained in the digest, is a sea-faring adventure in a chain of islands in the Western part of Azurth called the Motley Isles. There is a map of the Motley Isles, and a gazetteer that gives general information on the islands and their inhabitants. As you could probably guess, piracy figures into the livelihoods of the inhabitants of the Motley Islands.

There are a couple of new creatures that are written up, including the gigantic Frogacuda. Within the text, the Frogacuda is dismissed as being a legendary claim, but the writeup demonstrates that anyone who thinks the Frogacuda's home is empty will quickly be disappointed. And by disappointed I mean that there will likely be heavy damage to characters, along with potential fatalities. The creature is more than a match for a group of low level, unprepared characters who might think that the Frogacuda is a myth, or easily dispatched because of its name.

This is the root of the deadliness of a Trey Causey adventure: the fact that the silliness of some of the situations will certainly cause players to underestimate the challenges that they face. While the Frogacuda might sound silly, thinking that it will be a cakewalk because of that silliness will have repercussions for characters. Never take anything at face value in the Azurth Adventures Digest.

However, the Frogacuda is only the tip of the iceberg of the wacky weirdness of the adventure. The adventure outlines an archipelago known as the Chain of Fools. The exact location of the Chain of Fools is up to the DM because, not only is it a legendary location but it might be a variable location. Perhaps it is akin to a fairly land, and entering and exiting the archipelago can find the characters in different places upon the lands of Azurth. While the Gilded Isle and the perfumed island of Revelry are outlined in gazetteer fashion, the main action of the adventure takes place on Candy Isle. Yes, it is exactly as it would seem.

Imagine an entire island like the Chocolate Room from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Trees are made of stick candy. There are streams of chocolate that flow through the island. Mountainous ruins are made up of rock candy. If you wonder why I warn people to not underestimate the dangers of this adventure, just think of this as being the D&D equivalent of the Willy Wonka movie. The characters that underestimated the dangers of that world ended up being juiced or pulled by a taffy machine, in the world of Azurth the repercussions are that your character could be killed by an undead with the consistency of gummy candy. No one wants to have to retell the story of their character being killed by something like that. Or do they?

If there is a flaw to the Azurth Adventures Digest it would be that player character options mentioned in the text are not gone into. There are a couple of non-human races mentioned in the text, Frog and Rabbit Folk, and, while there is a sample character in the book that is a Rabbit Folk (called Hara in the writeup), neither of these races are written up mechanically. Doing so would have given more utility to the book, and I think have options for the players' characters could create a higher level of engagement with the setting for players.

Azurth is a fun setting, and great because it is so different from the traditional fantasy that you typically get from Dungeons & Dragons settings, and from fantasy role-playing games in general. I applaud the creativity and ingenuity of Causey's world, and each time we venture into his world I come away wanting more. I can't say that about a lot of fantasy settings. Gaming needs more designers with an auteur sensibility who have a clear cut idea of what they want to do with their designs and their settings.

While the adventures in the digest and Mortzengersturm aren't going to be for everyone because of the fact that they have an uncompromising vision of what they are. It is a bit weird to use a phrase as serious as "uncompromising vision" to describe something as lighthearted as the Azurth Adventures Digest, but it is the best fit that I can come up with. While I admit that I enjoy the humorous tone of the adventures, I doubt that I am the target audience for a lot of D&D adventures.

If that doesn't bother you, or your group is looking for a more lighthearted interlude to the campaign, then I suggest checking this out. The Azurth Adventures Digest would also be a good adventure for families playing with their children. Like a Pixar movie, there are references that only adults will notice married to a tone that children would love. The writing and design are both solid and Causey knows his way around the D&D rules. The 30 pages of adventure don't have a high price tag, and can easily fill out an evening or two worth of gaming.

Regardless of the edition of D&D that your group plays, the designers of the Hydra Cooperative are creating material that is creative and original, and is unlike anything else that is being published in the Dungeon & Dragons landscape. Their game books are quirky and driven by the personal visions of the designers. Some of the best small press game design work is being done by the fine minds at the Hydra Cooperative. Check out the Azurth Adventures Digest, and any other of the great works that they are putting out.

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