Emirikol was framed! (DCC)
This adventure clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.
Judges: Do NOT show the cover or name of the module to the PCs/players! In a pretty dumb decision, the title is a spoiler. -.- The pdf does contain basically a DCC-version of a spell to alter the visage of targets. (level 2, fyi)
The adventure is intended for 6 4th-level characters, and a well-rounded group is very much recommended. While dangerous, the module is not one of the most deadly DCC-modules out there, so survival-chances are decent, if certainly not guaranteed, particularly not without being…ähem…changed. The adventure comes with a table listing encounters, as always, and does feature 4 nice handouts – more on that later in the SPOILER-section. The adventure, as always, comes with well-written read-aloud text that helps less experienced judges evoke the proper atmosphere.
Genre-wise, this is basically a heist/assassination in a wizard’s tower – and in atmosphere, think of this as an heir of the classic “Tower of the Elephant” in its Savage Sword of Conan iteration, on LSD.
Want to know more? Well, all right, but to go into more details, I need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, so the PCs are minding their own business, when the city erupts in chaos, and winged gorilla-people start slaughtering folks, while a mighty magic-user is setting stuff ablaze! How’s that for an immediate jump into the fray?
In the aftermath of the chaos, the PCs are contacted by a cadre of individuals, who have identified the culprit as the local wizard Emirikol! The planning of the heist with the conspirators is pretty detailed and fun, but can also be handled rather quickly, depending on the preferences of your group…at this point, if you were so careless as to show the cover, the players will be less motivated, for, indeed, while Emirikol is indeed a chaos mage with a whole array of rather unwholesome predilections, he was not responsible. According to the (mostly) correct intel, the conspirators can help the PCs breach the ever-changing, shifting tower, its outsides in an obvious homage, guarded by wild cats, the tower constantly changing its composition. Scaling it can be dangerous, but the PCs will only have a certain timeframe as the mighty wizard ostensibly is in stasis and may be slain.
The main module is about the exploration of Emirikol’s tower, where space and time are not beholden to the limitations of the structure. The tower’s interior, obviously, includes a pterodactyl’s roost, strange trophies. Now, I mentioned handouts – one of them does contain an array of golems in different degrees of completion, and careless PCs may well find themselves locked in the bodies of these half-finished magical constructs. The handout illustrates these bodies, and while not all are ambulatory, many are. The PCs will have to swim up a column of water to traverse floors, venture into a cranium library, and it does some smart things: There is, for example, a chance to look at the adventure’s maps, briefly, before they “animate” and are thrown in the player’s face! In contrast to a couple of other meta-tricks, this one is easy to implement, fun, and should not result in issues – kudos!
There is a massive, sorcerous observatory with bronze scorpions (awesome!) and a sorcerous workshop that contains the magical weapon Ruin, a blade of liquid metal with a pretty nasty tendency to fan the fires of ambition… The module also includes the Kaj, a unique entity (represented in one of the handouts) that share actions between their bodies, making for a great boss…or rather, penultimate boss fight.
You see, arriving at Emirikol’s true sanctum, the wizard is NOT happy – his erstwhile lover, the powerful Leotah turned bitter adversary, was actually the culprit behind the unprompted chaos in the city, and the instigator of the plot that sent the PCs inside. (Both archmages are btw. represented on a handout!) As his constructs of iron burst through the walls, Leotah and her gorillamen crash inside the tower, starting an epic duel of spells and servitor creatures, with the PCs caught in the middle. A handy table helps the judge to keep track of all those targets – for at this point, most groups will probably conclude that neither wizard should triumph. Thus, the smartest move probably will be attempting to take down the Glass Darkly (NICE!), which, in a final nod towards the classics, initiates the tower collapse. Here’s to hope that the PCs don’t dawdle or are held back…for after this adventure, they’ll probably have made at least one powerful enemy, one with plenty of experience recovering from death…if the judge has a romantic streak and the PCs were particularly successful, the two mighty wizards may well end up reunited once again, focused in their spite and hatred for the PCs…just saying…
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf offers plenty of cool b/w-artworks. The 4 handouts are neat, and I really enjoyed the gorgeous b/w-map, though no player-friendly iteration was included, which is a bit of a bummer. The pdf comes with bookmarks, but only basic ones for chapter-headers.
Michael Curtis provides a great homage of a Sword & Sorcery classic, seen through the aesthetics of DCC – it’s like playing through a Bal-Sagoth track. Outrageous, brutal and cool, oozing flavor, this is one of my favorite “Wizard’s Tower”-themed modules. It gets what makes a great wizard’s tower stand out – risk and reward are entwined, and while PCs can die and suffer horrible fates, these tend to be the result of greed or daring. Skill really helps, and being anything short of smart will be punished. Harshly. The finale is harsh and epic as well. The spoiler in the title is something I wished this had avoided, and the lack of player-friendly maps is a downside. And yet, I adore this one to bits. It has all those small touches that show that the author cared even about the small stuff, it oozes flair, and if you just remotely like Sword & Sorcery, then this’ll be right up your alley. All in all, well worth a final verdict of 5 stars, and because I’m a sucker for the theme, I’ll also award this my seal of approval.
You can get this cool Sword & Sorcery adventure here on OBS!