EZG reviews C05: The Foul Passage of Progress
This module is 44 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page Adventure-checklist, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us 39 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This being a review of an adventure-module, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? Jyrkannelaki is a prosperous village due to one interesting geographical peculiarity – situated atop of a massive cliff, the village has the only access to the ocean for miles around – via a massive natural stair of basalt columns that continuously is modified by the local geological fluctuations – raising columns, collapsing them and following the tides, the stairs can’t be well traversed – but in a granite cliff higher than 400 ft., that’s still preferable and has given rise to a class of workers that navigate the treacherous stairs and made the town prosperous. Which also came with hubris – the settlement has an “ingenious” tradition: With the moving columns and tides sweeping them, the tradition in the settlement is to just throw trash/dirt/etc. to the stairs and wait for the sea to claim it. With more wealth also came more goods – and more waste .Soon, Jyrkannelaki became known not only for its wealth, but also for its callously squandering and wasteful citizens.
Then, something happened. Specialists didn’t return. Unfortunately for the PCs, they need to access the sea – or are hired and subsequently need to make the stairs safe again – in any way, they are in for an interesting experience and HOPEFULLY after the briefing do the smart thing and start researching the true extent of Jyrkannelaki’s waste-issue: A vast table, spanning more than one page and color-coded for your convenience, shows varying different goods thrown away – by shop: 20 shops (!!!) with 4 entries each provide a variety of disturbing (or plain gross) items thrown away – take for example a cheese with throbbing red veins – most of these actually make for great inspirations for alchemical items or weird magical items. Furthermore, the module provides us a selection of rules to calculate the deadly toxicity of the waste the PCs will have to navigate – depending on the type of waste combined, the result gets nastier – and for the DM’s convenience a tracking sheet is part of the deal as well on the way down.
Navigating the massive steps (which come with a gorgeous map), the PCs will have to brave the toxic sludge and find the remnants of the missing creatures – and you’d think that tracking progress down the stairs would be hard – but it is – 4 stairways, all with their table for encounters , depths, additional events etc. make sure that as a DM, no two takes on this module will be the same – and the opposition makes this trek HARD: Deadly toxic sludge creatures (with deadliness according to the sludge involved in their creation), traps and aquatic threats like Kapaocinths and elementals and even lacedons may provide a hint as to the perpetrator – fed up with the pollution, the sea-elf druid Valtamer Valtija has taken to cleaning up the human issue – the painful way. And no flying will not bypass all the threats, as several traps are specifically designed to deal with those trying to bypass the stairs the easy way…
Worse, Vesihirmu (a chuul) and his lacedons make for powerful allies. Once the PCs have cleared these threats from the caverns at the bottom of the stairs, the town is safe once again – but at what cost? The guildsmen are dead and returning their undead corpses upstairs will result in some resentment. And by their actions, have the PCs in the end not just perpetuated a lifestyle that is dangerous, ignorant and decadent? Only you and your PCs can answer these questions…
Editing and formatting are top-notch this time around – I didn’t notice any significant issues. Layout adheres to a classic, printer-friendly two-column standard and the artworks are ok, whereas cartography is simply awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Stephen Yeardley has created a module that is old-school in more than one way – the attention to detail, the imaginative location that oozes fantasy, the amount of DM-support – and the fact that you don’t need a complex plot make this module thoroughly unique in its locale and goals – even beyond the staggering level of details and the imaginative tables, we get one module that hits home in the department AaW-modules tend to shine most – innovation and culturally peculiar, well-written pieces that result in experiences neither you, nor your players are likely to forget soon – especially if your party features druids, shamans or rangers and the like – without heavy-handedness or raised fingers, this module also can prove to be thought-provoking and make one contemplate the dangers of our own throwaway society:
But the crowning achievement is that it manages to do so sans playing the guilt-card, sans spelling out that the village is in the wrong – after all, they thus could avoid plagues and the like, couldn’t they? There are no easy answers here and your PCs might actually be the ones to develop some – and this, even more so than the a-game adventure-design, sets this module apart. Yes, a DM should be a bit experienced to avoid making the trek down the stairs repetitive, but overall, this is one glorious, iconic module and well worth 5 stars + my seal of approval. Don’t let this one pass you by!
You can get this awesome module here on OBS!