Veranthea Codex: The Black Knight
This little module clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This pdf is intended as an introduction to the continent of Grethadnis in Veranthea and can be used as the first module, which, in combination with Spring of Disorder and Grualroth’s Rot, to form a sequence of modules. Assuming character creation, the pdf sports 7 sample campaign traits to invest the characters more within the world of Grethadnis and provides two hooks that can act as shadows of the things to come.
The module begins in Yawvil’s Realm and sports two fully-statted, depicted villages for your convenience – generally, the region is considered to be rather peaceful, but the pdf does provide information on random encounters. Three minor, sample quests can be found here – from e.g. defeating a shadow to putting their weight behind one side of a power-struggle, these sketches are okay as supplemental material.
But you want to know about the module, right? All right, but from here on, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players may want to jump to the conclusion.
Only GMs left? All right! We begin this module on the Great Road throughout the realm of Veranthea’s powerful arch-wizard, with an encounter of PCs meeting the Vyrystavyas gypsies – invited for a friendly gaming bout, things turn strange fast: The gypsies unwittingly carried a new artifact the Polysabie, a magical d20 – upon being completed, the roll sports some rather odd effects: Whether it’s that a given area believes you’re a warlock/witch, growing annoying, bickering (and disturbing) heads in combat or being stunned when hearing “knee” or that you may cause misfortune to grant yourself a bonus…the effects are diverse, but on the nasty side. Worse: Upon having rolled the artifact, it becomes HEAVY…and, as panicked gypsies are sure to tell the PCs: An unstoppable Black Knight manifests. (And yes, in order to destroy the artifact, they will need to trek it through all continents, as this one tends to disappear when the black knight is defeated…)
If you haven’t noticed that by now: Yes, the Black Knight pretty much is a unique monster and sports rather Monty Python-ish, obvious abilities – with limbs falling off and insults as well as a glare that may stop you dead in your tracks, the inhuman knight is lethal at CR 3. (And yes, the headbutt is BRUTAL – don’t underestimate a limbless black knight!)
Defeating the Black Knight, space warps and rips the PCs to the continent of Urethiel, the domain of His Golden Personage of Fortitude, to be precise. Welcomed by pig farmers has been suffering from bandits (which turn out to be cunning ratfolk). Having defeated these scoundrels, the PCs return…to find another Polysabie-roll in process…and an even stronger Black Knight waiting for them, one with completely different abilities (and CR 4…)…and, once again, the fabric of space and time tear asunder…and bring the PCs to Trectoyri – or rather, the Free Isle, where a knight’s tournament is in process – thankfully, Lord Agresta (a nod to Lou Agresta, perhaps?) notes that the games must go on, the polysabie found and the Black Knight defeated. unbeknown to the PCs, a doppelganger has acquired the lethal artifact and may well try to infiltrate the PC’s group…and, once again, a new iteration of the Black Knight, more powerful than before and with a unique build (and a chainsaw sword) needs to be bested – this time at CR 5. Beating this lethal foe (with actually rather challenging damage-output that may well instakill a PC…), the polysabie’s pwoer is broken, space rips asunder one final time and the PCs are ready to tackle the aforementioned, excellent Spring of Disorder module…after all, the PCs have coincidentally been dropped right in the vicinity.
Editing and formatting are very good – rather odd, though, to see the font-size deviating on the polysabie’s first page depicting it. Layout adheres to Veranthea Codex’s beautiful two-column standards, with each continent having its own unique, visual style. Artworks are pretty nice and in color. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Mike Myler’s Black Knight is a pretty awesome idea as such and works well for convention games or as a means to introduce new players to Veranthea. The idea of the Black Knight and Polysabie per se are gold – they could have been lame, but ended up being rather cool. However, not everything about this module is great – basically, the story is a very thinly-veiled pretense for granting an impression of the continents, so expect no narrative feats here. Similarly, there is basically nothing interesting going on beyond the iterations of the Black Knight – the other encounters and things to do herein basically can be considered to be…filler or minimalist window dressing…which is ultimately also due to the lack of cartography herein. Basically, this book has one cool item/pretense for the journey, 3 great adversaries…and is, bar that, a non-entity of a module.
With no maps for the encounters, there also is no interesting terrain or the like to be found here…which the module tries to justify by claiming it’s intended for new players…something I’d doubt, honestly. The Black Knight builds are cool and well-made and will wreck havoc with novice players. Let me state this clearly: The Black Knight’s iterations steal the show – they don’t need fancy terrain or the like to properly captivate the players due to the cool builds…but the other encounters would have very much needed something to make them more interesting.
Whether or not this module is for you, depends pretty much on if you consider three cool Black Knight builds and the neat polysabie enough to carry the brief module – Veranthea as a setting is great, but the “tour the continents”-facet didn’t really work out too well for me.
Due to the brevity of this module, none of the continents have much time and space to grow on the PCs, to provide anything beyond the most rudimentary of glimpses of what this is about – basically, this is a set-up for a big module, cut down to the bare bones. it’s great encounters in a non-entity of a module.
The black knight and artifact are very cool…but on their own, they don’t manage to make this a truly great module. This can be a ton of fun…or end up being a huge dud of a module. Running this with kids that do not know Monty Python, for example, did not work as well, while nostalgia made this a fun romp for my adult group. In the end, though, I have to rate this as a module, and here it has issues.
My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars – overall, a module that can be a nice start…but also can be a horrid dud. It all depends on the group and what you expect. With a bit of work, this can be remarkable…but run it as written and it may severely underwhelm you.