Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Friday, 8 January 2016

A Dry Adventure

Although there is no scenario in the rulebook for Shadow of the Demon Lord, the first RPG released by Schwalb Entertainment following a successful Kickstarter campaign, one of the excellent decisions upon the part of the designer has been to release support—and release it early—in the form of scenarios for the game. This way a gaming group can get playing quickly, even if they are just using the core rules presented in Victims of the Demon Lord: Starter Guide and an adventure. In addition, the publisher has also released Tales of the Demon Lord, a complete mini-campaign that takes a party of characters from Zero Level up to Eleventh Level. In the meantime, the third adventure is A Year Without Rain.

A Year Without Rain is, like Survival of the Fittest and The Slaver’s Lash, another written for beginning characters before they enter the Novice Path at First Level. It is written by Bruce Cordell, best known as the author of Return to the Tomb of Horrors, which won the 1998 Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Adventure. It comes as a six-page, 8.56 MB PDF. It takes place in the village of Asylum which stands north of the town of Sixton on the Emperor’s Road and assumes that the player characters are inhabitants of Asylum or grew up there. For the last year the village has been beset by a severe drought, but fortunately the village has a well that the inhabitants can draw upon. Yet this very morning one of the villagers has been found dead, a dessicated papery husk. The player characters will either be curious enough to investigate or will be asked by the villagers quickly enough—especially when a second body turns up on the second morning.

After a little light investigation, the player characters will quickly learn that the clues point towards the village’s well. Although there is no monetary or other reward for going down the well, the villagers will at least help the player characters with certain pieces of equipment. What they discover down the well is a shrine constructed by an ancient cult dedicated to a demon that continues to linger and is the cause of the deaths above. The shrine consists of some ten or so locations and is essentially a mini-dungeon—and a tough one at that. In fact, given that player characters are essentially Zero Level, A Year Without Rain will probably be too much of a challenge for them as they have to face a spider, a ghoul, and demons both big and small. 

A Year Without Rain is physically well presented. The writing does need another edit here and there and the map is reasonable if plain. The scenario does feel as if it should be really for characters on their Novice Path—that is, for First and Second Level. Another issue is that as a scenario for Level Zero characters, A Year Without Rain does not quite serve the need to expose the characters to elements that will influence their decision in choosing their Novice Path—Magician, Priest, Rogue, or Warrior.

Overall, A Year Without Rain is a serviceable affair. The Game Master will need to decide whether his player characters can cope with what is a tough adventure. Whatever the level the Game Master runs it for, A Year Without Rain offers a session or two’s worth of play.