It is already obvious that I am a huge fan of D101 Games “Crypts & Things” line, given my love of all things Howard. So it was with squeals of joy when I discovered their newest adventure “Tomb of the Necromancers” by +Paul Mitchener. Of course this lead to a bit of fun over here at Genius Loci as I broke the release of the game about a month ago by accident and then re-broke the release of the game (I believe within moments of +Newt Newport announcement) last week.
On the real release of the adventure I opted or the softcover for two reasons. One the price was right and I had enough credit left from a previous contest I won to hedge off the shipping costs. And two, well I felt guilty for accidentally “breaking” the story on the accidentally release of the adventure at the beginning of October.
The book came in the mail yesterday, and although the UPS guy thought it would be funny to hid the package in my daughter's jack-o-lantern, all was good!
“Tomb of the Necromancers” weighs in a 20 pages of adventure and a total of 25 pages (excluding covers) of book. The quality is what I've come to expect from onebookshelf's print on demand service, which is not bad. The formatting of the print copy is the basic two-column set-up typical to this genre and the type-set and printing is clear and very sharp. The book comes with pieces of black and white ink full page art pieces and three maps (region, village, dungeon) of average quality.
The break down of the various sections is very good and the typical monster manual stat-blocks are used over the traditional two line run down which I much prefer (but seldom use myself).
The biggest problem in a technical sense (and yeah this is the pot calling the kettle black) is the overwhelming amount of spelling, editing and proofing mistakes. Only one is really jarring and breaks the flow of reading the adventure. As a whole though the mistakes do not distract enough to make the adventure unreadable.
“Tomb of the Necromancers” follows the players as they are hired to explore a long forgotten and entombed temple and recover an artifact from an ancient death cult. This quest is complicated by the a rival (and national) group who want the item for themselves as well as the employer who is a hell of a lot more dubious than it may appear.
There are a lot of strings for the Crypt Keeper (referee, dungeon master, etc) to keep a hold of with this adventure as the few NPC available all have agendas that twist and twine around the main narrative of the story. Not heavy handed or complex strings, but enough to give a few good plot twists and a pulpy feel to the entire thing (which is the point of C&T I like to think).
Further the adventure really lends itself to showing the brutality of a Swords & Sorcery setting, with some sights and events within (both as set pieces and just abilities of certain enemies) the game that really makes me go from “F-ing yeah I love this!” to “I would not want to live there in real life”.
Once in the main dungeon of the game things a re a lot more straight forward. Explore, kill, loot, repeat. However, there are some interesting pseudo-puzzles and some wonderful chances at roleplaying in some of the areas of the dungeon as well as some small, not quite described but hinted-upon, schemes by some of the denizens of the dungeon.
The dungeon has no wandering monsters, however, there is the chance to ad-hoc in a single patrol type listed in the dungeon's introduction. The creatures in the dungeon are a nice mix of old goodies and some really nifty new creatures (my favorite being the windwraiths). The set-up of thedungeon is nice with a good amount of places to explore and the descriptions are uniform and believable for an evil death god place of worship without entering into the realm of death metal cover art.
Using the five star system used by Onebookshelf I would give “Tomb of the Necromancers” a 4 out of 5. The nature of the adventure (typical explore, loot, kill) is nicely offset by the number of roleplaying opportunities present within the main dungeon. At the same time the “open world” situation and the implications and politics being played out are interesting, engaging and really set things up for a good short campaign or a long running behind the scenes villain. Paul Mitchener does a good job of painting the Ice Coast/Death Wind Steppe in broad enough strokes that an average Crypt Keeper can come away with enough ideas to fill his or her game for quite some time.