The Eight Kings (semi-final)
The first 3 in the series were published by Necromancer games (presumably to help burnish their "Old School" adventure credentials), but apparently due to delays in getting the manuscript, they didn't publish the last in the series, this book.
In the last d20 adventure review I wrote, I discussed the various "feels" of modules. This does very much have an old-school feel to it, but the feel is perhaps more like a tournament module.
Basically, in this module, the PCs have to enter the private dimension of Zayene (formerly Xaene) and kill him and rescue King Ovar (nee Ivid), whom Zayene kidnapped in order to rule the kingdom in his place (via a very convolutated manner, creating a new clone every day).
If you don't have the first 3 modules and haven't run your PCs through them, why they would want to do this is a lot less clear. But the module suggests they simply be hired to do so, for 200,000 gp. I myself don't have the first 3 modules. (I actually had the 3rd, Tower Chaos, which I got as part of a lot of Necromancer games modules. But I gave it away to someone.)
The module itself is pretty much an exploration based dungeon crawl. There really isn't all that much combat involved (except with Zayene himself, a 16th level wizard). Essentially, the PCs must go from room to room, encountering weird magic items and trying to figure them out without killing themselves. There are 42 keyed entries, probably about half as many rooms.
Unfortunately, in some of the cases, it's hard to figure out how these gizmos work, so you're going to have to help out your players a lot with subtle (or not so subtle) hints. Though not touching anything would actually seem to be the best course of action in most cases, since many either have negative effects, or don't have anything to do with the PC's mission (to kill Zayene and rescue the King), basically just really really complex table dressing.
For instance, as an example, there is sort of a mausoleum with 4 different coffins in it, one in each section (it's shaped like an + ). Nothing happens unless one of the PCs decided to lie in a coffin. I know, I'm sure some people can't resist lying in an open coffin when they get the chance, but I think most people won't think of it. And once they do, 3 of the 4 coffins basically have negative side effects, including one possible case of instant death. The last may have a small positive benefit, imparting some information, but only maybe.
Or another example - one room has a magical orrery (basically a mechanical representation of a solar system - little globes on metal rods that can spin around). It's wonderfully detailed, and an interesting object. But it takes 6 pages to describe it fully, and it basically has no bearing on the plot. And again, you probably don't want to touch it. Not everything is negative, but most are.
So actually, if the characters don't touch much, this does have the potential to be a fairly short module. They can pop in, rescue the king, and pop out pretty quickly, if they get lucky.
In that case, a lot of the devices and such would only come into play if they do suceed in killing Zayene, and decide to take a close look at the dimension (which they could take as part of the reward for killing him, along with a cool 1.2 million gp).
Actually, this brings me to a point - while all the real traps and such have proper ratings and DCs, I would have liked to have seen some Challenge Ratings for the various devices/puzzles, and maybe some DCs for hints. I mean, part of the thing about role-playing, while it's easy to play a character that is stronger or tougher than yourself, it can be tricky to play a character smarter than yourself. If you're not good at figuring out magical devices, then your character won't either. Unless you use the skill system to give hints.
And speaking of having to figure things out, the author, much like Gary Gygax, has a somewhat unusual style of writing. The terminology and sentence structure is sometimes a bit arcane, which can take some getting used to. For instance, "he will assist the characters in no way". Most people would say "he will not assist the characters". A couple other cases make me wonder if the so called "Gygaxian" style of writing should really be "Gygaxian-Kuntzian". Again, not bad, but just takes a bit of getting used to (or shaking off the rust, if you haven't read any old 1e stuff lately).
An appendix contains several new magic items, and there are a few more in the text of the adventure itself, like the "Crate of Wonder". Many of these are weird, but they are also fascinating. I wouldn't mind seeing a whole book of them from the author.
You also get a couple new spells and monsters, and one of the last pages of the book reprints the cover of the original version.
I liked the artwork in it, not as good as the previous in the series (which was done by one of my favorite artists, Brian LeBlanc), but pretty good. Semi-retro looking. Also a nice touch is that the same four characters were depicted in each picture, presumably a party of characters going through the module. The layout is okay, but it would have been nice if the map of the place had been in a handy location, like the back.
As a note, the first 3 in the series had some 3e stats problems/quirks. This module seems to be much better in terms of 3e stats than the first 3, presumably thanks to the help of Merric Blackman (who is semi-famous for having a very good web site on the D&D collectible mini game. At least I think that's the same Merric Blackman).
The spells memorized for Zayene also seem fairly well thought out, including the use of metamagic. I did a couple test combats between Zayne and 4 12th level characters (which is the recommended party) and it's a pretty even battle. The 4 12th level characters can generally beat him, but not before he teleports away (he has a teleport tied into a contingency spell). (Smart PCs will have memorized at least one dimensional anchor spell to keep him from going anywhere).
Also, despite the name of the module, I didn't find any Elvis references.
This is hard to rate. Basically, if you have the first 3 in the series and liked them, then you should definitely like The Eight Kings. But if you didn't like the first 3, then you definitely won't like this. If you're a big Greyhawk fan, you'll also probably enjoy this, if not as an adventure, maybe not so much for background material on Greyhawk itself, but for a look into the creative mind one of the main people originally behind it.