Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wicked Fantasy Factory 0: Temple of Blood review

I was lucky enough to have a game store in my area participate in Free RPG day. Even luckier, they didn't have a limit on how much free stuff you could take. However, not to be greedy, I limited myself to 5 pieces, including this one, Temple of Blood from Wicked Fantasy Factory and Goodman Games.

Why the heck are you reviewing a free module you ask? Well, while free now, it will go on sale for $2 later this year for those that missed out, both in print and PDF. Not to mention, I suspect about half the freebies (at least from Goodman Games and Paizo) will end up on ebay. Plus, I want to, since I liked reviewing and I don't have much else new to, since 3rd party d20 modules, my favorite, have largely dried up.

Wicked Fantasy Factory

This is a new line of modules (and the developer of them) from Goodman Games. Goodman is famous for the Dungeon Crawl Classics series line of modules. Some of them are actually fairly experimental in nature, not just simple dungeon crawls (DCC#34 most notably), but I guess this was so different, it needed a new line. Basically, the premise is that they are like regular adventures, but "Xtreme!". That is, with over the top action. While the WWF/WWE is perhaps the obvious inspiration, it also seems derived from Hong Kong action movies.

While it's still just D&D, a few new mechanics are added. "Mooks" is one, certain weak opponents are designated as this, which allows the PCs to kill them easier. Basically when fighting them, the PCs get certain benefits - for instance, the ability to use Cleave and Great Cleave, spells cast vs them are maximized, etc, basically things to make them easy to mow down in numbers.

On the other end, for the Big Boss, just when you think he's been killed, he comes back to life. (There should be another option - when a PC gets killed, his twin brother shows up for the next adventure.)

More derived from video games than movies is "finishing moves", I guess like Fatalities from Mortal Kombat (I'm not much up on fighting games, so my terminology might be dated). Basically, when an opponent is near death, a PC can perform a finishing move on them, and if successful, the enemy is killed in a dramatic fashion (like in an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon). But if not, nothing happens.

Also in the module is "Phat Loot", basically a magic item or treasure worth as much as all the treasure in the rest of the module combined. (Besides making the item er, "phat", it makes it easy for stingy DMs to take it out).

The module itself.

I was pretty dubious about this when I first read the press release about it. I remembered the XFL (Xtreme Football League), which was similarly hyped, but failed because the football was not only not "Xtreme!" it just wasn't very good football. If you don't have a solid foundation, all the Xs and !s in the world can't save a product.

However, beyond the hyperbole and hype, there's an enjoyable module here. I shouldn't have been surprised, really, since Goodman's Dungeon Crawl Classics line was built around a gimmick, but if they weren't good modules they wouldn't have lasted so long (50+).

Because of the new rules, and the layout (large text, 1 whole page for the OGL), it's not the longest adventure in the world, only 7 encounters. The plot is actually somewhat Lovecraftian, or at least the villain is. A cultist of an evil crazy god has kidnapped 5 women in order to perform an evil ritual and it's up to the PCs to stop him.

It's got a lot of combat, but there is also some thinking involved. At least one fight is probably too tough for the PCs, and they have to figure out how to take out a bunch of kobolds rather than just battling in a straight up fight. Numerous options are provided. Similarly, one of the encounters can be fought, but also can be talked with, if the PCs were quick enough to pick up on something when they talked with the bad guy early on. Yeah, that's right, early on, they get to talk with the bad guy and exchange taunts with him. Pretty cinematic and a nice touch.


All in all, the art is actually pretty good. The cover is too dark and the artist has a little trouble with hands, but isn't bad. The interior art is also perhaps not the best from a technical perspective, but does a good job of capturing the mood.

I especially like the artwork depicting the aftermath, two adventurers mobbed by the freed women, some with their arms upraised saying "Yeah!". It reminded me of the ending of Project Shadowchaser, a rather bad Die Hard/Terminator ripoff starring Martin Kove (the bad sensei from Karate Kid). But the ending was one of the most genuine I've seen, someone throws him a beer and he drinks it, then pours part of it on his head (and drinks some more).

Final Thoughts

For free, it's great. For $2, it's still pretty good. Perhaps a little short, but definitely on par with those $2-3 8 page adventure that AEG/FFG used to put out.

I just really liked the cheerfulness of the product. If it doesn't make you smile while reading it, or looking at the illustrations, then well, you're probably a fan of White Wolf's games. But I think most D&D fans will get a kick out if it, both running it and playing it.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Free RPG stuff...

Yesterday was Free RPG day and thanks to my somewhat FLGS, I was able to get some goodies. But how good were the goodies?

Dungeon Crawl Classics 51.5: The Sinister Secret of Whiterock - This is probably the prize, in terms of desireability. It's a 16 page module, exactly like pay DCCs, thick cover and everything. It's a prequel of sorts to the upcoming Sinister Secret of Whiterock, the big expensive box set ($100 worth). Basically it's an old ruined castle. This though, is a section of old gnomish ruins. A bunch of them got trapped there after a cavein, and mated. And in Lovecraftian style, they regressed into a bunch of deformed savages.

Pretty good. Decent sized, too, 12 encounter areas. B

Wicked Fantasy Factory #0: Temple of Blood - Also from Goodman games, this is part of their new WFF line, which is meant to be "Xtreme", like pro wrestling, I guess. The adventure in this is somewhat short, only 7 encounters in 16 pages, in part because there is some new rules. Rules for mooks, finishing moves (like the final move you use to kill someone) and besides that, the text is kinda big. This also has a Lovecraftian theme - a follower of "He-Who-Dwells-in-Secrets" is performing a ritual involving 5 scantily clad ladies. That's not the Lovecraftian part, what's Lovecraftian is that he's used the spell that was found in his story "The Festival". B+

Gamemastery Module D0: Hollow's Last Hope - This is Paizo's offering. It's the slickest looking of the bunch, being in full color (all 16 pages) and with a glossy cover. It's also probably the most complete adventure of the ones I got. Basically the town of Falcon's Hollow is suffering the effects of a plague. The PCs, being nice, presumably help cure it by helping a local herbalist by gathering some ingredients she needs. The downside is that it's rather linear, they simply talk to her, she tells them about the 3 ingredients, and there only seems to be 1 way to get each one. The first two are relatively easy, but the last requires a 16 or so room dungeon crawl. A

Tunnels & Trolls -
This contains the quick start rules (which take up 6 pages) and 2 mini adventures, 1 solo, one run by a GM. The solo adventure is pretty good, you play a Goblin looking for other goblins, and find some in an underground lake area. The other involves the party working on a river boat. B

Castles & Crusades -
I got this because it says "Castle Zagyg Adventure Inside" on the cover. It's mostly just the quick play rules for C&C, though. Despite C&C supposedly being a simpler version of d20 fantasy, it takes 21 pages for the quick play rules, leaving 3 pages for the "adenture". Which actually isn't an adventure, it's an excerpt from an upcoming Castle Zagyg book. The choice of excerpts is weird as well, it's a workhouse/prison. D. I can't imagine anyone being happy with this "freebie". Admittedly, I don't like C&C, because I think if you might as well just play 1e AD&D rather than a gimped recreation of it using d20. But even if you wanted quick play rules of it, I can't imagine people being excited to explore a workhouse.