Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: DCC #73: Emirikol Was Framed!

I like to review gaming materials I enjoyed, or found useful. This is one I enjoyed reading, and I expect I'll use chunks of it in my own games.

For my consolidated list of reviews, please see my reviews page.

by Michael Curtis
20 pages
GMG5074 Goodman Games 2012
$6.99 PDF

Emirikol Was Framed is an adventure for 4th-level Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG characters. The back cover text pretty much has this covered:

"The mad wizard Emirikol is terrifying the city! Striking without reason and sending his winged apes to slaughter the populace, the famous archmage has gone too far. Now a coffer of jewels is offered to those who would dare defeat him. The ever-changing walls of his Shifting Tower are guarded by a host of diabolical traps, fiendish guardians, and unimaginable terror. Will your adventurers come out victorious…or lose their very souls in the attempt?"

I had two initial negative reactions to this adventure.

#1: It's based an iconic piece of D&D art by David A. Trampier in the DMG . . . but it goes ahead and changes that art. It's not Emirikol the Chaotic rampaging through town for some unknown reason, it's Emirikol the Chaotic rampaging through town accompanied by a bunch of crossbow-toting winged apes. So it's putting the adventure to a changed piece of art. It felt like changing the Mona Lisa smile to a fanged smirk and basing an adventure on that. No matter how good the adventure, you're trying to play off the imagery of an existing piece of art and the weight it brings to the table . . . it'll be tough to live up to at best.

#2: The title is a dead giveaway for the adventure. It doesn't spell out the plot word for word, but it may as well. Even knowing I own an adventure called "Emirikol Was Framed," or that one exists, if I introduce Emirikol as the target of some adventure, you should be looking for a frame-up. Had it been "Against Emirikol" or something like that, well, a frame-up would at least be a surprise.

After reading it, these both still hold. I'd need a name change and a partial re-skin to run this with any hope of surprise. All of that said, is a very good adventure.

The adventure starts in town, and quickly moves to the tower of Emirikol. The tower is a dangerous place to get in to, and to get around. It's an ever-changing tower outside and a dimension-ignoring mess of rooms inside. So Room A and B might connect, and B to C, but they don't always connect up and down, or fit side-to-side, or any of that. It's basically a pointcrawl, which is probably the best way to run a non-Euclidean dungeon.

The map is attractive but I had some trouble following it at first - I'd recommend printing it out and color-coding it. Mine is a hardcopy, so I'd copy mine first. But it needs some reinforcement to make it visually pop out as useful information. Clear labels of where portals go are already on the map, though, so it's not that the map is poor, just that color will make it more easily useful.

The plot is interesting, and its potential ultimate resolution(s) are also interesting. It's a good chance for adventurers to be adventurers, but also for smart players to find their own solution. There is even a well-done load-bearing monster in the adventure, so you have to be a bit careful just rampaging around if you don't like fleeing as the wizard's lair collapses behind you Hollywood style. It even has a nice setup for using several characters in a recurring fashion, if you so wish.

The magical treasures includes a very interesting magical sword. It's one of those weapons you will love to have as a player but your PC might regret having, much like the weapons of White Plume Mountain.

The art is also quite good - at worst interesting and useful, at best evocative and great as player handouts. "THIS happens to you!" kind of art. Several of the more difficult-to-easily describe or better seen than heard encounters have illustrations, which helps immensely.

The adventure also has a new spell (which takes a whole page, DCC-style) and a 1/2 page table and associated rules for dealing with a fight when the PCs are spectators. Several unique-to-Emirikol's-tower monsters also exist, which could be useful elsewhere or after the adventure is played.

How is it for GURPS?

It would probably work well for GURPS. The fights generally aren't against masses of fodder, which work better in DnD clones than in GURPS. Enough detail is given to assign out stats to everything you need, and even a cursory knowledge of DnD-based systems would let you turn the various monsters and the titular wizard into GURPS stats.

Overall: As much I wish the name wasn't Plot McGivaway, and my gut reaction to the cover art vs. my own imagery of the original piece, this is good stuff. It's tight, it's fun without being purely funhouse, and the PCs have real opportunities and real danger to face. And like the DCC line in general, it's atmospheric as can be.

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