Magazine Review: Adventure Quarterly, Issue #2 from Rite Publishing

Paizo proved years ago that there’s still life in the D&D 3.5e system when they published the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. So it’s only fitting that other publishers continue to support Paizo’s efforts, continuing to breathe life into one of the most popular role-playing games of today. Rite Publishing has been right there in the mix, producing dark worlds like Coliseum Morpheuon, fun and innovative adventures like the Curse of the Golden Spear, maps, items, and magazines like Pathways. Pathways is on issue #20 and has been going strong (for free, I might add) since March 2011. Suffice it to say the designers from RP know what they’re doing creating quality work.

So based on that pedigree, I knew that Adventure Quarterly, the new quarterly publication they started in April 2012 using a subscription model ($9.95 each or $29.97 for all four issues), was going to be full of gaming goodness. And I wasn’t wrong! Although I was concerned about the price when I reviewed Adventure Quarterly, Issue #1 back in May 2012, I really shouldn’t have been. AQ#2 picks up right where the first issue left off and gives you 84 pages of content (a 20% increase in total pages) containing three complete adventures (a 1st level adventure, one for 9th level characters, and one for 18th level PCs seeking to end on a high note), plus a couple of articles sure to add some fun new details to your gaming.

The second issue starts off with an editorial by Robert Emerson, editor-in-chief, mentioning one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies of the 1980s – Big Trouble in Little China. Yes, for years I’ve wondered what might exist inside a “six demon bag” as Egg Shen calls it. Shen never explains (beyond “Wind, fire, all that kind of thing!”), and that sense of mystery is part of what drives us as gamers. As Emerson says, “There are no questions without answers; there are only answers yet to be discovered.” I’ve asked a lot of questions over the years and I have plenty more left in me. 🙂

Without a doubt, “The Ruins Perilous” by Jonathan McAnulty & Trevor Gulliver asks a question I’ve never really given much thought to until now. Who restocks all those dungeons our intrepid adventurers go tearing into? If you ask Jonathan, apparently it’s a special kind of dragon – a dungeon dragon – whose sole purpose is building the perfect dungeon. As heroes tear the place up (kill monsters, set off traps, take treasure), the dragon fixes things as quickly as possible. And my only thought after reading was “there must be a LOT of dungeon dragons!”

As a first level adventure for four PCs, it offers some fun challenges (mostly CR1 and CR2) with monsters, puzzles, and traps to keep them busy along the way. In the mix are some new critters such as a Junk Elemental (helping the dragon by grabbing new items to add to its hoard). a Mirror Assassin (with the ability to step into and out of mirrors, offering a bit of a Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon feel without being overpowering), pick-pocketing monkeys, and more. Plenty to like here as a beginning dungeon.

What’s interesting however is the room for expansion. The dungeon itself is apparently 20 levels in all, offering a single level for each level of PCs (level 2 for 2nd level characters, level 3 for third, etc.). You could conceivably come back to this concept over and over again in various ways during a campaign. We’ll have to wait and see of McAnulty is going to show off the other 19 levels in future issues of AQ. 🙂

“Into the Land of Tombs” by T.H. Gulliver offers a bit higher-level fare aimed at a party of 9th level PCs. When a funeral procession is waylaid by a group of bandits seeking the tomb of an ancient Necromancer-Pharaoh, the PCs are hired to stop the bandits, find a kidnapped woman, and return her with the key to the family crypt. Sounds simple enough, right? But as we all know by now, things are rarely that simple in the fantastic settings we game in. If you like undead, this is a terrific adventure to plague your players with: ghasts, zombies, skeletons, and plenty more are involved to keep the PCs occupied for more than a little while.

Steve Russell himself wrote “The Dungeon of No Return” – which is a hell of a way to go out if you’re an adventurer. By 18th level, most heroes are jaded and think they can solve any problem. This module may in fact be a bit like the “Kobayashi Maru” in Star Trek. It might be possible to succeed, but it’s more likely you’re not going to make it back. I don’t want to spoil the fun because it’s going to be a bumpy ride, but I’d almost like to see this adventure (and the setup) turned into a novel so I could learn more about the NPCs and background involved.

Each of the three adventures offers monster stats, location descriptions, maps, and read-aloud text for your enjoyment. And though I haven’t played any D&D 3.5e or Pathfinder for quite a while (I’ve been absorbed into the 4e collective), all three of these would be an interesting challenge to navigate as a GM or a player.

After that we have two articles – one by Creighton Broadhurst and the other by Emerson.

Creighton’s article includes one of my favorite things in the world – a random table. This one contains 100 different “Dungeon Dressings.” With a few d100s you can make any room or corridor a bit more interesting. For instance, I rolled a 97, a 59, and a 13. So whatever area I’m detailing has a ceiling 5 ft. lower than normal (97), strangely warm air (59), and the word “Danger” has been carved in one wall with a dagger (13). As a player, any one of these little details would give me the willies (especially the warm air part, though I’m not sure why); and as a GM, I’d have a field day playing things up. So the next time your players get a little too comfortable wandering through a dungeon – why not toss in a detail to get them wondering what the heck is going on?

And lastly we have “Encountering Motivations” by Emerson, which offers an easy mechanic to quickly give some detail about a NPC’s motivation in the moment. What’s nice is that you can use it really to model anything – a monster’s chances to run rather than fight, a bandit group’s reaction to some sudden tactical shift, even just whether a particular shopkeeper likes the PCs or not based on how they look. Roll a d20 vs. a motivation score that’s either in a base range or improvised on the spot. Then roll a d100 to see which way the motivation goes. Emerson offers some solid examples to illustrate the principle in motion, including dealing with thieves, honorable men, and cowards.

Really there’s a lot to like in AQ#2 content-wise and I applaud the writers on a job well done. There’s
also some great art and full-color maps (created with Dundjinni) to keep things exciting.

But… (You sensed it hanging there, didn’t you?) It’s not all wine and roses I’m afraid. I’m still not a huge fan of the layout, which is a fully-justified two column arrangement that somehow seems to jumble location, monster, spell and trap details together with location text in modules. I suppose I’m getting spoiled with the clean 4e layouts for monsters and traps, but the lack of clear lines (beyond headings, bold text, and blank space) makes many pages in the magazine suffer from the “wall of text” problem. I just wish there was a bit more variety in page design or better use of white space, boxes, and graphical elements other than tables.

That said, I need to repeat – there’s a ton of great content in Adventure Quarterly, Issue #2. Rite Publishing has done a great job with the first two issues and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next!

For more details about…

Enhanced by Zemanta
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.