Saturday, June 27, 2015

Module Review: Liberation of the Demon Slayer (Kort'thalis Publishing, 2013)

So this is going to be something very new for me, and hopefully I won't FUBAR it too severely. I've never reviewed an RPG module before - in fact, outside of Call of Cthulhu, I've spent very little time reading them.  However, after letting Venger Satanis know I'd purchased a stack of books he'd produced for the Old School Renaissance of fantasy role-play, he asked if I'd consider posting reviews and/or play-reports.  So, here are my thoughts on his first module, Liberation of the Demon Slayer (warning: naughty bits ahead).

Spoilers likely ensue.

Plot (such as it is): the town of Clear Meadows is threatened by interstellar demons, newly-arrived via a meteor shower.  It falls to brave adventurers to risk their necks in a nearby cavern complex to retrieve the fabled sword Kalthalax, the Demon Slayer, and save the town.

I'm noticing female buttocks seem to be a theme in Mr. Satanis' work.

Thoughts: I'm intrigued.  As written, this module could in theory be completed in a single session of play by focused players.  Or, it could stretch out to weeks of play.  Kalthalax is buried in a six-level dungeon, but buried so shallowly that it can be retrieved quickly and relatively painlessly...unless you stumble into some of the oozes or jellies roaming that level. 

Here's where I think my intimate familiarity with Call of Cthulhu adventure modules, and my relative lack of familiarity with "old school" D&D modules, is going to mess with me.  Because I'm very used to very thoroughly plotted adventures where everything is fleshed out in detail, sometimes to a degree where the players will never encounter the information provided for the GM's perusal.

Liberation of the Demon Slayer (and to an even greater extent, The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, Venger's follow-up piece) feels less like an "adventure" and more like Venger showed up at my apartment with a case of beer and an enormous tool chest, which he proceeded to unpack, one piece at a time, while telling me about some of the things each piece *could* do, but never once saying "this tool is for this job," leaving me to decide what to do with each piece.  

And I know that that's kind of the OSR way, but given that this is the first time I've really sat down and read an OSR module for comprehension and then sat around digesting what I read, I really like the way he handled the presentation here.

In fact, given that the entire first section of the book is Venger's casual, conversational coverage of house rules and a laying out of "Well, here's how I did it, see what works for you," it really strengthens the idea that Venger is presenting this adventure to GMs, from one friend to another.  I like knowing how he ran it.  I'm likely to adopt the exploding-dice rule for my own future games, for example, and while I'd tone down some of the sexually explicit "Dark Secrets" he provides, I could see using that in game as well. 

And that's really the only thing I didn't care for here, is the explicit sexual depravity, and you know what? A) I know I can tone that down, and B) Venger says right in there, "This isn't for everyone, adjust to suit your group."  No big deal. 

I'd initially kind of rolled my eyes at having the Dark Gods of the adventure being Lovecraft's Great Old Ones, but on a second read-through...why not? Nobody's got a gun to my head and demanding that in my games Cthulhu be a force for chaos on Earth alone.  He's a polydimensional ravening horror, why shouldn't Razira (or for that matter, Greyhawk) be his playground as well? Cthulhu (aka Ktulu, Klulu, Quatualatu, etc) is a handy shorthand for inexpressible cosmic awfulness; players respond to Cthulhu in a way that they just don't respond to "Gromglatch the Insatiable, The Gnawer with a Thousand Tongues."  Cthulhu has cachet value.  

I think, to run this dungeon (which I would very much like to do), I'd tone down the sexual elements -- I liken it to the movies HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.  Both are movies about fish-men taking an interest in human women.  The Humanoids actively assault women with the intent of forcibly breeding with them, while the Creature maybe just wants emotional companionship but maybe there's going to be an element of interspecies breeding off-screen.  I tend to run my games more like Creature, less like Humanoids, which has suited my players over the years just fine. 

I think I'd also want to work on the connections between levels of the dungeon and the inhabitants thereof, to provide stronger hooks to draw the PCs deeper and deeper into the earth, above and beyond, "Well, it's a hole full of monsters and weirdos, you can probably get rich down there." Based on my initial read-through, the different levels feel only very loosely connected to me - I could be wrong in my assessment, but I'll chalk that up to my unfamiliarity with this style of module.  I think the group of people I tend to GM for most would need stronger reasons to keep exploring the dungeon after the first level. 

2 comments:

  1. Good review, hoss! You did just fine.

    I agree, strengthening the connections between levels would make the dungeon feel more... complete. Now that you've had time to digest LotDS, fill in those blanks with whatever suits you, whatever you want the dungeon to be about or achieve or inspire. Make it your own.

    BTW, I do love Humanoids from the Deep. I always forget to include that as one of my influences, but it's definitely in there. Good eye. ;)

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    1. I've spent years watching and reviewing B-horror movies (and worse) on my other blog, Radiation-Scarred Reviews (http://www.radiationscarredreviews.com/) so they tend to be a easy point of reference for me.

      I should be getting my dead-tree copy of LotDS (as well as Purple and Torth) in the next couple days, and that's when the serious filling in of the blanks will occur. I'm kind of tempted to place LotDS on one of the Purple Islands and make that a campaign climax.

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