The second part of the “Dire, Devilish Deeds”-saga clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 45 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
Now, for the purposes of this review, I do assume that you have read my review of the first Arcineum Devaneas module, so no, I’m not going to repeat the basic premise etc. and instead jump right into the action, okay? Great!
Now the following obviously sports SPOILERS. As such, I’d advise potential players to jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? Only DMs left?
Great! We left the PCs while they were still exploring the druidess’s gauntlet and thus, the next puzzle and next challenge loom: This time around, the handout-supported puzzle provides tiles or cards with pips – these cards need to be arranged in specific patterns, so e.g. only 4 pips a card are visible. 2 more such challenges are provided and once again, a DM’s cheat-sheet helps here. Each task mastered provides increasingly potent rewards. The next combat challenge transforms the PCs into dire lions and lets them face off versus bearded devils.
The next puzzle is one of my favorites – it provides 4 tiles that represent sections of a quarry pit, with pieces of metal gleaming from the soil. A legend provides the intriguing backdrop of this puzzle and the task is to arrange the 4 tiles in a way that the red marks on the tiles do not show up on the same horizontal, vertical or diagnoal lines – once again, a visual puzzle and an interesting one. The combat challenge pits the PCs in the shape of xorns versus metal-stealing chain devils for an interesting combat challenge.
Okay, the next puzzle is awesome – we get an array of summoning symbols, which should be created with one, uninterrupted line. The player’s task, then, would be to determine which of the symbols do NOT work like this – 12 symbols, only a few that can be properly drawn in one stroke. And yes, this IS more difficult than it sounds! Again, a damn interesting puzzle and like all herein, one that comes with a convenient DM-cheat-sheet for the solutions as well as a visual representation to be used as handout. The next test pits the PCs as invisible stalkers against the power of a bone devil -aka, the battle of constant misses. With at-will invisibility, this combat is pretty nasty and will take a bit…just as a warning.
The next puzzle is not one to have the PCs dillydally – a piece of flotsam sports two spirals…or at least, that’s how it looks. Can they determine only with their eyes which is a spiral and which isn’t? Sounds easy, right? Look at it and don’t use a pencil and it gets harder, believe me…nice optical trick, though not my favorite puzzle. After the battle of wispy misses, the next combat will pit the PCs in the form of tojanidas versus a fiendish giant squid.
Then, it is time for the final puzzle – a massive word-tile puzzle – each of the pieces sports two letters and is color-coded for the convenience of the players; making the puzzle harder can simply be achieved by making the tiles b/w. The puzzle itself is pretty much not that difficult, but the set-up here proved to be a bit opaque for me; the solutions, at least for my part, did not help me “get” the rules of this puzzle and it took me some time to determine how this puzzle was supposed to work. The combat thereafter is a nasty trick battle of elder earth elemental-PCs versus barbed devils and it yields the final wooden letter that makes up the final puzzle – each encounter yielded a letter, all together can be used to create a pass phrase to get the PCs out of the gauntlet. The final sections are devoted to replenishment of resources, rest and the significant and well-earned rewards for completing this daunting gauntlet…now the second awaits!
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard. The full-color artwork is neat indeed and the map of the gauntlet is also provided as a player-friendly version. The puzzles and solutions come in handy full-color and can easily be printed out.
The second section of Stephen Yeardley’s Arcineum Devaneas’-gauntlet is significantly harder than the first – mostly because it provides uncommon puzzles that do not rely on logic, but more so on intuition and visual thinking, with especially the penultimate riddle being slightly too opaque in its rules for my tastes. That being said, I consider the other riddles to be intriguing enough to offset that and yes, the tradition of puzzle-like combats is very much maintained. Easy scaling for group-sizes etc. has also been provided and overall, I enjoyed running this module just as much as the first part – which is no wonder: Part I and II HAVE to be run back to back, unless you’re only out for encounter-scavenging. running half the gauntlet makes no sense, so either get both “Arcineum”-files or none. (Arcineum Devaneas covers the druid gauntlet, Devaneum Arcineas covers the sorceror gauntlet.)
That being said, I wholeheartedly encourage you to get these adventures – why? Because when I started playing roleplaying games, the assumption was that we, the target audience, are intelligent folks, that we play, yes, but heck, while we do, we use our faculties. We train our imagination. It is my firm conviction that my papers, my works, my thesis – everything really, has benefited from the honed ability to think outside the box, to adapt to uncommon circumstances, to think in creative and unconventional ways. I’ll never forget the stunned look on my teacher’s face when I was capable of defining necromancy versus thaumaturgy in 5th grade or the time when I wrote the correct spelling of “Thoth” in the phonetic alphabet. Thing is, we seem to somehow neglect our brains in quite a few modules out there – sure, combat is exciting and all, a big puzzle-box with many variables, but there is a reason for the continued popularity of complex investigations.
We’re smart people. We like it when our minds are stimulated. Sure, brainless monster-bashing is fun…but a puzzle once in a while goes a long way to keep monotony at bay. Combined with the utterly unique premise, this saga of modules does just that – the combats are problem-solving exercises, the puzzles are diverse and deviate from the more common logic-puzzles (which I adore)- what’s not to like? This series is a breath of fresh air that definitely should be rewarded for all the chances it takes and for it not only having one unique component, but for being unique all around. This is one impressive first half of the Dire, Devilish Deeds-saga and I’m looking forward to seeing the second gauntlet! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the minor rough edges here and there.
You can check out this innovative module here on OBS!