Dracoprimia I: Disaster in Drak’kal

Dracoprimia I: Disaster in Drak’kal

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The first module in the Dracoprimia-saga clocks in at 43 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

 

Before we dive into the meat of this module, a brief disclaimer – the following is an adventure-review. As such, it obviously contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

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All right, still here? Some of you may have been to the city of Drak’kal (which comes with full settlement stats and gorgeous full-color map, btw.) before – if you’re like me and follow a lot of AAW Games’ modules, you’ll have passed by the city before, perhaps in the Fallen Leaves adventure arc. This time around, though, we begin the campaign in this city – one of the 3 sisters that constitute an outpost of the Klavekian kingdom’s civilization before the wilderness of Serpent Lake and its environs.

 

No here’s something playing against the trope: The Broztavya Circus is in town, and it’s not a collection of insane killers or horrors hidden behind a thinly-veiled disguise. I know, stunning, right? And yes, I pretty much mean this – I can enumerate quite a few nasty circus modules, but one that actually depicts a “normal” one? Well, that would be a rare occurrence. As such, I greatly appreciated the very detailed gather information entries as the show is the talk of the town – it’s supposed to be the most daring show yet and rumors even speak of elven blood among the performers (something rather rare in the human-centric Klavekian kingdom)…performers the PCs can actually meet as the walk around town and soak in the sights – from the drunken bear tavern to the docks, there is some opportunity to meet the performers and make sure they’re not cannibalistic psychopaths.

 

The lavishly-mapped (in full color, with grid and player-friendly!) circus and its performers – from carnival games to knife-throwers…only the northern tent is restricted, after all, there, the animals are kept…and they include a friggin’ dire bat, a deinonychus…and a man with dragon-like features and crystalline, gleaming scales. If a PC knows draconic (and no group I ever ran did not have that language), there’ll be no misunderstanding – Verja is intelligent and not just grunting. He’s one of the rare Draaki (pioneered in the Underworld-Races-series). Alas, the cages are magical and a jailbreak does not seem feasible…for now. It should be noted that the module does contain information on magical auras to be found in the circus – something I *really* wished more modules took into account – nice going there! This has a reason, though – you see, there have been mishaps…and a rather nasty wizard seeks to ruin the harbormaster and is using the circus as collateral damage – finding the devious enchantments is a pretty uncommon (and cool) task for the PCs.

 

After a relatively brief period of investigation, though, the main show begins – here we have wonders most awesome and intriguing, as a steam-based orchestra my malfunction (or properly work) – it should be noted that each act sports read-aloud text when it works…and for the instance, when the dread enchantments placed take effect – so yes, the PCs may have to save the tightrope-walking halfling, prevent the half-orc stongman from going berserk and avoid an accident with the knife-thrower’s performance – failure results in potentially pretty grisly results. Then, it’s time for the clowns, and to the sound of a strange word, all the cages pop open, as the animals run rampant – at this point, things escalate…fast. Worse – the conspicuous vikmordere raiders among the audience attack the PCs as astute PCs may see a clown escape…

On an unrelated note – the word uttered is an Easter-egg: “Spaetzle” (roughly translating to “little sparrow”) is a glorious type of egg-noodle extremely tasty and popular in Southern Germany. Particularly Swabia is well-known for these very tasty noodles.

 

Back to the action: When the moon priestess and leader of town arrives, guards take note and thank the PCs – alas, unfortunately, the animals are still at large – a deinonychus in the tavern, hyena in the market, a rhino in the streets, crocodiles at the docks and, obviously, the dire bat – nice: Both docks and alleyways get full-blown, gorgeous maps – and at the docks, the PCs can prevent the mad mastermind behind the troubles from killing the notoriously corrupt harbor-master that ruined his life…and see to it that a better man can get this station. More importantly, the priestess can facilitate communication with the draaki: The creature, now free, was tasked to bring Upperworlders according to an ancient prophecy to his tribe via the newly established Rhizomorph road – so yes, adventures and the underdark await in Part II!

 

The pdf provides a map of the whole world of Aventyr, the Klavek Kingdom, a grid-less version of the circus, a version of the alley-map sans elevations for the buildings and a grid-less version of the docks.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a mix of original artwork in color I haven’t seen before and stock art, though it maintains a concise look. The pdf’s cartography by Tommi Salama is superb, as I’ve come to expect from him. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

 

This pdf is a breath of fresh air – when so many level 1 modules take the low level as an excuse to be boring, this is the antithesis – the circus is a great hook, the challenges diverse and the module exudes Mike Myler’s trademark levity: This is not a grisly module, although admittedly, the results of failures to deduce sabotages can have unpleasant repercussions. In fact, I playtested this one with kids (ages 7 and up), toning down the effects of failures to deduce the problems and it works in that context just as well. In fact, the kids got ALL the sabotage-attempts and while the final confrontations proved hard, the module can be solved sans bloodshed. For didactic purposes, I grant such groups the option to deal nonlethal damage sans penalty with spells and attacks – if they want to be the good guys, they don’t kill the bad guys – and indeed, it is my experience that they don’t want to be the bad guys; even a suggestion of killing a circus animal by an NPC was met with defiant scowls and “We’re the heroes, we handle that like heroes!” A heart-warming experience, really. Fun fact: Since the kids did not suffer from anti-circus-carnies-gonna-kill-us-all-paranoia, they had an easier time than adult players in this one.

 

The module as such is great, fun and steers clear of all those nasty 1st-level module clichés. If you want a nice suggestion: You may want to download Fat Goblin Games’ Halloween charity-product Carnival of Sinners (available as “Pay what you Want”) when running this module – either for the (evil) carnies to supplement the circus, should you wish to increase the gritty-factor, or to simply enjoy the carnie-speak that book offers. It adds a whole new dimension and some damn cool synergy to an already fun and inspired module.

 

When all is said and done, this can be considered a truly exciting, unique start for the Dracoprimia-AP, one that sees me tremendously excited for more. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

You can get this neat module here on OBS!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

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About Endzeitgeist

Reviewer without a cause