Six Griffons Haunt & The Underderlve Menace

 

You may be familiar with Ron Lundeen from my reviews of Headless Hydra Games’ two modules in Mor Aldenn, The Haunting of Soldragon Academy and Wreck of the Keening Crone. Recently, Ron Lundeen has also created his own imprint, Run Amok Games, and today I’ll take a look at his first two offerings:

 

The Six Griffons Haunt

 

This adventure is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 29 pages for this first adventure by Run Amok Games, the new company of Ron Lundeen, so let’s check it out!

This being an adventure review, the following text contains massive SPOILERS, so potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.

Still here? Righty right, so essentially we have an investigation of a haunting – the aristocratic, exclusive Six Griffons lodge has seen some hauntings and the PCs stumble across a rather violent manifestation of said haunting. The situation is made more precarious by the fact that the lodge houses a collection of magic/unusual weapons. Before you start sighing and devise ways to deprive the PCs of the stolen weapons, rest assured that they won’t waltz out of this adventure with an arsenal of magic weapons.

Hired by the butler/resident scholar of the lodge to find the cause of the unrest before a scheduled dinner of lodge members, the events start to escalate pretty fast. People start dying in rather macabre (and potentially lethal ways for the players), but without accumulating an overdue bodycount. The adventure features some rather interesting twists on the classical haunting that are massive SPOILERS:

First of all, the culprit is not the classic undead, but instead a new creature called haunting elemental. Even better, they are only the symptom of the true problem and a corrupt member of the lodge tries to steal what is supposed to be a weapon to grant innumerable riches. The weapon that is confused with the silver-creating instrument of destruction is in fact the true culprit – a weapon cursed by its djinn-creators to forever thirst for the blood of evil creatures: If the weapon’s thirst is not sated, the deadly elementals start manifesting. Have I mentioned that one character is a djinn in disguise that can act as a savior if the PCs are stuck?

While format-wise the investigation is rather open, it also contains a timeline and puts some pressure on the PCs to find out the truth without unnecessary dawdling. It should also be noted that the adventure comes with 4 extensive handouts the PCs should analyze (which are consolidated on two pages for ease of printing out in the end) and a gorgeous 4-page full-color map of the lodge. I do have one very minor gripe: The Haunting Elementals. They reminded of of an old Planescape-joke with Berkamentals and quite frankly, could have been other creatures, as they don’t feel like elementals to me.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard and the pdf comes with excessive bookmarks. The beautiful map and b/w-mugshots of the characters herein help to endear both characters and location to the PCs. This adventure is a rather fast-paced investigation with several fail-safes if the PCs get stuck, moderately difficult encounters and an unique flair – following the tradition of Ron Lundeen’s Soldragonn Academy (by Headless Hydra Games), the adventure does feature a rather dark sense of humor that does not devolve into a massacre or truly mature material – indeed, the best way to describe it would be a investigative comedy of manners with a very dark sense of subtle humor. If played right, suspense and smiles at the characters herein go hand in hand, at least they did in my game. My group finished the adventure in one session, meaning that DMs with clever/investigating characters might want to throw in some additional red herrings. This and aforementioned personal preference are the only true gripes I can find, though, resulting in a 5-star verdict – well done! Now let’s see a more complex one! 😉

 

In for another one?  All right!

 

 The Underdelve Menace

 

This adventure by Ron Lundeen is 57 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial and 1 page SRD, leaving a whopping 54 pages of content for the second adventure published by Run Amok Games, once again written by Ron Lundeen, so let’s check out whether it can hold up to his stellar work so far!

This being an adventure-review, and for an investigation to boot, I strongly urge and advise any players to jump to the conclusion. SPOILERS abound and you don’t want to spoil this one, believe me!

Still here? Are you sure? All right! The town of Yonderdell is a boomtown of sorts, but one of a kind that is seldom depicted in our games, though it is only logical they exist: Yonderdell is located near a relatively safe passage into the underdark and adventurers laden with coins tend to go down there…and sometimes even come back! The small town has profited from this influx of coin and thus been established as a nice place to live, especially with the distinct lack of deadly creatures crawling up from the realms below to kill hapless people. In fact, adventurers killing everything off while descending into the depths and sentinels have kept the town safe and quiet. Until now. Yonderdell has been plagued by a string of missing persons, some of which have been found horribly mutilated. At behalf of the town’s ealdorman, the PCs are to investigate the disappearances and make them stop. While still being subjected to the job-interview, they are interrupted by one of the missing persons being found – a halfling barber is fished out the well and promptly turns spectral undead on the onlookers. After the PCs have dispatched this first foe and potentially questioned people and the corpse, they’re off to further locales.

Wait, questioned the corpse? Yes. The Underdelve Menace is a scenario that does not leave the GM alone with the tools at the PC’s disposal. Detect-spells? Covered. Speak with the Dead? Covered. Special tracking? Covered. We see such considerations all too scarcely in modules and especially in investigations, covering these basics is essential and helps immensely when running the scenario. Even better, in contrast to most published investigations, the “Underdelve Menace” is probably one of the most non-linear ones – essentially, there is more than one way to success and even a plethora of different possibilities for the showdown. Better yet: How the group has acted towards a key-NPC may actually determine the very nature of the final showdown. From an eccentric gnomish gunslinger and his dire badger pet to the gruff, stern female captain of the sentries, the PCs will have an interesting challenge at hand when dealing with the inhabitants of Yonderdell.

Even better, if your players are like mine, they are too clever and usually quickly deduce the nature of the perpetrator, necessitating complications or the weaving of a second adventure plot into the main narrative. This adventure does something similar – actually, two independent groups are responsible for the missing persons and a mastermind is manipulating one of them. In order to truly consider the adventure a success, your players will have to put together the clues, make the right deductions and then best the forces of their opposition. The adventure does all that while avoiding linearity. It should also be noted that especially rangers and characters with tracking skills will LOVE this particular module, as there’s ample to be done. Oh, and the combat is nothing to sneer at either.

And that’s about all I will divulge of the story. Because some players might read this. And because I really, really want you to buy this.

RPGNow.com

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are almost top-notch – one of the bookmarks (Act 3) is situated above what should be the first – it’s working, though, and the only glitch I could find. no typo, no other errors. Layout adheres to a two-column standard and the pdf, as mentioned, is bookmarked. The original b/w-interior art by Blake Wilkie is awesome For the DM’s convenience a timetable of the events is included and information on scaling the adventure (including the more complex statblocks) is given. It should also be noted that, while a gunslinger is featured in the module, an alternate version for firearm-less campaigns is provided. 3 pages containing a total of 4 handouts, including a player-friendly, key-less map of Yonderdell (YES!) are part of the deal as well.

And then there’s the full color map pack – 26 pages. Yonderdell’s map in full color and EVERY combat-encounter area of the module, blown up for use with miniatures, in gorgeous full color, with instructions on how to assemble them battlemat-style – cartography by Hugo “Butterfrog” Solis and Joshua Bennett, btw. If you don’t know Hugo’s detailed, beautiful work – the closest analogue I can think of is Jonathan Roberts. His maps are that nice. The massive map-pack alone could probably be sold for 5 bucks, but here it’s part of the deal and just another reason why this non-linear adventure with its subtle, twisted, by now almost trademark Lundeen-humor in some locations (you’ll know when you read it)is a stellar buy.

This constitutes one of my favorite investigation-scenarios for PFRPG as of yet, features several unique ideas and should provide ample fun for you and your group. Seeing my lack of anything to criticize but a jumbled order of perfectly working bookmarks and the fact that we finally get an investigation that is a bit more complex, I’ll settle for a final score of 5 stars + Endzeitgeist seal of approval for this awesome module. Now, what would it take for Ron Lundeen to write a 100+ page mega-investigation à la “Snows of an early Winter”? 😉

 

As always, thanks for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out. 

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Reviewer without a cause