Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tommy's Take on Curse of the Weaver Queen

I don’t like spiders. At all. I don’t go screaming from the room like a little girl (anymore), but I still don’t like spiders. I do like using spiders as creepy adversaries for RPGs, though, and Curse of the WeaverQueen has a more than a few spiders in it.
No, don't leave! It has nothing to do with Drizzt,
Drow, Lloth or Driders! Promise!
 WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Curse of the Weaver Queen is a fantasy adventure that is designed to be system free, using a set of benchmarks in the game stats to help you do the conversion work for Your Favorite RPG. Written by Tim Kask and published by Eldritch Entertainment, the PDF is available at RPGNow for $7.50. It is designed for “5-7 adventurers of moderate level” and comes in at 48 pages. As always when reviewing an adventure, it is difficult to go too in depth without spoiling too much, so be warned.

The cover image has a creepy spider-lady, but the look on her face kinda tips you off that there might be more here than meets the eye. The preface is very promising, talking about the possibilities in the adventure, as opposed to the hard-wired story. I like adventures with a bit of flexibility, even if they are probably harder to write.

The set-up is pretty simple…the local villagers have been set upon by swarms of overgrown arachnids of all types, and this leads to the older villagers talking about that lost temple of “spider-lovers”. This should be a good enough reason for most any fantasy adventuring group worth their salt to go investigating, no? This leads into some background information on the Disciples of Arianhrod, the Spider-Queen, who has followers that see her as a Lloth type wicked Spider-Goddess, but she was originally a more benevolent patron of weavers.

There is a section laying out the generic stat blocks, which use an Average Human baseline for you to work with, once you match up Eldritch’s Average Human scale with Your Favorite Game’s. Without naming names, the book seems to walk you through lining up the stats with D&D and (I think) Basic Roleplaying…but guys like me who are more likely to use this with Savage Worlds or the AGE System have a bit more work ahead of us.

The bulk of the adventure involves exploring the Temple of the Weaver Queen, presented a lot like an old school dungeon filled with giant bugs. It is a multilevel dungeon with the party eventually working their way beneath the temple and ultimately into the nest underneath it.

Along the way, the party has the possibility of encountering some VERY powerful opposition, or avoiding it altogether. In fact, many of the major adversaries of the temple have a non-combat method of handling them (even if it is purely avoidance).

Proper exploration can provide clues to help the party out, and can even springboard the group into adventuring into other such temples, each with an elemental theme (including one temple that is completely submerged).

The “final boss” has a tragic tale that the PCs may never get a chance to hear, though the tragedy doesn’t make them any less dangerous. Again, as with the enemies before it, there are at least two ways to resolve this conflict…neither one unheroic, though trying to find a way to resolve the conflict without violence could certainly be more rewarding for “good” groups.

There’s also some really cool magical item options, my favorites being a pair of eyeglasses that allow the wearer to see the corruption in another person, and a bridle that not only allows the user to control the steed wearing it, but enhances their speed and capabilities.

WHAT WORKS: I like the generic guidelines for stats, making it even easier to convert to Your Favorite Game than normal, in most cases. The option to travel to the other temples can really extend the gameplay of the dungeon. The twist with the final “boss” is very tragic and cool, making it fit in right at home in a dark fantasy setting, which tends to be my preferred flavor of fantasy.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: It’s a dungeon crawl…meaning there’s a few elements that just seem thematically out of place, at least to me, but that’s purely a taste thing. Pretty much every stat block is posted both as they appear in the adventure and after the first temple, which is odd because a) it is reposting the same material and b) it could have at least been at the end of the book, rather than the middle, which is an odd place to summarize things. Damage is the only thing that’s not “generic”, as damage values are assigned to most things, which may not work so well if used “straight” in your conversions.

CONCLUSION: I’m not the world’s biggest fan of dungeon crawls, but there are some cool elements in this adventure. My preferred use of it would probably be Savage Worlds or the AGE System as noted above, but I would totally have to rescale the damage as rolling 7d4 leaves waaaay too big of a chance of dice just absolutely exploding and taking people out fast.

Most people who know their game system can convert a lot of things fairly easily, but I know I get a little antsy about tackling, say, D&D4th Edition adventures because I don’t really KNOW the system. That’s not a problem here, as all you need to do is know your system’s human baseline and work out the math from the guidelines. While some of those challenges seem like they might be a bit much for a lower level adventuring party, the fact that there are built in ways for intelligent groups to sidestep them is a big plus: Play smart, don’t die.  Like I said, not the world’s biggest dungeon crawl fan, but I like a lot about how this was laid out, with the options for extra exploration, the backstory of the dungeon, the tragic undertone to the whole thing and the generic rules set.