The Cult of Fane (D20) - A Review
Format: 53 page PDF (47 content pages 35,000 content words),
Price: $6.50 (around Â£4.50)
Publisher: Red Moon Games (www.redmoongames.com)
Author personally known by reviewer (but no free review copy)
The Cult of Fane is part one of a three part epic story-arc, the Fane trilogy. Each part being a complete stand-alone adventure in its own right. It is also the most open-ended of the three scenarios as the adventurers must initially piece together the plot and act on their findings.
The story arc involves a local cult, dedicated to a long dead evil arch-mage, which has become active after long foretold portents of the mages return are seen. The arrival of a charismatic priest in the village and his subsequent departure apparently with a good chunk of the population is the trigger for the first part of the adventure.
The adventure is in 4 parts:
â€¢ Chapter 1 is information gathering, finding assistance, identifying the main protagonists and planning.
â€¢ Chapter 2 is a visit to cult HQ. A complete mansion to explore.
â€¢ Chapter 3 is the journey to the Church in the mountains and the encounters along the way.
â€¢ Chapter 4 is the final encounter at the Church.
The four parts of the adventure are relatively self-contained and are fairly clearly delineated. They should be done in order, though the investigation of the mansion could be omitted, as the adventure is structured to cope with that and other omissions. Should certain events not happen as expected then there are logical consequences, which could lead to further adventures or complications for the party later on. This is probably the best method of dealing with structured adventures that I have seen.
It is suitable for starting adventurers of 1st level and should take them up to 3rd level on completion. Each of the four chapters should last 2 to 4 sessions each, so total gaming time is around a dozen sessions.
Pros and Cons
One of its great strengths and a hallmark of all the Fane modules is consistency. Consistency with the rules, with the monsters and internally with itself. Seemingly everything has been considered and arranged logically. The author obviously knows the rules well, uses the monsters intelligently, and doesnâ€™t take liberties with either. There is no rules breaking or stretching to achieve desired effects and the elements make sense in the settings reality.
The scenario is well laid out and logical. Atmospheric text is provided for most locations whether there is an encounter or not. Descriptions of encounters are complete with stats and likely actions.
The excellent cover art is provided by Anne Stokes who does lots of fantasy artwork including the covers to Mongooseâ€™s Drow Wars books. The covers look very good but a minor consideration is all that green ink would be a printer cartridge killer should you actually choose to print the covers. There are around ten pieces of atmospheric art spread throughout the book. These are good quality black and white drawings that match the storyline and can be used to provide player handouts or for scene setting.
There is a lot to take in. As the setting is internally consistent and there are interrelating plot elements the DM needs to have quite a good grasp of it before starting.
The open-ended nature of the beginning may need to be judiciously handled if you have players who are more used to linear scenarios.
The opponents and monsters are intelligent and use good tactics. What may have been a walkover in other scenarios may provide a strong challenge here, which could catch some players off-guard.
The adventure centres on an evil-cult and you get pretty much what you would expect including quite a few undead.
The Fane Trilogy:
Part one starts in a sleepy village and ends in a church in the foothills of the mountains. It follows the pursuit of the mysterious priest Ungal and those villagers who have gone to awaken an ancient evil.
Part two details the journey through the mountains to the base of Mount Fane and uncovering the real source of the Kobold menace.
- Part three details the final climb and entry into the recently reopened Tower of Fane itself. The party has its final showdown with Ungal and then must escape from the magically sealed tower.
Sensible and detailed suggestions are given on how to run each adventure as a standalone.
Nominally set in the Kyngdoms campaign setting, they could easily be set in any fantasy world with minimal changes, just a few names of places and deities to alter.
What do you get for your money?
The scenario is 47 printed pages (35,000 words) of actual adventure (not counting the cover pages and OGL legalese). This consists of:
3.5 pages of GMs introduction detailing the background, and plot.
9 pages on Chapter 1 â€“ the Village of Mazula - 16 locations, 10 notable NPCs.
10.5 pages on Chapter 2 â€“ the cultâ€™s huge mansion â€“ 56 locations, 1 notable NPC. Cult members and animated undead to overcome.
7 pages on Chapter 3 â€“ the journey through the mountains â€“ 14 locations. Many natural hazards and other wilderness encounters to overcome
7 pages on Chapter 4 - the climactic encounter at the church â€“ 22 locations and many undead to overcome
3 pages of GMs notes on concluding the adventure and how to run it as a standalone.
2 pages of player handouts
- 5 pages of maps and floor-plans
Many locations have atmospheric text that the GM can read aloud. They follow best practice and provide full details of their contents and DCs required to perform expected tasks there as well as any other details required to link encounters together.
There are many encounters ranging up to CR 4. Each encountered creature is given a full stat block so you donâ€™t need to refer to other sources during the game.
What play styles is it suited to?
Chapter 1 has plenty of NPCs with their own opinions, secrets to hide, and information or items to help or hinder the party or the investigation. So there are plenty of opportunities for character interaction and only limited scope for combat here.
Chapter 2 is a kind of dungeon crawl of the cult HQ, but with important information to gather along the way. So plenty of opportunity for fighting, sneaking and general mayhem but little character interaction apart from one important NPC.
Chapter 3 is a road trip with set and random wilderness encounters. Mostly natural hazards and combat.
Chapter 4 is an undead fest.
Overall the scenario is well suited to action oriented players though those preferring character interaction are not neglected. Particularly at the beginning there is scope for in-depth character interaction.
What would I change?
As the plot starts off as an investigation is it important to fully understand who-is-who and who-knows-what from the outset. Making a mistake here could send the players off in the wrong direction (and make you look badly prepared).
If I was running it I would create a central checklist of the NPCs, who they are, what they know, who they know and what others suspect about them. This is available in the module but spread out over their encounter locations. So it wont take that long to put together and will help you understand the plot elements more easily. It will also simplify the running of the investigation significantly.
Would I run it?
Yes! It is a great example of how to do an open-ended start to an adventure. The story is gritty and realistic and everything fits together so well. It should make you look like a good and knowledgeable GM without trying too hard.
The size and consistency of the module means that you have to have a reasonable understanding of the innards before running it. Great consistency and intelligent design make this an easy scenario to run and one that will hold both challenge and intrigue for the players. There is also plenty of scope for combat and action adventure along the way.
The scenario is well done and fully detailed making it easy to run and a good read. It hangs together well and has lots of useful atmospheric text to make the GMs job easier. It is a good example of how to do a professional action-oriented scenario.