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From the Deep #2: Ruling Three $9.99 $6.99
Average Rating:4.0 / 5
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From the Deep #2: Ruling Three
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From the Deep #2: Ruling Three
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/31/2012 06:19:41
The second installment in Dreamscarred Press's all-psionic AP is 48 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages plot-synopsis of the whole AP, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 42 pages of content, so let's check this out!

This being an adventure-review, the following text contains SPOILERS. Potential players might wish to jump to the conclusion. Still here? All right!

After putting down a puppeteer-hive-mind in "Uncertain Futures", the new-found peace in the twon of Arbil turns out to be short-lived - contacted by Sudas, Ophidian captain of the guard, the PCs are tasked to find out the reason for a sudden exodus of Orcs from their city of Gyroth. Better yet, for Sudas, jealous of the favoritism the PCs receive from Mospehi due to the first adventure, this is a win-win situation - if the PCs succeed, great. If they fail, no harm done - at least in Sudas' mind. It should also be noted, that, as in the first installment of the AP, a rather significant amount of boxes adds little side-quests to the adventure, adding depth and potential immersion for the PCs as well as the opportunity to earn additional treasure and XP.
And indeed, the overland trek turns out to be rather lethal: While the initial orcish scouting party, hunters and trappers the PCs will encounter should not prove to be a significant challenge for the party, they aren't intended to be, but more on that later. In a nice encounter that hearkens back to "Uncertain Futures", the PCs can also encounter puppeteer-dominated duergar, if only to remind them of the fact that this particular horror is not yet over. Among the other encounter, there is a coven of psionic hags (including a mini-dungeon)and even a cyclops loosening up the continued skirmishes with orcs. Once the PCs had enough, they'll find and hopefully parley with the leader of the scouts, Frag'Goth and learn the reason for the orc's exodus - it turns out that the green-skins have been besieged by lizardfolk and whether the PCs try to infiltrate the orc-camp, all-out attack it or even recruit the orcs as allies (which may be the smartest move in the overall campaign arc), the advance of the green-skins is stopped. Also rather nice: Though the adventure doesn't tell you so, the lizardfolk spy might make for a nice assassin to be thwarted by the PCs if they royally screw up or if you want to give them a second chance at parlaying.

The problem seems to only have been moved, though, and thus the PCs are back on the trek, hopefully preventing a lizardfolk wilder from instigating a forest fire and fighting against scaled raiding parties. Again, there's a mapped mini-dungeon, this time containing multiple trolls as well as a phase spider and after the Pcs have tested their mettle against the superior, psionically-active lizardfolk a couple of times, they'll find the temple of Gyroth still standing amidst a charred wasteland and here, the exploration of the dungeon starts to become interesting: Here, the PCs will face off against "Form", a blob of dissected arms and hands and similar strange and unique beings - in order o reach this, again, mapped dungeon's boss, the mad lizardfolk shaman Urchag, the PCs will have to fool a wall that they are him and in order to do so, they will have to encounter 3 unique aberrations, which have been born from the discarded remnants of Urchag. While 2 are hostile, the third, Urchag's reason, might make for a disturbing, but honest ally and might fill in some details for the PCs. Once the players have vanquished the grisly mutation that once was Urchag (a phrenic aberrant shaper 6 - CR 8), they will not only find a chiseled map, but also find a hint to the source of the incursions and the lizardfolk's sudden appearance.

Back in Arbil, the PCs can hire a captain (who will return for a favor in a future AP-installment) to take them to the island of Less-World, where the PCs will be greeted as gods by the lizardfolk - who only speak draconic. Shasara, if spared, may serve as a recurring character and interpreter. Contacted by the Infellium Feather, a nature spirit and beseeched by the lizardfolk, the PCs will have to trave to the temple of the priesthood for two purposes: First, to complete the rite that makes them priests and eligible to lead the lizardfolk and secondly to execute the "Deep Masters" that have enslaved the scaled lizardmen, fed tales of the world beyond the island to them and made them the deadly aberrant mockeries the PCs had encountered earlier. Thus, the PCs face the trials of the temple and interesting they are - from a tile-based, simple puzzle (including a graphic representation of the tiles) to a rather cool corridor of whirling blades that can only be disabled once the trap has been crossed to withstanding the psionic onslaught of an unbodied for 5 rounds, the challenges are neat indeed and serve as a nice progression towards the showdown with the first of the "Ruling Three" aboleths, who guards the spiraling descent into their true dominion.

In these caverns, the PCs will have to square off against the aboleth's lackeys and in a climactic final battle vanquish the two remaining ancient aberrations. The map is once again in full color and depicts 3 different shades of blue for water-depths and honestly, this is also one of my gripes with this final section of the dungeon: While the different water levels are covered, I would have preferred the environmental information to be covered in the respective room-descriptions, as it makes the DM'S job slightly easier. Another wasted chance is that the tides (since these caves are supposed to be connected to the sea) don't fracture in at all - think about it: Aboleth caves some, of which are slowly flooding... That would have been so awesome.

On the bright side, the PCs can potentially recruit two groups of humanoids in this module for the sequels - let's hope that there'll be consequences for the PC's actions, as has been hinted so far.

The module also includes a 2-page article on Lizardfolk in the World of Ksaren by Jeremy Smith and a two-page mini-gazetteer of the shorelines of the protectorate by Michael McCarthy before we get to the new creatures in the bestiary section:

We get the Infellium (CR 5), psionic spirits of nature (fey) that are created from an animal or plant, a bestiary-entry for the race of Maenads (be sure to check out the alternate KQ-history for the race, btw.), the phrenic aberrant template (CR 1 to 3, depending on HD) and a sample creature and the Phthisic, Puppeteers, Temporal Filchers, Thought Eaters and the Udoroot (most of which will be familiar to you from other sources) as well as a two-page campaign-overview.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting in the revised version are good. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, full-color 2-column standard and the full-color artworks by Rick Hershey and Tsailanza Rayne are awesome. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, but without a printer-friendly version.

Oh, From The Deep-AP, how nice are your ideas: The option to acquire multiple allies for the future AP rocks and hints at the epic things to come - the variety of approaches is awesome, from extinction to helping, the choice is all yours. The side-quests prevalent in the module make for a cool way to add an organic feeling to the world and immerse the players further in the world and generally, I love the mini-dungeons in the overland sections, but they do offer a problematic vista: The general adventure feels cut-down, as if the random, unrelated sidequests chomped away some vital fractions of the main adventure.
Compared to the other dungeons, the final cave level (which had a massive glitch the nice guys of DSP have thankfully quickly taken care of) feels bland - After the stellar two first locations of the module, the finale feels somewhat loveless and generic. The first two dungeons are absolutely awesome - the confrontations in Gyroth and the priesthood's temple in Less-World are stellar examples of supreme design and honestly, while I like the additional material, I think that this module would have massively profited from cutting the content in favor of a properly developed climax and final dungeon. As written, the abruptness and bland finale (fighting that particular creature type in half-submerged caves? Never done that before... -why not make the final level easier, but add interesting environmental factors instead?) somewhat detract from what would otherwise be a very good module.

I really enjoyed Ruling Three due to one leitmotifs that shimmers through both installments of the AP so far: Consequences and Freedom of Choice. The PCs can strike alliances, they can recruit tribes, they can help all the people with their side-quests. They don't have to do so, but they CAN. Much of the coolness of this module derives from its far-out ideas and the options and consequences hinted at in future installments of the AP. That being said, I still maintain that the finale of "Ruling Three" feels a bit jarring and abrupt and that the final dungeon-level represents quite a significant drop in quality when compared to the first two major areas. It is due to the lack of truly interesting environmental complications and a slightly clichéd final dungeon level that I will settle "only" on a review of 4 stars, though the rest of the module could easily be considered great and worthy of 5. I am looking forward to the third installment of the all-psionic From the Deep-AP!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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