Knowledge Illuminates is the first module from GM Games and the kick-off for the author's One-Shot Adventure Series line. The module is written for 1st and 2nd level characters with a suggested maximum of 8 levels. Tim and Ivy were kind enough to send me a review copy, so let's get started!
Tim Shorts is a DM. I know this because I've read his module. It's always a pleasure to see a DM at work! :)
The module opens with introductory and background material, consisting of, amongst other things, an Alchemist's Doom, Marvelous Substances, a Dangerous Artifact and a Wicked, Metal Looking Demon! There are some cool ideas here, which can be expanded upon and used throughout a campaign. Some of these might readily be developed and become major focal points during the PC's careers. This material, along with several possible adventure hooks, sets the stage for the second and third parts of the module.
The adventure begins for the PC's, with an outdoor area to explore. The DM is provided with a keyed Hexmap, on a scale of 1 Hex = 1/4 Miles. A page of the module is devoted to presenting the Hexmap, which shows the features of the area, elevations and 7 keyed areas for the PC's to find. Hexcrawl time, baby!
Along with the Alchemist's Workshop they're looking for, the players will probably run into some monsters, interesting sites and find themselves some treasure, as they go about exploring the out-door area. There are opportunities for combat, as well as ways said combat might be avoided. Some of the encounters could turn a bit bloody and there's a possible encounter with an Ankheg, in particular, which I would expect to kill at least one character.
The aforementioned Alchemist's former Workshop will eventually be found and serves as the Dungeon for the adventure. It's accompanied by a map which is scaled 1 square = 5 feet. Again, a page is devoted to the presentation of the map and there is a second, smaller copy of the dungeon map on another page, which is handy and still big enough to be perfectly usable with my middle-aged eyes.
The dungeon is a short, straightforward affair, with 11 keyed areas. It's rather linear, but I think that's fine for a small dungeon. Tim gives us some traps, monsters, nasty tricks, cool dressing and a little bit of weirdness. Overall, our author makes good use of his dungeon and it should prove to be a lot of fun! Again, things are likely to get a little hairy (Undead, man! Undead!) and the players are going to have to be sharp. They will run across some magic items (some really cool arrows in particular) which should help them deal with the worst of it, if used judiciously. This section ends with a Concluding the Adventure wrap-up, which offers some suggestions for further developments.
The final and fourth section, lists new spells, creatures and magic items which the reader should find generally useful and there's some cool stuff here.
As mentioned above, the maps are by Robert Conley. For those not familiar with Mr. Conley's cartography, this means they're very, very good!
The text is two-columned and features a few drawings from The Forge Studios. Monster stats are in bluish shaded boxes and a few sections have additional advice for the DM, given in italics. I noticed one typo. I found the overall layout and design to be pleasing to my sensibilities. :)
The module instructs the DM to call for a Skill Check roll, at certain points and at the beginning of the module, Tim advises the reader to ignore these if he wishes. The DM will probably already have a way of handling this sort of thing and the usage implies, pretty much, how the Skill Check and associated Difficulty Level are to be utilized, but I would have appreciated a bit more information, regarding the author's intentions, here. A newbie DM might find himself at a loss, as to how to handle this.
The Cool, Metal-looking Demon mentioned above isn't a foe in this adventure, though he is described and his minions do show up. I still would have liked to see a Monster Block write-up for the fellow, because I like reading stats for Cool, Metal-looking Demons!
I enjoyed Knowledge Illuminates and if you're in the market for a low level/starter module, recommend picking it up! I think it'll prove to be quite fun to Run and will also be useful for ideas, inspiration and general reading pleasure! This is another PDF, which I'll be printing out. Congratulations Tim and I'm looking forward to your next release!