Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/12/05/tabletop-review-castles-
I’m a big fan of the Castles and Crusades roleplaying line. I love how the system is a nice blend of second edition AD&D, OD&D and some modern ideas. Unfortunately I haven’t been a big fan of the published adventures. As we saw in my review of The Forsaken Mountain, the content of the published adventures not only tends to be a bit dry, but player characters often come off as secondary to the NPCs in them. Still, I’ve not given up hope, and that’s why when I had the chance to pick up the Dwarven Glory collection, I did so happily. Just flipping through this collection of three adventures reminded me of the old Dungeon magazine in both tone and layout.
Each of the adventures is your basic short dungeon hack. There isn’t much of a story or even a setup for any of the adventures. As such these are definitely for gamers who prefer hack and slash or exploring to political intrigue or intense role-playing sessions. Each adventure also has the same four paragraph introduction for players, which feels a bit sloppy. Surely something could have been done here to make each adventure stand out more.
The first adventure is “The Looking Stone” and it is for a party of characters whose levels are between four and six. The adventure revolves around a feliul stone, which is basically a animated boulder possessed by the spirit of an insane bloodthirsty dwarf. Much of the adventure pits your characters either against the feliul stone or investigating a long abandoned bath house. The feliul stone makes for a great opponent and due to the unusual nature of this antagonist, players will not only be caught off guard, but have to come up with some interesting tactics to defeat it. After all, how do you fight a giant spherical animated piece of rock? The bath house contains nine different locations to explore and it surprisingly has a lot of different encounters which keeps things interesting. Nine rooms may sound a bit small, but this is meant to be an adventure that can be played in one shot. My only problem with “The Looking Stone” is that there is no real resolution or setup. Characters are just thrown into the exploration of the area without any real reason why and there is no conclusion for the adventure given. This is a problem with all three adventures in Dwarven Glory which is odd, especially for a Castles & Crusades adventure as they often contain an overwhelming amount of back story and set up.
The Second Adventure is “Wyrm Well” and instead of investigating a bath house, you are investigating a Dwarven dungeon. The adventure is supposedly designed for three to five Level 2 characters, but considering the amount of combat in this adventure and the fact some of the monsters include a Ghost Naga and an 8 HD Wyrm, that’s pretty optimistic of the design team. In the adventure’s defense, the thing IS littered with healing potions, but to me that only makes it worse as some adventuring teams might not find them, either because they are killed before hand or they didn’t search hard enough. The adventure also contains a lot of magic items and the final battle has your players getting hit with a double bless spell (which it is implied that they stack, but that doesn’t seem right to me) so players will be helped, but because of all the items put in to help low level characters survive this, “Wyrm Well” feels more like a Monty Haul adventure than anything else. In this short little dungeon crawl, you’ll find over six magic weapons, several pieces of armour, some scrolls and the aforementioned collection of healing spells. I’d have preferred to see the character levels a little higher and a lot less magic items, but that’s just me. Aside from the plethora of items, the adventure is your standard dungeon crawl and it offers a nice amount of challenge for players.
The third and final adventure in Dwarven Glory is ” The Winding Stair” and it is for three to five players at either third or fourth level. This is my favorite of all the adventures as it features a really awesome magic axe as the center piece of the adventure, along with the ghost of a fallen dwarven hero who will attempt to possess a player character, albeit it more or less benevolently. This dungeon crawl takes place in an underground remains of a castle. It contains fourteen rooms and offers a nice amount of diverisity. There are fourteen rooms, but there’s not a lot of combat. You’ll encounter a shadow mastiff, a succubus and some green slime, but that’s it. As well, there is no final battle per say. There is a “big bad” so to speak, but the climax can be as simple as just walking away from it. There are a lot of magic items to be found in this small adventure, but because the adventure revolves around a specific magical weapon and it takes place in the remains of a once great dwarven citadel, I’m fine with it. There are thousands of gold pieces worth of loot to be found, which due to the location make sense, but that’s a LOT of money to be throwing at fourth level characters. Overall, I really liked the adventure. The lack of monsters made everything seem more suspenseful and ominous and it helped to prove that a dungeon crawl doesn’t need to be littered with creatures to be fun or effective.
So overall, I’m pretty happy with the collection. Again, I’m disappointed with the lack of any real setup or conclusion for the adventures, but a good DM can do this themselves. I also find there’s a little too much magic being thrown around as loot, but this is a consistent problem with every Castles & Crusades adventure I’ve ever read through, so this is more a personal taste thing than anything else.
Unfortunately I can’t outright recommend the collection for a small reason that isn’t readily apparent when you pick it up. It’s the price tag. As mentioned in the header, Dwarven Glory costs $4.99 or $3.99 if you purchase it from Drivethrurpg.com. However if you look through the Castles & Crusades lineup on DrivethruRPG.com, you can see that older versions of these adventures can be purchased separately and for roughly a dollar each. So it’s $3.52 to purchase these adventures separately, but $3.99 to purchase them in a bundle. A bundle or collection should always be priced cheaper than buying things individually and because of this snafu, I’d recommend buying each adventure individually if money is tight. However, if you would rather have one PDF instead of three, the collection is the way to go.
So overall, the adventures in Dwarven Glory are fun short little hack and slash dungeon crawls that will entertain gamers who don’t have much time to play or are new to the Castles & Crusades system. They’re a bit dry and there’s not much in the way of story for each adventure, but they are still entertaining in their own right. For four bucks, this isn’t a bad deal – especially if you’re a longtime C&C fan.