Epics are usually quite ambitious projects to endeavor. As we have seen, the difference between Lord of the Rings and Godzilla is organization and knowing your core audience. Do not think that Dungeoncrawl 51: Castle Whiterock, is just another “World’s Largest Dungeon”, which was very ambitious but often seemed to lack focus of the adventuring process. Castle Whiterock, instead, keeps its audience in mind and produces one of the most engaging epic adventures in the latter part of 3.5 history. Its biggest fault is combining all of this into one product instead of separating it over 3 or 4 products.
This may be the largest product produced by Goodman Games, but it is sure not their first epic adventure. If you look closely at their stable of adventures, you’ll find various series that combine together to form huge adventures that will take a party from levels 1 to 20. Castle Whiterock feels like one of these collections combined together and polished for consistency. The first book is Ruins of Castle Whiterock and will take the party to levels 1 through 6. The blue and green book manage the midlevel of the party and the final book “The Fiery Gauntlet” concludes the adventure at levels 13 through 15. This book also contains reference material to further integrate the adventure. In total, the book is pretty much 10 to 12 closely associated adventures with 3 to 5 major arcs.
Goodman Games shows with its intricate writing of the history that experience pays off. The story is tight and plot holes are far and in between. For a dungeon master, this is the kind of way you want a product of this magnitude displayed. Every NPC has some kind of back-story. There is a separate pdf for these NPCs for easy reference. Every location is described, again a separate PDF for these maps. For an 800-page product, having it broken up into 16 smaller documents makes it easier to palette. I read the red book adventure in the bathtub, flipped through the handouts in a waiting room and thumbed through the history PDF relaxing before bed time. No PDF is more than 150 pages. The resource material makes this book ideal to run a campaign out of. Because of the diverse history of the land, there is a great deal of adventure plots you can weave here.
The four adventure books, the key to the product, are written so that within each one you get a normal DCC adventure’s worth of fun. That includes great beginning hooks, weaving subplots throughout and a satisfying conclusion.
The Red Book, Ruins of Castle Whiterock, introduces the grunts of Castle Whiterock to the party by exploring parts of a mine system used for slave trading. This also begins to hint at the history of Castle Whiterock. The Blue Book; Peril, Paradise and Plunder, moves the party deeper into the Castle’s past, introducing rogue monks, a pyramid theme and pesky drow. The Green Book, The Crown of the Bone, concludes with a confrontation with a former group of adventurers powerful sorcerer, but not before assaulting a Deurgar fortress and a fun insane NPC gnome. The final book, The Black Book; The Fiery Gauntlet, contains the final three levels consisting of battling red and black dragons.
The PCs are not locked to the adventures of Castle Whiterock. Another supplement, the gazetteer, talks about the traditional kingdom of Morraine going in depth about cities and their NPCs as well as possible adventure hooks. In particular is a long section on Cillimar the closest city to Castle Whiterock and where some of the adventurer takes place.
For the Dungeon Master
The organization of this product can not be given enough kudos. My favorite section in each of the adventure books was the adversaries section. If you are the kind of DM I am and love to foreshadow villains (and have them reoccur), read through this section.
The Iron Word
Castle Whiterock is an epic endeavor that is the best adventuring product released by any company this year. The cost is quite reasonable considering the fact that you are getting 10 to 15 well crafted adventure that take no work at all to form a compelling campaign. There are also some really nice adventuring plots that can turn into some really cool sidetracks for a creative DM. The amount of rich material included with the product will give you a good year’s worth of Dungeons and Dragons goodness.
[5 of 5 Stars!]