Harley Stroh's been writing some epic adventures, and DCC #72: Beyond the Black Gate is no exception. The players aren't just rescuing a god, it's The Horned King, based on the Master of the Hunt. And who entreats them? No less than Baba Iaga, though her hut is not in the adventure.
Yet players familiar with these figures know that they're not exactly on the side of good. And, indeed, Baba Iaga "summons" the characters by sinking their ship and forcing them to find shelter in her caves. Depending on the gamemaster's players, the gamemaster will either have a straightforward rescue, or several testy characters who may prefer to plan a way to betray their less-than-hospitable patrons. (Unfortunately, the adventure provides no troubleshooting in case they do.)
Baba Iaga's captured some of the sunken sailors, so a bit of no-or-little choice railroading later, the player characters are sent to the frozen Thrice Tenth Kingdom. There, the ice giants have captured the Horned King, who now sits in the throne of his citadel, glazily enthralled by the dancing ice giantess.
The citadel has been taken over by ice giants, and the encounters there are reminiscent of the well-known TSR "Against the Giants" adventure. Indeed, you can add further to this adventure by melding the adventure of the Black Gate with the details of Against the Giants.
The adventure is designed for six to ten 5th-level characters, but can be played by a smaller party of higher levels. Many of the encounters, from drowning at sea, to a snow avalanche, to falling off an icy bridge, are almost-instant deaths. However, player characters will have opportunities during the adventure to rescue other characters so players can play new ones. Also, the gamemaster can allow the NPC madman to be instead played by a player, or even add one of Baba Iaga's witches or a rescued sailor to the party.
The adventure adds The Horned King as a patron, for "heathen witches, barbarian shamans, and warriors that exalt the wild savage within". That should definitely appeal to some players! The Patron Taints are also pretty lively, from being overtaken by the call of the hunt, to demanding to be bested in combat by anyone in the party who claims authority. And, of course, since The Horned King is based on the mythological Wild Huntsman, the game master has plenty of resources on the internet to further develop this patron. (The adventure has no less than twenty rumors, primarily for the adventure, but also useful to flesh out The Horned King.) Unfortunately, only one unique spell, Slaying Strike, of three is included in the adventure -- write to Goodman Games to post the two others!
Despite the linearity of this adventure, this epic-swilling tale measures up to the memorable previous adventures by Goodman Games. Unpredictable or scheming players may force their way off the path of the plot, but adept game masters should find this quite entertaining.
[4 of 5 Stars!]