NorCal Mythos Mission Decks Kickstarter: Khieron’s Keep Sample Pack Quick-Start Guide from
“Khieron’s Keep is a supplement designed to take a party through a gaming session without a GM. This sample pack is designed to be a one shot with 5 encounters before a boss fight, exploring the Ancient Keep.”
The Khieron's Keep Mission Deck Sample Pack has me ridiculously excited to see the full thing with the unlocked Undead Deck, and desperately wanting to see The Rise of Taven Shay and The Nameless Terrors of the Void! My need is mighty!
The care with which the narrative and flavour elements are crafted of the sample one shot, The Ancient Keep, blew me away! From the setup of a distraught father bursting into the tavern pleading for help to save his son, tracking him to a strange ruin, battling through the incredibly modular and infinitely repeatable dungeons filled with all manner of challenges and monsters extolling the glory of the depraved Gladiator who awaits you in the bowels of the dungeon, to the dark and sweet endings with acrimony or glory awaiting, it’s a thoroughly entertaining tale! However you fare the insidious seed, the calling of the dungeon’s depths, will be felt equally my character and player alike.
The system is incredibly simple to use, yet has such variety with separate Map, Encounter, Monster, Loot and Boss Decks, which come together with endless variety.
The Map Cards are varied and full of character, laid out with an alphanumerical grid for ease of reference, with one or more doors to approach or escape from, and three plotted points in different places on each map that correspond to the Encounter Cards.
The Encounter/ Conflict Cards have various sections relating to what unfolds, beginning with Room Entry, setting up the party’s approach to the coming room and any opportunities, dangers and/ or challenges are posed, before entering. The encounter itself comes next, which is written out with a description of the situation, calling for Monster Cards, their placement and behaviour, and Loot if applicable. Finally, the Aftermath section describes…the aftermath of the encounter, often with rich and unsettling flavour text relating to the adventure. The Encounter Cards may set a difficulty for the encounter, which the monsters are drawn to equal the difficulty using the experience points (XP) value of the party. Rules are in place to try to avoid the party getting overrun if the drawn monster/s exceed the set difficulty, with the lowest combat rating (CR) being the set monster to use when the XP for the encounter is maxed out and the encounter calls for more bodies. The table for quantifying the XP also includes the addition of Too Far as a category above Deadly, which is extremely helpful, as Deadly is a particularly nebulous and open-ended bracket.
The Monster/ Target Deck contains the creatures that stand in your way as you explore the dungeon. Each card has the details of the creature split between the two sides, with one having the name, quick reference elements such as Hit Points, Armour Class, Tactics, Attacks, Saves, etc, and intriguing digital art, while the other has the Ability Scores, Skills, Languages, Attributes, Actions, etc. The layout and artwork are striking, easy to reference and the inclusion of tactics make the GM-less play easier with greater direction. I’m excited to see more monsters, especially the new and unique creatures Nor Cal Mythos have been cooking up!
The Loot Deck contains the magic items and gear that can be acquired for completing certain encounters or vanquishing monsters. Those included in the sample deck are all existing D&D5e items, so I am intrigued to see which others we see and if we get some new toys to play with! These cards are drawn at random, so you never know what you will end up picking up, and there is also the option of pulling the loot first and facing the enemies in possession of the item, which could lead to some very interesting encounters…” all of a sudden you are fighting a goblin with a staff of fireball.” Some encounters or monsters may reward you with coin rather than items. A table is provided with amounts of coin to be rolled for the relevant XP, with particularly high rolls getting to snag a Loot Card.
Boss Cards are a brilliant innovation, a template which can be applied to any monster, so rather than having a set amount of bosses, absolutely anything could be waiting for you in the depths of the dungeon with any manner of boss profile. These cards are drawn when a pre-set goal has been achieved and have their own instructions and information. This will involve drawing one or more monster cards and applying the template, along with any bonuses and abilities that come with it. These improvements are tailored to the XP rating of the party with a table of specific improvements with the additional XP needed to raise the value of the encounter to Deadly. In the example Boss, Gladiator, these ranged from 100-2500 additional XP. Having this template nature of the Boss Card in this sample allowed for anything from an azer, through giant scorpion to a zombie getting beefed out into the Gladiatorial Boss.
Short and long rests are accounted for with rolls to determine whether something nasty from the Encounter Deck barges in while you are breaking out your packed lunch or catching a few Zs, using your fallen foes as pillows.
I played through The Ancient Keep one shot several times solo running a third level Dwarven Vengeance Paladin, Graenor Rubblefist, with various sidekicks each time. Each run felt different with the nature of the narrative, encounters and monsters, as well as the tale-telling nature of D&D, stories started to appear with a strangely undead-and-bandit-heavy run ending with a mighty zombie gladiator boss, while another was full of giant beasts and monstrosities, overseen by a truly terrifying azer gladiator. I confess I have yet to conquer The Ancient Keep, but I just keep playing again and again. It was tough tearing myself away to write this review to be honest.
This is a perfect way of playing D&D without someone having to DM. Personally, I love DMing and playing equally, as well as being more than happy to play solo games between sessions. This system works wonders for any time I want to play solo, or don’t have the brain to run a session. From solo to a whole adventuring party the Mission Decks have you covered. This is going to be a godsend for my partner and I, as we love to play our duet games, but there is something very intense about one-on-one play, and this is a great way for us to actually get to adventure side by side, without anyone needing to DM. This is also a fantastic option for when the DM can’t make it or you are down players, but you still want to roll dice and adventure.
With a sample of this quality, I can only fantasise about the full adventure, expanded decks and, desperately hope for the further adventures and extensions!
Support the Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/carbynejungle/mission-decks