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Secret Machines of the Star Spawn
by Patrick L. M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/11/2017 12:20:49

“Locals have been hearing whispers of strange happenings around the Ancient Volcano. Rumors over the last several years of an unspeakable evil that has risen up inside. An evil that “fell from the stars.” There is something wicked and devilish going on inside. Highwaymen report of strange creatures, mechanical monsters, horrible beasts and “little green men” that are roaming the land. You are your stalwart adventurers have decided to take on the challenge of plundering the mountain for the treasure within! Oh and get to the bottom of these dastardly stories as well!”

These are the words on the cover beneath a picture of a Mind Flayer shooting lighting out of his hand at a sword wielding barbarian. His other hand shoots magic green missiles at a bikini clad woman with a ginormous afro, who is returning fire with her laser rifle.

This sets the scene for a more updated version of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. S3 was written back in the 1970s before Star Wars. It has a look and feel that is heavily influenced by Star Trek, Lost in Space, 2001: a Space Oddesey, and Space:1999.

This module, on the other hand, is heavily influenced by the Sci-Fi tropes of the 1980s. Written for OSRIC, it is fully compatible with AD&D. The maps are in blue ink and the pictures look like something in the TSR 1.5 era. The Hype in the cover blurb underplays just how awesome this dungeon is! It’s Totally Tubular! Reading through it, I found my self smiling as I read it and even snickering at times. It really made me feel good to discover a fun treasure like this!

It’s 44 pages of gonzo goodness including 10 new monsters, Flying Saucer Hanger 51, The Eternity Machine, Buck Starblaster, the Main Brain Machine and the Alien Autopsy room! There are large amounts of treasure hidden in almost every room. But if the DM doesn’t let them find it with a wizbro die roll, makes them actually Old School search for the treasure, they may not find a lot of it. . . . which is a good thing!

I highly recommend this module for as perhaps a prequel to S3. But it is great all on its’ on!

I loved the adventure! But I had not noticed that the first level has most of the rooms along a single path. I did notice that the room numbers were in apparently random order. That made it really hard to find a room on the map as I was reading through it.

Also, the teleporter is an issue. While reading through it, I didn't think most parties would ever make it to the spaceship part of the module. I hadn't noticed that there were no stats for the Star Spawn. But there were a few rooms where the PC's are supposed to meet him. While reading these sections, I was thinking my players will attack as soon as they seen him! Not go along with this show/race!

Still, I continue to recommend it. It was a joy to read and looks like fun to play.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Machines of the Star Spawn
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Villains of the Undercity
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/01/2016 12:31:38

Mark Taormino is like some sort of mad genius. I love his Maximum Mayhem Dungeons and each one "delivers the goods" in terms of hitting that nostalgia feel. What if the Keep on the Borderlands was destroyed and then humans came in and built a new keep on top of the ruins. Let's also say the caves of Chaos have been cleared, but not all the monsters were killed. Where did they go? What did they do? Now invite the Slave Lords from the A series over. You would get Villains of the Undercity! This adventure is an ode and homage to the great dungeon crawls of the day. While this adventure fits the gonzo style of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons this one can also be played straight. Well...sorta. There is a crazy Halfling Illusionist Assassin, but that is for the players to figure out. With this one anyone that has ever been inside a classic dungeon will find something to love. There are lots of deadly traps, monsters and puzzles to figure out. Of course plenty of treasure too. This adventure is also the one that I can see fitting into a larger campaign, even with adventures from other publishers. I was mentally placing it in Greyhawk or even Dolmvay. Just really a lot of fun.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Villains of the Undercity
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Secret Machines of the Star Spawn
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/01/2016 12:30:35

Mark Taormino is like some sort of mad genius. I love his Maximum Mayhem Dungeons and each one "delivers the goods" in terms of hitting that nostalgia feel. Let's play a game of what if. What if the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks had been written in the 80s instead of the 70s? What if there were influences of Star Wars, Buck Rogers, 50s sci-fi movies and just a little dash of 70s Blaxplotation? You might get something like The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn, but it would not be as good as the module Mark Taormino wrote. The module follows a similar flow of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons; something weird is happening, there are rumors, a long history of strangeness and a thin excuse to go adventuring. What they PCs will uncover is...well I don't want to spoil it. It's no shock that this adventure will feature a downed starship and some lasers. But it doesn't end there. In truth there is a lot to really, really like about this adventure. In a different setting the monsters would be scary ass deadly and really, really awesome. Also there is so many references to pop culture, espeically sci-fi and 80s pop culture, that it would be pointless to address them all. The rock band KILL was one of my favorites. Designed for OSRIC, I played bits and pieces of this using D&D5. Though it would work just as well with AD&D1, Castles & Crusades or any other OGL based clone game. The one issue I have with it (and very minor) is that players that didn't grow up in the 70s and 80s would not get all the jokes. I ran Hanging Coffins for my kids and they loved it, but some of the jokes fell flat on them here. No surprise they have no context for them. I thought they were hilarious to be honest. Loved the Pinball Wizard! If I were to run this again I would either merge it with a little bit of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and run a huge Star Spawn mega-adventure. Or I'd run it as is with some disposable characters and guys the grew up in the 80s too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Machines of the Star Spawn
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Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/20/2015 10:26:55

Also posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2015/04/a-to-z-of-vampires-vampire-queen.html

Hitting that nostalgia feeling hard is another adventure, The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen. This adventure, written by Mark Taormino might be an homage to the first Palace of the Vampire Queen adventure, but it is more likely an homage to those meat-grinder, total-party kill, fun-house dungeons of the late 70s early 80s. There is a basic plot here, enough to get you in the door and moving along, but really this adventure is about killing things and avoiding getting killed. Example, in one of your first encounters you have to run a gauntlet and get past a bunch of fire giants. Eight of them. And their hell hound pets. This is "room 1". It is downhill from there. It has demons and other vampires in the wander monster table. Liches, demons, succubi, greater devils, nearly 50 vampires in total, tons of other monsters and of course the Queen herself, Lady Neeblack.

This is not an adventure to challenge the resolve of hardy role-players. This is an adventure to survive and leave a trail of bodies behind you. It is old-school, but old-school through the eyes of 40-somethings looking back on their times as teens.
The adventure itself has a great lead in to get you interested, but that is just the carrot on a stick, most people buying and playing this module are going to want to jump right in. Another example (this is not a spoiler), you are captured by Lady Neeblack and told you have to run through her crypts for her amusement. The conceit is the characters will feel coerced into doing this, so they slide down a passage to the previously mentioned Fire Giants. In truth my players wanted to jump in like they were doing a dive at the pool.

Though to claim people will play this for nostalgia reasons is completely unfair. Mark did a great job of this. The rooms are detailed and what detail! There are interesting encounters and Lady Neeblack herself should really move up the ranks as one of the more memorable NPCs ever. In fact I am hoping that she comes back for a sequel sometime soon. Just like a good Hammer villain she should find ways to come back from the dead. Mark Taormino, this needs to happen.
The text of the book is big, easy to read and despite the "old school" claims still has boxed text to read (screw you Grognards! I still like boxed text even when I don't use it.) Each room is unique and feels like it belongs. Plus the "Hanging Coffins" themselves are the coolest idea in vampire graves since the Lost Boys.
The proof of any adventure is not in the reading, but in the playing. So I played it. It rocked.

Now the game is designed for OSRIC, but can played with 1st or 2nd Ed AD&D. I played it with 5th Edition D&D. I just replaced the monsters and made a character sheet for Lady Neeblack. I ran the same group of people that I had taken through the original Palace of the Vampire Queen and we all treated it as an unofficial sequel. I worked out well enough. We all had fun, but if this module reads as a deathtrap on paper it's a killer in the playing. So make of that what you like.
Personally I would love to run it again using AD&D1.

In any case this is one of those adventures that will have your players talking for a long time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen
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