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Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter $6.99
Average Rating:4.7 / 5
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2018 08:43:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

All righty, first things first: This review is based on the 2nd printing that features a bonus scenario. I will analyze that as well. The adventure is intended for 2nd level characters, and the presence of spellcasters is recommended, as there are some scenes where items may be activated via spell checks. If you happen to have no spellcasters, DCC’s rules still allow for spell checks for non-casters, but yeah – I’d recommend, as pretty much always, a well-rounded group. This adventure can be rather deadly, and certainly counts as one of the modules that not everybody will survive – particularly since the focus here is pretty classic: There are several rather tough encounters that can’t be skipped, so your group should definitely have some combat skills – more so than in “Doom of the Savage Kings” and “People of the Pit”, we have a more pronounced emphasis on combat. If you happen to love the modules, but not the rules, you should know that the module doesn’t utilize many of the more intricate and unique components of DCC, which makes conversion pretty simple.

Speaking of which: The inside of the front cover features a STUNNING full-page b/w-artwork of the location of the final showdown of the main module, which is AWESOME. Seriously, this one picture sets the stage perfectly.

As always, the module does provide well-written read-aloud text to help you navigate and run the adventure. The main module does not require more prep work than usual for a dungeon; however, the bonus adventure is pretty free-form and either requires some experience in that regard or improvisation skills. The adventure does come with the encounter table listing the adversaries encountered.

Now, and this may just be me, but since it’s what I experienced, here goes: Look at this cover. It may just be me; it may just be an odd peculiarity of my brain and the myriad connotations accumulated over my life. But…I honestly expected some serious Oz-references here. You know, due to the whole green/emerald-aspect. This is not really the case. This is not a happy-go-lucky adventure, nor a dark twist on Oz-themes. Instead, it is a crawl into the fortress of a seriously demented wizard. I’m obviously not penalizing the module for that, but I figured that it would be useful to some to state this clearly.

All right, as always, this’ll be the place where I pronounce a big SPOILER WARNING. I’m going to thoroughly spoil the adventure below, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only judges around? Great! Villagers have been disappearing, and the brooding citadel of the emerald enchanter seems like a good place to investigate – the mad mage seems to have once more emerged from his studies…and indeed, upon arriving at the citadel, there will be no doubt as to the grisly fate of those taken: The emerald guard constructs (emerald eidolons) seem to come in two variations: One that represents genuine constructs, while the other such guards are the result of living beings dumped into the sorcerous vats of the enchanter. The latter revert to their erstwhile shape upon being slain, and indeed, the first such man encountered will provide a clue for a latter part of the adventure with his dying breath. He stated that Thesdipedes knows the word, and this clue will allow the PCs to later save the transmogrified humans…provided they know how to ask the mummy that is a part of the Emerald Enchanter’s consultorium. Alongside a brain in a jar and a talking skull. The PCs can’t cast speak with dead? Luckily, there is a scroll that would allow any spellcaster to cast it, though that requires lip service to a patron, which could have interesting long-term ramifications and further adventure options. The reversal of the process btw. is based on a low DC spell check and a blood sacrifice of 1 point of spellburn. Nice to see that smart PCs can be heroic and do something “better” than murder-hoboing everything.

But I digress. The first room of the actual citadel holds massive mosaics that form into a tile golem, which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, if potentially very lethal combat: The entity can replenish its powers by drawing upon the environment, create beasts from tiles, etc. The mechanics here are amazing, and the options available to the golem are cool and consistent in their application. The golem’s tile absorption may actually reveal a hidden door, for example. Many modules would handwave this; this one provides mechanics. If I had one complaint here, it’d be that there is no real reward for being smart: The golem has Act 1d20 and gets a free tile draw (to blast, heal, create tile critters) in addition to 50 hit points. It basically represents a potent bottleneck right at the start of the module, and could be overwhelming to less experienced groups. If you have AoE-damage, this is the time to whip it out and destroy as many tiled sections as you can. Without AoE, though, you should get ready for a war of attrition that the PCs may well lose.

If you haven’t noticed it by now – this module is pretty damn dark, and while it does feature things that may seem goofy or gonzo, they’re not goofy, and even the gonzo components don’t feel funny. There is, for example, a hallway of blackened rock, with spirits of the slain trapped in the wall. These are hard to kill, attempting to hit them may result in broken weaponry, and they represent an important notice: Bypassing these is much easier than besting them, and indeed, this module is not necessarily intended to be cleared. Or, well, if you try, get ready to have the difficulty increase…

The eponymous Emerald Enchanter is a good example of a BBEG that has a presence before the final encounter: With emeralds acting as teleport foci and flying skulls tracking the PC’s every move, the evil wizard feels like a constant, threatening presence, and e.g. the lack of means to simply bypass many obstacles like the golem make sense from the perspective of this evil mastermind. These flying skulls btw. also represent a nasty trick: For a lot of the dungeon, these respawning surveillance mechanisms are pretty much a creepy paranoia-inducing dressing in creature form…until they’re not. There are instances where these skulls become capable of blasting the PCs with rays!

PCs doing their homework can also find the source of power of the emerald enchanter’s transmogrification vats, a captured moon-devil that clever PCs can free to gain a boon. An enterprising judge certainly should take this as a long-term angle to connect this section to adventures of the moon etc. in the future. Said entity is contained in a sublevel of the dungeon that is pretty much skippable – level 2 and 3 are both pretty brief and, together, constitute roughly the equivalent of a dungeon level that is slightly shorter than level 1 of the citadel. Minor complaint: The story notes that this thing is responsible for the transmogrification vats, but while releasing it does come with a potent reward, this has no direct impact of the finale, when it, logic-wise, probably should.

It should come as no surprise that, ultimately, the dungeon contains plenty of odd and weird guardians and magic tools – trapped protoplasmic demons, odd laboratories, ruby cats and topaz serpents – there is a clear leitmotif at work here, and a clear method to the enchanter’s madness.

It should also be noted that we do get a buff suite for said enchanter – and aforementioned demon? Well, freeing him does reward the PCs by making progress smoother. The showdown, which, as mentioned before, is lavishly-illustrated in a one-page, massive handout, features the emerald enchanter and his creatures – and a massive, factory-style mechanism that acts as a timer of sorts. Dawdling PCs will witness transformations of innocents. …but on the other hand, smart players will have a means to reverse the process by now, which can make the emerald enchanter trying to goad the PCs into rash actions less effective. Interesting choice!

This was where the main module used to stop. In this iteration of the adventure, though, the sequel “The Emerald Enchanter Strikes Back” (yes, with title printed in Star Wars font…) delivers the full-blown, unrepentant gonzo I expected from the module. This module was, to my knowledge, originally released as part of Goodman Games’ Gencon program booklet in 2014. Where the main adventure was an exploration through a mad scientist-style gonzo wizard, with some seriously dark tones, this bonus adventure penned by Jobe Bittman delivers the gonzo. It also radically deviates from the main module in structure, as it’s basically a hexcrawl. The overland map provided is separated in multiple zones, and from random encounters to a couple of keyed locations, this aspect is pretty free-form: Basically, the map is separated into two distinct zones. You see, the emerald enchanter the PCs have just slain? That was a simulacrum. Now, a gigantic robot…ähem…golem, with classic glass-bubble head and radiant emerald power-core in the middle is wrecking the landscape, and the module is about the PCs exploring the region and attempting to pin down the emerald enchanter’s engine of destruction. This is pretty amazing and a premise that could have covered much more than a brief epilogue.

I can’t say enough good things about this bonus adventure, but at the same time, it has one weakness that is somewhat grating. While the PCs theoretically can destroy the titan, it’s not the intended course of action. Instead, the PCs are expected to get inside the titan and make their way up. Wait…sounds familiar? Yeah, this premise was already used in the second of Goodman Games’ classic 3.X Wicked Fantasy adventures. That being said, the exploration of the emerald titan’s interior is much briefer and less complex, and emphasizes some goofy things. The colossus is not water tight, for example, so PCs in the feet may see the titan attempt to drown them by holding a foot under water. The colossus also will squeeze beehives inside, try to poke at players with treestumps, poking inside it – you get the idea. This very much embraces the ridiculous nature of the set-up. Sounds amazing, and frankly, it is. On the down-side, we get no descriptive text for the interior regions of the emerald titan, and indeed, scale and movement within the titan are not really covered, requiring pretty much that the judge wings these aspects. This feels doubly odd, since the aforementioned actions of the titan all get proper mechanical representations. The glass dome at the top houses the emerald enchanter, who proceeds to initiate evacuation protocols – 10 seconds, then the glass dome will detach and fly…wherever the judge desires. Nice way to segue into a new adventure!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect. I noticed a couple of typo-level glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column b/w-standard of these adventures, meaning that we get quite a lot of content per page. The artworks in b/w are amazing, and the handout of the final showdown is particularly glorious. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I can’t comment on the merits of the print version, since I do not own it. The cartography is, as always, awesome and beautiful – but there are no unlabeled versions of the maps, which means that VTT-appeal is slightly decreased…and that the players won’t get to see them. This is particularly grating regarding the bonus scenario’s hexmap. There is no justification for not at least getting a proper player-friendly version for the overland section. The bookmarks are pretty basic –no individual rooms are marked.

Joseph Goodman’s “The Emerald Enchanter” is an adventure that truly feels distinct in tone. The notion of a dark fantasy module that makes things that should by all accounts feel gonzo, actually managing to make them…disquieting? Horrific? Is quite a feat. There is no question as to the Emerald Enchanter’s vileness and insanity once the PCs get into this. Jobe Bittman’s bonus adventure adds a seriously fun over-the-top climax to the proceedings and represents a great change of pace. This adventure has a lot to offer, and I love its total commitment to its dark fantasy vibe and how it makes things that should be goofy disquieting. At the same time, it did not connect as well with me as the previous adventures in the main DCC-line. Perhaps it’s small inconsistencies like the one in the bonus adventure, or the fact that I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that the Emerald Enchanter’s presence throughout the module, his active counter-measures and the like, could have been more pronounced. The constant PC surveillance ultimately doesn’t amount to much, and feels like a bit of a lost chance. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/25/2012 08:00:55

Those wizards! Give them half a chance and they will conduct bizarre experiments without a thought for their neighbours... and this adventure, designed for 8-10 2nd-level characters, is all about stopping one such wizard in his tracks. He lives on a clifftop near a village, and the rascal has even been using some of the locals in his experiments. Maybe some of the locals were friends or relatives of the characters, or maybe these budding heroes have been asked to help out.

As well as giving a bit more background about the Emerald Enchanter and what he's up to, the introduction points out that whilst there are a good few dangerous opponents to be faced, there are 'backdoors' that crafty characters can exploit to their advantage, and that cautious groups who think about what they are doing, and rest and regroup at intervals ought to survive with at least most of their number intact.

The hilltop complex is described in detail, making it easy for the GM to set the scene for the players, and to run the action as they explore. Each monster or other threat has a clear 'trigger' upon which it will act as well as notes on how it behaves in combat. And there are some truly novel and ingenious encounters, about which I shall not say more so as not to spoil the surprise. Everything hangs together well, bizarre as it all may seem it all actually 'works' within the alternate reality of the game.

Ending with a cinematic and climactic final battle, this adventure provides everything one could ask for. There is a real feeling of having walked into something bizarre and strange yet within the context of fantasy quite credible. It's an excellent adventure and I cannot wait to round up some players to run through it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/24/2012 06:58:59

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/07/24/tabletop-review-dungeon-crawl-classics-69-the-emerald-enchanter/

I’ve always enjoyed the Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures. They tend to be quirky and have a little more substance to them than the average dungeon crawl hack and slash. I’m an even bigger fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics since the series stopped the Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition/Pathfinder/OGL bit and started using its own gaming system, also under the DCC name. The Emerald Enchanter is the third Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure by Goodman Games to actually use the DCC rules system, but it’s the first I’ve picked up since the switch was made. I was a huge fan of Goodman Games Age of Cthulhu: A Dream of Japan that was released earlier this year, so I was optimistic that The Emerald Enchanter would be just as impressive. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. While The Emerald Enchanter boasted some great artwork and wonderfully designed maps, the adventure itself was a little too dull and two-dimensional for my liking. I’m sure people who prefer roll-playing to role-playing will get a kick out of it, but this just felt like going from room to room and stabbing soft things with sharp things for my liking.

There isn’t much of a story here. Villagers have been disappearing and it appears that they have been taken into the fortress of the Emerald Enchanter. The Enchanter seems to be a strange mix of scientist and sorcerer as he is known to engage in strange experiments. As some of your friends are amongst the recent abductees, you and your party venture forth to free them, take down the Enchanter…and loot his palace. It’s not the most substantive of stories and while playing this, and there were a lot of unresolved points and unanswered questions in this adventure which disappointed those of us that went through this. Why is the Emerald Enchanter green? Why is he doing these experiments? If he can build emerald constructs out of non-living materials, why do it out of living as well. Even if the players don’t get a back story for the antagonist, the Keeper/DM/GM/Storyteller/Judge really should have something to go off of, otherwise you have a two-dimensional and uninspiring villain. After all the best bad guys are those that think they are in the right, no matter how deluded they are. Sure, a good GM can just flesh out the Emerald Enchanter to make the adventure more interesting story-wise, but then what’s the point of purchasing a pre-made adventure if you have to do a lot of the work?

Another odd thing about the adventure is that it is for eight to ten Level 2 characters. That is a lot of PCs running around a little magical citadel. I’m not sure why the decision was made to go with that many characters, especially as the maps show that this would make everything an exceptionally tight fit, especially when you have a horde of enemy cannon fodder in a room with you as well. With this many characters you’d have to march in one very long line to get through many passageways and some rooms wouldn’t be able to accommodate that many PCs, much less the monsters that are supposed to be in there. For example, the last battle would have roughly two dozen characters in a 120′ by 100′ foot room (The biggest room in the entire adventure BTW)…and that doesn’t include that at least a fourth of the room is taken up by machinery and various apparatuses. An adventure that has this many monsters and PCs needs to reflect that reality in the maps.

So what was good about the adventure? Well there were several interesting battles like the Tile Golem and the final battle which has a time limit of sorts attached to it. The artwork and the maps are quite stunning and are by far the highlight of the adventure. It’s times like this I wish I love showing the interior art of an adventure to players – not only to give them a visual idea of what is going on, but because it’s so awesome you can’t help but want to share it. The location is quite interesting on its own and I loved that the adventure actually put in things like a kitchen. Too many fortress/dungeon crawls forget that the big bad needs to eat, sleep and defecate (unless they are undead), and I was really happy to see this particular adventure remembered what so many forgot. The emphasis is definitely on the dungeon crawl rather than any story or antagonist motivation and in this respect the adventure does its job wonderfully.

So even though there isn’t a lot of substance to The Emerald Enchanter and it’s a literal room by room hack and slash without any real impetus for players, the location itself, the monsters within and the level of detail given to the room that most adventures skimp on makes this a decent experience, if not a great one. Again, some gamers are going to want nothing more than a dice rolling hack and slash instead of character building moments of an engrossing plot. There’s nothing wrong with that. Gamers who are looking for something more akin to Goodman Games’ Age of Cthulhu line will probably be disappointed by what’s here, but then Call of Cthulhu and OSR fantasy RPGs are so vastly different from each other, that gamers should know what they are getting into here. The Emerald Enchanter is almost pure combat and that alone should let you know if this is an adventure that you want to pick up or not. If you’re looking for a Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure with a little more meat to the plot, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but worry not, as so many small publishers are starting to churn out adventures for this system, that you’re guaranteed to find an adventure that has exactly the right balance between talking heads and swordplay for you and your gaming troupe.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2012 01:24:11

Semi-spoilers ahead!

Villagers have been disappearing—and some of them are your friends! A number of clues, various old superstitions, and a handful of vague omens point to the brooding citadel of the emerald enchanter. This silent monolith has sat undisturbed atop a windy ridge for centuries. Legends say that a green-skinned sorcerer dwells there, where he conducts strange experiments and builds enigmatic machinery. His emerald constructs patrol the grounds of his citadel, and he is seen only rarely when he ventures out on nefarious errands that end in horrid screams and strange lights coming from his citadel. Now you believe he is holding your friends captive. To rescue them—and potentially acquire some loot along the way—you set off to invade his inner sanctum. -- Player Beginning

Well, if that doesn't describe the adventure, I don't know what does. The Emerald Enchanter is a second-level adventure, by Joseph Goodman, creator of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. Like his previous adventures, EE gives the judge the same quality of dungeon: bizarre encounters to challenge the party, "a method behind the madness" to give consistency, a few captives to replace fallen members, and a "backdoor" to reward risk-takers. The adventure is fourteen pages long, shorter than his People of the Pit, but long enough for party TPK. The art is wonderfully evocative, definitely useful for the judge to tell the players how much trouble they're in. It's a well-designed wizard lair, which the judge (or players!) can use as a template for his own ideas.

My only quibble with this adventure is why the heck would you let strangers wander about your house? Won't they scratch the silver and damage the furniture? The encounter where the party initially meets the enchanter lets them cleverly "short circuit" the adventure, but warns the enchanter of these invaders. Why doesn't he send his emerald guards in their direction? (Or, since this is a dungeon crawl, who cares?) You could eliminate this encounter entirely. Or you could give a good reason for his non-interference, such as the party inadvertently releasing an NPC who kills him off, but doesn't adhere to the idea that "the enemy of my enemy is a friend".

Overall, I enjoyed this adventure very much. It has nothing to do with, but leads fine to the Free RPG Day 2012 adventure, The Jeweler that Dealt in Stardust. I mean, who else are you going to use to fence all those emeralds into gold?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Matthew T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2012 10:35:52

I’ve come to expect mysterious, bloody, full-on awesomeness from Goodman Games, and Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter does not disappoint. This adventure module for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game is crammed with combat, traps, weird creatures and magics, and that special new Old School charm that DCC invokes so well. This adventure is designed for 8-10 2nd level characters of all classes: thieves are needed to open doors, find traps and ferret out secrets, warriors will be tested with lots of combat, and spell-casters will find many strange magics to content with. There is lots of fighting, plenty of mysteries and surprises, and even some good opportunities for role playing if your interested.

I must say that the folks at Goodman Games apparently role play with much larger groups than I. 8-10 characters? I’m lucky if I get 4 players at a session! This circle is easily squared however by increasing the level of the PCs, by nerfing the adventure, or, as we did in my playtest, having the players run multiple characters (this option is quickly becoming the norm in my DCC games).

Ah, yes, my playtest. I was hoping to write a playtest review, but the game was a bloodbath, another DCC RPG TPK (don’t you just love this hobby’s acronyms?). As such, I only got to play about a fifth of the adventure, but what I ran was very exciting and what I was not able to run looks great.

If you’re a DCC player, all I can say is that this adventure will exciting and challenging. Tread carefully, think clearly, fight well, or meet your doom!

If you’re a GM, read on:

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. GMs ONLY

The Emerald Enchanter can be easily dropped into almost any campaign, though the introductory text assumes the enchanter is plaguing the PCs’ hometown. Most of the information needed is presented, though the GM should give some thought to the vulnerabilities, immunities, and special properties of living statues, golems, and such constructs (i.e. are golems susceptible to charm spells or paralyzation, etc.). There are also several mysterious entities as well as a dozen or so NPCs within the adventure that the GM may find herself role playing (including 3-4 potential 0-level replacements for fallen PCs).

There is a straight, brute force path through the adventure that heedless, lucky, and tough PCs may survive. But there are also a few shortcuts, mysteries, and hidden resources that a careful, clever, or daring party may use to increase their odds of success. If your players fail, there’s probably something they missed. And if you’re of the mind, you can play this several times before your players find everything.

A few bits of advice: special attention should be paid to the tactics of the enchanter since he will mostly likely be aware of the PCs early in the adventure; creatures suddenly turned from statues into flesh and blood should, in my opinion, be disorientated for a round or two; and the final confrontation may require map and miniature (or at least a few place markers and a doodle), as it is a tad involved. Also, as I reviewed the PDF version of this adventure I can say that if you’re planning on printing the module, you might want to print only pages 3 – 14 and skip the players’ handout and the maps. Nice as they are, they have loads of black space and will suck your printer dry faster than stirge cheating on its diet.

Oh, and one last thing I did learn from my playtest: the emerald enchanter has no adequate fire control in his citadel. If your players, say, climb onto the roof of the citadel, slip down a chimney, and accidently set fire to the kitchen, things will go badly.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
Publisher: Goodman Games
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2012 18:22:18

The Emerald Enchanter is the 2nd adventure released in the DCC RPG Line of adventures for 2nd level characters after Purple Duck Games' release of Bone Hoard of the Dancing Horror. If you are a referee that prefers to use prewritten adventures in your gaming, the DCC RPG is has the strong beginnings of a varied assortment to choose from.

The Emerald Enchanter isn't just the name of the adventure, it's also the hook that draws the players in - townsfolk have gone missing, and the Emerald Enchanter is the likely culprit.

I must say I'm really digging the adversaries in this adventure. The grunts have a nice twist to them. The more specialized adversaries? Awesome twists to them. I will never look at mosaic artwork the same way again. Ever ;)

The ability to work potential replacement characters into the adventure is in itself a great thing, especially with the potential lethality of the DCC system. I'm glad to see the author placed some replacements if needed.

The challenges are great, but so are the rewards. I think it is a pretty well balanced adventure, both in the challenge department and in the goodies the PCs might acquire. I think having a Wizard or an Elf in the party is pretty much needed for the party to succeed but I could be wrong. It's a shame I won't get a chance to run this until sometime in the future. My PCs are still 1st level.

The artwork is, as always, many layers of awesome. I'll say it again: Goodman, start selling art prints!

Oh, and the PDF is bookmarked as always. Nice job.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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