I've read reviews from some Torg Eternity fans that say this is their favorite mega-length extended prepublished adventure and I can see their point... the adventure does an excellent job of capturing the essence of the mythic quest across a fantasy land while deftly interspersing the elements of our "real world" Earth and it's interaction with said fantasy land, Aysle.. the written descriptions of the scenes the PC's see are startlingly beautiful
(though, as I've mentioned in my review of the godbox, I would caution the GM against reading the parts where it goes on to say for example " You reluctantly tear your gaze away from the sight before you" amending that to something like " Any normal person would find themselves hard pressed to tear their gaze away from the sight before them" and let the player decide how their PC reacts.. players are (understandably) touchy about a GM dictating how their beloved creation.. their player character.. acts short of some sort of supernatural mind control or something to that effect and this unfortunately is a mistake the Torg writers are prone to making (see also my comments/suggestions on the Torg Eternity core rules about how to handle creatures and foes that are supposed to inspire fear "just because" without the fear being obviously supernatural, psionic, and so forth in nature) ...
On the other hand the adventure suffers from a startling lack of detail at times which can make it difficult to get the players to adhere to the plotline that they need to follow simply for the adventure to take place ... I admire how much action and adventure that the writers have packed into this publication and I would argue for that alone you'd definitely get your money's worth and that this is worth the purchase price... indeed it should be viewed as the other half of the Torg eternity aysle sourcebook, one book being basically "incomplete" without the other and serves as a prime example of how to make Aysle come to life in the Torg campaign... however this is one of the few occasions where, unless a GM is very good at coming up with stuff on his or her own at the spur of the moment when there's a "blank" in the adventure the GM is forced to address, I would argue that my lengthy (if you can stay awake through it that is :P ) blogspot entry below is not optional, but rather required at least for the first and third acts of the adventure simply to give the GM ideas on how to get the adventure back on track ..or even to get the adventure to function in the first place.. and if nothing else the blogger link below gives links to several maps and possibilities for pictures of NPC's which the writers have left out.
Which is another thing.. while I had criticisms of the godbox and fires of ra for areas where the writers left out a battlemap for conflicts that would have been helpful, I was very surprised by how few maps were put into revenge of the carredon in comparison to say the godbox or the fires of ra. Fortunately in this day and age of the modern internet a google search will turn up a wide variety of maps that could work for you with some modifications especially with the use of the free download infranview's paint dialogue tool/function.
My usual criticism of the lack of stats for NPC's applies here too but I was very surprised at the lack of statistics for crucially important NPC's like say Ardinay or to a lesser degree her chief arch magus ..
For the first act of the adventure I would argue that the torg eternity aysle sourcebook simply does not give the GM all the information s/he needs to run the courtly intrigue part of it properly ... I address this as well in my upcoming review of the Aysle torg eternity sourcebook but I would argue, even more so than the similar argument I made for the torg eternity version of the cyberpapacy sourcebook, that the original 1990's aysle sourcebook originally published by west end games is an absolute requirement , not only for Ardinay's stats but also for the much more in depth look it gives into the world of Aysle, the political factions that make up the various noble houses (important for act one of the adventure), the corsair sea faring folk (important for act five of the adventure) a much more in depth look at the deities of Aysle and some fascinating ideas about how intelligent "monsters" from Aysle adapt to their new Aysle conquered earth surroundings and even take advantage of it .. the "giants" (honestly more like the ogres of the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game but slightly more intelligent) acting as an enforcer for hire (giant bruiser template) in a three piece business suit is nothing short of hilarious. Armed with all three books.. the torg eternity aysle sourcebook, the original aysle sourcebook from the 1990's for it's wealth of information on the "home cosm" of Aysle itself, and the revenge of the carredon the GM can really make this adventure "sing" and have it live to it's fullest potential.
On the other hand more casual GM's and players may not need the original 1990's Aysle sourcebook at all .. it may be a situation like this
players: " so tell us again why we have to impress all these stuck up nobles?"
GM: " Because the adventure says so"
players: " Oh , okay " (players proceed to stay put at the dinner and insult the nobles back who are insulting the PC's)
... though admittedly the adventure doesn't require the PC's to impress the nobles for the adventure to proceed along it's established plotline .. but for GM's like myself and the players I prefer to game with who are big on the whole world building/detailed role playing aspect of RPG's we're definitely going to need more background information.. a LOT more.. than what the adventure provides.
Also worth noting is that GM's may actually enjoy the "blanks" the adventure leaves for the GM to fill in and simply fill in those blanks spontaneously, on the spur of the moment, in a manner that the GM feels suits his or her particular gaming group and expand on those ideas later on as the campaign progresses.. this is a time honored tactic GM's have used over the years in which case the adventure would not be viewed as lacking as all in terms of areas it leaves unaddressed and more so of a very large "skeleton" of many, many scenes and multiple acts with many areas the GM can happily fill in on his or her own.. in which case my extended blogger post below may be of no use whatsoever :) but I'd still encourage you to skim it just for the suggestions of battlemaps and their links on the internet if nothing else in case such a battlemap should become necessary or desired by the players or GM.
Despite all of these many criticisms.. which means I can only at most give this a 4 out of 5 star rating compared to say the godbox or fires of ra.. at the end of the day it's still a beautifully written adventure jam packed full of the epic adventures and sagas that are at the heart of any fantasy themed epic quest that a GM and players alike can have a lot of fun with if the GM is willing to put in that additional work.. or simply if the GM and players don't care in the first place and just "wing it for the sake of the story" where appropriate. If you have the patience to read through my admittedly incredibly (sorry :) ) long blogger post link listed below I have a lot of ideas about how to fill in the missing blanks including links to various maps generous mapmakers have made free to use on the internet a GM could use.
I was pleased to see that this adventure, given that it takes place in the second half of the first year of the possibility wars, was written as an adventure for beta clearance player characters, that is PC's who have accumulated at least 50 experience points (see the pay what you want torg eternity beta clearance player's primer). This allows you to run this adventure despite the PC's having played through say the godbox or fires of ra longer published adventures (see if you like my review of the godbox and the fires of ra) or even if the PC's went though all the adventures in the delphi council rising storm (all three of these are recommended and worthwhile purchases but as far as bang for your buck delphi council rising storm gives you a lot of adventures for the money you pay for it - I'll be writing a review for that one too soon). As the beta clearance player's primer states the PC's have to get to the 200 experience point mark before you start running Gamma clearance adventures for them so conceivably PC's could have gamed though the godbox, fires of ra and all the delphi council rising storm adventures and still play through this one although if you go that route you'll have Gamma clearance PC's at that point and, as the pay what you want beta clearance primer gamesmaster's guide states, want to start using the suggestions in there to ratchet up the challenge level for future published material you run the PC's through.
As I've been saying in all of my Torg publication reviews, in order to fully enjoy a Torg campaign to it's maximum potential you need to buy the torg cosm sourcebooks and with certain adventures like the Fires of Ra it's mandatory... which isn't necessarily a bad thing, they're well written sourcebooks that are a joy to read... try either the Living Land or the Orrosh sourcebook first , in my opinion the two best written torg cosm sourcebooks (see my reviews for them if you like).. while the Aysle sourcebook is admittedly the one I gave the lowest rating to for basically being an ambitious, noble attempt that is just too broad reaching to be properly addressed in a 160 page book (see also my upcoming review of the Aysle sourcebook later on), it's still definitely a worthwhile buy given the number of times the PC's are going to end up in Aysle if you run the Torg prewritten adventures - including of course this one.
Also enjoyable was the detailed look at Oxford presented in the adventure - this appears towards the end of the book but GM's should definitely read up on it prior to running the first scene of the first act of this adventure. The detailed look at the Carredon should also be read (also appearing at the end of the book) prior to running the adventure.... not only due to it's importance to the adventure but also due to the secrets revealed in general about the Gaunt Man, Utherion, Aysle and the Gaunt Man's end goals as far as the invasion of Earth, all of which are of critical importance to any Torg campaign.. the information there ties in neatly to the relevations in the Aysle and Orrosh sourcebooks which, again, I would argue are essential to being able to run a Torg campaign along with all the other cosm sourcebooks for that matter (the Orrosh sourcebook in particular is a very enjoyable read packed with lots of resources for a gamesmaster and absolutely worth the purchase price).
My criticism of the godbox and fires of ra applies here too in terms of a lack of NPC statististics for NPC's who are clearly intended to be plot devices or who are simply deemed too unimportant to be worthy of a stats write up ... which can nonetheless be a disadvantage for the gamesmaster if an annoyed PC targets said NPC (particularly the ones written up in sucn a way as to antagonize a PC) with a spell or attack or what not... also there are situations where a battle map is not provided for certain conflicts though as I mention in my other reviews there are GM's and players who don't bother with maps at all and favor a purely narrative approach for whom this probably won't be a problem at all... for gaming groups who prefer battle maps however I've found, surprisingly enough, reddit to be a valuable resource online if you do a google search using say the words "reddit modern rpg map trenches" for example.
Not only would I say that the Aysle Torg Eternity sourcebook (not to mention the original 1990's Aysle sourcebook) are requirements to run this adventure properly, I would also say that the gamesmaster absolutely should re-read the "warzones" section of the Aysle torg eternity sourcebook prior to running this adventure .. worth noting as well are the specific-to-the-Aysle cosm Aysle possibilities and the Aysle torg eternity note (page 63) that said possibilities are awarded for either role playing and choices that reinforce the Light or Darkness in the realm... in other words making a moral choice for good over evil (the reverse, making a choice for evil over good, will as I mention in my review of the Aysle torg eternity book lead to a world of headaches for the GM and definitely should not be encouraged unless the GM is willing to put in the time and energy to write up all sorts of "evil PC" scenarios that go beyond the original scope and content envisioned by the torg writers for their prepublished adventures) ... or the aysle specific possiblities could be awarded as a result of Aysle cosm cards played from the drama deck. I find the wording a bit confusing here although it's identifical in pretty much every cosm sourcebook at the beginning of the gamesmaster section.. however given the wording .. " Between acts, when you refresh Possibilities, you may keep the same number of Aysle Possibilities (up to the maximum refresh) or reset them to standard Possibilities."... I'm tempted to say that this means players have a separate pool of Aysle possibilities that get reset to three when the PC's proceed from one Act to the next in addition to the standard pool of three possibilities each PC's pool resets to when going from one Act to the next. While technically the players could simply convert them into regular possibilities for a total of six if I'm correct given there's no real limitation on the effectiveness of them (as opposed ot say for example the Living Land cosm possibilities which don't give a minimum 10 result when spent on skills that exceed the axioms, nature and reality of the Living Land like say Land Vehicles) I don't see any reason for players to convert them into normal possibilities.
As with the godbox and fires of ra reviews I had so many suggestions that it was impossible to put them all in within the space constraints of reviews here on drivthru rpg so if you like see the blogger link below for my many, many ideas as far as potential battle maps and links to them found online, thoughts on areas of the adventure where I felt the writers could go into more detail and my suggestions and so forth... even if you don't have the patience to read the whole thing (I wouldn't blame you :) ) at least skim it for the links to various rpg maps the mapmakers have generously made free to the public to use.
My usual warning follows if you do read that blogger post... if you're a player not the GM reading that blog could spoil your enjoyment of the adventure on the one hand.. on the other hand if you've purchased this with your hard earned money and simply hand it over to the GM without reading it I can see how that would be a bit annoying.. as well I know players who are mature enough to keep player and in character knowledge separate from each other during a game session and who even go so far as to subtly aid the GM by having their PC wander over to "wherever the plot is thickest" knowing already the overall plotline the adventure is expected to follow.. a helpful tactic as other players tend to follow suit if nothing else as so not to "divide the party" and an enormous boon to the GM.
I'll go into this in more detail in my upcoming review of the torg eternity aysle sourcebook too but one disadvantage a lot (not all .. the Living Land is a noticeable exception to this) of the torg eternity cosm sourcebooks have is that they don't go into the same loving detail with regard to the original invading cosm's world history and culture the same way the original 1990's torg books did.. the torg eternity folks have done a great job of cleaning up the original 1990's torg rules, improving it and making it more widely accessible to players and GM's alike but for GM's and players like myself who are a huge fan of in depth detailed lore regarding campaign worlds the original 1990's torg books are a worthwhile purchase .. as well they provided starting stats the GM can use for important NPC's that are left out of the torg eternity publications sometimes like say Pella Ardinay's stats (while she's intended primarily as a plot device I was very surprised to see a lack of stats for her in both the aysle torg eternity cosm sourcebook and the revenge of the carredon book) but you can find a starting baseline for her stats in the 1990's aysle sourcebook.. honestly I would just lift her stats entirely from there with appropriate changes introduced in torg eternity like ignoring the copmlicated spells rules structure in 1990's torg, give Ardinay the spellcaster perk multiple times to give her a wide array of spells and so forth.
As with other torg eternity prepublished adventures the writers assume (or I think I do for the revenge of carredon adventure book anyways, there's some startling scenarios the writers account for that in my opinion would send the PC's veering into the full on evil fallen to Darkness category) PC's are the good guys who will adhere to a higher standard of morality than your average person.. for example the moment of crisis section in the torg core rulebook states that the PC makes an active choice for good in service to some higher cause (not mentioned in the rulebook but could be as simple as defending innocents who can't help themselves, actively fighting people who are obviously the bad guys intent on hurting innocents, supporting some larger and more dangerous goal like getting food to starving people affected by the possibility wars and so on ) whereupon simple "stormers", not storm knights like the PC's, make a selfish choice.. either one is rewarded by becoming possiblity rated but the book makes it clear that the PC's made a choice for good, not evil.. further reading of the torg rulebook under the role of the storm knights in the war flat out states "protect the innocent" making it obvious that there should be no question that the PCs are the good guys in any given scenario.
Point this to the players quoting the page numbers from the torg core rulebook if necessary then on top of that outline how the forces of light and darkness work in Aysle.. the torg core rules go into this to an extent but pages 88-89 of the Aysle sourcebook go into more detail on this as well.. while Torg Eternity attempts to present a more nuanced view of light and darkness and tries to account for "good guys" who have darkness perks and who are more like say the punisher or wolverine from marvel comics, that is they have no problem taking moral "shortcuts" and killing say a helpless unarmed opponent , the big problem with this kind of character is it's not a very far fall from that to more morally grey and murky things like " We don't have time to save those innocents, we have bigger concerns we need to get to instead" or " Bad guys have a hostage? I shoot the hostage in the head, problem solved .. poor hostage was going to die anyways." I've seen this sort of thing unfold time and time again in campaigns where the hapless gamesmaster who asked for "good aligned" characters in his or her campaign watches players do this exact thing knowing that it will result in real life conflict between the players and gamesmasters .. in situations where I'm a gamesmaster who calls a player on thi sure enough you wind up with a surly player on your hands not happy that they can't play their character the way they've probably always played said PC and long arguments about the nature of morality, good and evil tilted towards the player justifying their actions. Furthermore as a player in such campaigns who does try to take the moral high ground as the gamesmaster and campaign asks it's incredibly annoying to watch other players take moral shortcuts and get away with it ... as a gamesmaster in such campaigns I've had players who are taking the moral high ground threaten to quit over other players who can't be bothered to take the moral high ground and quite honestly I couldn't blame the indignant players who were thinking of leaving the campaign.
As I've mentioned in my reviews of other torg eternity adventures the writers assume that the PC's will take the moral high ground and if they don't it derails the entire adventure... as a GM in addition to reviewing the expectations the torg eternity rulebook makes clear, I would review just how easy it is to gain a darkness perk in Aysle and if you acquire three or more of them you become a non player character lost to darkness and on top of that review the game rules about how a character's appearance literally changes in a way that will attract hostility from the followers of the Light in Aysle, that is PC allies, and I would describe how even core Earth forces who have seen a fellow soldier succumb to the forces of darkness automatically regard such a person as an enemy and will open fire on them, assuming with regret that such a person has been lost to the axiom wash transforming citizens of Aysle (and even if the PC who gets a darkness perk insists " I'm still a good guy" I would have the core earth soldiers answer " I know bloke I know, you really do think you are the good guy.. I'm so sorry" and then proceed to attack anyways ... in Aysle, any time a PC takes a morally questionably action (for example complain about why they have to rescue the innocent villagers and genuinely mount an argument as to why they shouldn't , even if they end up eventually doing it however) even if it doesn't result in a darkness perk I would describe how the PC's visage literally changes for a moment, becoming a more monstrous version of his or herself, before going back to normal and have any PC allies clap their hands to weapons and angrily demand an explanation as to what the PC is doing ..
I'm going to have to risk some minor spoilers at this point to address the personality conflict the adventure seems to have with itself... on the one hand the adventure clearly assumes that the PC's will go on the quest Ardinay tasks them with for the good of Aysle which in turn implies they are doing it because they're the good guys... but the adventure gives more than one situation where the PC's are given a choice as far as whether or not to abandon hapless persons who will most likely die without the PC's help so the PC's can concentrate on their quest .. I understand that the writers might be trying to establish a grim and darkly dramatic tone here.. the problem is you can't have your cake and eat it too.. in other words you can't use "save the innocents!" as the motivation for the PC's that has clearly been the case in other published adventures (godbox, fires of ra, delphi council rising storm) and then make the situation morally grey .. hopefully your players will react with confusion at the choice presented to them then simply do the right thing .. if not you're definitely going to have a problem on your hands with future adventures where the players are now of the opinion they can take "moral shortcuts" and the entire adventure gets derailed from what the writers have set out as a result. It's nice of the writers to address the possibility of the PC's (possibly regretfully) ignoring the innocents and/or allies in favor of their larger goal but it's going to create all sorts of problems and quite honestly I don't know why the GM wouldn't be tempted to inflict a darkness perk on PC's who take such moral shortcuts.
I think one big problem is how Darkness and Light are written up in Torg Eternity .. in the original 1990's Torg it was a lot more simple, they threw in a paragraph with giants who are followers of the Light in that they were honorable opponents but for the most part PC's were automatically assumed to be followers of the Light by default and if a PC started leaning towards the moral "blueprint" of the Dark... morally corrupt choices, taking "the easy way out" even if technically "in service to the greater good" the PC was considered to be lost to the forces of Darkness effectively becoming an NPC ... in Torg Eternity PC's are presented with the option of taking Darkness perks and being heroes who walk a morally grey area while still aiding the greater good.. which is great in theory , it just means that a GM can't reasonably expect a PC or group of PC's with darkness perks to be able to follow the prewritten adventures in Torg Eternity ... it's mentioned on more than one occasion in the Torg books (Torg core rulebook, Aysle cosm sourcebook) that persons marked by the Darkness are regarded with suspicion and distrust once found out as having Darkness perks in Aysle and as mentioned in the Torg Core rules (page 31) and Aysle cosm sourcebook under world laws have the potential to physically corrupt a PC leaving a distinguishing mark on him or her..
....somehow I have a hard time believing Lady Ardinay, no matter how desperate her situation, would willingly task any PC known to have Darkness perks with an important quest like the one detailed in this adventure.. the bad guys in Aysle, not surprisingly, will probably have Darkness perks or at the very least be physically transformed in appearance and/or race when they fall to Darkness as is the case with at least two potential foes the PC's encounter as the adventure goes forward .... if I was a typical NPC British soldier and I saw a PC with fangs and red eyes thanks to being marked by the Darkness perks, having learned from previous experience that the bad guys in Aysle can and do look like monster I would probably open fire first and ask questions later lest I be killed like my fellow soldier buddies who stopped to ask say a group of lurks " Are you friendly or hostile?" before being ripped apart.
The writer's attempt to portray Light and Dark as morally nuanced.. mentioning in the torg eternity aysle sourcebook that followers of light have been seen to commit terrible atrocities while followers of darkness have been seen to perform tender acts of kindness.. is interesting but ultimately simply muddies the waters too much... I would ignore the part about followers of Light committing atrocities.. they're the good guys, period.... the torg core rules flat out state on page 91 "A person’s appearance tends to reflect her alignment with Light or Darkness (though it can be hidden by various abilities). A knight of Light appears noble and genuine to those who meet her. Her armor shines, her clothes are clean, and her voice is pleasant and calm." ... imagine how confused the players are going to be when you have the same knight with Light perks shrug their shoulders, say " Oh well" and launch a catapult at the enemy gloating that they're holding innocent civilians hostage, killing the enemies and civilians alike and calmly saying it was "for the greater good".. sure you have the followers of Light committing atrocities just like the Aysle torg eternity sourcebook says but you're going to make the situation hopelessly muddled and confusing for players who are expected to be "the good guys" in order for prewritten torg eternity adventures to function as written.
....as I mention in my godbox review a GM who has the time to do so should come up with an actual questionnaire for their players prior to running them through their first torg adventure.. what would the PC do if faced with a helpless prisoner they had an opportunity to kill? Would the PC risk his or her life to save an innocent even if the odds of dying were very likely? Will the PC react with deadly force if insulted by someone they're not currently engaged in lethal combat with? This is one way of weeding out character concepts that just won't work and warning players who like to run murky morally grey characters that the adventure won't run properly with that kind of character in mind.. as far as the indignant players who angrily oppose this or players who let your warnings go in one ear and out the other then try to play their morally grey character anyways, I would listen patiently to their arguments then repeat your earlier point.. the adventure, any torg adventure, simply isn't written in a way that supports that kind of character and the character will derail the entire adventure though the PC's actions.
At this point I'm going to direct you to my blogger link below (the first part is a repeat of what is mentioned above, keep scrolling and you will get to the many, many ideas I had as far as filling in areas I felt the adventure could have used some more detail on )
[4 of 5 Stars!]