Sunday, April 24, 2011

Vor Rukoth: Review

I had been interested in this adventure site guide for a while, since I read about its publication on I have to admit that Tieflings, as a race, were not really interesting to me, as I think that their origin makes for potentially problematic gameplay. However, I do like the idea of an abandoned city with a dark past, so I thought I would revisit Tieflings through the setting guide, and see if I couldn't come up with some ideas for how to use them more effectively.

The first thing to note before even getting in to the module itself is that it sort of assumes that you already have the Player's Handbook Races: Tieflings book, which gives an overview of what Tieflings are, where they came from, what Bael Turath and Arkhosia were, and what happened to them. It references these things, and gives very cursory descriptions sometimes, but most of the time you feel like you do need a little more information about the background, which the Tieflings books provides.

Like the other setting guides, it consists of a cardstock "cover" which actually folds out into a map of the entire city, and encloses the actual book (which doesn't have its own cover), as well as a play map, which has an infernal looking "throne room" sort of setting on one side, and a generic ruined city street setting on the other. The maps are never alluded to anywhere in the book itself, but one can assume the throne room setting is the Horned Throne Room in the Ruby Court, where one would likely have the climactic encounter of the module, with Najala the lich queen. Unfortunately, Najala herself is never statted out, requiring you to either use a generic lich build from the MM or else build your own custom Najala. Her phylactery is statted out at level 15, however, and it looks like an interesting battle in and of itself.

There are a number of specific locations designated and described within the city (36 is the number, fact, although some numbered locations have other sub-locations), and with each location, a few adventure hooks and occasionally a statted special enemy. A lot of these are not very inspiring (as they are very specific), but most are adaptable enough to be usable. My chief complaint, however, is that since the location is intended to be a repeat adventure location over a broad spectrum of levels, each "neighborhood" has a variety of levels of encounters written in, but without much saying how players might traverse an area populated by high-level encounters in order to reach one with low-leveled encounters in a neighboring area. I suppose that is under the purview of the DM and limited only by imagination though, so it's not really even a valid complaint. They do suggest environmental effects: an earthquake, sealing off some areas and opening up others; flooding, revealing long-underwater locations while inundating others; even a meteor shower, destroying large portions of the city. Additionally, some of the adventure hooks also have their own environmental outcomes as a result of completing or failing their objectives which could have effects on large portions of the city. But it's all very sketchy.

In my current campaign, we began with The Slaying Stone , where part of the adventure was clearing the city out, so that one day people could move in again. I can foresee Vor Rukoth having a similar eventual outcome, having an epic-level campaign culminating in creating a new Tiefling homeland where Vor Rukoth is the new capital. But that's for the future, I suppose.

Overall, I wish that the module had come with more maps, rather than just the generic street view and the throne room. There are so many interesting locales described in the module, I'd have liked to have seen some settings for them to play upon without having to buy more and more dungeon tiles, especially because there are not a lot of "demonic" or "ruined" terrain tile options. With most "setting" modules, having only one map is not so bad, but with an adventure setting where the focus is tons of different locales, multiple maps would have been a plus. The adventure hooks, I feel, all said and done, are adequate enough to stimulate a lot of good ideas, and the locale descriptions, though sketchy, are still good enough to come up with more ideas. I'm excited to try to get one or more Vor Rukoth based adventures in my campaign, especially testing out some of the more interesting mid-heroic-level demonic enemies in the Demonomicon and the MM 1-3.

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