Wizard’s Vengeance (2021)
Filip Gruszczyński (Self-Published)
Disclaimer: Sponsored Content but fuck that noise, get this one now!!!
Sometimes there is a charming synchronicity to events. My first donation after my revisitation of all the works of James Raggi, and what could it be but a homage to Tower of the Stargazer, with genes from Death Frost Doom and WHFRPG? And it’s from Itch.Io of all places!!!
The Holy Roman Empire, 17th century, hell yes. Lvl range is kept deliberately obtuse, with high level parties having the possibility of taking over the Wizard’s Tower, while low level ones can just stage a daring raid and (hopefully) come away with treasure intact.
The premise utilizes several elements that add some spice to the idea of a wizard’s tower. The bastard Wizard Albrecht, devil-summoner and purveyor of general assholery, has finally found himself on the wrong end of a pyre at the hands of the deliciously named Witch-hunter Ulrike von Dornheim. Unfortunately for the nearby townships, Albrecht has put into place a spell that, upon his death, will turn all the animals within an expanding radius into shambling undead abominations. Second, Ulrike, who doesn’t believe him, is planning on burning his tower and everything in it within a day .
So we are off. There’s a few problems with organization in Wizard’s Vengeance. The author has, wisely, tried to compartamentalize the adventure into introduction, tower proper and a follow up section called Running The Adventure that belatedly introduces a Hex Map of the region (sadly without a scale, but something can be inferred). There is something about the sequence of information as presented that ends up being more confusing then enlightening. It seems intuitive to present the region and outside actors that are time dependent like Ulrike first, THEN move on to the dungeon proper, MAP FIRST, and then finally handle possible permutations like having to flee through a nightmarish hellscape, persued by re-animated livestock (this last section is placed appropriately). Then use more cross-referencing because there are a surprising number of moving parts in this 34-page adventure.
This should not detract from the fact Wizard’s Vengeance packs one hell of a punch atmospherically, has a tower stocked with interesting shit and compounds this by employing that most Elusive of Module-Writing Gambits; The Dillemma!
Say your PCs make it up to Albrecht’s tower and meet the Devil, goat head and wings and tits thank you very much, he has bound there, the one who is tasked with fulfilling the contingency. He explains the spell, the amount of death that will ensue, and then offers a bargain. For each HD of Human sacrifices (willing), the radius of the spell will be curtailed, if the PCs offer unwilling sacrifices they can gain quite a bit of xp in the form of SATANIC POWER. The full level gained is a tremendous boon, and I would have liked a little bit more of a barbed hook in this section, as written it just seems too tempting. The orb that allows you to stare into hell (e.g. THE INVERTED FIRE) and the chess game with the devil for your soul is a delicious finish. Notice also the plethora of 0-level humans you can recruit or free as retainers in the tower
In comparison with Stargazer, the Tower of Wizard’s Vengeance is a bit less interesting to navigate. Stargazer had the infamous fake basement trap behind a secret door, bottlenecks, elevators to discover etc. etc. Vengeance is a bit more straightforward, although there are the odd interesting room to discover, and the inclusion of two balconies and a rooftop entrance mean there is some semblance of nonlinear exploration.
Like its predecessor the tower proper holds plenty of interesting magical memorabilia to excite and bewilder, objects of intense value interspersed with objects of terrible danger. Treasure is a fantastic mixture of rare tracts (obligatory library), strange objects (a golden chamber pot) and all manner of objects that can be of immense value, from tracts on healing the sick to books hewn from other planes on the construction of nanotechnology. The conception of a true sorceror’s tower as a place where anything is possible, which was present in Stargazer, is similarly present in Wizard’s Vengeance. The revelation that the mysterious Black Iron, which animates and forms one of the tower’s primary protections, is in fact Nanotechnology from another plane, is an excellent twist, and it exists side-by-side with Faustian devil summoning in a way that increases, not diminishes, the wonder of the place. It also has it’s share of DEATH. Nothing of the cruelty of Raggi’s poison needle in the handle of the first door, but some save or die, or electrified floors (properly telegraphed by fried rat corpses ONLY IF YOU LOOK INTO THE HALLWAY), and characters had better pick up on the deadly nature of the Black Iron soon or encounter some very formidable opposition.
There’s hints towards the second purported Variation of Wizard’s Tower, that of having the PCs hew through it and take it as a base of operations. If they choose to do so, they must soon contend with Ulrike, a 7th level cleric and her followers, not to mention the countless undead that will soon begin roaming the place. As written this is a goal suitable for more higher level players, as the guardian of the Library will likely make mincemeat out of a party of neophyte adventurers. Minor touches, like a hidden safe room with a teleporter to permit escape after a protracted siege are redolent with possibility.
One element that utilizes the ticking clock to great effect is the library proper. It holds plenty of texts that are of truly immense value but FINDING them will likely take many turns, thus if the PCs are aware that Ulrike is on her way, they must plan their looting spree accordingly. It would have been better to set Ulrike’s arrival more precisely, but again, this can be mitigated.
Then there are the permutations, the way it is possible for characters to interact with Ulrike, the random tables for a panicked flight through a region now transfigured into a hellscape of the walking animal dead, notice minor details that enliven each encounter:
Ox with a plough. Very slow, but will relentlessly follow the party to murder them
Undead boar. Charges from the bushes. 5 small piglets (1HP, Attack 1 damage) follow.
Wolfgang von Loschke, a noble. He was hunting with his servants, when the contingency hit them. He offers the party a 100sp payment for safely delivering him to his manor
And of course the quintessentially Solomon Kane-ian
A man in puritan hat and black coat. Lawful level-5 fighter. Insists on helping anyone in need. Balks at any vile deeds.
As a last nod, like many other good adventures, there is a subtle sprinkling of hooks leading off to realms perilous and unknown that are, frankly, wonderful. The description of the nano-technology destroyed realm, that can function as either death trap or source of great power and the open gateway is good stuff, but what GM can resist the allure of an old scroll describing the location of the Scepter of Redemption;
“The map leads to an old temple in the middle east already visited by Albrecht. He left an enormous mess there – summoned several devils, went toe-to-toe with Old Testament looking Angelic Guardians and brought destruction to the local population. There’s still treasure in the temple, but it’s a place of constant battle between the forces of heaven and hell that both went completely insane.”
Despite some difficulties in organization, Wizard’s Vengeance is the Real Deal. In terms of the tower proper as pure adventure location, I must give a very minor advantage to Stargazer, on account of the way it handles the exploration of its interior. In terms of content, Wizard’s Vengeance is every bit as wondrous as its predecessor. Taken as a whole, Wizard’s Vengeance brings great honor to predecessor by expanding upon the groundwork with various delicious elaborations, channeling an atmosphere that is QUINTESSENTIALLY LOTFP but that all too rarely manifests in its official line . Very good. ****
Wizard’s Vengeance can be picked up here for a song.
 Given the time limits and the expanding radius of the animation effect, it would have been better to define the exact moment of her arrival so it would be better integrated with the rest of the adventure.
 Is it the nod to WHF? Some subtle combination of Horror, History and Grimdark that you can smell in things like A Single Small Cut, DFD or No Honor Among Thieves but that doesn’t quite land in the later stuff.