Praise the Fallen (2018)
Graphite Prime (Graphite Prime Studios)
Lvl ??? (4-6)
Prince prince prince review actual OSR. You can’t do magazines and interminable magical kung fu game reviews all year. Fine. Graphite prime has been on my radar for a while so now might be a good time to check him out. There’s only one caveat. He’s kind of artsy…
Overal adventure quality is pretty good. A fertile mind, hampered by what are ironically some layout and useability issues.
There were those demented powers that wanted to return all to naught, to become one with the Ever Slumbering Void. Pantheons collided and the heavens shattered with war. Untold cosmic powers were lost without their names ever spoken by mortal tongues. Countless legions fell. Defeated in their gambit of annihilation, they scattered across the universe. Several of the Fallen, fell to this world, forever imprisoned at their point of impact.
An assault upon a secretive shrine to a fallen angel, staffed by a cult dedicated to primordial annihilation, some of them transfigured by the Primordial Void. Somewhere between Warhammer, H.P. Lovecraft and Fate:zero. There’s some unwholesome 5eisms (recharge dice and advantage brrrr) inching into the thing but it is really quite a fun little adventure. No level recommendation, which has been amended in subsequent adventures and generic OSR, which is B/X – OD&D by any other name.
Simple hook, the players find a treasure map leading to a secretive shrine in the mountains. Roll d12 3 times for the fallen names. Zaphzeluthon! And we are off!
Promising map, even if it doesn’t really resemble a temple and the cultists having to inch past a lake of black pudding to reach the statue of their idol of worship does stretch credibility a bit. There are plentiful muh loops and some secret doors, properly telegraphed. The myriad idols, shrines, permanent annihilations and pools of shadow hammer home the theme. But where, you might ask, is the key. This is where the problem starts.
Artsy! You might be tempted to think, so fuck what? GP will just present the damn things in order so I won’t miss anything and I’ll still be able to figure out where everything is. But then, on the next page, haha!
The point is that having a map key would allow you to navigate the pages in an organic fashion while the current model means I might have to flip through several pages to find the room I want and I’m paranoid players might miss something. Because of the loops and branching paths in the map it is not really possible to predict how the PCs are likely to navigate it. Using a normal key probably would have worked better, even if it does require keeping a map open on a seperate tab.
Random encounters not set to a fixed frequency/turn ratio. Naughty Naughty! Many of the encounters are just cultists, hierophants or undead, but some are more interesting: Escaped prisoners, ogres or deserters. I think a minor opportunity has been missed to describe the cult a bit. One or two lines would have helped flesh them out in what is otherwise an adventure that attempts to cultivate a strong atmosphere. Of note is the last encounter, The Phaen Witch, a 200 year old 9th level spellcaster allied to the cult, who has an increasing chance to show up during an encounter, with the ability to teleport away and replenish her strength before appearing again.
Encounters proper is a decent mixture of weird shrines, bands of cultists, prisoners that can be rescued, undead dwarf slaves that will serve if the PCs are willing to engage in single combat with their champion, ghouls hanging from the ceiling as punishment for their betrayal and normal monsters given unholy powers by their link with the void. The impression of organized resistance is given, particularly with an organized smackdown at the end, where the cult has gathered in an attempt to rouse their fallen patron, but there is regrettably no genuine order of battle, alert status, or intelligent defense, which I think is a missed opportunity.
The shrines and statues add a bit of exploration. There are many dangers that can be bypassed if the characters obtain an amulet from the hierophants. Shrines that will reveal their riches if a C character prostrates himself before them, shrines that compel characters to cast themselves onto it, pivoting statues revealing secret doors, pools filled with void matter that will grant either annihilation (three saves to pass, jeez) or supernatural abilities. You get your permanent annihilation, your glimpses into the future, your Things that Man Was not Meant to Know, your blades of Shadow. A lot of stuff of the fuck around and find out variety. Clasp hands with the angel and either have your face permanently mauled, or receive a weapon of shadow.
Encounter wise we are still with one foot in the D20 era. Things frequently have interesting abilities (pale ogres with some sort of scalding breath weapon, say), but they attack in a straightforward manner. There are two large smackdowns with dozens of cultists which is very satisfying and the showdown at the end should prove possibly fatal for all but the most formidable adventuring parties but still, expect a lot of straightforward combat. Organization, a reward for clever thinking, maybe the ability to bypass a difficult encounter (and to be sure, if you have the key, you can bypass, say encounter 28), this is still something that is being worked on.
Treasure is a little on the dull side. Lots of random items and gemstones worth 2d4 x 100 gp and that sort of thing. The unique material is interesting and well themed but the bulk does not rise beyond the occasional ’embedded with opals.’ The decision to have angelic light engulf the players and remove the Void Blades and medallions (which allow perfect sight in darkness) if the adventure is completed, is probably a wise decision, but where the fuck is the treasure at the end? Also, 500 gp hidden in the rubble? That’s a lot of rubble. Total treasure is around 12k, with a lot of magic items, but the division seems a little off. Its placed in a way where you get that GP understands that it needs to be hidden, but the hiding place is almost a formality.
A promising start, and quite fun.
18 thoughts on “[Review] Praise the Fallen (OSR); Aspiring Champion”
Well reviewed. Bryce looked at this a few years ago, and I’ll inflict my views on the audience for a second time: it is a strange decision not to number rooms on the main map/mini-maps; (ii) it is easy for the referee to miss the possible cultist encounter in the hallway between 8 and 9, as it is not on the page where rooms 8 and 9 are described (as can be seen above).
A lively specimen, well worth a gander, which could be improved along the lines you suggest.
I noted it but I did not use it as an example because it only occurs if one enters from the secret door, which is on the same page as the other rooms in that segment. It is still poorly navigable.
This is my favorite adventure module due to the flavor. Angels, demons, witches, undead and cultists. I got rid of the dwarves in favor of undead teutonic knights.
I really like the information straight on the map, similarly to what Tomb of the Serpent Kings does, but I agree that in practice I had problems finding the right page during the game. The ordering is not natural. A large map with basic info + page number (or a page hyperlink in a pdf), would help.
Two favorite scenes from the game were: 1) one character sneaking up behind a cultist to kick him into the ooze – sadly it was a cultist who wanted to run away 2) on the way out random encounter with 3 shadows randomly ganging up on a single character; we were expecting this to be her end, but two shadows missed and she survived (only PC to survive overall campaign).
Some information about the cult would’ve been useful. I made them worship entropy (void being symbolic of it) in a light reference to granddaddy Nurgle.
Yeah more details on the cult would have improved the place for sure.
Correct, but why is there only a chance of cultists in the hallway if the PCs come through the secret door? It seems logical that they should be 2 of the 20 that are in room 9, on the way to (or returning from) 8 to find out (report) if the sacrifice is ready. I’d go for a traditional key, cross-referenced as necessary, and allow the referee to make judgements as necessary.
This is no longer free on the author’s web site (or DriveThruRPG) or I’d be tempted to at least read through it; seems a little less than 3* worthy, just from this review, but the map DOES look solid despite keying issues.
Someone posted an AP report in the comment section of Bryce’s review. While the commenter appeared to enjoy multiple aspects of the thing, I found several ‘red flags’ in his telling of the tale.
Currently reading Necropolis of Nuromen. Man I love Blueholme. Or maybe it’s just Michael Thomas…his sense of style really appeals to me. Wish I could do stuff like him…probably I don’t read enough folk tales (of the absinthe-inspired variety).
Its the old question of whether decent theming and heart can carry it past its aspirant level craftsmanship. I thought a ** would be too harsh by far.
“Prince prince prince review actual OSR. You can’t do magazines and interminable magical kung fu game reviews all year.”
While the Ogre Gate review probably appealed to only the guy who suggested it, who the hell would complain about the Beholder reviews? If you’re interested in the OSR wouldn’t you be interested in actual OLD SCHOOL stuff? Only a sad excuse for a man could not find value in the garrote-weaving spider or some of those asshole dungeons.
A prince has his obligations. More Beholder is on the way, for sure!
Do you have plans to skewer another periodical after this one? Maybe something like Footprints, since I assume a review of Fight On or Knockspell would consist of polishing Melan’s knob for 4000+ words (only slightly kidding). On the other hand, a lot of OSR neophytes don’t really know about those formative zines and seeing somebody review them would be fun and encourage their love even more. On the third hand, I would really like to see you review DCC stuff…
Dungeon is too depressing to review in order. There’s a couple of options.
Fight On! I might have to do regardless. Ditto Knockspell.
There’s NOD magazine which has great hexcrawls.
I have obtained 6 issues of Gryphon which looks promising.
There’s the ASSH magazine.
I do have to start throwing in some high level material for the runway to NAP III.
You do owe us some reviews of Huso’s work. Some less well known high(ish) level TSR modules (of wildly varying quality) you might look at:
I8 Ravager of Time; I10 House on Gryphon Hill; I11 Needle; WGR6 City of Skulls; Temple, Tower and Tomb.
That’s a good list of zines to review but I still think you should review the earliest modules from Dragon. As an added bonus, you can do like you do with Beholder and look at some of the other features in the magazine. See Gary Gygax sneer at critical hands! Watch Jean Wells try to answer some truly out of left field questions posed to Sage Advice! Read articles about the current BIG thing in tabletop gaming (from 1979+) that you’ve never even heard of! And the modules themselves are interesting artifacts. There’s some good stuff, some not so good stuff, and there is proof from the beginning that James Ward was always a talentless hack! There aren’t that many of them, and truthfully you can start to quit around issue 78 (and DEFINITELY don’t review anything from 100 onward).
At the very least, besides The Fell Pass (#32), you should look at The Pit of the Oracle (#37).
The problem is the difficulty of getting one’s hands on Beholder. Meanwhile, Ogre Gate is free for download. Given that, I found both interesting.
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Who actually owns the copyright to Beholder? IIRC, one of its creators showed up in the comments.
What keeps them from uploading Beholder issues on Drivethru and making some extra $$$?
Five reviews and a play report in the past week! You’re outpacing Lynch old boy; I hope someone hasn’t chained you to a desk or something.
The real problem with focusing on layout is not that everything’s getting dumbed down; it’s that attempts at improving layout often fail and create a harder to use product. At least there’s no color-coded text in this one.
I’m feeling infused with the spirit of the TRVSR. Also my vacation is up and I need an outlet.