Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review: M2, Vengeance of Alphaks

M2: Vengeance of Alphaks
D&D Master Game, Levels 28-32
By Skip Williams

Vengeance of Alphaks has five chapters. This is a sequel to module M1, in which Alphaks seeks to precipitate a catastrophic war between Thyatis and Alphatia in the domains of Norworld. In some ways it documents a fairly straightforward invasion of Norworld, with various detailed side-plots and complications.

Chapter 1, "Dawn of the Giants", sees a PC dominion initially invaded by a mercenary band of about 50 fire giants and associated creatures (hellhounds and red dragons). Their base and an attack on a walled village are detailed.

Chapter 2, "Coiger's Lair", entails the PCs tracking down the master of the giants, a chaotic and evil 34th-level cleric named Coiger de Mory, in his wilderness stronghold. This dungeon has 17 encounter areas, including giants, meks, and a regular and undead beholder. In the end, Coiger will disavow sending the giants and offer his military forces to help the PCs.

Chapter 3, "Night of the Beetles" details four complications that befall PC domains (an assassination, usurper, raiders, and earthquakes). The earthquakes are further detailed in a cave system in which earthquake beetles (100-ft long monsters) are being generated by a series of 5 monoliths. The monoliths are unlocked by answering a set of (fairly familiar) logic puzzles posed by an agent of Alphaks.

Chapter 4, "Chaos Returns" details the actual invasion using War Machine statistics. In short, Baron Norlan of Qeodhar attacks Norworld with Alphatian allies; then he betrays them to Thyatis forces, who join the invasion; while the primary Alphatian forces wait to join the fight only if a certain number of their noble hostages are freed first. Thyatis seeks to dominate Norworld, while Alphatia also seeks to dominate and rebuke the independent-leaning territory. An outside possibility is that PC forces can retain the land's independence.

Chapter 5, "The Flying Castle", details the crown jewel in the Alphatian war effort: a magnificent flying castle which serves to harass supply lines and overcome land-based defenses at will. A map with 16 encounter areas is detailed. It's defended by air elementals, pegataurs (elf-pegasus centaurs), human artillerists, manscorpions, a nightwalker, and a lich commander (obviously a target for the PCs themselves, being quite deadly).

As stated above, M2 can be fairly summarized as "an invasion of Norworld and its complications". One weakness of the entire Companion and Master adventure lines is their dependence on the Norworld campaign setting, and the presumption that PC and NPC dominions are in place and have been developed there. As published, there are no existing domains, territories, or borders for a DM to actually set this action in by default. This makes it practically impossible to run this or similar adventures as a "one-shot" out of the box (despite the existence of some pregenerated PC characters themselves).

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