Sunday, December 11, 2016

Review: Wheel of Evil by Faster Monkey

I know this module is over 6 years old and that the old-schoolrenaissance has been superseded by 5e or pokemon go or running for president but that just means Wheel of Evil is now a classic and that you should buy it and run it today.  Here’s why:
The “everyman quest” element.  I love adventure hooks that might realistically appeal to the kind of people I imagine low- to mid-level adventurers to be, not legendary heroes and not murder hoboes, but generally well-meaning rogues who never figured out how to make it normal society.  As prosaic as it sounds, saving the cheese equals saving the village.  And while there’s no extensive backstory or elaborate plot, the hook was extensive enough to affect the player’s choices throughout the adventure— Is doing this what we were hired to do?

The details.  There are many elements that add color and interest and can also make the players’ success much more likely.  Little pots of kobold urine sound like the most useless thing in the world.
Well-developed monsters.  For some time, I’ve been replacing humanoids with human “bad guys.”  But these kobolds are too other-worldly.  And I normally find molds and slimes and oozes kind of an undistinguishable mush.  But here, it’s more like a parfait.

It’s short.  This is so important to me.  I don’t get to play D&D every day lunch and recess (and that’s good, overall) so anything that can’t be played over a couple sessions will be half-forgotten by the players making it impossible for them to put the pieces together.  In general my campaign is more like an episodic TV show in which the most notable feature is the characters rather than plot, but this had the feeling of a good self-contained movie.
Things to think about before running this adventure:

Per the text, boiled urine has special properties.  This struck me as something so impossible to figure out by characters whose players didn’t already have this knowledge (assuming that this is borrowed from real-world chemistry), that I allowed unboiled urine the same effects.  I’m happy with this decision, but it made things easier for the PCs.
Most of the encounters are much easier than the final encounter with the BBEG.  I worried about this before I ran it, but this is a classic structure for a good reason—all the important characters live until the end and so even for those that die it feels dramatic and thrilling.  (He died so we could have cheese.)  The upshot of this is that the suggestion that this adventure is for 4-5 players levels 3-5 is about right.  The early encounters might feel easy, and the final one may kill multiple party members. 

The play report is here.

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