Game: Dezzavold: Fortress of the Drow
Publisher: Green Ronin
Review Dated: 5th, January 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
It wasn’t that long ago since I reviewed Corwyl: Village of the Wood Elves. It’s a stalwart product. Corwyl is a setting-cum-adventure (the best sort of pre-packaged adventure, I think) and an extension for Bow & Blade. One of my grumbles about Corwyl is that it was fairly heavily entwined with Drow plot. Drow. Mleh. I’ll be stoned by some gamers for daring to suggest that the Drow are done to death and horribly dull. I don’t like them in my games and was disappointed to find them as baggage for Corwyl. This does not mean that all Drow books are boring. One of the best supplements for the dark elves is Plot and Poison.
Wouldn’t it all be merry if we could close this loop and say that Dezzavold: Fortress of the Drow is both an extension for Plot & Poison and the Drow tie in for Corwyl? Guess what? We can. It’s all a tidy little loop and it works quite well.
It’s important to say that you don’t need to have Corwyl to use Dezzavold (nor do you need Dezzavold to use Corwyl). You’ll read references to Corwyl and they might well make you wish you had the book but the war between the two is over and so the references can be entirely historical.
There’s more of a need to have Plot and Poison. Dezzavold uses a pantheon of Drow gods introduced by the core supplement and makes heavy use of new races, notably the Drey, also introduced in the supplement. If you can wing the Drey stats then Plot and Poison’s role as a prerequisite fades considerably… and there are male and female Drey NPC stat blocks in Dezzavold. I suspect most readers will be able to use Dezzavold without any other support.
Let’s save the plot stuff to last. I’ll give a warning when that brief overview is about to start to gamers worried about spoilers can turn a way. That said; if you’re really worried about spoilers then stop reading now.
As required by International Law this d20 supplement has new prestige classes and feats. There are two new core classes too. The first new core class is the Black Heart – described as an unholy barbarian. Hmm. So it’s a bit like a barbarian then? The class is a mix of barbarian and cleric. I like alternative classes for campaigns without main core classes; I’m less fond of them as extras. If all raging warriors in a campaign world were unholy cultists then the Black Heart would be a great alternative to the barbarian class. In most default D&D style worlds the Black Heart is simple a multi-classed barbarian-cleric or best reserved as a prestige class. The Netherstrider seems more like a race than a class. Netherstriders are hairy, savage and fanged people who have become feral underground dwellers. I think it’s really up to GMs to work out why gnome Netherstriders develop in such a similar way to human, dwarf or any other race of Netherstriders. Personally I wouldn’t want to muddy those waters.
The prestige classes are on firmer ground. The Demonican is a dangerous prestige class which specialises in not just summoning Outsiders but reducing them to energy and placing it in gems. Having trapped the Outsider the Demonican can then tap and wield their energy. The Discordants are Drow who use deception and infiltration to sew chaos and inflict acts of sabotage. The Huzzlatarr are hunters, zealot elves who track and destroy Drow. Warren Sentinels patrol and protect the labyrinth of tunnels which surround the Drow’s underground cities and forts.
There are new monsters too. Monsters like the Mithral Guardian Spiders which are constructed to protect key areas in Drow empires. It’s a bugger to work out what a Mithral Guardian Spider’s challenge rating is. It’s just as hard to cope with the Hound Spider and Crys Spider’s challenge ratings and this is because all these spiders have unfortunate blank-typos for their challenge rating.
The rest of the book – that’s no insignificant page count (there are 96 pages in total) – covers the fortress of Dezzavold, the outlying area, the city of Dezzavold and denizens (both generic and key NPCs). There are several pages of cartography and this includes a double page spread for the city of Dezzavold. It’s tough drawing maps for an underground fortress in a black and white book and Dezzavold neither shines nor excels here. Unlike the high quality illustrations the map work in this supplement is mediocre.
Green Ronin’s illustrations are traditionally good quality. Dezzavold benefits from usual Green Ronin successes. The layout is good. The print size and text density is spot on – you’ve plenty squeezed on to every page but it’s still easy enough to read. There’s no white space padding here.
Okay. Let’s talk plot. It’s time to go if you’re worried about spoilers.
The founders of Dezzavold aren’t so bad – at least not as far as Drow go. They were expelled from a city below where they built Dezzavold but where granted a strange stay of execution. The minute their queen died that stay was lifted and a rival Drow house attacked. This attack forced the Drow of Dezzvold to hire mercenaries. It also inspired the initial and ill-fated approach to Corwyl. The war with Corwyl made matters worse. Fortunately for Dezzavold their Drow rivals were distracted and then defeated by an invading Formorian army. Unfortunately for Dezzavold one harsh band of mercenaries they had hired to defend the fortresses betrayed them and took control of the city. The Black Heart now controls Dezzavold more harshly than most Drow queens would. The Black Heart are mainly Drey. They’ve banned the worship of the Spider Queen and other deities in favour of their own warlike demigod. The Black Heart didn’t manage to kill all the rightful heirs to the throne though. Oops.
Here we have a plot set up where Drow PCs can plot to overthrow an especially harsh regime and one which followers neither the Spider Queen nor the less harsh Goddess which the Dezzavold survivors followed. There’s also the plot where the Black Heart turn their attention on Corwyl and the book looks at a plausible and deadly simple attack plan.
I like the way Dezzavold stacks into Corwyl and the class books from Green Ronin. It’s a rather costly little collection though. I also see Dezzavold as the last of the add ons in the set of four and as some compensation for the fact that Corwyl is entangled with Drow in the first place.
The main reason to pick up Dezzavold is to complete the set (or to keep the set going if (when) Green Ronin release more). There’s less incentive to buy the book if you’re not going to use the plot bits. The Black Heart, for example, make most sense if you use the mythos introduced in Plot and Poison. Over all, though, the book rarely puts a foot wrong and chalks up a “good enough” success.