Game: Deep Horizon
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Review Dated: 7th, January 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 4/10 [ Just shy of the mark ]
Total Score: 4
Average Score: 4.00
I tend to err on the side of caution whenever I am tempted to buy a pre-written adventure. Deep Horizons reminds me why. The review will inevitably contain spoilers.
It isn’t a bad book. It isn’t really a bad adventure. It just isn’t something I would consider value for money, it lacks the pound for pound punch of source books. The lasting impression from Deep Horizons is that of Beholders as careful archaeologists.
Skip Williams, the author, should know his stuff since he is one of the title page credited authors of the third edition Dungeons and Dragons. You certainly get the feeling of confidence as you read through the outline. He casually introduces a whole new monster race and builds the whole adventure around them. They are the adventure. As an adventure for 13th level heroes it seems to be able to deal with any number of players and announces that half way through (so, what’s that, page 16) the heroes should have reached 14th and by the end should be knocking on the door of 15th. Now, I don’t want to disagree with one of the new grandfathers of the hobby but the climb through the impressive levels of 13, 14 and even 15 strikes me as campaign material, not some slim lined adventure. I did a quick calculation and my maths told me that heroes could expect to earn over 400 experience points for every room they look into or corridor that they walk down. Just think, you’re beginning adventurers would reach level 2 just by getting off the sofa and making it to the bathroom. Of course, the experience points aren’t really dealt out for exploring; you get the big payouts for killing the extremely nasty creatures. Which is a shame, I think a long study of an apparently new race of dangerous foes or possibly powerful allies could make a campaign, trying to win the desmodu over while surrounded by deadly enemies could be the stuff of epics. Instead the book is presented in the Dungeon crawl format and any possible espionage, thriller or mystery is related to tiny side panels that run throughout most of the book. I don’t need to pay for a dungeon crawl. I would pay for a carefully thought out mesh and twine of interrelated political intrigue and subterranean horror.
The constant references back to core rule books where also annoying. That may sound harsh and you might think that I should just accept them. However, I think if other, smaller, companies can find the space to reprint a tiny summary of monster stats and then reference the Monster Manual page then so could Wizards of the Coast. If you’ve given just enough summary information about the creatures that could be encountered then you, as a DM, can run the scene without too much flicking around between the books. With Deep Horizon, unless you know your D&D lore really well, you’ll be forced to juggle books. It wasn’t just the monster stats that got me annoyed in that way, it was things like random encounter tables that started off different and unique and then resorted to “Ah well, use this table from the DM’s guide). It can’t be as if they’re trying to force us to buy the dratted core rules. Surely everyone who buys Deep Horizon will have bought them already.
It could have been better. I’ll admit it could have been worse though. At least there is some attempt to supply anthropological information about the new race. There are those hints that the adventure could bloom out into something more.
… and besides, as noted above, the image of beholders carefully exploring a ruined city was rather fun. Perhaps the monsters will encounter wild bands of adventurers who seem to be inexplicably guarding hoards of treasure in caves. That would be a flip of the usual coin.