Game: Death by Corium Light
Series: Darwin’s World: d20
Review Dated: 2nd, December 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
Death by Corium Light is a dungeon crawl adventure for RPGObjects’ post-apocalyptic game of mutants, survival and mixed technology. Since this is a review of an adventure you should consider it to be a spoiler.
Describing Death by Corium Light as a dungeon crawl is cruel because it tries to give the players and GM some more than just a bog-standard location to adventure in. The corium mines aren’t bog-standard; they’re genuinely different. Well, different for mines anyway. There’s more to the game than just the mines too, there’s a whole town above ground and Lil’ Vegas is full of twists and turns.
Death by Corium Light is a 53-paged PDF adventure that unzips into three parts. There’s the main copy of Death by Corium Light and that is a two-column document with sidebar graphics, occasional illustrations, colour front cover and lots of quality maps. There’s the plain text version of the adventure that has been designed so that it’s easy to print out. Finally there’s a folder full of maps from the adventure and their presence makes moving the game from electronic format to your tabletop especially easy. A few months ago I might have held this extra effort up for special praise but now I think it is so important I’ll simply mark down any PDF offering that doesn’t provide this.
Death by Corium Light faces an unusual form of competition in that Cave of Life was a free quality adventure for Darwin’s World where players might have been drawn to the Cave by the rumours of treasure, is actually a mine and is produced by RPGObjects for Darwin’s World. One of the most likely plot hooks to get players to Lil’ Vegas and the corium mines there are the rumours of a nearly endless supply of the game-world precious corium. Death by Corium Light isn’t free but at just under $6 it does buck the recent trend of PDF products to go for $10 or more.
If you’re a fan of pre-written adventures then two main reasons why Death by Corium Light is worth your money but if you’re not a fan of pre-written games then Death by Corium Light will confirm your suspicions that there’s nothing here that you couldn’t have thought up yourself. There is new stuff here; there are stats and pictures for the new monster race, there are a few new items (environment suits, etc) and the rules for working out the cost of slaves. Slaves cost more if their human (not mutant), female, particularly talented (with the exception of Wisdom where each attribute modifier knocks the price down 20% – no one likes a know-it-all, not even in the twisted future) and lots more if their high level or especially pretty females. These bits a new but they’re not going to hugely affect your game. If you’re a fan of pre-written adventures then the two strengths of Death by Corium Light that will appeal to you is the sheer size of the package and the flexibility of the offering. There could be enough trouble for characters up in the Lil’ Vegas that it takes several game sessions before the corium mines come into play – and then it could well be because the PCs have become enslaved and forced to mine the dangerous mines against their will. This risk of slavery is nicely handled above ground; there will be hints and warnings. There’s enough oddness going on to get the players interested or for them to kick themselves for not seeing the risk until it springs on them – and that’s the best way to deal with such possible plot sledgehammers. The game is flexible too and I think this is the most important point, if the group is high level then the reactions of the NPCs react suitably. Any game you design yourself will do this anyway but too many pre-written adventures have to sell themselves at a narrow band of players. You’ll see pre-written adventures being described, for example, as suitable for 4-6 characters between levels 4 and 6 and being combat heavy. Death by Corium Light isn’t like that; it’s suitable for all characters, it’s suitable for characters who shoot first and ask questions later and it’s suitable for characters who talk to the NPCs, find out what’s going on and get involved themselves. Low level characters might become slaves, mid level characters might try and free a slave or two and high level characters might want to free the slaves and slap down the organised groups who were giving their tacit support to the corruption in the town. Low level characters might find themselves getting involved with the complexities in the mines in such a way as to lead up to a dramatic escape, mid level characters might go down as a rescue party or after corium themselves and high level characters will find plenty of exploring to do and encounters that shouldn’t be a walk through.
You need all the recent supplements for Darwin’s World to get the most out of Death by Corium Light. You’ll be better off to have the Terrors of Twisted Earth and Metal Gods supplements. There are robots involved in the vanilla version of this adventure. I have mixed feelings about adventures that require X and Y other books by the publisher. It’s good that you’re getting to use these books if you have them but it’s bad that you need to go out and buy them if you don’t. In this case when both Terrors and Metal Gods are not only available as softbacks but as inexpensive PDFs in their own right too my mixed feelings serve more firmly over to the good side and positive light of this requirement. If you’ve been scratching your head over how and why androids and robots fit into the Twisted Earth then Death by Corium Light is a helpful showcase.
I’m not a fan of pre-written adventures but I can still see plenty of merit in Death by Corium Light. If I hadn’t repaired a game in time for the players turning up then Death by Corium Light would be a saviour and it’s good enough to perform well as a stand in (now there’s an advantage to PDF products I hadn’t considered before; the emergency download). The separate folder of maps gives some aspects of the adventure life beyond the initial scope of the game, they can be printed out and used elsewhere. The rules of Lil’ Vegas state that if you’re not earning a living in the corium mines then you’re slung into the bordellos and you can earn money there combined with the chances of low level parties being likely targets for the local slavers will make the game unsuitable for players who dislike such things in their RP. The same laws may help turn the shades of grey in the Twisted Earth into a black and white case of right and wrong that make generic fantasy games so popular among the masses. Death by Corium Light is good compared to many pre-written adventures and is perfectly acceptable in the wider range of Darwin’s World supplements.