Game: Demon God’s Fane
Publisher: Malhavoc Press
Review Dated: 14th, February 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 5/10 [ Perfectly acceptable ]
Total Score: 5
Average Score: 5.00
Demon God’s Fane is an adventure for high-level characters. This review will contain spoilers, well, in as much as a dungeon crawl can be spoiled. Oh yes. There’s a murder mystery too but unless the GM slyly withholds important information that entire section may very well be completely ignored by the characters.
Monte Cook begins the game by setting out just why his first published adventure for Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Editions is for a group of characters in the 14th and 15th level experience range. He says that if things are going the way they were planned a lot of GMs out there will have groups of characters in that region. Oh dear. I guess I’ve not been playing the game in the way that the developers planned. He points out that the higher level adventures are hard to run and write and that he would like to prove those people who claim that the core rules break down after 10th level wrong. At the risk of being cynical I’ll admit that I’ve studied Monte’s technique for dealing with high level characters as best I can and concluded that you deal with the rising capabilities of the heroes by putting harder and more horrid monsters in a tougher dungeon-like-structure. Do you level 15 characters even want another dungeon crawl? If they do then the Demon God’s Fane is a good a bet as any; it’s well written and Monte Cook’s grasp of balancing game mechanics lives up to its legendary status.
It’s actually a little bit more than a dungeon crawl if you’re lucky. The characters will arrive in the lovely village of Golden Lake and become embroiled in a murder mystery. There’s a drought. That sort of thing can be wonderfully effective and easy to include as foreshadowing – if you’re tempted by the Demon God’s Fane adventure then start with the hot weather in your campaign now. However, it is hard to use the drought without mentioning the fact that the water level in the lake has dropped significantly. It will be even harder not to mention the water level going down once the characters start to ask the local fishing community if they’ve noticed anything strange. Then, I fear, if your players are anything like the gamers I know the train of thought will be pretty much set. Someone will make a joke about R’lyeh rising from the deep. The characters will explore the lake in search of islands, or Cthulhu cities, or anything that the dropping water levels might have revealed. The characters will find the islands – actually parts of the giant statue-cum-temple of the Demon God – and then they’ll want in to explore. This way the group will miss out most of the murder mystery at the start and since there’s time travelling tomfoolery going on – it won’t even matter. It’s possible that the group does has neither might nor magic enough to force open the plug conveniently sited at the top. I’d worry that being unable to access the temple that way was a sign that the group was doomed to mince meat if they actually did get inside.
If the characters do try and get to the bottom of the mystery first or if they’re beat a path back to the village after finding or even adventuring into the temple then it’s there to be solved. Except you can’t really solve it – just stop the current murderer. The real meat behind the murders is as a way to introduce the heroes to the group of Graven Ones living by the village.
Don’t know what a Graven One is? Don’t know what an Embermage is? You probably forgot to buy The Book of Eldritch Might. I don’t actually mind having to go out and buy a second book to use this adventure. It’s a cheap book and it’s even cheaper if you purchase the .pdf copy. However, it was downloading The Book of Eldritch Might II that convinced me to purchase the first. I would object, however, if I had bought Eldritch Might only to discover that it’s rules where never ever used again.
Visiting the Graven Ones is a mixed blessing for the characters since it does allow them access to a great library but also puts two corrupted Graven Ones (well, one’s just a powerful fighter) on their tail as well. It’s great for the GM, though. If you’re running adventures at this level then you’ll be able to cope with this free roaming pair and they’ll be perfect for livening up dull moments or for saving scenes at the last minute. It’s also a possible way to insert a Graven One PC or even the Graven Ones into your game.
The dungeon crawl, the temple trawl, is well held together and the PCs might very well be surprised at what they see if they ever get that far. As I’ve said before and since I have warned about spoilers I’ll mention the time travelling aspect again. Whether the PCs even visit the Fane, whether they reach the heart or not, events in the past will be tampered with. There are some suggestions as to how deal with this but I fear you could read through an entire essay of ideas and still have questions of your own. For example, what if half the party dies in the temple but the other half manage to change time so that there was never any need to go tromping around inside it in the first place? I guess no one died in the temple after all. That’s a pretty good let out for the GM who has killed off too many characters though. If the adventure never happened you, as the evil GM could announce, “Everyone’s earned 20,000 experience points… or would have had if their characters had survived the Demon God’s Fane but since you’ve not even heard about it you can all have 0 experience points instead. Ha!” The worse case might be if one of the players gets their hands on such time effecting rituals.
The conclusion is easy. If you want a dungeon crawl for a high level party then this is a great book. If you want a dungeon crawl for a high level party.