Game: Smuggler’s Bane
Publisher: Politically Incorrect Games
Review Dated: 21st, December 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 5/10 [ Perfectly acceptable ]
Total Score: 15
Average Score: 7.50
Smuggler’s Bane is an adventure where the PCs go up against some smugglers. Oh no! Spoilers! I’ve given the plot away! The title says it all though, doesn’t it? I maintain that I’m innocent and have spoiled nothing.
Smuggler’s Bane is a pre-written adventure for Deep7‘s Arrowflight RPG. Smuggler’s Bane is actually a Politically Incorrect Games‘ product and we benefit from their PDF expertise and wizardly. It’s US $5 for the PDF and that represents the value for money we’ve come to expect from PIG.
Pre-written adventures need to do something special to impress. I just don’t see the attraction in them. A quick search of the archives will find many GameWyrd reviews where pre-written adventures are rubbished. It turns out that in addition to the low price and the professionally crafted PDF there is another benefit in having Politically Incorrect Games involved with Smuggler’s Bane. The adventure comes complete with a set of Disposable Heroes. Disposable Heroes are PIG’s paper miniature line. Print them off, fold, glue and you’ve an acceptable set of models for your PCs and NPCs. There’s one core Disposable Heroes product (which you don’t need to have to use Smuggler’s Bane) and it showed great promise. I wanted to see plenty of support for the Disposable Heroes line and Smuggler’s Bane looks to be a promising start. Ah, but let’s not view Smuggler’s Bane as support for Disposable Heroes, let’s see the disposable heroes cut-outs in this PDF as a great enhancement for Smuggler’s Bane.
Let’s also stop joking about spoilers. This review will contain real spoilers. If you don’t want Smuggler’s Bane to be spoiled then stop reading now.
The adventure isn’t about smugglers at all. Well not unless you count their bodies being fed to a giant crab as part of a ritual to an evil god.
I don’t like dungeon crawls (or, in this case, a cave crawl) but I do like a touch of dry humour and so I can appreciate the look on some player’s faces when they arrive at the dungeon, ready to slaughter the villains and make off with the loot – only to discover that they’ve been beaten to it. Unfortunately that’s about as sophisticated as the adventure gets.
The GM can get the plot rolling in a few ways. The villagers who wish to stop the smuggler’s could have clubbed together to raise some funds and knowing the PCs to be a group of adventures can approach them and offer them the work. This works best. The alternative suggested by Smuggler’s Bane is to have the PCs overhear the news of smuggler’s while they’re in the local inn. Arg. Let’s never start an adventure that way. Ever.
The phaciore are an evolutionary offshoot of the coriphae and have an all-but-abandoned city under the sea and just off the coast of Cooper’s Point. It’s Cooper’s Point where our heroes will begin their adventure and set out in search of the smugglers. A phaciore priest, who’s quite mad, has been busy sacrificing people to a giant crab living in the sea caves. He believes it to be the avatar of his god. The smugglers present him with an excellent opportunity. The smugglers could be some top quality meat for the crab. By the time the players arrive in the sea caves they’ll find only the aftermath of the fight between the smugglers and the phaciore.
The climatic scene pits the players against our mad crab priest just as the ritual threatens to be completed. Rather nicely, Smuggler’s Bane doesn’t assume the PCs will be successful in stopping the ritual from reaching its apex and there are a number of options as to what happens if it concludes. Typically a successful ritual results in the evil god’s spirit inhabiting someone or something (the giant crab, for example). From there the GM can safely assume butt kicking in the name of darkness.
There’s more tactile support for the GM than the disposable heroes in Smuggler’s Bane. GridSmith mapping software has been used to produce some nice colour maps. It would have been rather silly to have the Disposable Heroes but nothing to put them on.
Smuggler’s Bane is a classic pre-written adventure. Players explore an enclosed environment in search of adventure. They’ll kill things and take loot. The fact that many of the characters would have probably killed the smuggers (smuggling is a capital offence now?) and yet the phaciore are the evil ones for killing (or trying to) the smugglers is nicely obscured by the presence of a giant crab. Besides, that’s the sort of observation that most dungeon crawlers don’t care to make.
It’s the extra touches in Smuggler’s Bane that pulls it up from the ?not worth it” bin that I feel most pre-written adventures should be consigned to. Sure, any GM with an ounce of experience can put a ritual at the end of a network of tunnels but the maps and hero cut outs (that any GM can’t do) add something else. Another argument for pre-written adventures is that they’ll save you time. If you find yourself suddenly thrown into the GM seat then being able to nip online, find $5 and download a quick PDF certainly counts as a time saving option.