Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Knives in the Dark, by Johnstone Metzger

I have a soft spot in my heart for anything that Johnstone Metzger writes, solely because he endeared himself to my sensibilities when I discovered his Heralds of Hell playbooks for Apocalypse World, but also because he can write some damn cool gaming resources and essays (venture down his blog's archives). A short time ago he began writing adventure modules that were dual-stated for both Dungeon World and Labyrinth Lord and so far he has produced six titles, I bought the first two but never got around to reading them until recently.

Knives in the Dark is a creepy horror adventure about undead assassins who have been released from their secret tomb. The town of Affeldeen and the mountain range in which it is nestled, the Black Peaks, serves as the adventure setting. Some dimwitted tin miners act as the catalyst that gets the adventure started, and provide most of the dramatic points for furthering the story.

Instead of a traditional adventure module structure, the booklet acts as a collection of resources for setting up the adventure and letting the players look under the blanket of the story and the setting at their own pace. The social environment around the mining camp and the town is filled with NPCs, about half of which only get a sentence or two but are varied enough that any collection of adventurers should be able to find something to do. The mountain where the shadowy terrors have awakened gets it's own chapter and there is a modest dungeon with plenty of unique challenges laid out within. The book is filled with a plethora of custom moves uniquely wrapped around the environment and the story.

The most interesting and useful part of the adventure are the details surrounding the goals of both the assassins and the Governor, they are explicit enough to give a good direction for why and how the story should unfold but leave all of the intricate details of when the plot opens up in the hands of the GM. There is no railroading here, and the centerpiece villain of the adventure (a dragon made of shadow) might not even show up if the PCs are really efficient at finding and stopping the shadow assassins - though that outcome is as unprofitable as it is unexciting.

This adventure is the first of a trilogy which are given traditional module codes, Knives in the Dark is given the code RK1 which I believe stands for River Knife though nothing in the module explicitly states that. You can purchase both pdf and print versions of "RK1 - Knives in the Dark" at DriveThruRPG or just a print version at Lulu