Friday, September 19, 2014

Deep Carbon Observatory, by Patrick Stuart

It is rare that I hold high expectations for something and then it lives up to those expectations. It can feel pretty gratifying! I had been hearing about how intriguing this module was before it was available in print, and Patrick Stuart is one of my favorite game bloggers, which means I was a little biased with the eager anticipation of reading this adventure. I was expecting Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) to be awesome, and I was not let down.

There is very little in the way of set-up for this adventure. A single paragraph sets the stage for what the PCs know, and clever GMs who read the entire adventure ahead of time can find easy ways of hooking the PCs into the sequence of events that follows. The adventure is divided into eight chapters, more than half of which can be thought of as simply descriptions for inhabitants and encounters within a specific region. The adventure starts with a flood that destroys most of the countryside, and if the players are keen on following the damage to the source of the flood waters they will be led to a broken dam which is pretty compelling location all on it's own. It's entirely possible that the observatory of the title could never be found. But if it is, complicating matters is a thoroughly evil adventuring party that is competing with the PCs, though neither of them knows about the other ahead of time.

I'm not going to explain any other further details than that because I've perhaps revealed too much of it already. It's a pretty straightforward premise, but brutal in it's execution. This adventure deserves to be spoken about in hushed tones and discrete symbols. The only thing I didn't like about the adventure is that the words on the overland maps were a little hard to read and there's no sense of scale described anywhere on the maps or in the text. There are alternate maps available for the observatory, but I found the maps included in the original pdf useful and compelling (though the numbers here were also a little hard to read). Scrap Princess did an excellent job with the artwork throughout the book, giving the adventure a gritty and disturbing atmosphere. I would love to see her illustrate more modules.

Deep Carbon Observatory is available from DriveThruRPG in both print and pdf!