“…it’s gonna be a cold, dark night when the Creeper come along.” ~ Molly Hatchet (“The Creeper”, 1978)
I know this is going to date me, but what the heck, I have to tell it like it is.
So, I’m a sophomore in high school and have been playing AD&D for about a year, when I’m at the mall and find this album cover that totally blows my mind. Yes, I said album, as in vinyl – I think I mentioned that this was going to date me.
Here’s this amazing album cover depicting this grim, nightmarish dark knight, astride a black horse, and wielding a huge axe, dripping with blood. The name of the band that had this wicked cover was Molly Hatchet, which meant nothing to me at the time, but given the art on the album cover, it surely meant that it was the total opposite of disco, so I was buying it. I was, after all, a card carrying member of DREAD back then. But more importantly, I was an AD&D player.
[Editor’s Note (definition): DREAD => acronym; Detroit Rockers Engage in the Abolition of Disco]
The music of Molly Hatchet never really grew on me, being what was then called “Southern Rock”, which is sort of like trying to mate a hair metal band with a county-western band, and seeing what kind of kids it would have. I was more into British acid rock and Heavy Metal at the time, but songs like “Bounty Hunter”, “The Price You Pay” and, of course, “The Creeper”, were pretty awesome as I recall, despite the twangy song style.
So what, you’re probably asking then, does all this talk of 70’s heavy metal have to do with Dungeons & Dragons 4e?
Well, nothing really, except the album cover, which was an amazing piece of art called “Death Dealer”, by an artist named Frank Frazetta. And to many of us early AD&D gamers, paintings like the kind that Mr. Frazetta created totally spoke to us on a visceral level. Despite the protestations of my parents – or more likely because of them – I decorated by room with posters by artists like Frazetta and Vallejo. And yes, one of them was a poster of “The Death Dealer”!
But that’s enough of my “blast from the past”.
The reason for my little saunter down memory lane is due to the imminent release of Goodman Games’ The Adventures of Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan, a module based upon the comic book series, Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer.
Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan
- Adaptation: Harley Stroh
- Editor: Aeryn “Blackdirge” Rudel
- Illustrations: Frank Frazetta (cover); Nat Jones & Jay Fotos (interior)
- Publisher: Goodman Games
- Year: 2010
- Media: Book (98 pages)
- Price: $9.99 (with coupon for free pdf version inside)
The Adventures of Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan is an adventure module for Dungeons & Dragons 4e, set in the land of Ipsaria as described by the comic book series Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer. The adventure is designed for five Characters of Levels 7 to 9, and pre-generated Heroes, native to Ipsaria, are provided to allow immediate play. However, there is information in the four Appendices of the adventure that guide Players in making their own Ipsarian Hero, or even “hooks” to bring in Heroes from other realms. In addition, the Appendices in TAoFF’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan offer background information on Ipsaria and its peoples, new rules for combat including a Critical Hit system, and new monsters including several new “bosses”. At the very end of TAoFF’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan can be found the lore and stats of the Death Dealer Itself!
The production quality of TAoFF’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan is honestly some of the best this Reviewer has ever seen, with monsters and encounters laid out in formats easily read by D&D 4e players. But what raises the bar is the generous amounts of artwork from the Death Dealer Comic Book by Jones & Fotos, depicting all manner of scenes of battle and carnage. The tactical maps provided, however, are drawn in a 3-D format, and which while not particularly good at being used as a “dungeon tile”, are still handy for reference. The layout is straightforward and easy to read, with the adventure descriptions that are to be read to Players boldly shown in white letters, set against a bloody red background. Pairing the stunning artwork with well-designed layout makes for a visually dramatic read for any Dungeon Master.
I was particularly pleased that the adventure descriptions and the encounters themselves are NOT separated into two sections, as they so often are in most Official releases. It’s one of my “pet peeves” to have to jump from one section of a module to another in order to match the encounter to the adventure information, and TAoFF’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan reads much more easily and logically by not splitting up the content.
Befitting an adventure module adapted from the pages of a Sword and Sorcery comic book, the Characters are plunged immediately into violent action from the very start:
The high, snow-capped peaks of the Cascada Mountains tower above you. Hidden amid the sheer cliffs and deep valleys is the hidden notch known as Cascada Pass. Urging your hardy, mountain-bred horses on through the drifts of deep snow, you climb the high road, the dark woodlands slowly giving way to tall pines and wind-swept ridges.
Cresting the ridge, you spy the old stronghold that once warded over the pass. Centuries of peace between Oro and Edani have allowed the once-mighty keep to fall into ruin.
Your companions give a shout. A line of refugees, arrayed in rags, is scrambling up the rocky pass, fleeing toward the ruins. Further down the slope, a seething army of dark forms gives pursuit, churning the snow into mud beneath their iron-shod boots. Vultures wheel overhead in anticipation of the impending slaughter, and the beat of mighty war drums echoes through the icy vale.
What follows from that description is an incredibly well-scripted dynamic encounter, where the besieged adventurers are holding back an entire army of undead soldiers at a ruined castle, in order to give the refugees time to escape. The encounter is massive in scope, and will be a real test of the Player-Characters’ ability to work together and to use tactics just to survive and escape the Shadow Horde.
Without giving away too much content, this brutal siege encounter is but the first chapter of the adventure. The remaining two chapters within TAoFF’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan sweeps the Characters across the lands between the Kingdoms of Oro and Edain, as they uncover a terrible conspiracy while dodging the vile patrols of the massive undead army, called the Shadow Horde - servants of the frightful Mirahan, the Oblivion God. The module’s culmination is spectacular and dramatic, providing that the Characters can survive to see the quest to the end!
Of course some gaming groups may not enjoy the prospect of using the pre-generated Ipsarian Heroes are provided for play. This is not a problem, however, because there are ample rules in Appendix I of TAoFF’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan to assist Players to create their own Characters native to Ipsaria. It is also possible to play this adventure as part of a gaming group’s regular campaign, with their Characters transported to the lands of Ipsaria by some magical means:
Strangers in a Strange Land: More challenging to run, but perhaps most rewarding to play, is the Iparsia where non-human races are considered frightening monsters. In this setting, the heroes have been drawn from their home world (or plane) to the foreign land of Iparsia for the sole purpose of defeating Mirahan. In addition to working against the Shadow Horde, the heroes also need to conceal themselves from the good populace, for fear of being branded witches and monsters.
In Appendix II of TAoFF’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan, the Author offers some Advanced Rules which can be adopted for play, should a Dungeon Master desire to use them. These rules include a variant system of Critical Hits to increase the harshness of combats, an additional rule governing the use of Action Points to ameliorate some of the affects of the aforementioned Critical Hit system, and a rule to grant a “buff” for achieving a Milestone. In combination, these rules work to increase the brutality of the combat system, and to drive the Characters to press the fight against their enemies.
The third Appendix detail the New Monsters used in TAoFF’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan, while the fourth offers an Experience Point Tracking sheet for easy record keeping of the monsters slain in each encounter. Given the number of encounters in the adventure, and the horde of foes to be defeated, the tracking sheet will come in very handy for Dungeon Masters to tally experience points at the end of each session.
And what of the stats of the Death Dealer Himself, and his fearsome war steed? Well, let’s just say that the Death Dealer is just a few steps shy of a natural calamity, and leave it at that. I’d hate to ruin the fun of discovery – not to mention the shock and awe factor!
In case it has not been evident enough until now, I have been thoroughly impressed with Goodman Games’ upcoming release of The Adventures of Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan. It is a very well written and executed adventure, with stunning artwork, and a compelling storyline. The encounters and creatures are well-designed, and will provide plenty of challenge to D&D 4e Players. The additional information and rules in the Appendices enhance the product, and I would not be surprised if some of the rules are adopted by DMs and Players in many 4e Campaigns. There is a lot of adventure in TAoFF’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan for the price, not to mention some simply awesome artwork and content, and I would definitely recommend this product to DMs of all play-styles.
The Adventures of Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan is now available from Goodman Games for pre-order, and I have it on good authority it will be in local gaming stores within days.
So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Editor’s Note: This Author received a complimentary copy of the pre-release product in PDF format from which the review was written.
I would like to express my gratitude to Goodman Games for providing me the opportunity to do a pre-release review of their upcoming product, and wish them all the best with their release!