“Have you ever heard of insect politics? Neither have I.” ~ Seth (The Fly, 1986)
People rarely consider being stung by a scorpion or bitten by a spider to be a particularly “blessed” event. Most folks rarely hesitate squishing an offensive and potentially dangerous multi-legged critter, although really the poor little beastie is just going through life doing what it is meant to do – hunt other bugs, mate, and make little spiders or scorpions. If it bites you, there is no malice there, just a natural reaction to being surprised and endangered by something vastly larger than itself.
Of course, the alien nature and appearance of spiders and scorpions tends to work against them as well. Few of us brainy mammals want to get all cuddly with some little chitinous thing with too many legs and too many eyes. They are simply too different than we are, which is probably why we attribute them an evil aspect. And certainly, science fiction and fantasy movies have promoted the case that if a creature appears insectoid in any way, then it’s most likely bad, and wants to kill you – most likely after laying it’s egg inside you and then having the baby burst out of your chest.
With a cover sporting a very large nasty spider on it, and entitled “Blessed by Poison”, Sneak Attack Press’ first offering to the GSL market seems to be a contradiction in terms. And begs the question, “So what sort of poisonous “blessing” will the Heroes encounter in this adventure?”
Blessed by Poison
Blessed by Poison is a short D&D 4E adventure module for Characters of Level 1-3, which is written generically enough to be placed in any campaign setting of the Dungeon Master’s choosing. The adventure contains six encounter, ten new monsters, and a new magic item type – a Goblin Bane Weapon.
The Production Quality of Blessed by Poison is fair, with a basic black-and-white layout, and with monster and skill challenges presented in formats which are easily recognizable to 4E Gamers. The maps are simple grids, marked with basic terrain and monster icons. Technically, not much more is required for GSL production purposes, but with the availability of Open Source mapping programs, it might have been nice to see more advanced maps in the module. The artwork is sparse, and not particularly noteworthy, and does little to enhance the overall production level of the adventure.
[Editor’s Note: Spoiler Warning!]
The adventure itself is nicely written, and the Author does a decent job setting up the simple plotline and the encounters. Arguably, the plot is fairly linear, but that is not at all atypical of a short adventure modules, and it’s hard to write a “sand-box” with just a few encounters. The Adventurers are set upon a task of finding out what happened to a famed goblin hunter, Kurk Davrip, who went missing. The adventure would seem to be one of finding out which goblin tribe killed Kurk, but the Author introduces an interesting twist – a pack of strange spiders with their own bizarre schemes in mind.
As mentioned before, there are six encounters, with two of the encounters being skill challenges. These latter are well-designed, and have definite consequences for failure. The first involves tracking through a forest, with failure resulting in the loss of Healing Surges and entering the next encounter under surprise conditions. The second skill challenge occurs at the end of the adventure, and results in “defeating” one of the elites before the final fight begins. A failure here means a considerably harder fight, with the additional elite thrown into the mix.
The combat encounters are simple and straightforward, and have a good mix of monsters and terrain types to keep them interesting. Most of the special map features, however, consists of a variety of difficult terrain types. However, the Author does remind the Dungeon Master keep a “three dimensional” perspective, as spiders are capable of using walls and ceilings to gain flanking and combat advantage. This does allow a greater level of threat from the terrain, particularly those encounters taking place in a cavern.
As for the new monsters, they are well balanced for 1st to 3rd Party, and consist of variations on spiders, zombies, and goblins. They are given a few nifty new powers, and present some good challenges for a band of heroes. Regretfully, the new monsters lack any descriptive text or illustrations, and I would have very much liked to exactly what a “catkiller” and “worg” spider might look like.
Overall Grade: B+
Blessed by Poison is a good first effort from Sneak Attack Press, and has some fresh ideas in it. The writing is solid, and the monsters are interesting enough to provide surprising encounters for low level adventuring bands. While the maps and layout of the adventure are fairly basic, the module is not badly priced, and since it can be used in nearly any adventure setting, it can provide a nice little side trek for all manner of heroes.
So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Editor’s Note: This Blog’s Author received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.