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Review of Axes of Evil by Sneak Attack Press

92038Over three decades of fantasy gaming, I’ve had the opportunity to try a lot of different kinds of role-playing experiences in my campaigns.  Most of the campaigns I have run usually involved my characters role-playing heroes of some type or other, almost always good, sometimes a bit on the mercenary side, but generally interested in doing hero-type stuff and vanquishing evil.

But every so often, my players have come looking for a different sort of experience – an evil campaign.  Usually at this point I roll my eyes dramatically, knowing from previous experience that an evil campaign ends almost always one way – a fist fight at the gaming table.  If the players really get into their diabolical roles and really start to love their characters, then when someone at the table invariably betrays his “comrade” as truly evil folks would, the campaign degenerates into shouting match or worse, and I spend several weeks talking friends back to the gaming table to start a kinder, gentler good campaign.

But for Dungeon Masters that want to give evil campaigning a try, Sneak Attack Press has come up with low-level mini-adventure to either run as a one-shot module, or as the start of more long-term descent into darkness, where characters take on the role of over-the-top medieval fantasy super-villains known as the Axes of Evil!

AXES OF EVIL

  • Author: Matthew J. Hanson
  • Illustrators:  John Bauer, Charles Darwin, Jon Jonston, Mariana Ruiz
  • Publisher: Sneak Attack Press
  • Year:  2011
  • Media: PDF (18 pages)
  • Cost: $2.95 (On sale for $2.21 from RPGNow.com)

Axes of Evil is a short D&D 4E mini-adventure for five 2nd to 4th Level Evil adventurers.  The adventure is generically written to allow it to be used in almost any campaign setting, and can be done as a stand-alone or part of a larger evil campaign.  The adventure contains three combat encounters, two skill challenges, and all new monsters specifically designed for use with this module.

Production Quality

The production quality of Axes of Evil is good, with some solid writing and the adventure presented in a decent and easy-to-read format.  The material is presented in black-and-white and grayscale, which allows it to be easily printed for use at the gaming table.  Custom monsters are presented in MM3 format, and the skill challenges use the updated format as demonstrated in the Rules Compendium.

The artwork in Axes of Evil is nicely rendered, and does a nice job illustrating the adventure encounters.  The maps are of a simple, no-frills design, but can be easily drawn on a battlemat at the gaming table or recreated using a range of dungeon tiles.

The Adventure

Axes of Evil is an adventure in which players portray a group of adventuring super-villains seeking to create a “doomsday” weapon to further their diabolical schemes.  What makes this adventure a bit different than one might expect is that it is designed to be run as a comical farce, and the adventure works best, the author recommends, “…if the characters abandon any hope of rationality. Their characters are evil in the way that cartoon super villains are evil. They are larger than life figures who perpetrate heinous acts, because that’s just what they do.”  This explains why the villains have chosen to follow the instruction manual of an insane inventor named Mad Wizard Maddock in order to create a dreaded new weapon – the bunny golem!

The adventure contains three encounters, with two of the encounters having skill challenges involved which, if successful, can positively affect the outcome.  The encounters are a bit silly in nature, as the villains seek out the parts they need for the bunny golem, and written to allow the evil adventurers to be rotten and despicable – mainly because their good opponents are stupid.  The author gives a Dungeon Master the opportunity to play good and honorable NPCs to the hilt, but in a way that they can either be fooled into tripping over their own intentions.  There are also the possibility of the super-villains corrupting a weak NPC into betraying their comrades, using the skill challenges, which presents some interesting role-playing options for the players.

On the surface, the encounters look pretty tough for evil player-characters to handle, but the author wrote in specific handicaps for their good enemies, such as honorable rules of engagement (no flanking, no double teaming, etc.) or by corrupting a good NPC to their side.  So even though the adventure is tongue-in-cheek and the villainous player-characters are supposed to role-play their evil deeds as over-the-top, smart players should still be able to come out victorious in their quest for evil.

Overall Score: 3.4 out of 5.0

Conclusions

Despite Axes of Evil being a bit on the silly side, and definitely campy, the adventure is well-written and works cohesively, and can easily provide a couple nights of fun for player-characters looking to swing over to the “dark side” of the alignment chart.  The adventure definitely works as a stand-alone gaming experience, but as a starting module it would definitely set a rather comedic tone to an evil campaign.  But then again, maybe that’s one way to keep an evil campaign afloat: having the “heroes” be more cartoon evil than diabolical.  In any event, the price of the adventure is low enough that any DM can afford to drop a couple bucks on it and see how their players like being the bad guys for a change.

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.

Grade Card

  • Presentation: 2.75
  • - Design: 2.5
  • - Illustrations: 3
  • Content: 3.5
  • - Crunch: 4
  • - Fluff: 3
  • Value: 4

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief
Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.

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