" Sometimes all it takes is a case of bad beer, some extra cheese pizza, and a Rush album (any one will do, they're all horrible) to bring back that 'first edition feel' that Necromancer Games attempts to resurrect with this festering fewmet. "
Title: Chaos Rising by Necromancer Games (White Wolf)
Format: D20 Adventure Supplement
Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong
The Hype: An ancient curse, an unassailable tower, an evil god, a magic talisman, and your party of adventurers responsible for the fate of the world…does this leave you shaking your head and muttering "Again?" under your breath, wondering what adventure supplement your DM picked up this week rather than writing his own material? Well, it may well be that he (or she--DMs come in both flavors) has picked up "Chaos Rising," and thus you escaped from the game table and snuck into your computer to see what Game Monkeys had to say about it. So does it deliver a new twist on an old theme? Is the slogan "Third Edition Rules, First Edition Feel" a good thing or a bad thing? Well, my monkeys… screw it. No mystery here. Just read on like we always make you do.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Drama: As much as I hate to
say it, the story for this was a stinker from the first few paragraphs, and
it doesn't repair itself in any way throughout the book. The story begins at
the very birth of the world (because of course all adventures must have a long
and maddeningly overpowered history), detailing the corruption and fall of the
Faceless Lord (who later comes to be known as Jubilex, for those of you who
love learning about demons), and his imprisonment in the Devil's Finger for
all time. Ancient dwarves found the Devil's Finger (a huge stone… well, finger,
the size of a mountain), and some evil ones started worshipping him, and so
their god (Dwurfater--this is just one of the many really bad fantasy names
in this adventure) tried to destroy Jubilex, and in the end it took the sacrifice
of thousands of dwarven lives just to seal him into the Citadel at the top of
the Devil's Finger. This came as a surprise to this Monkey, who thought the
Faceless Lord was already sealed in the Citadel anyway, and thinks that maybe
Dwurfater just didn't like his kids very much...but I digress. In the end, what
is accomplished is that the Faceless Lord is locked forever inside a vault whose
door appears once every 400 years, and the key is hidden behind all kinds of
complicated traps within a separate demiplane, and the Citadel itself is a demiplane
which cannot be accessed through means such as Astral Projection and Teleportation.
As a quick aside, it's worth nothing that with all of this data at my disposal, my monkeys, the Conqueror Ape came to two separate conclusions. The first is that any deity with any sense whatsoever would never create such obscure circumstances for a prison to be opened, because inevitably, a party of four to six adventurers with nothing to lose and no connection to the situation will come along and solve the mystery. The second is that Dwurfater is obviously a huge gamer nerd and a rules lawyer, because he knew all of the dirty D&D gamer tricks that would be used to try and gain access to the Citadel, and he put the smack down on them like any true Dwarf God would.
Back to the story, many moons pass, et cetera, the adventurers are tossed into the mix through a combination of fortune, deus ex machina, and really bad adventure hooks, and now it's up to them to stop an evil warlord from gaining access to the Citadel and getting the Faceless Lord's soul and using that power to do… well, evil things. Essentially, my monkeys, this is the kind of story you would expect from a First Edition adventure, and just goes to show you why RPG adventure writers rarely ever make it as novelists. The story serves only well enough to set up the adventure, which is one trap and encounter after another, and includes such horrifying annoyances as time travel, demiplanes, and a rash of open-ended methods of assault that will completely stump and flummox the average group of gamers. I rate this story somewhere between "lame" and "pathetic," and give it a score above zero only to say that they did actually come up with something, even if it stinks like Dungapult's hamper. 1 out of 5.
Layout and Presentation: If I had to make one statement about the art in Necromancer Games supplements, it would be "Brian Le Blanc is Necromancer Games' bitch." Once again, he is the sole artist for the interior of this supplement, and the art is of fairly high quality. The book's layout is very linear, as adventures tend to be, giving a synopsis and an opening before launching into the adventure proper and heading from chapter to chapter, beginning to end. It's fairly easy to navigate, in theory, but the adventure itself is so confusing with multiple dimensions and time-travel that it's sometimes hard to figure out what happens when if you're scanning for a particular passage. Overall, however, the book is set up nicely, and the cover by Llyn Hunter isn't as bad as it seems at first glance--there's a many-eyed glob of tar that's probably supposed to be the Faceless Lord, and it looks god-awful, but the rest of the art is great. That horrible ooze-monster deity just happens to be the centerpiece. It makes one wonder--if chaos gods are so chaotic, why are they almost always shown as amorphous blobs of goo with eyes? 3.5 out of 5.
Playability: There are two ways of looking at this adventure. You can read through it and decide "I would never run this," or you can read through it and decide "I'm going to run this to punish someone in my group for their rules-lawyering ways." There is no third alternative, because anyone attempting to read through the adventure the first time gets lost within ten pages of the garbled paradox-fodder the game sets up, and realizes that this adventure is designed solely to hurt the minds of those who spend their spare time thinking up spell/feat combinations that allow them to bypass otherwise insurmountable obstacles. Most of these metagame smackdowns aren't even particularly clever--rather, they are of the "you can't do that in this place because the gods say so" variety, which any greenhorn DM without any game-cred to his name can think up passing idle moments on the crapper. The players are shuffled through great historical events involving the Devil's Finger (and trust me, it's the middle finger) without much explanation as to why this is occurring or why they're even involved, and only players who read the prologue will understand the premise of the game, though nothing short of the Helm of Opposite Reaction will convince them to give a wererat's ass. It becomes apparent about halfway through the adventure that the only way out of the maze of conundrums and time-travel fiascos is to track down your character's ubergreat-grandfather and kill him so as to never be born into this madness, yet even then the character will be foiled by a line about time travel in the prologue of the adventure--"The inertia of time and destiny flattens the smallest ripples in time." Your players will be left asking "What the hell?" and you yourself will wonder what just came out of your mouth, but checking the adventure yields no explanation, as the author himself admits that it means absolutely nothing. I stand by that statement as the trendsetter for the adventure itself. 0.5 out of 5.
Desired Content: Did you want an adventure? You didn't really get one. You got a confusing mass of multidimensional rules-layering that isn't fit to be served. Did you want good artwork? Well, it's not that bad. Did you want clever story hooks? You didn't get any. Did you want a really cool prestige class at the end? You got a crappy prestige class at the end. Did you want your money back? I hope you kept your receipt. 0.5 out of 5.
|There are experiences in my life that I consider larger wastes of my time than reading Chaos Rising, but most of them occurred during childhood, when I didn't know any better and I had time to spare between episodes of Thundercats. If nothing else, however, it has taught me a very valuable lesson--D&D Third Edition happened for a reason, and sometimes all it takes is a case of bad beer, some extra cheese pizza, and a Rush album (any one will do, they're all horrible) to bring back that "first edition feel" that Necromancer Games attempts to resurrect with this festering fewmet. Sometimes it's not so hard to say goodbye to yesterday--adventures like these are what brought about more advanced systems of storytelling in RPGS.|
The Good: The artwork isn't so bad.
The Bad: Everything else is. And time-travel should not happen during an adventure. Ever.
The Overall Ugly: I think blackmail was involved in getting this thing published.
What it's Worth: If you got it free, demand a refund. I did.