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Dungeons & Dragons: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Back in 1982, two UK pioneers of role-playing, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, launched a new line of books called 'Fighting Fantasy.' These were solo game books, in which you would read a paragraph that presented a situation and several options, and depending on your choice of response, were directed to read another paragraph... and so on, reading sections according to the decisions made until you finished the adventure or got killed off. Now, some of these original storylines are being revamped and released as 'traditional' scenarios, intended to be run by a DM with one or a small group of players. So it is now possible to explore these classic dungeons within the context of your Dungeons & Dragons game.

The book is well-presented, with a nice 'real book' appearing cover with a colour illustration of the Wizard himself; the inside being black and white. The dungeon map is on the inside front cover, and is rather dark and low in contrast, making it quite difficult to read. However, Myriador are offering extensive web support including a downloadable colour map (which unfortunately is only available in a propriatory format linked to the mapping tool they are developing, a JPEG or PDF map that one could just print out would be useful!). There's plenty of line art to show what you'll find as you wander the dungeon, again this is available as a download so you can show your players what they see... although when doing this I prefer unlabelled pictures, I may want them to figure out that they are looking at zombies or that this is the Wizard himself and not one of his henchmen!). Minor details, but rendering the download a bit less useful than it might be. The final downloads are the 4 pre-generated characters that are provided. The ones in the book are very dark and wouldn't photocopy legibly, so if you want to use them, get the downloadable versions which are slightly better although the text is on a 'fussy' background. Overall, the concept of the downloadable support is good, and the things provided are useful, but there are flaws in the rendition.

The book begins with some background material and an overview of the scenario. There is also a rules addition, the concept of 'Luck.' Treated as an additional attribute for your character, you may make a Luck roll (at DC10) whenever you like before you attempt a skill, make a save or enter combat. If you succeed, you gain a circumstance bonus for the roll in question... but if you fail too badly, you may get a penalty! Each time you make a Luck roll, whatever the results, you lose a temporary point of Luck, and once you are out, you cannot make more Luck rolls until you have regained some points. This is done by the normal 1 point a day recovery, or by spell/potion. At points during the adventure, the DM is given the option of awarding Luck points to players who have accomplished certain milestones. It's an interesting system to add a little edge to character chances of success, and could be used in general campaigns if so wished. It is possibly a little too easy to gain the Luck bonus, but as it is quite small (+2) it should not be too unbalancing.

The actual adventure itself is a straightforward 'dungeon crawl' and a good one. It's faithful to the original game book, and has been converted well into the D20 system. The challenges are well-balanced and should provide plenty of opportunity for most classes to shine, provided that they are competent in combat. There is very little scope for interaction, virtually all of the denizens of this dungeon are going to attack on sight and have no 'background' or detail about who they are or why they are here... but that's not really the point. The original was a dungeon crawl too.

There's a good variety of people and creatures to meet and fight, however, including of course the Warlock himself. I was a little surprised to find that he's a Sorcerer rather than a Wizard (and if so, why does he have a box-full of spellbooks?), and given his prowess and attitude he might well have had some Fighter levels... he's not as well-detailed as one might like for a main villain/mastermind, but he's there and the characters ought - if they've been paying attention as they went through the dungeon - be able to defeat him and retrieve his treasures.

Several new monsters - recreations of the ones from the original book - are presented, in standard D20 format at the back, as well as with good tactical information in the location descriptions where they are encountered. Indeed, all the location descriptions are good, with plenty of detail for the DM to aid in running encounters. Sometimes the information is a bit repetitive, although that can be a good thing, you don't need to remember it or hunt for it elsewhere in the book, it's there where and when you need it.

At the end, there are notes on the nearby village of Gilford and its inhabitants, and some detail on fitting this adventure into a campaign be it set on Titan (the Fighting Fantasy world setting) or any other setting of your choice or devising. More details of the Titan setting are promised for the website, but aren't there yet.

Overall, this is an excellent dungeon bash, and a faithful rendition of the original Fighting Fantasy book. It should be a winner for any combat-oriented group, or a refreshing change for others who may think that they can talk their way out of anything!

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