This is the first in a six-part campaign arc set in The Great City, already painstakingly mapped and described by 0one Games, and is written for beginning characters. Although it's never stated, the impression is that they are not native to the city, but may have been there for a while - long enough, at least, to be able to find their way around.
The adventure is set amidst a background of seething unrest and incipient rebellion. While such political upheaval is being formented by others of greater import than a bunch of low-level characters, their actions in this (and following episodes) are likely to prove pivotal.
Events begin with a murder investigation, into the death by violence of a junior army officer. Several ideas for getting the characters embroiled in the action are supplied, or the nature of your players may suggest others of your own. The investigation takes the characters through the underbelly of the city, and culminates in a clandestine fight club, where the action in the ring gets masked by an all-out brawl amongst the spectators!
Investigative adventures, by their very nature, tend to the linear as the characters unravel a clue chain to lead them to the truth. To avoid it appearing too linear from a player perspective, once the first part - the discovery of a suspicious corpse - is over and the characters have got (by whatever means you choose) involved, the next three parts of the investigation can be run in any order as the characters visit the right places and talk to the right people; they'll end up at the final part of the plot anyway! The DM is thus encouraged to be thoroughly familiar with what is going on in all locations, as well as to have a good working knowledge of the Great City, so that he can present matters seamlessly whatever path the characters choose to follow.
However, do not fear that this adventure is too cerebral for the majority of players, combat can occur around any corner... and will be necessary for the characters to complete their investigations. There's a good balance between having to talk to people and having to fight them, with a fair few 'monsterous' foes thrown in for good measure... and some sneaking around for the more stealthy and devious characters to enjoy.
The main phases of the investigation are well-written. Everyone featured has their own life to lead, building up an impressive alternate reality which will be of use after the adventure is over - should they survive, they'll still be there doing their own thing. Another nice touch are the Broadsides. A local entrepreneur has taken to printing news-posters and distributing them around town. Several examples are provided, and it's an idea you can utilise to insert your own plot hooks as well.
Overall, this is an excellent adventure in which a lot is going on, giving the characters a chance to become deeply embedded in the life of the city.
Return to The Road to Revolution: The Skullcrackers page.
Reviewed: 8 February 2009