This adventure is set in the times just after Perdition, the cataclysmic event that thrust the prison-ship Gehenna into places it certainly ought never to have gone, releasing horrific entities that for want of a better name have been called 'demons' by the convicts unlucky enough to meet them. It can follow from the events in Seeds of Rage but works perfectly well on its own.
It centres around the establishment of not just a safe haven but a group with the intention to fight back against the evil that is attacking the ship and all those aboard. Needless to say, it is not just the 'demons' who object, there are factions aboard who also seek to destroy such a sanctuary... hence the need to defend it will arise. Thus the course of this adventure includes exploration and construction, political manoeuvering for those characters interested in leadership roles and a massive climactic brawl.
For those who did not play (or did not survive) Seeds of Rage, suggestions are given for how to start the adventure in a logical and believable manner. Now one matter must be touched upon, that of gender. As you'd expect, the convicts were segregated according to whether they were men or women, and all material presented so far has tended to assume that the characters will be male. With everything breaking down, that's going to change and the sexes will be able to mingle, and opportunities for those who like to play female characters will become available. Indeed the very first scene of this adventure involves meeting a female convict (and assumes that the characters who encounter her are men!). It's a tough place, and young or prudish players may be advised to seek another game.
Following this encounter the characters meet with those who are busy establishing a place of safety and are able to join them. Well-presented and atmospheric, this section gives the impression that matters will progress apace with or without your characters, but it does rather presuppose what they will choose to do. OK, so banding together with other organised and determined people is the sensible, rational thing to do at this point, but...
Assuming that the characters do decide to settle here, or at least remain for a while, the settlement of Sanctuary is described in considerable detail, certainly enough for it to be used as a base of operations. Again atmospheric, with plenty of people busy establishing their own roles and places, whatever the characters choose to do, plenty of scope for interaction here. There are plenty of ideas provided to help you get them embedded into Sanctuary life too, a chance to use their skills and abilities to improve the place... and their reputation within it. With a group which enjoys interaction and creative activity, you can spin this section out, and return periodically to it.
For those who prefer a bit more action or who enjoy exploring, there's a need for people to patrol and scavenge as well. Plenty of nice dark and damp passages are provided, along with encounters and finds along the way, to give you the idea: more of the same can be devised if the characters really enjoy this segment of the adventure. There is a lot to discover, and this ought to appeal to those players who enjoy exploring or even traditional 'dungeon crawl' games. It also sets the scene well, many different things going on in the background or becoming important should they choose to investigate more deeply.
Back at Sanctuary, things have also been developing apace. There is political turmoil, a leadership struggle, against the backdrop of news of a large force advancing in this direction with hostile intent. Several candidates for command of the group present themselves, plus it's open to any character to do so as well if they so choose. A fairly complex but workable system is presented to determine the winner of the election: the interesting point being that even if no characters stand, the result is by no means predetermined - there are good and bad outcomes laid out in event of any of the NPC candidates winning, whilst if a character does so, it's up to them!
And so on to the climactic battle itself. Basically this is a mass-action brawl, but given the nature of the environment there is plenty for each individual character to get involved in. The course of events is laid out clearly, with everything that you need to run them smoothly. There's a neat tracking method to enable you to determine the relative strengths of attackers and defenders during the entire course of events, too. The outcome is surely not certain, but it is clear that the battle will be desperate and hard-fought, but with plenty of opportunity for the characters to make a difference. Mass combats are quite hard to pull off in a role-playing game, but this one has the potential to be an exciting climax to the adventure provided you stay calm and work through it methodically.
Overall this is an exciting adventure with opportunities for many styles of play, although it tends to assume that the characters will go along with the plot and the final battle is unavoidable and all-encompassing, however much a less-violent character may try to stay out of the way. It's one of the best presented, best laid out 'mass battles' for a normal adventure that I've seen for a while, with a series of episodes in which the characters' actions have the potential to make some difference to the outcome. As a follow-on to the previous published adventure, it's excellent; if you have not run that with your group, there is still scope to incorporate it within your campaign.
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Reviewed: 13 March 2011