Friday, 30 January 2015

[Review] Liberation Of The Demon Slayer

REVIEW: LIBERATION OF THE DEMON SLAYER

(Puple-Haunted italic commentary by Venger Satanis)


Venger to the left.
Liberation of the Demon Slayer to the right.
I have been so excited about this product and finally bought it last year. Read it and had mixed feelings about it until I “got it” and really, really enjoyed it. I have to thank Venger Satanis for openly discussing of LotDS and for Kirwyn correcting my comment about “a hot mess” to “a hot mess of awesome” (or something like that! It’s a pain to scroll back G+ post discussions so correct me if I quoted you wrong).


There is tons of awesome and few problems. This is Venger’s first big publication so I am gentle. Gentle but honest.


For me this will be the first RPG book I am going to make markings on. I never do it, so LotDS will be a gate for the world of making RPGs even more usable and accessible on the table.


Also I wanted Venger to comment on my review to make it review/interview/discussion type of thingie. His unedited comments are IN PURPLE. Enjoy.


Looking Good


Hang in there, mr. headline!
Otherwise looking good.
The cover is very nice, illustration very good (not safe for work because nudity), maps by Dyson Logos great (as always) and layout looks clear and text easy to read. One annoying thing is a light grey shade of a tribal tattoo styled logo on every page. It looks like an annoying shadow and it is always there no matter how you turn the book to the light.


Not only is there nudity of the female human (or perhaps half-elf) variety - she’s chained to the floor before some shoggoth-like entity the K’tulu cultists are worshiping.  The High Priest is giving a sermon, reading from some moldy, forbidden tome; he’s taking a break from whipping her with some kind of tentacle flail.  So, it’s nudity plus BDSM adult situation.


As for the Kort’thalis sigil, I personally think it’s one of the coolest aspects of the layout.  As long as the text is still legible, I don’t see a problem.  Obviously, not everyone will agree.


You are right about the sigil. It is not a flaw, it is a feature and design decision. I don’t like it for the reason I said (looks like a shadow that never goes away). But I don’t want people to think here that it’s very dominating feature. No it isn’t. There’s far more worse than this!


There are some layout problems also what could have been easily avoided. Loose headings should not happen. Problems are minor and few and most of the product is easy to read.


Regarding the loose headings, etc: yeah, it’s not perfect.  I’m not sure if this was Ed’s (the layout guy) first big project, too.  Thankfully, we’ve grown together and the overall appearance of my books keeps getting better.  


Also I do remember you explaining that you had busy time in personal life at the time of publication of LotDS. Also you do have a good author’s page where you discuss LotDS.


Maps Are Lovely, Map Keys Suck


One big thing in an adventure like this are maps. You need them. Maps are gorgeous but map keying is screwed! There are no clear markings from where you get to what floor. In some cases even not in text. And in some cases when it’s on the text it’s later, not earlier what would be better to understand the general dungeon layout.


Gorgeous map. Keys need custom work.
Also the map keys are screwed in my opinion. Sometimes how they are laid doesn’t make any sense. Next to each others can be totally random things what can make the dungeon feel like a christmas calendar. And then there is this [see the map to the right]. See, F and L are both in the same room. They are in different ends but still. E and F have same content, slaver’s lair. So E can be slaver’s lair but so is F. L, M and N are kobold army. Is there something wrong with me or is that just stupid? I think that map keys work better if they are erased and rearranged.


Yes, there are a few inconsistencies.  Here’s how not to publish an adventure: 1) Write all the encounters out first.  2) Get someone to draw all the maps for you independently of what you’ve written.  3) Fill in the numbers later and try to match everything up.  Unfortunately, that’s what happened.  Definitely a learning experience.


Ideally, the entire book should be a loose conglomeration of ideas for the Game Master to mix, match, and use as a spring-board for his own creation.  In my 30 years of Game Mastering, I’ve probably only used an adventure “as written” a handful of times.  I always put my own spin on things, my 15% that truly makes it my own.


Now I must ask Venger something: How different ways have you used LotDS yourself? I mean you obviously as an author don’t run it by-the-book and you if anyone knows what to do with it. It is obvious for the background details and setting premises that LotDS is not only an adventure you put out for the giggles. It is something more.


Many things you see in the book were improvised during various playtest sessions and included because they seemed either more natural or more weird and wild.  Liberation of the Demon Slayer is my attempt to create something that feels old and familiar while still being new and strange.


More Than You Paid For


But before you go into the dungeon you get brief explanation of the setting where LotDS is placed. The setting is swords & sorcery in feel and doesn’t go into much detail. This can be generic adventure you can place in any setting (well, in theory) but still the default setting information is cool. It’s always great to read small things like this to understand what’s in author’s head.
You also get some house-rules what is great. I love adventures what give something to use even if the adventure is played through several times. It is everyone’s own decision what house-rules to use or what to ignore but I think most, if not all, of these are very solid.


Also reasons for adventuring is good addition so I don’t have to figure out alone why player characters should engage this adventure. Again, meta information from the author how he thought things.


Dark secrets and character backgrounds are also great addition!


The Dungeons


The dungeon complex is 6 levels deep but the adventure why you most likely delve in can be done in the first level. So why the extra levels then? I have to say that here discussion with Venger helped me to understand the idea.


There’s also a ½ dungeon in another realm/planet/dimension which can break up the monotonous dungeoncrawling if the Game Master wishes to use it.


Illustration is great! There's also amateur-ish pencil
pictures, but I also like those a lot.
You can run this adventure in a single night, or a con or something. Because the adventure, well the “mission” is in the first level. But the five levels beyond are extra. Characters could have many reasons to venture further: greed, getting stuck in first level and trying to find another way out, even a new “mission”, different factions interact with characters (yes, there are factions), explore as a player using characters as chess pieces…


So basically you get one adventure and one dungeon level and five dungeon levels extra! Cool! There could have been some adventure hooks (one sentence) for the rest of the content, though. Yeah yeah GMs can easily make up stuff, but I am talking meta-information from the author again. How author used it.


The levels are interesting and different from each other. Not all encounters want to eat your face as there are different factions within. There are also cultists, demons, strange things to explore, treasure (maybe could be more treasure, eh?), and even a level you cannot access before you make it accessible.




In my opinion, there’s actually quite a bit of treasure throughout the adventure.  Especially if you count the weird shapes of color.


Well, true. I ment “traditional” treasure, like gold and jewels laying around. This thought of lacking treasure basically was because there’s always a group motivated by the glittering stuff you can buy better stuff. Still, it is not hard to add boring and traditional gold, is it. This is not a flaw, but a feature.


This is not just a dungeon, it is a playground, kind of a sandbox in caves if you stretch the idea further.


Most of the content is damn cool and awesome. Some of the content feels a little random but what I’ve read old-school adventures (the real ones) this was the style back then. So LotDS emulates pretty well old-school dungeon exploration with weird and cool.


Weird and cool are swords, sorcery and science. With healthy dose of cultists and mythos style monsters.


Why Get It?


If you ignore the biggest flaws (can’t say that layout problems are a big deal BUT map keys are a big thing for me) you will get some rules material you can use in other games later, six dungeon levels, lots of stuff for players to do, and an one floor adventure.


If you like mythos and swords and sorcery and science and slaves and monsters and demons and don’t mind nudity and not safe for work content (women being tortured, sex slaves, cannibalism) I highly recommend this.


Also this is highly compatible product as long as you know what AC, HD etc. are. Stat blocks are minimalistic (which is good).


Thanks for the review.  I love reading session reports and actual play posts of my work, so let me know after you’ve experienced Liberation of the Demon Slayer, The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, and Revelry in Torth.  


Oh yes, I also love to read play reports of the products I am interested in or have reviewed! And I’ll propably write about LotDS when I run it. Maybe trying out Swords & Wizardry with it. Any advices for me how to make LotDS fucking awesome? I mean it is awesome and all, but you do have some tricks inside your sleeves, don’t you?


The idea mentioned in the book of using the adventure as a meat-grinder might be worth pursuing - if players had multiple zero-level or 1st level characters.  You could give Kalthalax a powerful motivation like becoming god of the dungeon.  Maybe it’s not so much a demon-slaying sword as it is a demonic sword trying to open a dimensional rift into Hell?


I like the idea of my books being somewhat compatible with each other.  I think ideas from The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence could be used in Liberation and ideas from Liberation could be used in conjunction with Revelry in Torth, etc.

Venger Satanis with Liberation of the Demon Slayer
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Buy at DriveThru. Both print and PDF.

Venger's blogposts about LotDS here.