Saturday, 28 May 2016

Review of Dark Waters (No Spoilers)

Having just downloaded Dark Waters, the next supplement to Ganesha's Four Against Darkness (4AD), I was keen to give it a play.

4AD is a solo pen and paper RPG, which tries to capture the classic feel of the dungeon bash. The game has a lot of replay-ability as dungeons and monsters are randomly generated. One "scripted" supplement has already come out, Caves of the Kobold Slave Masters (CotKSM), which follows a set theme with a background plot.

Dark Waters is second supplement to come out, and like CotKSM, has a scripted background plot and a strong sea-faring/swashbuckler theme. It also introduces an entirely new character class - the Swashbuckler, a sort of fighter with some thematic abilities suiting the class.

The first part of Dark Waters is similar to the first part of CotKSM, in that there is an already generated map with it's own set of bosses and minions. One major difference is that the party can choose from two separate narratives to start with, each with it's own benefits and outcomes (what these are is not known before the choice is made).

So I created the following 1st level party to venture through the first section;
  • A Swashbuckler (Jacabo)
  • A Wizard (Balthazar)
  • A Cleric (Ethelred)
  • A Dwarf (Thorgrim)
It is hard to write about what happened without giving away spoilers, but it felt more difficult for a 1st level party than the core 4AD. A lot can go wrong, some of the situations and bosses were challenging. Though no-one was lost, Balthazar (the Wizard) and Ethelred (the Cleric) came close. They all got to level up, but had to spend most of their treasure to remove certain conditions that happened to them. There are things that can happen to characters that seems quite bad at the time, but can end up being a cool (and really pirate thematic) character effect.

The second section is in the dungeon crawl format of 4AD. It is thematically tied into the world of Norindaal, and is the exploration of a sunken temple somewhere near Atlis, with its corresponding sea creatures. There are new tables for the various monsters, events, treasures, features and other things. During the game I rolled up 21 rooms before completing. After running into a lot of the different minions and vermin, I found that the attack abilities of the monsters in this adventure probably favours a different party/character mix than what works in 4AD. This is good, as what works in one game should not necessarily work as well in another.

In the end, more through good luck then good management, the party survived intact. One thing I did (hopefully correctly) was that I found 3 clues, and used them on the "weakness of a monster" ability, which can make all attacks on the final boss at +2. Clues are one of the great things in 4AD, and give some extra narrative. I just need to think up something creative as to what the clues could represent :) Ultimately, Jacabo and Thorgrim ended up on level 4 each, while Ethelred and Balthazar ended up on level 3 each. There was a fair bit of cash and magic items at the end, as the intrepid party awaits it's next adventure.

One feature of Dark Waters was that some campaign benefits are bestowed upon the party. How these can come into play are probably up to the players imagination and forthcoming supplements.

Overall, there is a lot of bang for your buck here. For the price of a few dollars, there is at least 2 hours plus of entertainment. The new swashbuckler character class also looks quite usable outside of Dark Waters.

No comments:

Post a Comment