Monday, August 26, 2013

[Review] Milecastle 42

Silver Gryphon Games released Milecastle 42 a little while back, and once again, they were kind enough to send me a copy to review.  Well folks, this one is a sandbox style adventure that promises a ton of action for both combat monkeys and problem solvers.  If you are interested in Milecastle 42, you can find it here.

Summary (Spoilers!):
Romans, an undead horde, and absolutely no room for failure sums up Milecastle 42, a sandbox style adventure from Silver Gryphon Games.  The adventure itself opens with a brief back story that explains the setting and explains who the characters are and why they are present.  It also notes that this adventure is supposed to be a sandbox and explains what that means.  Characters are partially pre-generated, providing what the writer feels are essential skills and abilities, and leaving a little wiggle room for the player to customize it.  It's too bad this adventure was released before Pinnacle's own Weird Wars Rome setting, because it would have been nice to see how a person's own established characters could be "hooked" into Milecastle 42.  Regardless, it all begins with the player characters as Roman Legionnaires sent to investigate the lighting of a warning fire at a nearby border fortress designed as a bastion again the undead. Unfortunately, the zombies have come in force.

The Good:
This adventure looks like a ton of fun to play.  As a sandbox, its basic setup is to present a core problem and leave it up to the PCs to find the solution. In this case, the problem is a Zombie horde that cannot be allowed to pass through Milecastle 42 and enter the lands of the Empire.  The solution, no matter how you go about it, is going to be just brutal.  Aside from the core issue and the level of detail provided about the locations in the Milecastle, there are a number of other things I liked.  First and foremost, the writer gave us just enough background information about this version of ancient Rome (including a list of names), how to function as a legionnaire, and enough basic knowledge to give the PCs a fighting chance at survival.  Second, I've begun to notice that Silver Gryphon Games includes some very well done maps with their adventures.  The map of the Milecastle is excellent.  Third, the Zombies in this adventure are the infectious kind -- as if it all wasn't bad enough, you may have to cut down your own brother in arms if they take a hit.  And lastly, there are some funny parts to this adventure amid all the carnage.  My favorite is the random zombie walking around in the latrine.

The Bad:
There are a few proofreading errors, but nothing to make me dislike this adventure.  However, it can make things difficult when some of the calculations for NPC/Beasts aren't correct.  The Zombie Goths most notably need to be reviewed for accuracy.  Also, it seems this adventure is using a different scale for base Armor values instead of the values in the Savage Worlds: Deluxe rulebook.  Chainmail has a value of 3 Armor instead of 2, and Lorica Segmentata has a value of 4.  I don't really have a problem with that (indeed, I'm a fan of the 1-5 instead of 1-3 range as well), but it would have been nice if they had pointed out the use of an alternate rule in a sidebar.

The Ugly:
This adventure is brutal and unforgiving.  There is no room for error. Considering the sheer number of opponents, the two enemy wildcards, and the nature of probability when rolling to avoid infection, I would almost expect a total party kill in more cases than not. Because of the difficulty, Milecastle 42 might not be the best choice for all gaming groups.

Overall (9/10)*:
This looks like a lot of brutal fun, and I could almost call Milecastle 42 the Tomb of Horrors for Savage Worlds.  Expect a high body count, but also a few laughs as well.  And if, just if, some PC's make it, they deserve their rewards!  As an aside, I'll probably end up adapting this adventure to my own Savage fantasy campaign, though it may have to be toned down a little or my campaign could grind to a sudden, bloody halt.
Content: 5/5
Presentation: 4/5
Rules: 4/5
*Fun Factor: 5/5 only if your group likes a challenge

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