I backed the kickstarter for Adûl pretty much purely based on the cover art, so props to Andrea Alemanno. The adventure’s price was right, it had awesome art, and seemed like I could get a decent sized adventure to run. Not a hard choice. In reading the book, I’ll probably use the City of Gold as a drop in location for a bigger campaign, which is kind of the intent.
You can get copies here in the traditional places, and like normal, I opted for a physical book. DrivethroughRPG.
The premise of the module is that your adventurers, level 5 or 6, have finished a big quest of some sort, when they find a treasure map. This leads them to the “Mythical city of gold”, Adûl, a magical demi-plane city of adventure. Its filled with magic, and treasure, and stuff the PCs will want, but they only have a limited time to get what they can, and get out (the bricks are literally Adamantine-Infused, and weight/gold values are provided if that’s how you want to spend your time). The magic map and demi-plane thing is a nice way to have the city fit into any setting. The one day limit is kind of a weird thing from a meta-game perspective, because the module is 3 levels long, but I’ll get to that at the end.
I’m a big fan of high concept games, and getting adventurers off the material plane as often as possible. Doing it early, especially for new players is something I feel pretty strongly about. It helps break people from the normal Tolkien tropes that fill most peoples preconceived notions. I love LoTR, but not every story needs to be about halflings hiking and hiding from orcs. Adûl does a good job of this. The city itself is located at an intersection of the planes of shadow, fire, and air. The map allows limited travel to it. Right out the gate, we get to do some inter-dimensional travel, even if your characters themselves can’t cast the spells.
Because the book is intended to slot into any setting, it takes a minute to explain what the various planes are, and how you can adapt them. I thought this was a nice single page inclusion, that a lot of small time presses would forget or leave up to the DM to figure out.
The book is peppered with small black and white art pieces, and at 55 pages, I only found 3 or 4 double page spreads without at least one piece. And many had more than one. If a picture is a thousand words, this book is way longer than 55 pages. It also has 5 or 6 color pieces slipped in. The art quality throughout is solid, and they probably could have saved some cash, and only done black and white art without getting any complaints.
As we get into the meat of the city itself, I’m pretty into it. Its the sort of thing that’s right in the intersection of my interests. Lasers and Swords. The ruins of Adûl are on an asteroid floating in a hellish space, described as one would think an intersection of fire, shadow, and air would be. Smoke, fire, darkness, and a ruined city on an asteroid drifting about. On the first page about the city, we get a map of the city. I’m a big map fan, and getting it right away helps me visualize a lot of the rest of what they talk about. They also provide a lot of maps for the various buildings and encounters described, which is counter to a lot of recent modules I see, and very much appreciated.
The city is populated by a good variety of abandoned automatons, undead, and fire monsters, and they do a good job of explaining the purpose of each one. I don’t think your players will hit a point where they groan and say “oh, more mephits”, while at the same time I think there is enough mephit backstory (a couple of sentences) for the DM to make it memorable and distinct, even if rolled as a random encounter.
I said I’d get back to the leveling thing earlier, so I wanted to do that before the end. Its my major gripe with the book actually, and its probably not that big a deal to anyone else. The cover and back of the book say its an adventure for levels 5-8, but inside the actual book and all the promo stuff I can find about it now says 6-8. I think the intent is 6-8, but a typo on the cover is disappointing. Deeper though, The book suggests the option of using milestone XP, which I love, and provides great insight into the intended advancement pace. They give 1,000 for entering the city, 8,000 for looting it, and 1,000 for escaping. A level 6 character starts at 14,000 and hits level 7 at 23,000. Meaning after they finish the module, then if they escape they get a little more. That really is more of a level 6-7 module (ending at 24,000). Even if they start at level 7, they can’t hit 8 (34,000) using XP rewarded in the module at all. I think their guidelines are off, and it should probably be a level 5-7 module. At least then they would be 5, into 6, and close to 7. Alternatively, I think I might have done the milestone XP a little different. The module is broken down into major areas, with detailed awesome descriptions of each. Give the players 5,000xp per area explored, and throw in the 1,000 for the first entrance and escape. Especially, because I plan to let my players return often. That XP rate is a little more variable, but it at least lets me tell my players with a straight face they are getting the chance for 3 levels worth of adventure. As is, the module is really a single level long.
Overall, I can certainly see myself using this module, and it contains pretty much what I want from one. I’ll certainly pay attention to their next release.