Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bleys of Glory: Mark of Amber Review Pt 2

Well, I keep forgetting to bring the maps for Mark of Amber with me, so this will be commentary on the individual room descriptions themselves. 

Chateau Sylaire is supposed to be the ancient mansion of a gazillion high level mages; there are seven mages of double-digit levels as NPCs, including two 20th-level mages...and more than a few other mid-level ones. Does Sylaire live up to this promised wackiness?

Well, no. It winds up feeling more like a traditional manor with a few "fun" rooms thrown in. The traditional manor bit could be a good idea; the dominant forces perhaps ought to be the wacky NPCs, with the surroundings playing straight man. Still, you can't help but want to see some goddamn fun house stuff - Chateau Sylaire would be the place to put it in!

We start out with the castle grounds, and a magical garden, tamed so it doesn't eat the guests. (What kind of mad wizards ARE these?) A few tame effects - Venus flytraps that give out prizes, ornate mini-palaces that "are sometimes used as places of trysting" (sex in my D&D?!?) but disappointingly never disappear back underground while occupied. Bah. One page of basic building description and bloat (barracks, stables, carriage house, gates and walls...) although the giant refuse heap has a rumor at least.

The ground floor is pretty boring. Tolerable elements: suits of armor with magen (think vat-spawn but not as awesome) inside, a fancy fountain mocking the guy who persecuted the d'Ambrevilles back in the day, a bunch of robes continually reenacting a long-forgotten ritual. The rest of the 10 pages is uninteresting, with room descriptions and a few boring (!) secret passages. (Oh, and magical HVAC units. Whee!)

The second floor has the Glory Windows, which show strange and vaguely prophetic illusions at sunrise. It's also got a flying carriage house, a room built for family members using fly spells to come in and dry off. Not exciting, but it fits the manse's intended tone really well so it gets a half point. Four pages

The dungeon has a trapped and staked vampire from not-Transylvania (meh), a flesh golem on a hamster wheel pumping water for the house (good!), a magic door to Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne (hell yes!)...and some boring rooms after that. Golem construction and summoning otherplanar critters shouldn't be boring. At least the d'Ambrevilles have some zombie servants, because c'mon man, they're insane wizards, they should get something fun.

There's nothing egregiously bad in these, but there's nothing super-stand-out either. The best thing is the door to Averoigne, which thankfully never gets super-detailed and serves as a nice spur of mystery. But the standard I have these days is that the door and the hamster wheel ought to be the baseline, not the standouts.
The other thing here is that these set up a "normal" so that they can get turned into scary mode later in the module. That's fair enough, but c'mon. The combo of Zelazny Amberites and Clark Ashton Smith Averoigne deserves something grander and weirder, even as a baseline.

Mentioning that vat-spawn are like magen but cooler makes me start wanting to convert Chateau Sylaire into something more suitably crazy. It should have a veneer of the fancy French manor, and definitely some rooms that fit that purpose - but then the weirdness and eldritch weirdness lurking behind the scenes when you start to sneak around.