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Reviews of 'Chaos Spawn'

Chaos Spawn

by Douglas Niles
Chaos War Adventures, Volume 2


Reviews of 'Chaos Spawn'

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Reviewer: Morten Brattbakk

Rating: Stars

Editor's Note: This review contains SPOILERS for the adventure. Proceed at your own risk. Originally posted on the Dragonlance-L mailing list.

My relationship with Douglas Niles as a Dragonlance author has always varied between good and bad. I think most of the modules he wrote for the original DL series were good, and all of them defined Dragonlance in a very good way. Later, he has written some books that are OK to read, but do include things that I don't think fit within a Dragonlance book, for atmosphere or continuity reasons, or both. These include Flint the King, Emperor of Ansalon, Kagonesti and Fistandantilus Reborn. I practically lost faith in him after the abysmal The Dragons and Wings of Fury, but then I read Seeds of Chaos and later The Last Thane and The Puppet King. While I have my nitpicks about these last three products too, they have a Dragonlancyness that I have missed for a long time, and which makes it so hard to dislike those products, despite the shortcomings.

Seeds of Chaos particularly blew me away. Here we saw a return to AD&D DL, to the old full-page format, to a relatively non-linear way of structuring a module, a presentation of the surroundings and the setting so important to an RPG adventure (not only a presentation of the key plotlines), not to mention a cool cover and interior pictures and maps. In many positive ways, I was reminded of the modules of old. Also, there were keyed encounter maps which the 5th Age adventures avoided like the plague, and my favorite god, Zeboim, was involved. In short, Seeds of Chaos made me very happy.

I was a bit disappointed when I discovered Seeds of Chaos wasn't the start of a trend, and Sylvan Veil and Dragonlance Classics 15th Anniversary Edition turned out to be SAGA products (half-heartedly including AD&D conversions), with the linear style again dominating the adventures.

So it was with a bit of excitement I opened Chaos Spawn. Would it be AD&D like its predecessor? Would it be as Dragonlancy? Would it be as enjoyable to read?

I'll start with the cover. It is awesome. Painted by Todd Lockwood, it depicts three dragons, one good, one evil and one fire dragon, all with a rider, battling in the sky. I'd love this one as a poster.

I flipped through the module at first, looking at the pictures and maps. The new monsters and one of the maps with a cloud cave made me think back to the infamous Rick Swan modules, not the original DL modules. There were quite a few good interior illustrations though.

The good news is, this is indeed an AD&D module, not a SAGA module hidden behind an AD&D cover. From what I could see, though, the SAGA conversion stats are quite thought-through, and not hastily put together like they were in Seeds of Chaos. (So SAGA fans will probably be happier with Chaos Spawn than they were with Seeds of Chaos, or the AD&D fans were with Sylvan Veil and Dragonlance Classics 15th Anniversary Edition.) But it's so great to read a module that says "Dungeon Master" instead of "Narrator", "PCs" instead of "Heroes". Don't ask me why, I just like it. :)

The module starts out in Palanthas, where the first module was set, and brings the PCs to the High Clerist's Tower, after the battle against the Chaos forces, and they witness a ceremony there, the birth of a daemon lord. They have to follow it to the city of Maelgoth and try and destroy it. Of course, there are hindrances on the way.

This module is a bit linear, especially in the first part, as the PCs go from Palanthas to the Tower. Also, with so few game products coming out, especially ones as good at describing the world as this one is, there is a waste of space as almost the entire first half of the module is wasted on covering the familiar grounds of Palanthas and the Tower. However, once the module gets out on the Plains of Solamnia, I find the descriptions much more interesting and useful. We get a brief overview on the Plains of Solamnia (If I am not mistaken, it is the first time ever that a general description of such a central place has been provided!), and some sites there. The city of Maelgoth (second in size only to Vingaard of the cities on the Plains) is described in relative detail, and will be a useful addition to anyone running a 4th Age campaign set on the Plains of Solamnia. Some details that might give you ideas for other adventures, or for expanding this one, are also included. In addition to the descriptions of the various sites of the area where the players can go the events of the adventure are described, of course. The new monsters make sense, and are not so bad as was my first impression while flipping through the module, neither is the Chaos Cloud. If my 4th Age campaign ever makes it to the Chaos War (we don't play very often), I will certainly run Seeds of Chaos, and this one also, but with some minor modifications, especially near the end.

In addition, the module is action-oriented, and gives opportunity for some cool fights, has some nasty occultism in it, but leaves room for role-playing too, especially within the walls of Maelgoth.

The final judgement is that this module is not as good as Seeds of Chaos, but it certainly ain't bad either. It says that this is the second and last in the Chaos War series. That is a shame, because I haven't enjoyed DL game products as much as I've enjoyed reading the two Chaos War modules for a long, long time, and there is time in the timeline for one more Chaos War module, set at the close of the Chaos War. Please, guys at Wizards, if you have so few game products coming out over the next few years, certainly you can find room for a last module in this series, as was originally planned.

Well, apart from the fact that I wonder why it had to take one full year for the sequel to Seeds of Chaos to be released, the judgment is that this module is good, with a relatively good adventure, and relatively good background material, except the first half or so when the story is too linear; and the source material almost nothing but rehash.


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