Portraits of cultists

This is for my upcoming adventure module called A Thousand Fathoms Deep. It was formerly known as the Sepulchre of the Abyss (based on the module that I submitted to One Page Dungeon a few years back).

Here are some quick and dirty portraits of two Augurs of the Dark Light. Their eyes are pitch black: without reflection of any kind.

(yes, the one on the left has a dead sea-horse pendant)

 

Review of Battle for the Purple Islands

Battle for the Purple Islands is an adventure module set in the same world as Venger’s previous adventure: Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence (review link). It’s a mix of the usual sword and sorcery, gonzo, horror and tongue-in-cheek pop culture references.

Basic info:

  • 24 pages
  • Colour exterior, black & white interior art
  • Two versions: print-friendly and regular (with coloured backgrounds and vein-y watermarks
  • Mostly system-neutral, although stat blocks seem to match VSD6, Venger’s game system  (used for Alpha Blue and Crimson Dragon Slayer)

Disclaimers:

  1. I received a review copy (PDF) from the writer. I’ve reviewed numerous works by Venger and even played a few. Here is a listing of all of my Venger-related reviews.
  2. Venger’s games have a reputation that is well established at this point.   It’s rated R for sure. I won’t go into  any further warnings about subject matter or maturity level.

Visual style

Once again Venger’s art direction and Glynn Seal (Monkey Bood Design) have done a very nice job.

The artwork is of fine quality and evocative of 70s and 80s Heavy Metal Magazine pop culture gonzo-ness. There are many nods to geek culture; some obvious, others not (consider those ones easter eggs).

Everything is crisp, tidy and clean. With every book that Korthatlis publishing puts out, the graphic design improves.

Usability

The typography is easy to read and the watermarks never got in the way. The tables are simple in construction and use alternating row shadings for better readability. Good stuff.

The headings add structure and the block-quotes add flavor: they don’t commit that annoying habit of repeating content already in the body text.

The artwork is usually contextual, but not always. They’re interesting and all well-drawn.

The PDF does not have an index but it does have well-structured bookmarks (so you wouldn’t need an index page anyway).

The adventure itself contains…

  • Basic info about the current state of the Purple Islands, establishing the general mood and setting. There isn’t a lot other than broad descriptions, so GMs will likely want to draw up some maps or basic geography themselves (there aren’t any in this book).
  • The Purple Destiny: each PC is generated a random “predestined” fate. The intent isn’t to railroad the adventure or to remove player agency. It’s to give the character a  new objective (of sorts) during their visit. Anytime that they perform an action that pushes that narrative forward, they get advantage to their roll. These destinies include things like “faithfully serving one or more demonic entities” or “to become an influential leader”. This is a neat idea and would theoretically make this module a memorable one for the players (it’s that time Jane Doe’s PC suddenly became obsessed with time travel!). Cool idea, Venger.
  • Reasons to travel to this setting, including entry points from other games, such as Alpha Blue or even as returning survivors of the previous Purple Islands adventure in the series. Of particular note is the idea that visitors from other planes of existence might lose their memory and “go native”. This can lead to some very interesting situations. Example: some orc invaders might now believe that they’re Anthropologists or Archaeologists.The entry points from other worlds (or pre-existing ones) each have a suggested starting point.
  • A name generator for NPCs on the island. They’re weird and full of apostrophes, but all easily pronounceable (and thus, easier to remember).
  • Outlines of some key personalities and factions such as a cannibal tribe and talking apes.
    • There’s a quirky NPC who borderline breaks the 4th wall. I found him funny: there’s potential for some subversive interactions. Won’t spoil it here.
    • Random curious customs for the cannibal tribes to make each one memorable or unique compared with others. These are usually grotesque, often horrifying and contain subtle geek culture references.
    • As an aside, the Cannibal tribe includes a twist on the usual captive damsel in distress trope. I found it pretty clever
  • Some key locations to visit (most of which are tied to some of those key personalities and factions).
  • A big random table for hexcrawl exploration (not all are combat-oriented, thankfully; many are just cool scenes or places to interact with)
  • A Reaction table for determining how NPCs (usually natives of the setting) react to witnessing the sudden appearance of Lovecraftian Horrors (a refreshing idea, actually: we always get rules on how PCs deal with Fear and Horror but rarely how bystanders handle it).
  • Weird random weather generator (custom-made to enhance the mood of the setting).

The “plot” itself

I admit that it took me a while to get this figured out. The Purple islands are being overcome with lovecraftian horrors. Lovecraft himself is a strange hermit in a mountain cave: he owns a MacGuffin that an evil Brotherhood needs to complete their evil apocalyptic plan. The PCs will likely meet a strange Courrier who’s mission is to find Lovecraft. Lots of different factions (the snake cult, the cannibal tribes, the evil brotherhood, the talking apes) are all in the way, interfering with the PCs’ progress (and with each others’ plans).

There are some moments that are very reminiscent of the film “in the Mouth of Madness” in which a creative writer of horror fiction confronts his own genius. The PCs might even witness a twisted movie that can have huge psychological effects on them. Again, neat ideas.

Out of all of Venger’s adventure modules, this one was the most surreal and weird to me: there’s definitely a sequence of events that will occur (or might not, if the PCs don’t do anything). There are consequences for inaction: mass radioactive apocalypse. It’s not a railroad, but there are some key NPCs and locations that need to be found/interacted with to further the timeline. I suppose that’s true of other modules as well, but it felt especially true here.

I think that this adventure would have benefited from a clearly laid out, bullet-by-bullet sequence of events (or flowchart) that will explain what will happen if the PCs fail or don’t interfere in time at different moments.

Conclusion

This module is brief but is densely packed and colourful. Lots of things to see and do and very high on the weirdness factor. I would have liked some maps or floorplans, but I suppose that it wouldn’t be hard to make some of your own (just pull up some floorplans of contemporary buildings: the setting is so gonzo that it would work).

If you’re a fan of Venger’s other works, or of weird, gonzo pulp adventures in general, I recommend this module. For 5$ USD, it’s not a bad purchase at all.

You can get it here on DriveThruRPG.