Friday, April 13, 2012
B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond
I am a big fan of the B line of modules. I have been fairly vocal about that in a recent post and I think my comments on the previous entries have put that forward. There is almost always one that does not live up to the others though. I am here to say that B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond is the culprit in the B series.
The module is not patently bad and it does serve a purpose though not what it was meant for perhaps. It is merely not up to the level of the previous eight modules. Even B8 (Journey to the Rock) which I have expressed some concerns about runs laps about this baby. There are a number of reasons why this is the weakest offering in the line and then some that can make more useful than others. These reasons are often one and the same.
The module is actually more than a single scenario. It is actually five individual scenarios that are in some cases linked together better than others. The first two of these are tied together fairly well and I would suggest playing them apart from the others. The remaining three can be tied to the first two but the hold is tenuous at best.
One of the most glaring issues for me is the cartography in the module. There are many modules where the maps alone are worth the price of the module. That is a phrase that will never be sued about Castle Caldwell. The maps are so bad that there is a blog out there where the castle map was redrawn so that the author thought it was usable. I can't recall the blog but the map redo was actually really well done. The other issue I have is the actual material. There are DM blocks here and the same phrase is often repeated. Ever wonder how many times you could tell players "There is a sword hanging on a rack on the wall" before they revolted....this module will allow you that opportunity.
The module as a said though does have a role in life other than to be the whipping post of the B series. Judges Guild released a number of products early on that were mini-adventures. This was later perhaps brought to perfection by TSR in the Lairs products. This module if taken as a fledgling attempt at this by TSR is in that situation use and that is how I would suggest it be used.
I would be negligent if I did not make a final note or two on the module, which I do suggest owning, before I close up this post. The first is the cover art. I know there have been negative comments made on this but I like Caldwell art and this is one of the pieces I remember most from all of them. This means i most likely did not date enough in high school but that aside I like the art and it invokes a definite "Creature from the Black Lagoon" feel. The other is the name of the author. I never for the longest time saw Harry Nuckols as "Harry Knuckles" and so never saw that as a detractor. In the end it is funny but not high on the professionalism ladder. For the record the actual author is a Mr. Ron Charulsky according to a post by Frank Metzner.
From the publisher:
"Five exciting short adventures to make your Basic campaign come alive!
The Clearing of Castle Caldwell - A local merchant has recently purchased a small castle...but when he tried to move in, he discovered that the castle was already inhabited!
Dungeons of Terror - A strange trapdoor in the floor of Castle Caldwell leads to a terrifying challenge!
The Abduction of Princess Sylvia - On the eve of her wedding, the beautiful princess has been kidnapped! Can you save her in time?
The Great Escape - Imprisoned in an enemy fortress, without armor or weapons, your situation seems hopeless. yet there may be a way to freedom...
The Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent - A mystical chime of great power has been stolen - but by whom? In the wrong hands, the chime can cause untold harm! But can you find and defeat this mysterious and powerful creature?"
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