Monday, November 9, 2015

REVIEW: Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes

I recently received my copies of +Jeff Talanian's last Kickstarter of 3 adventures for Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  I have finished reading his own Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes and felt it deserved a review; I plan on reviewing the other 2 soon.  Spoilers follow.
An adventure for 4 to 6 characters of levels 2 through 4, Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes brings the gonzo without exclamation points.  What do I mean by that?  Simply, many gonzo adventures beat you over the head with it; Jeff has created an adventure where you are searching for radioactive green diamonds, your main enemies are a winged carnivorous ape and radioactive berserker zombies, and your main reward is the skiff Luke, Leia, and Han escape from Jabba with.  None of this is done with exclamation points; Jeff just lays it out there for your characters to deal with as they see fit.
The adventure is 56 pages; 1 title, 1 credits, and 1 OGL, so call it 53 pages of adventure.  Of those 53, there are 2 excellent full page maps in the adventure by +MonkeyBlood Design, as well as an interior front cover hex map and rear cover schematic of the skiff.  The cover art is by Charles Lang, who also has a full page interior piece.  The remaining art is by +Mark Allen+Johnathan Bingham, and +Del Teigeler.  I really like Mark's art; unfortunately, I feel Johnathan's is more hit or miss.  I've really enjoyed his previous work, which had a strong Jack Kirby vibe.  I wish more of it had been like that.
The adventure gives you a sea voyage, a coastal village with a lycanthrope problem (and a wonderfully interactive rumor table), a desert hex journey, an undead Viking longship, and the aforementioned ape/zombies.  Oh, did I mention the hyaena-men who ride giant chameleons?  See what I mean about the gonzo that is relatively subtle?  The adventure feels like it could be in Dungeon Crawl Classics or Gamma World just as easily.  Could you believe I almost forgot about the giant radioactive ants?  See how subtly Jeff delivers the gonzo?  It's not over the top, unless you think about it.  He presents it very matter-of-factly, which I quite like.
Magic items are hit or miss; there is some standard +1 scimitar or +2 boomerang (maybe not so standard) and potions and such.  There is also a flamethrower and a string of knots that causes the wind to fill the sails of a ship.
You really get a lot of stuff in this adventure, in my opinion.  You can get it for $22.00 US from along with the other 2.  The Kickstarter was scheduled for delivery in September, shipping started in October, and I received mine last week, so that's pretty good.  Plus, it's a very good product that someone obviously loved creating.  Go buy it!