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Item - The Dreaming Sands: Multi-Player Nightmares

Series: Warlock
Contained In: Warlock #13 (Magazine)
Author: Mason, Paul
Guillermo's Thoughts: NOTE: This is a capsule review, which means I haven't had the chance to playtest this product with a group of players. Thus, my opinions are all based on my read-through of it, and different opinions may be derived from an actual playtest. Many thanks to Andy Wright for providing a copy of this adventure so I could review it. Also, this module contains some spoilers, so read it only if you don't intend to become a player.

This is a multiplayer adventure for the Fighting Fantasy Introductory RPG. It appeared on Warlock #13 (December 1986), which was the last issue.

I must say I was mostly disappointed with this adventure, especially when considering the expectations I had of it. It is intended as a prequel to the excellent multiplayer adventure book The Riddling Reaver (TRR), by the same author, and thus I expected it to be just as good. Unfortunately, it looks like this article was commissioned in order to build up expectation while TRR was still in development, and thus it was most likely written in a rush at a time the author couldn't be really bothered. The result is a subpar adventure which could really have been a lot better.

This is just one example among many of an RPG adventure module with a great premise and a lot of potential, but which fails in the execution. The adventure takes place in Port Blacksand. For the past few weeks, Blacksand has been plagued by apparitions, which are taken from people's dreams. The PCs are hired to discover who has been bringing dreams to life, and stop him / her before the apparitions cause serious harm. As the players will discover, the main villain behind this is The Riddling Reaver, who is still working to overthrow the balance between good and evil and plunge Allansia into Chaos.

Why this adventure is set in Blacksand is beyond me. Considering that the main epic starring this villain is set at the other end of the continent (Kallamehr and nearby lands), one wonders why this adventure couldn't have been set there too? Meeting the villain near Blacksand and then continuing the campaign in Kallamehr seems rather anticlimactic to me in terms of story.

There is a supporting character who appears at the beginning and offers to join the party. She's an extremely strong fighter, which is actually a handicap for the story considering the limitations of the FF RPG system. With a very high skill score, she (and not the PCs) will actually be the protagonist of most fights. Of course, there is also the problem that, when turned against the players, she is very likely to slice your average party to shreds without breaking a sweat. And speaking of combat, I found it rather boring that the vast majority of the adventure is made up of combat encounters. I know the game is called "Fighting Fantasy" for a reason, but I still think it wouldn't have hurt to have a little more interaction and negotiation here and there. The players are only given the option of bribing some characters in order to obtain information, and that's about it; the other instances for negotiation revolve mainly around avoiding combat, but they aren't interesting when compared to some excellent non-combat encounters in TRR (the Genie and the Leprechaun to name but a few). One wonders why the adventure couldn't have included some of the Reaver's clever minions, or more of the cunning citizens of Blacksand since it's set there. If I just wanted to fight Ogres and Trolls, I would pick a dungeon module!

The final confrontation with the Reaver is also IMO difficult to GM since it involves following non-logical courses of action, which might make the players feel frustrated, and it only offers one solution to the final encounter, which involves using an item of equipment which the players might very well not have had the chance to get earlier in the game. The final confrontation also involves killing a relative of the Reaver, which leaves him claiming for revenge, but there's no mention of this event in the full-fledged adventure book. This only adds to the incongruence of this adventure if it's meant to be inserted in a campaign.

There are of course good points: one is the inclusion of the Maijem-Nosoth, a Lovecraftian horror seen in the FF gamebook Slaves of the Abyss. Secondly, there is only one dream-based encounter, which works very well (but an adventure with this premise should have included a wider variety of similar encounters). Overall, however, this is a disappointing effort.

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