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Reviews: Burning Shaolin
by Joe G. Kushner

Demon God's Fane coverDemon God's Fane
Written by Monte Cook
Published by Malhavoc Press
PDF file
36 pages

I can already hear you saying, "Joe, I'm worried. With the Epic Level Handbook coming out, I don't think I'll have enough adventures to get the players up to the proper level." I've heard others worry about needing some examples of how to incorporate crunchy bits from numerous sources. Monte Cook understands your dilemma and has made sure that you have a high level module to help your characters on their way to Epic Levels as well as providing a module that works off the framework of his company's first sourcebook, The Book of Eldritch Might.

Hark! Spoilers Approaching...
The module, for 14th level characters, provides the GM with a brief background. In years long past the Demon God Ochremehk (available as a free download and in the print version) was a powerful force worshipped by numerous cultist who made sacrifice to him. The forces of good led by Enchelious a cleric of Gaen, the Goddess of Light, overcame the Demon God's minions who rallied at the a massive statue, the Fane, dedicated to the Demon God. The priest of light drew upon the power of his deity and flooded the valley where the statue stood, submerging most of it in what is now known as Golden Lake.

Demon God's Fane provides the GM with several options as to why the characters are in the area. To get the ball started though, Monte has events happen around the characters as a mysterious virus starts to infect villagers and a coven of spellcasters. A list of possible spells and magic items the party may have access to is included, providing ideas on how to incorporate them and what information may be discovered by their use. Another useful bit is the ongoing effects of the virus. The party will discover that if no action is taken, things continue to get worse as even high level NPCs suffer the infestation.

After investigation and a mishap or two, the party learns that they can only cure the virus by entering the ruins in the statue, submerged in the lake. Once they enter the statue, the characters discover that they are not alone in these ruins. Indeed, they must spend considerable time and resources fighting against the minions of the demon god who not only seek to escape from the statue, but to undo the very fall of the Demon God in the first place. The adventure has notes on the statue's interior, as well as how spells react inside the Fane. GMs should note this section carefully as several things about the Fane are immediately useful to the inhabitants. An example of this is Fane's Blood, fonts that issue blood that can be used by demons to convey messages to other demons and undead.

Towards the end of the module, the villains use magic to travel from the present to the past. Here they seek to stop the Fane from falling. The main option would be to stop the servants of the demon god but in truth, the better option is far different. The better option is to persuade Enchelious not to flood the valley in the first place. My only complaint against this course of action is the idea itself isn't presented in a manner that players will think of right away; if they're not paying attention and if the GM isn't trying to focus on that alternative, the players could miss it. To avoid this pitfall, I suggest planting the information where the introduction states it is, and repeat the info if necessary.

An interesting turn in the way Monte does stats here is that while the main combat block is listed, creatures with numerous abilities have a note referring the GM to the Core Rulebook III with a page number. While this saves on internal space, with a PDF file perhaps that could've been avoided as space isn't so much the issue in page count to cost. The art is fair in the PDF but different in the print version. The art is in full color in the PDF, but generally not the in the same level of quality. Maps are serviceable if somewhat simple, with no fancy fonts or icons but quite readable. More maps, of locations like the Golden Lake and the Graven Ones' home, would've added a nice touch. The print version also contains some material that is found free on Monte's website including stats for the Ochremeshk and one of his main minions.

The NPCs and monsters in Demon God's Fane use a lot of the material found in The Book of Eldritch Might. They have spells, prestige classes and templates from BoEM. Not only does this provide the GM with an example of how to add supplemental material to his campaign, it gives the adventure itself a more unique feel and look. For example, there is an Iron Chimera, a construct template originally in BoEM. There are Graven Ones, a Prestige Class from the same book. How many times have you as a GM wished that a company would actually use material that wasn't from it's core? I know that when The Gates of Firepeak first came out I was immensely pleased. Here was a module that took advantage of numerous optional sourcebooks and made my own job much easier. That was the first and only module of its type. Thankfully, it looks like the d20 publishers are willing to take the plunge and provide the GM with rules, and then adventures that include those rules used within them. One of the things 'missing' though is something on scaling the adventure for varying levels. Perhaps a future web enchancement can take care of that.

As a high level adventure, Demon God's Fane is a solid work. The GM gets a good idea of what the module is about as soon as he starts reading it, and numerous side bars to help keep the action flowing smoothly. As an example of how to incorporate crunchy material from other sources, it's excellent. The book incorporates numerous things found in The Book of Eldritch Might while providing a brief but useful method for replacing those abilities if BoEM isn't available.

The only real question a GM has is a variation on the classic grocery shopper dilemma: paper or pdf?


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