I recently had the opportunity to take a look at a new Castles & Crusades adventure conversion. It’s called Interludes: A Brief Expedition to Bluffside. It was written by Jeff quinn, converted by Peter J. Schroeder and published by Samurai Sheepdog. For those who are not familiar, Bluffside is a mini setting originally designed and written for OGL D20 systems. Here is the marketing blurb from 2002:
“Civilization is still picking up the pieces from an asteroid strike hundreds of thousand of years ago. The epicenter? Bluffside. Only 200 years after being rediscovered, Bluffside is a boom town boasting the most precious metal in the known world adamantine. From the ancient ruins, to the vast Undercity, to the floating port of Sordadon, Bluffside: City on the Edge is a city that promises to become the home port for thousands of adventures.”
Sounds pretty cool right? I’d certainly want to have an adventure or two there. And in the Castles & Crusades ruleset? Even moreso! Ok, so let’s see if this adventure lives up to the promise of both Bluffside the setting and C&C the game.
The adventure starts you off in the small woodland village of Kirkwood. This village lies south of the city of Bluffside along the Coldwind road. This road is long and dangerous as the woods are crawling with nasties such as Rakers (the Bluffside version of Goblins) and Rippers (the trained wolves they ride on). Unfortunately, the background on the Rakers and Rippers are not present. The module refers us to the setting book for Bluffside, which, to my knowledge has not yet been converted to C&C. Were you to own the D20 version, you’d probably be just fine. Regardless, it’s a quibble because how different can Goblins and their wolves be from traditional fantasy versions?
So, you arrive at the Hamlet and in traditional D&D fashion, a kidnapping is brought to your attention. Investigation and Roleplay opportunities abound in this portion of the module. You’re tasked with identifying, locating and apprehending the villains and unlocking the mystery of why it happened in the first place. There is a nice plot twist and several points of resolution that reward smart play, rather than a purely hack-n-slash approach. Although hack-n-slash is still viable. I really appreciate this in an adventure. You can push forward by the point of your sword but outcomes will be messier, as they should be. I like adventures with this kind of sensibility.
It wraps up nicely with a multilayered conclusion, a solid final battle and a story that wants to pull your forward, into Bluffside proper. I say Bluffside proper because despite what one might think from the title, the adventure is only loosely taking place in Bluffside. It’s kind of on the outskirts of Bluffside as I understand it. More specifically, the wilds surrounding the city of Bluffside. The downside of this, obviously, is that by playing the adventure, you still don’t get a strong idea of what the Bluffside setting is all about. The upside though, is that it makes the adventure very portable, and you could easily implant it in most any traditional D&D or fantasy setting.
The PDF is 42 pages long, including the usual OGL proclamations. It also includes 7 indexes covering things from NPCs (there are many!), new enemies, spells, player handouts, local poison and even a class. The story is well put together and the adventure provides ample background information for groups who like to talk to everyone in town. It also provides lots of rumors and something they call “hooks” for pretty much every NPC. I would describe more as motivations though, than hooks. Perhaps one could use those motivations to create what is more traditionally thought of as hooks, those being bits of story that grab the players and require some action on their part to resolve. These hooks are really more to help you roleplay the NPCs. So, despite the odd application of the term, they are VERY helpful in running the adventure and getting a feel for the place.
The artwork is somewhat sparse however there is a nice traditional piece showing a male warrior and female fighter/magic-user of some sort. The maps are probably the weakest part of the adventure. They are very rudimentary and blocky. The regional map is better but the others feel like they’re out of an 8 bit video game, rather than a fantasy literary adventure. It’s quibble but it’s worth noting for those who really enjoy cartography.
My main gripes with the adventure are mostly all along the same lines. There are lots of references to things that it is assumed the player knows about the setting, in particular about the monster ecology and stats. But most of that information is not present. There are actually very few stats for encounters. There is generally a small paragraph about tactics and one can find stats for important NPCs and enemies in the appendix, but you’re given very little information on what the enemies can do mechanically. If you are willing to pull straight from C&C monster books, you’ll be just fine. But plan to do that when you run this one. In particular, there was one area: BASEMENT 9: GUARD POST. The description reads “The goblins in this room are playing at cards and aren’t paying much attention to you.” But it never mentions how many goblins there are, if they are armed or what. Perhaps the author assumes you’ll sneak by? Anyway, there are a few oddities like this throughout. Nothing earth shattering, but it could use a little polish.
Over all, I think it’s a simple and solid entry level adventure. It’s not breaking new ground for the genre but few low level adventures do. It think a group with new players or a new DM would be well served by running this adventure. It’s the perfect level of complexity for a group that is still sorting out a ruleset, in this case, Castles & Crusades. If you’ve got years of experience under your belt and C&C is old hat to you, this adventure might not scratch the itch, but if you’re looking for a reason to take a group into Bluffside, this would start such a campaign nicely. For $5 at RPGNow, it’s hard not to recommend it for such gamers.
If you are interested in Bluffside, I’d bring your attention to Bluffside: Right Under Our Noses, another Bluffside related adventure for Castles & Crusades, currently free on RPGNow. Between to the two of them, you’d surely have what you need to get a Bluffside campaign started off right.