Again initially of the yr, I made a decision that I used to be going to transform how I used to be doing my Fables first impressions/critiques, by simply framing the entire thing as a multi-part assessment, every journey because it got here out. Sadly, it appears to be like like I’m solely going to get to make use of this strategy precisely one time, as a result of the Fables line from Ghostfire Gaming is coming to an finish.
Earlier than I take a look at this month’s journey, I needed to speak about how bold this line actually is. For 2 out of 4 Fables, they’ve created a brand new setting, created particular person adventures, and produced encounter maps and tokens, in addition to unique paintings, all on a month-to-month timetable. The one different writer that I can consider that has tried this has been Paizo, and Paizo had the advantage of beginning their month-to-month subscription line on the heels of publishing month-to-month magazines, they usually have nonetheless slipped their publishing schedules a number of occasions up to now.
This was a serious endeavor, and Ghostfire did an incredible job of protecting to that schedule, and offering ancillary materials that made the adventures extra instantly helpful. For the sheer ambition and scope of the venture, I’m unhappy to see it go, and completely perceive why it will be onerous to proceed.
So, with all of that stated, let’s take a look at Brokers of the Empire, Episode 5: My Enemy’s Enemy.
I’ve not had the chance to play or run this journey, however I’m very effectively acquainted with D&D 5e each as a participant and as a DM. I used to be not offered a assessment copy for this journey, and have my very own subscription to the Fables line.
Episode 5: My Enemy’s Enemy
Written by: Chad M. Lensch
Head of Fables: Joe Raso
Story Design: Joe Raso
Artwork Director: Ona Kristensen
Brokers of the Empire Writing Staff: Leon Barillaro, Chad M. Lensch, JVC Parry, Joe Raso, Erin Roberts, Carl Sibley, Jeff C. Stevens
Managing Editor: Joe Raso
Editors: Matt Click on, Shawn Merwin, Christopher Walz
Graphic Design: Martin Hughes
Cowl Design: Martin Hughes
Inside Illustrators: Zoe Badini, Ioana Elena Barbu, Daniel Correia, Ignacio Corva, Rafael Dantanna, Ivo Campelo da Silva,Giuseppe De Iure, Will Hallett, Brent Hollowell, Andrei Iacob, Katariina Sofia Kemi, Ona Kristensen, Vita Naumavičienė, Laura Marie Neal, Elizabeth Peiró, Felipe Pérez, Andreia Ugrai, Alexandra Rebeca Ungurean, Aleksandra Wojtas
Cartographers: Andrei Iacob
Comedian: Brian Patterson
VTT Asset Design: Joshua Orchard
Structure and Formatting
This episode of Fables is 124 pages lengthy. This features a marketing campaign abstract of all adventures, a desk of contents, a credit web page, an editor’s message, 14 pages of creature stat blocks (a few of that are reprinted from the setting information), 4 pages of magic gadgets and magitech gadgets, six pages of magitech automobiles, 18 pages for the pre-generated characters (now at seventh stage), a four-page pronunciation information, a full web page OGL assertion, and two pages of advertisements for Ghostfire Gaming merchandise.
Like the entire different volumes of this journey, the textual content is specified by two-column format and makes use of the usual conventions of 5e SRD-derived presentation, like stat blocks, tables, headers, and NPC traits. There may be high-quality full-color paintings all through the quantity.
I introduced up the “phrase cloud” background graphic in a earlier assessment, and Martin Hughes from Ghostfire Gaming reached out to me over this difficulty. The “phrase cloud” can be learn as textual content by my textual content reader and interrupt the circulate of data on the web page when utilizing read-aloud features. Ghostfire’s accessibility crew is working from the baseline of constructing PDFs accessible in Adobe, because it’s essentially the most broadly obtainable PDF reader. As a result of I have a tendency to make use of Foxit Reader or EZPDF when writing critiques, these accessibility features might not absolutely translate. Martin made a change to the best way that phrase cloud is formatted, and it at the moment now not is learn as textual content within the PDF readers that I take advantage of, for read-aloud features. I needed to verify to level out how responsive the crew was to my remark in my earlier assessment. I actually recognize that.
The Mission Recordsdata
The journey is organized into the next sections:
- Editor’s Message
- Welcome to Fables!
- Fabled Follies
- This Fable’s Story
- Chapter 1: Tick, Tock!
- Chapter 2: Crawl Confrontation
- Chapter 3: Unlikely Allies
- Chapter 4: On the Threshold of Discovery
- Appendix A: New Monsters
- Appendix B: New Gear and Magic Gadgets
- Appendix C: Magitech Automobiles
- Appendix D: Participant Characters Stage 7
- Appendix E: Pronunciation Information and NPC Particulars
Final time round, I stated that the marketing campaign was shifting from the James Bond-style “battle harmful organizations” form of spy tales to the Jason Bourne “on the run” model tales, and I feel that was a slight misattribution on my half. Contemplating the PCs nonetheless have some assets that can work with them despite the fact that they’re burned, they usually aren’t fairly because the “burn all of it down” part of the marketing campaign, that is extra like the normal Mission Unattainable film dynamic of being “kind of” on the run whereas nonetheless doing all of your day job.
Hitting the Floor Working
A number of of the earlier adventures have concerned the PCs gathering data and investigating earlier than going to a location to thwart a plot. As a result of they know there’s a lacking bomb left over from the top of the final journey, this situation begins with the PCs going after that bomb after being pointed in the correct route by their boss, who continues to be secretly aiding them. It’s a pleasant changeup from the established sample.
The PCs need to sneak into one of many Empire’s navy services, which is engaged on a brand new state-of-the-art struggle zeppelin, the INS Osprey. An anti-Imperial group has determined to make an announcement by blowing it to hell, and never solely will that destroy the brand new toy of the Empire, however it’ll additionally kill the entire individuals working within the manufacturing facility. The PCs have to fret about sneaking in, coping with enemy brokers nonetheless onboard the zeppelin, and attempting to disarm the bomb. They attain a call level the place they need to both discover a methodology for disarming the bomb, or deciding to evacuate the ability. There’s a mechanism for the PCs to find out what number of completely different strategies they will consider to disarm the bomb, every of which makes use of a distinct potential/ability, so the upper they roll on both Arcana or Investigation, the extra selections they need to make.
I like that there’s a fallback in case the PCs actually screw up their infiltration (the pinnacle of the ability is on good phrases with their boss, and can give them a second probability in the event that they get caught), and I like that both end result, disarming the bomb or evacuating the ability, is seen as a common optimistic when their boss contacts them after the mission. The Osprey’s destiny can have an effect on the journey later, however I’ll get to that.
On the Rails
The PCs are despatched after a veteran agent that’s in a little bit of a gray space from the Company’s perspective. The PCs are supposed to discover her on the Karelagne Crawl, a prepare that travels by means of the blasted wasteland that was the results of the top of the struggle that allowed the Empire to take management of all of its present areas. The wasteland itself is full of necrotic power clouds and monsters, so as soon as the PCs get on the prepare, being outdoors the prepare for a lot of the journey goes to be inadvisable.
The rogue agent the PCs are supposed to contact can be being tracked down by an murderer working for the Company, and having been particularly tasked to kill the rogue agent by the Sovereign Normal, the chief govt of the Empire. The PCs boss, unknown to the PCs, has reached out to the Sovereign Normal to assist clear their names, and within the course of has just about let the Sovereign Normal know that the PCs might quickly understand that they don’t seem to be working in the very best curiosity of the Empire.
If the PCs save their contact from the murderer, or at the very least handle to speak to her earlier than she dies, they discover out that one of many many anti-government organizations that seem within the marketing campaign recruited her to explode a submarine, however as a substitute, she needed to make use of it to analyze a secret analysis facility the place her daughter has been working.
Getting There may be Half the Enjoyable
The subsequent part of the journey has the PCs interacting with one of many anti-government organizations to persuade them to allow them to experience together with them as they take the stolen submarine shut sufficient to the analysis facility they realized about within the earlier mission to analyze. The interplay portion of this chapter is comparatively brief, with the bulk being a chase scene the place the submarine should make it from one fringe of the map to the opposite with another drive chasing them and trying to sink them.
If the PCs saved the Osprey in chapter one, the Osprey is looking them from the air. If the Osprey continues to be out of fee, a large mind-controlled shark with a laser on its head can be trying to take them down.
I’m not a fan of saving the Osprey and being rewarded with having it hunt the PCs down. The Osprey was being focused as a result of it’s superior sensors may have detected the analysis facility whereas it was on patrol. I might be a much bigger fan of the Osprey being held in reserve because the technique of pulling the PCs out of bother if the shark proves an excessive amount of for them to deal with, serving as a reward for his or her earlier actions.
This chapter is the place I feel the aesthetic of the story will get a bit of misplaced, for me at the very least. I’m not a purist that doesn’t need any sci-fi in my fantasy tales, or that doesn’t wish to combine historically non-fantasy genres into fantasy. Nonetheless, up thus far, a lot of the aesthetic of the marketing campaign has been just like the League of Extraordinary Gents. There are some anachronistic items of know-how, however they’re all framed by means of the lens of trying extra 1900s flip of the century in look. On this journey, flying automobiles are zeppelins, magitech vehicles appear like mannequin Ts, and magical firearms appear like turn-of-the-century pistols and rifles. However the shark simply actually has a laser on its head, to reference a joke from Austin Powers. That might have been nice, however this sort of breaking of the aesthetic continues into the decision.
The analysis facility is on a volcanic island. I’m nice with this. Embrace the entire tropes. The analysis facility has been trying to create a magitech portal to the house airplane of the infernal bugs that at the moment possess the Sovereign Normal’s physique. The Sovereign Normal needs to open a portal again house, and Brimstone, the group that The Spider has cultivated, is definitely working towards the Sovereign Normal, to not save the Empire, however to ensure that the fiendish bug possessing The Spider can seize management.
As a result of the researchers have been starting to get suspicious of why they have been engaged on this banned know-how, the assemble that was the services overseer used different constructs within the base to hunt them down and kill them. The researchers managed to drag out the reminiscence cubes within the assemble’s head, however all of them besides the rogue agent’s daughter have been hunted down and killed by the upkeep constructs.
Because the PCs discover the reminiscence cubes and add them to the assemble, it’ll keep in mind completely different directives. The PCs can discover out extra concerning the facility, however the extra cubes they set up, the extra the assemble remembers that it was resentful of the researchers and was additionally directed to kill them in the event that they grew to become a risk, and it begins to seal off the ability.
Whereas all of that is taking place, the volcano grows nearer to erupting. They’ve to seek out out the place the surviving researcher went (a setup for the ultimate journey) and escape the ability earlier than it’s destroyed, most probably whereas coping with creatures swarming in from the portal and preventing off the absolutely restored facility assemble and its drones.
Conceptually, I really like the climax being preventing in a base about to be consumed by lava whereas coping with extradimensional threats streaming out of a portal. There are some factors of execution that don’t absolutely work for me. For one, the assemble that the PCs are coping with acts rather more like HAL from 2001 than an excellent spy villain, and the entire constructs look far more like science fiction robots than clockwork mechanisms. That is additionally probably the second time within the journey the place the PCs are anticipated to do a factor (revive the assemble) that can reward them with a punishment (preventing the assemble).
I’m a giant fan of not attempting to trace the literal progress of time, however utilizing sure story milestones to find out how shut an occasion is to taking place. That stated, on this chapter, the set off for the volcano changing into increasingly more lively is every time the PCs discover a reminiscence dice. I’d slightly it have been one thing a bit of extra associated to the time they take, even when it isn’t a precise measurement, like advancing the eruption for each X variety of rooms they discover.
The opposite factor that doesn’t fairly work for me, past the magitech aesthetic taking pictures straight into science fiction from a extra clockpunk vibe, is that very early on this marketing campaign, one of many civil rights points the PCs run into is hostility in the direction of self-aware constructs. This type of “oh no, it grew to become self-aware and it needs to kill people” story component feels off for a similar setting through which you have already got self-aware constructs who’re being focused for abuse.
I actually just like the opening two missions on this journey. They’ve robust espionage parts, and likewise play with some enjoyable fantasy parts, just like the blasted wasteland full of monsters that occurs to have a prepare operating by means of it. I actually loved the twist of the rogue agent’s daughter being a researcher on the web site, and utilizing her because the hyperlink to the ultimate journey.
I do suppose that because the marketing campaign nears its finish, the will to “go large” might have gotten a bit of bit away from the beforehand established components of the setting and the marketing campaign. I can’t let you know precisely the place my line is, and I can’t presume to know anybody else’s line, however this pushed only a wee bit previous what I used to be having fun with because the baseline really feel of the setting within the earlier adventures.
I famous that the final journey was the primary one the place the PCs couldn’t simply randomly discover one of many infernal bugs mendacity round in a scene, foreshadowing the actual villains. On this journey, the PCs can now roll a ability examine to find out that they’re unnatural and fiendish. In the event that they couldn’t try this in earlier adventures, I might have slightly they really found one thing that enables for that change of establishment. Granted, as soon as they see them popping out of the portal within the finale, it’s an inexpensive assumption, however that doesn’t occur till the top of the journey.
I feel this journey would nearly work higher if the bugs weren’t fiends, however have been truly aberrations, and the tech on the facility all comes from their house dimension, explaining why we out of the blue see issues that look extra solidly sci-fi and fewer clockpunk. In actual fact, magitech may very well be their technique of introducing the mortal minds of this actuality to their know-how in a fashion they will perceive.
The outline for the ultimate journey mentions that the PCs may have the chance to strengthen the established order or to remake a greater Empire, and that looks like a tall order. I hope it follows by means of, particularly after a number of adventures that don’t a lot to look at why the Empire has so many organizations prepared to work towards it, from the participant’s perspective. I really feel like the place the marketing campaign has defined a number of the regional strife and Imperialist actions taken by the Empire, it’s been primarily DM-facing within the textual content, and never as simply communicated to the PCs.