Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review: Princess of the Lost Planet

Princess of the Lost Planet, a new module for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons by Gary Gygax takes characters to new heights of adventure - specifically, far orbital adventure, as the characters are flung across interstellar space to a fantasy version of Mars!

Inspired by the Mars/Barsoom works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Gygax's Lost Planet evokes the old sword and planet stories of the early days of science fantasy. It provides an esoteric and exotic adventure opportunity for a party of four to six adventurers of 9th to 12th level, though many players of more classical adventures written by the creator of AD&D might be shocked at the start of the adventure and disappointed at the end game...

First, the characters are unceremoniously dropped, quite literally, from the lowest level of their current dungeon adventure through a chute... a magical gateway that flings them across space to the world of Garsoom (described in the module as "the next planet further out from the sun in whichever campaign setting your campaign is based in.") Shockingly, the characters are deposited nude, sans adventuring gear and, horror of horrors, magical items, in the midst of the ruins of an ancient city.

Here begins the meat of the adventure, which is presented as a wide-open campaign with several possible end goals. First, most of the 48-page booklet is taken up with a gazetteer of the Gyxis region of Garsoom, where the red-skinned Rubine Lords of Gyxium rule a dwindling empire of magic and technology from their ancient city. They are menaced on several fronts by strange and arcane enemies:

* The Viridian Lords, a savage race of giant green-skinned nomads, possessed of barbaric honor, who seek to undo the ancient and, in many ways, decadent Rubine civilization;

* The Necrourge Kings, eldritch beings from an even earlier age, who seek to enslave all other races; and

* The Yarnen Horde, a band of white-skinned barbarian rhino riders who, like the Viridians, seek to bring down the ancient Rubine Empire... but to usurp it, not destroy it. the "Princess of the Lost Planet" depicted on the cover of the module is one of the leaders of the Yarnen Horde, though there is a rival princess of the Empire that the players might find more appealing as an ally.

The adventurers are, of course, caught in the middle of these three major factions, and their every action can weigh heavily on the future of the Lost Planet as easily as it does their own fate!

While the bulk of the main book deals with the gazetteer that details the enclosed 17" x 22" map, it also includes a full adventure in the ruined City of Al'Chee-Gaxx, which promises to provide the adventurers the power to save - or destroy - the Rubine Empire.

Finally, a small bestiary and equipment guide is provided. Most of the bestiary deals with converting standard monsters from the Monster Manual to the flora and fauna of the Lost Planet - general rule is to add two or four legs or arms, and either increase or decrease size and hit dice, though there are a few original monsters included. Most of the technology included is taken straight from "S3: Expedition to Barrier Peaks," though imagery is significantly altered, and only "radium guns" are included, rather than blasters or lasers (though the Necrourges use something similar to the needler, which drains levels and transforms the slain into zombies at their command).

The 18-page illustration booklet provides an excellent selection of views from various locations provided in the gazetteer, as well as specific useful scenes from the ruins of Al-Chee. It also marks the return of the art of Erol Otus, which helps define the alien landscape of Gyxis and Garsoom. The full-color center-page spread by Otus depicts the glory of Gyxium from a varth-bird eye view, while the reverse provides a panoramic view of being on the receiving end of a charge of a mixed band of Viridians and Yarnen!

Finally, it should be noted that adventurers who successfully complete the Al'Chee-Gaxx adventure and either help protect or establish a new Gyxium Empire are given a method of returning "home," should they not wish to remain on the Lost Planet as heroes... however, the way home is not without cost, as they return to their natal planet in exactly the same state as they arrived on Garsoom - nude, sans all won treasures - and if they fail a saving throw, back on the lowest level of the dungeon whence they came!

Altogether, Princess of the Lost Planet provides a solid campaign, though it might not be for everyone, due to the alien landscapes and the broader scope of adventure. It is certainly a departure from the norm for Mr. Gygax, though it also hearkens back to his storied adventures in Castle Greyhawk where one might fall through pit and wind up in China or on Barsoom...

5 out of 6 Pips
LP1: Princess of the Lost Planet
$13.50, 48 pp, 18pp, 17" x 22" tri-color map

NOTE: If you haven't figured it out by now, this module does not really exist, it is a "fake review" for a module cover posted by Zak...