Awhile back I mentioned Gathox Vertical Slum a cool RPG/Setting for S&W Whitebox and other OSR games. I've since picked up the product in print, and I think it is a truly interesting, unique and Gonzo setting (and I mean Gonzo in a good way here).
Recently the game's author, David Lewis Johnson sent me the first published adventure for this game; Quake Alley Mayhem. I don't do many reviews on my blog, and I tend to not do unsolicited reviews. However, I am a fan of David's work and had planned on picking this product up anyways.. so with that out of the way let me jump into the review.
Quake Alley Mayhem is a tournament-style module set in the vertical slums of Gathox! Even though I've been gaming since '79, I've never played a module in an actual tournament. Sure I played the heck out of the original Slave Lords, Giants series and other classic modules that had tournament options, but I've never played a tournament module in an actual tournament. So I will be evaluating this module as more of a one-shot adventure for your group or a possible adventure to add to your Gathox Campaign.
The book is about 40 pages, with 24 (or so) pages of adventure, 7 pages of pregens, and a few pages of tables and other items. It is for 3-6 players of 1-3 level.
The black and white text, is crisp, clean and easy on the eyes. I find it easy to read and follow, something I've had issues with in products from other companies. However, I have to say the pre-gen character sheets in the back are a challenge for me to read. Some sort of crazy font/look was done on the character sheets that for me and my Glaucoma are not pleasant or easy to read. However, this was only done for the character sheets, and not for the data on the sheet. The rest of the book is in an easy to read format.
I've been a big fan of David's art for awhile and even commissioned him to do a character portrait several months ago (great work). The art in Quake Ally Mayhem maintains his standard of quality. I do wish there was more of it in this product. Not that it is short on art, I just like his style and want to see as much as possible. I would have loved to have seen character portraits of the pre-gens.
The Adventure. (might have a few spoilers...)
As I mentioned this is designed as a tournament module, a timer features as a big part of the adventure and at certain times ground shaking things happen... I think this is a cool and interesting feature and would be just as fun in a non-tournament setting.
The basic schtick of the adventure is that the characters are part of a gang sent to go do something... However, campaign notes are included to allow a pre-existing Gathox group of PC's (maybe a group that already played through the starter adventure in the Gathox core book) to play through the adventure.
The adventure is overall pretty trap heavy, at least in my opinion. So if you or your players don't care for traps, then you may not enjoy this module. The traps fit the setting and the adventure and I found them to be interesting and appropriate. With that said, for an OSR-based game, this looks like a pretty lethal adventure. I estimate a pretty high PC body-count to get through this adventure. There is even a warning to that effect in the adventure. This works perfectly for a con game, with a bigger group of players, steadily getting whittled down as they get closer to the end. A DM running it for his home group as part of a campaign might want to do some tweaking or warn his players, or just run with it to reinforce how nasty, brutal and short life can be in the slums of Gathox. The module indicates it is for 3-6 players for 1-3 level. A party of 3, 1st level characters had better use some outstanding tactics, luck and skill to get through this unscathed. But it would be loads of fun in the meantime.
If you enjoyed Gathox Vertical Slum then you need to get this product. Quake Alley Mayhem is a fun adventure to unleash at a con to show people how wild and crazy adventuring in Gathox can be. Or if you are already running a Gathox-based Campaign a challenging adventure to unleash on your players. Without the Gathox setting book, this product will not be as useful, but you could still adapt it to a strange urban sci-fantasy setting. If I can work a Con into my crazy schedule, I can see myself running this to introduce people to the wonderment and bewilderment that is Gathox Vertical Slum. Otherwise, I'll be working it into the next Gathox Vertical Slum game that I run.
I hope David continues to put out products for Gathox Vertical Slum, it is a one of a kind Gonzo setting that you can use with your OSR system of choice.
Good Gaming! -B.B.