The Mask of Death (Pathfinder)
Publisher: Zombie Orpheus Entertainment
Page Count: 60
Cost: $10 (PDF)/$15 (Softcover B&W)/$20 (Softcover Colour)
Release Date: 08/20/2012 (PDF)/TBD (Print)
Get it Here: Kickstarter Exclusive
The Mask of Death is a Pathfinder adventure based on the tabletop gaming session in the movie The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. It’s a favorite film in our household, especially the wife, who has never played a tabletop game in her life. Zombie Orpheus Entertainment and Dead Gentlemen Productions put together an awesome movie along with the web series Journeyquest and they are currently in the process of Kickstarting the third Gamers film, Hands of Fate, which you should all throw money at.
This isn’t the first time The Mask of Death has been converted into a actual playable adventure. It first appeared as Dungeon Crawl Classics #20.5 back in 2005 as a Gen Con exclusive, making it very hard (and expensive) to find. Since The Gamers and Journeyquest have such a large following, ZOE and DGP decided to kickstart a new version of the adventure, completely rewritten from the ground up and for Pathfinder instead of Dungeons & Dragons. I was one of the 587 people who happily pledged money for a copy of the adventure and while I’m still waiting for the physical copy of the adventure and the bonus PDF, I was sent the core adventure in PDF format and I’ve read through the thing three times now. It’ll probably be the first actual Pathfinder adventure I ever run and I’ll most likely do it as one of our upcoming live roleplaying podcasts here on the site.
I have to admit this sixty page adventure was NOTHING like what I was expecting. It has much of the film in here but roughly half the adventure is all new content that is yours to shape how you wish. I have to admit that at first I was a bit snarky about it as I wanted something that captured the exact feel of the movie. However with the second re-read I realized that the added content was a great idea. It means even the most diehard and scary creepy Gamers fanboy has something new to experience. Things can go in a wildly different direction like a Total Party Kill by a magma dragon or an encounter with striking ghost dwarves. On the third re-read I was picturing the new content in my head as deleted scenes from the movie with snarky lines from Luster, Brother Silence and Flynn the Fine while Lodge the DM tries to keep composure and the plot running. I won’t say that the adventure is better than the film, because it’s not. Instead it’s a whole new experience that lets fans of the film be active participants in the adventure as well as explore new side stories and content, similar to the old Dragonlance adventures that followed the same plot as the books when I was a kid. Oh, you’re too young to remember Dragonlance? You punk kids today…
So what is The Mask of Death about? Well, the evil necromancer Mort Kemnon has an evil artifact known as…you guessed it! The Mask of Death. With it, Mort Kemnon plans to destroy the city of Whitetower, ruled King Erasmus the Randomly Biased. Unfortunately this isn’t the only problem befalling Whitetower. The Goddess of Light, Therin appears to have gone silent, no longer heeding the prayers of her faithful. It’s up to a party of five brave and slightly deranged ninth level characters to discover the lair of Mort Kemnon and take him down. I don’t want to go too much more into the story for those that haven’t seen the film (AND WHY HAVEN’T YOU???) It’s a fairly straightforward plot and the majority of the adventure is a run of the mill setoff hack and slash dungeon crawls, but it’s still an entertaining adventure with a lot of twists and plenty of opportunity for comic relief. I will say there’s a little too much combat and not enough narration/exposition for my liking and some DMs are going to have their hands full running a battle with over 100 enemies, but what’s here is well done and should entertain even those gamers that somehow haven’t managed to see Dorkness Rising yet.
There are a few small flaws with the adventure in terms of continuity to the movie. The first is the inclusion on non-human races. In Dorkness Rising, the adventure is supposed to be set in a world where all the other PC character races don’t exist. Yet we have ghost dwarves. The other is that Cass and Lodge fight about Brother Silence as he is an elven monk and according to Lodge (creator of the adventure), there are neither elves nor monks in his world. This gets resolved as Silence becomes a western style monk and loses the elf race. However when you look at Mort Kemnon’s stats, he has a few levels of the Monk class! How could that be when Lodge himself said “No monks.” He obviously wouldn’t have made a character with Monk class levels, especially as Lodge is portrayed in the film as being a stickler to his own game design. However, as I said at the start of the paragraph these are small continuity flaws and if someone actually is bothered enough by these to berate the writer of the adventure or complain about it on a message board somewhere than in the immortal words of my friend Joel Hodgson, “then repeat to yourself, ‘It’s just a show. I should really just relax.’” Okay well, in this case it’s a show AND an adventure but you get the point.
One of the more interesting things about the adventure is that characters will have a sliding reputation scale. Certain acts will earn them reputation points and their current reputation level may help or hinder them in certain situations. Basically the more good the PCs do, the higher their reputation will be. So if you play Luster accordingly…you probably won’t have a very high reputation score at all.
What’s that you ask? Why yes, you can play as Luster. In fact, you can play as all five characters from Dorkness Rising. All their character stats are included along with special abilities that normally aren’t in Pathfinder, be they ported over from D&D or completely made up. As even the adventure admits, some of the new feats and abilities are decidedly broken (most of Daphne’s), but the point of the adventure is to be more faithful to the movie than to Pathfinder itself, and so I can’t imagine anyone who actually picks this up having a problem with them. Now I can however see a battle of words brewing between a poor GM and a player who tries to bring said feats into a different adventure or character. Personally, I’d be fine with it as hey, fighters need more love, but mileage may vary.
There are also new spells like “Flaming Hand of Fiery Doom” and a lot of magic items from the Chest of Holding including the
lightsaber Psionic Spiritblade. These should bring back fond memories for movie fans and and perhaps even see play outside the adventure. You’ve also got a new archetype in Wild Mage (WILD!!!) with rules for its chaotic spellcasting. I loved many of the effects here including both Simpsons and Futurama. For those curious about the Cantor prestige class Flynn gets a level in at the end of the film, they’ve even laid out rules for that! They’ve thought of everything, right down to a recipe for “Waffles, ho!” The only thing missing are miniatures of the characters and you can get those by backing the Gamers: Hands of Fate Kickstarter campaign. Which you should do, because I want to see that movie.
All in all, The Mask of Death is a fun little adventure. Fans of The Gamers: Dorkness Rising will enjoy not only reliving moments of that movie, but also seeing all the new content that is here for them to explore. Newcomers will find a mostly hack and slash adventure with some neat story twists and a good dose of comedy. Of course the catch is getting the adventure. If you didn’t take part in the Kickstarter, there is no other way to obtain it. Before you go thinking that it may someday pop up on Drivethrurpg.com or RPGNow.com, just remember the Dungeon Crawl Classics version was never reprinted and that was released seven years ago. Perhaps if you’re very, very good and support the Gamers: Hands of Fate Kickstarter, they might include The Mask of Death as one of the many add-on bonuses they already currently offering. I’m really happy I picked up this up. The price is right on all levels and it’s a wonderful addition to my ZOE/Dead Gentlemen collection of films and assorted merchandise. So if you’re a fan of The Gamers, JourneyQuest, Demon Hunters and so on, perhaps you’ll get the chance to find one of these on Ebay some day if they don’t do a reprint.
UPDATE: 08/24/2012, 7:28am – I’ve had it confirmed by at least one member of Zombie Orpheus via Facebook that The Mask of Death will eventually be released to the general public. They’re just currently looking at how (and where) to do it This is great news that I woke up to this morning. So be patient and don’t go to extreme lengths like some people have for the DCC version.