Tabletop Review: Servants of the Cinder Queen (Dungeon World)

Servants of the Cinder Queen (Dungeon World)
Publisher: Lampblack & Brimstone (in association with penny lantern)
Cost: $3 (PDF)/$6 (Physical)
Page Count: 24
Release Date: 09/11/2014
Get it Here: Kickstarter Exclusive (for Now)

Like a lot of OSR style tabletop gamers, I’m a big fan of Dungeon World. I backed the original Kickstarter for the system years ago (along with 2,454 other people) and every so often I pick up a third party release for the system to review, like The Mummy Playbook. So here we are with Servants of the Cinder Queen, the first release from penny lantern (yes, no capital letters) and Lampblack & Brimstone. I was a Kickstarter backer for this adventure (It was only six bucks, so why wouldn’t I?) but currently, there doesn’t seem to be a way for non-backers to get this adventure. Still, I’m sure the PDF will eventually make its way to DriveThruRPG or RPGNow.com, so let’s consider this review a head’s up for you Dungeon World fans who missed the crowdfunding of this piece.

The physical copy of Servants of the Cinder Queen is pamphlet sized, and the proportions are similar to adventures released for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I absolutely love the cover art, as it is very old school in style, yet comical at the same time. Look at those facial expressions. The art throughout the piece is really quite fun, and it reminds me a bit of David Trampier’s “Wormy,” which is a pretty big compliment.

Although Dungeon World is lumped in with the OSR movement, like Castles & Crusades, Swords & Wizardry and Dungeon Crawl Classics, it really is a very different beast, and it’s not AD&D 1e compatible without a good bit of work from the GM/DM. So if you’re completely new to Dungeon World and pick up this adventure expecting to run it with your retro-clone of choice, expect to be very confused by the interior of this adventure. It will mostly read like gobblygook. My advice is that if my review of this adventure intrigues you, pick up a copy of Dungeon World before this adventure so you can understand what all the charts and lists with check boxes are about, along with the stat blocks for monsters. Those are pretty alien if you’re only used to AD&D style games.

Servants of the Cinder Queen is a pretty straightforward dungeon crawl consisting of ten areas, which includes the town that can act as a starting point if you want a more traditional adventure setup instead of just throwing PCs into the crawl. It seems you have a crazy old priest trying to breach a long sealed gate to the elemental plane of fire. Doing so means lots of death, destruction and mayhem, but hey, he’s Chaotic so this should be no surprise. PCs will happen upon this plan by sheer coincidence when exploring an ancient ruin beneath a volcano, or they could be beseeched by the local townfolk from the nearby town of Meervold to stop the priest and his crazy plans involving Fire Goddesses and an active volcano. There isn’t a deep epic being told here and characterization is pretty two-dimensional, but this is a dungeon crawl first and foremost rather than an adventure filled with talking heads or intrigue. Each NPC has only a stat block and some tactics listed, so if you really want to flesh out the reasons and machinations of the antagonists in this piece, you’ll have some work ahead of you.

Each area of the catacombs is given an entire page of descriptions, encounters, details and lootable objects. It’s all very well done and Dungeon World DMs will find it very instinctive and easy to use the adventure in the way it is written. Again, newcomers will probably be scratching their heads, since DW adventures are laid out very differently from the norm. I personally like the style, although I don’t think I’d try it for a more rules/mechanics heavy system.

Besides the adventure, you get three appendices: one for Gods & Goddesses, one for things you will be killing and one for the host of magic items you can find within the catacombs. Overall, the adventure is very well done and the physical copy has a terrific price point for what you get. Servants of the Cinder Queen won’t blow your mind in terms of dungeon layout or storytelling, but it is a fine homage to the old dungeon crawls of the 70s and 80s. It’s a short enough adventure that you can probably play it in a single session, but detailed enough that the DM shouldn’t have any problems running it or describing each of the ten locations it contains. I had fun with Servants of the Cinder Queen and felt I got my money’s worth while also helping a new publisher put out their first adventure (and hopefully find an audience). You can’t really ask for much more than that. So if you’re a Dungeon World fan and Servants of the Cinder Queen does eventually get released to the general public, it might be worth your time to track down a copy. Again, it’s not going to be one of those adventures you reminisce about years later with your friends who played through it, but it is worth experiencing.

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