Castles & Crusades: Right Under Our Noses
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
Page Count: 16
Release Date: 12/7/2012
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com
I’m a big fan of Castles & Crusades, and for Troll Lord Games to put out a free adventure for the system is a wonderful thing, especially so close to the holidays. It’s a great way to try the system and see why it’s a favorite OSR system. Of course, there’s a bit of a catch. In order to truly make use of this adventure, you’ll need the Bluffside: City on the Edge campaign setting, in addition to the core Castles & Crusades rulebooks; otherwise, much of the adventure will read like gobblygook. The problem is that Bluffside isn’t out yet, so you can’t really do anything with the adventure save for reading it and putting together the nuances and changes inherent with the setting. Gnomes having blue skin is just one such example. I do remember Bluffside: City on the Edge being a 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons/OGL setting back in the early 00s, but I’m not sure what’s changed in the past decade, nor how compatible the original would be with C&C. So this is just odd all around, and Right Under Our Noses acts more as a preview of the setting or an attempt to whet your appetite for Bluffside. It’s just unfortunate that the entire adventure is written as if you already own and have taken in every aspect of the setting. Again, until Bluffside: City on the Edge actually comes out, it’s hard to say how good this adventure really is, but at least it’s a free Castles & Crusades adventure, right? A positive is a positive and you can’t go wrong with free C&C.
Right Under Our Noses is designed for a party of fourth level characters, but as there is very little combat to be had, lower level characters could pull a victory off without much of a problem. Most of the adventure is solved by diplomacy or some other form of mouth movement. The emphasis here is on role-playing over dice rolling. Don’t worry hack and slash fans: combat is still in the adventure. The problem is that nearly all of the monsters in the book are specific to the Bluffside campaign setting, so neither players nor GMs will know what the heck a Chiroptera or Balden looks, acts or fights like. You’re flying blind big time here, although once the campaign setting is released the adventure will make a lot more sense. Until then though, a smart GM will just switch out creatures with something more generic that makes sense in the context of the adventure. Perhaps Goblins or the like for the Chiroptera.
Right Under Our Noses is an odd but intriguing little adventure about politics, ecological polluting and the dangers of sanitation and sewers in a low tech, high fantasy world. The characters are called in (how exactly is up to the person running the adventure, as the text gives a few possible hooks) to find the source of a hideous smell emanating from the sewers that causes people to get sick and possibly die. Whether they are doing it for money, glory, or because it is the right thing to do depends on the party makeup. From there, the adventure is basically a showcase of what makes Bluffside unique. You’ll encounter races and situations specific to this setting that might not work anywhere else (ala, say, Planescape or Ravenloft). Characters will be crawling around in sewers, trying to parlay with steam gnomes (a new race for the setting; not sure if they can be player characters or not) and doing battle with creature hitherto unseen. Again, a lot of the adventure, from blackened lanterns to all the creatures in the adventure, require the Bluffside: City on the Edge campaign setting, so you’ll have to really tweak things to make this work without it. It’s nice to have a free adventure, but it would be nicer if all it requires were the core rulebooks and not another $20+ investment.
In the end the party may be uniting two sides (the steam gnomes and the Chiroptera) against a common enemy. The final threat is a bit underwhelming and easy if you’re more concerned about the combat side of things, but as I’ve stated earlier, this adventure is far more about talking and diplomacy that sticking sharp things through soft things that scream and bleed. There are many different ways for the adventure to end and several plot hooks to continue the storyline within Bluffside are given as well, in case the group of players are interested in sticking with this campaign setting. The last few pages of the adventure are appendixes for the DM, including stats for NPCs, a new location for Bluffside, stats for two beetle monsters and two new magic items.
All in all, this adventure is an odd one. Obviously, as it is free, it’s worth picking up, but it’s strange that Troll Lord Games would release this before the Bluffside setting comes out, especially as it can really only be played in conjunction with it. I can understand wanting to release a preview of some sort to get people excited, but in this case, it would have made more sense to release Bluffside first or at the same time as Right Under Our Noses. As of right now, people will just basically be sitting on this to see if Bluffside is a setting they actually want to use. Still, free is free and the adventure is well written (although the writer and editors alike should have said, “Hey, if this is coming out first, we should probably be a little more explanation…”) which means anyone can and should download this. It’s a nice look at how well laid out Castles & Crusades adventures are, and it gives you an idea of what playing the system would be like.