There is one series of Companion level modules, the CM series. You generally can't go by the stock numbers, however, it seems that TSR designers were hard at work churning out modules for the Companion rules: CM1 to CM3 have sequential numbers. The first four modules are vaguely linked in that they are set in the land of Norworld, which is marked in the Players Companion as being north of the continent map shown in X1 - The Isle of Dread. However, only the first module has any particular locations on the map.
|CM series||CM1 - Test of the Warlords|
|CM2 - Death's Ride|
|CM3 - Sabre River|
|CM4 - Earthshaker|
|CM5 - The Mystery of the Snow Pearls|
|CM6 - Where Chaos Reigns|
|CM7 - The Tree of Life|
|CM8 - The Endless Stair|
|CM9 - Feud of Blood|
|Graphic Designer||Ruth Hoyer|
|Interior Artist||Jeff Easley|
|Cover Artist||Clyde Caldwell|
|Format||32 page book, and 3 pane cover|
|Party||2-10 characters of levels 15 or higher.|
Described as a "Campaign Adventure", this is essentially a showcase to demonstrate what TSR thought your characters should have been doing after attaining Companion Level i.e. 15 or higher. Instead of every day being filled with the slaughter of monsters and the accumulation of treasure, you are supposed to settle down and rule a dominion. Sadly, most players I've known have rapidly got bored of this, so this module might not be everyone's cup of tea.
At the start of the module, there is a brief mention of a new world order caused by the fall of the Black Eagle Barony. This relates to the brief campaign
background notes regarding the Grand Duchy of Karameikos found in both original and revised versions
of the Expert Rules.. This is also followed up the by Red Arrow, Black Shield.
And now, a new player on the world stage is introduced : the Empire of Alphatia, retconned into being the Empire of Thyatis' great rival. This conflict underpins a large number of modules in the Companion and Master series.
This conflict is played out in a new part of the D&D game work, unoriginally called Norworld. This was provisionally indicated on the map found on the inner back cover of Companion Players' Book, as a shaded box. This is essentially a stretch of land that continues north along the coast from the Heldann Freeholds, and climate-wise it is identical to that country, other than some tundra near the northmost coast. It is nominally claimed by Alphatia, and indeed the Alphatian ruler of Norworld, king Ericall, has his capital, Alpha, roughly in the centre of the map. There is also a northern chunk of an island which is subsequently revealed to be the Isle of Dawn. Apparently it is the scene of an ongoing conflict between Thyatis and Alphatia.
After you have somehow encouraged your players to visit Alpha, they are given the chance to claim a dominion - a single 24 mile hex on the map. in advance of the request, you are supposed to select some NPCs (some are given in the module), and allocate them a domain that they would want. Hopefully, there should be a few conflicts between PCs and NPCs, and if there aren't - change a few minds! In another blatant attempt at token use, all conflicts are supposed to be resolved by the tournament rules from the Dungeon Masters Companion. But at least this is explained away by there being a festival in full swing when the PCs arrive.
After this initial encounter, things get a little vague. Your players settle down, presumably build their castles, collect their money from the filthy peasants, and pay taxes to king Ericall. The game is now structured over the span of one to two years! There are two major events which are delineated, which occur in this time: the Royal Wedding (which involves the inevitable kidnapping of the bride), and a raid by Frost Giants across the entire map. There are also five optional encounters which are supposed to lure the PCs into ... guess what? ... dungeon adventures! Two of these also give the possibility of the PCs being able to rely on the gratitude of two neutral forces - a Dwarf clan and a Barbarian clan.
A timeline describes 10 events which occur during these 2 years to which the PCs are supposed to react. However, the inevitable conclusion of all this activity is a war between Thyatis and Alphatia, with the PCs right in the middle. This is, big surprise, modelled using the War Machine rules. The module assumes that the PCs will be on the side of Law, and assist the king; indeed, all of the Chaotic rivals introduced at the beginning of the campaign are on the side of Thyatis. But hopefully, there should be a number of characters who will chose neither side, and take the opportunity to form Socialist syndicalist utopias. I can only hope.
Ultimately, this adventure doesn't really have an end. In fact, there are a number of modules which assume that the PCs are holding domain a domain in Norworld, including CM2, CM3, CM4, CM6, CM7, CM8, M1, M2, M3, and M4.
North of the continent described in X1 - The Isle of Dread.
|Interior Artist||Jeff Easley|
|Cover Artist||Jeff Easley|
|Format||32 page book, and 3 pane cover (incl. 1 tear out & 4 pull out pages)|
|Party||6 characters of levels 15-20. Must include a high-level Cleric.|
This module assumes that the PCs have already played CM1 - Test of the Warlords. The Norworld dominion of Twolakes Vale has been out of contact for the last 6 months, and king Ericall has nobody to send. So guess who has been volunteered to go and investigate?
It seems that this module was created for two reasons, which weren't necessarily particularly led by a leap of creativity. First of all, it provides an example of a working barony-in-a-24-mile-hex: just like the one you got in CM1; secondly, it is a primer on how to use the new Undead creatures introduced in the Dungeon Master's Companion.
The barony is described in three pages. The module helpfully says that this is the standard format which should be used when designing a dominion. In terms of adventure, this is redundant, but could be useful campaign information. Not very realistically, the barony really has borders that are shaped like a hexagon! Obviously King Ericall is a big wargaming fan,
The main plot involves the opening of a portal to the "Sphere of Death", which is a convenient way to explain why there are so many new undead monsters all in one place. Unfortunately, the module is vague on exactly what or where in the BD&D cosmology it is. Supposedly, it is "the source of Death and Entropy, and at least part of it is malignantly evil", but it "is not precisely an outer plane". I would guess that this is an attempt by an author to shoe-horn the "negative material plane" from AD&D - into the BD&D game.
As a result of the effects of the portal, there are new rules that allows Undead to be controlled by more powerful Undead monsters, making turning attempts act at the level of the controller. This is quite an interesting idea, and the convenient hierarchy of the Undead "race", if you like, make it easy to believe that there is an army of the damn things. This invasion is helped by an ever-growing "deathcloud", which brings eternal night to the lands. If this is not stopped soon, then the whole of Norworld will be in danger.
The main bad guys are Wazor - a mage, Ulslime - a cleric, helped by Korbundar, a Giant Blue Dragon. One of the quest tokens is the "Deathstone" which creates the cloud, and keeps the portal open permanently. In many such plots, the villain is either incredibly stupid or has a big ego. And it is definitely the case in this adventure. Wazor has deliberately provided the means which to disrupt his own plans. The deathstone can be destroyed by the "Hammer of Life". Whilst he's made it a little harder by dividing the hammer into pieces, each with its own guardian, it does mean that the PCs don't have to go outside the Barony in order to finish the game. I suppose that if you wanted to make this adventure a bit more epic, the PCs would have to consult oracles, sages and immortals across the Known World in order to find the "legendary" Hammer of Life. However, you must think of the repercussions of this. Extending the time scales would cause Norworld to be gradually overrun by Undead. With King Ericall's effort being directed towards this one problem, the Empire of Thyatis would be taking advantage of this weakness. But supposedly the PCs are now dominion owners, so where would they find the time?
The adventure is pretty linear: the encircling mountains of the barony force PCs along passes. Having said that, there's nothing stopping the PCs if they really want to go mountaineering. During the adventure, they will search the Baron's castle, meet refugees, meet Korbundar, kill him, find the deathstone, find the hammer of life, destroy the deathstone, meet Wazor, kill him, have the inevitable War Machine (TM) battle between Undead and villagers, find the Temple of Stars, meet Ulslime, kill him. close the portal.
The main problem with this adventure is that it, as it stands, is a bit dull. None of the trio of bad guys has any personality of any sort, nor any of the
other NPCs for that matter. None of them seem to have much motivation. Their magical items aren't that good, and the only special powers granted
by Absolute EvilTM is the power of immunity from any of the nasty effects of the deathcloud - which is essentially like making someone live
in a room full of poison gas and giving him a biohazard suit. To make it worse, the adventure is far too linear.
The most fun you could have is with Wazor. It is fairly obvious from the text that Wazor is designed as an ongoing bad guy, because the PCs get an experience award from making him flee. To unnecessarily tie in with CM1, the module describes the Mage Wazor as being "Atlantean". Maybe this is significant?
The first two are pretty much useless for adventuring, but the third is pretty nice.
|Designer||Douglas Niles and Bruce Nesmith|
|Cartography||Dave "Diesel" LaForce|
|Interior Artist||Doug Watson and Steve Bisset|
|Cover Artist||Keith Parkinson|
|Format||32 page book, and 2 pane cover (incl. 4 pull out pages)|
|Party||4-6 characters of levels 18-22.|
Reading the copy on the back cover of this module suggests that this is an dramatic quest with plenty of new material. Unfortunately, whilst it has high concept in spades, it suffers from mediocre execution.
The copy ends with:
Sabre River includes a complete campaign setting, new NPCs, dungeon and wilderness encounters, and a mysterious story.
Well, I'll try to be positive: indeed, the story is pretty mysterious (this is the high concept bit); there are dungeon encounters (and two of the dungeons are illustrated with pretty 3D maps); and there are wilderness encounters. However, the dungeons are incredibly linear, with few encounters; and the wilderness encounters are pitiful (and are mostly drawn from a random encounter table). As for the campaign setting: what campaign setting? There are no wilderness maps at all in the product, and the single NPC provided, the Seer, is not particularly reusable, since he is supposed to be destroyed at the end, and even if he does come back, he can only stay on his island. Ironically, they didn't mention the interesting new monster, the Sabreclaw - a kind of hive-mind monster.
The linearity of the dungeons is something that plagues the entire adventure. There really isn't much scope of the PCs doing anything different from how they are supposed to do it in the module. The first three encounters are essentially the players sitting back whilst the DM reads boxed text. There is a small amount of choice on the Seer's island, but this is mainly finding secret doors which mean that the PCs can skip a room. I have to say that despite the interesting central idea, the module feels very slight. Essentially this is comprised of three small dungeons, interspersed with random wilderness encounters and "flavour" encounters. The module is padded with expanded chunks of the 3D maps found on the inside cover.
Like many other Companion modules, this adventure begins with a summons to adventure at the court of either a PC or an NPC dominion lord. A young boy called Cutter (subtle, very subtle) arrives at the court, seeking aid for the people who live near Sabre river. After this, a rather melodramatic bleeding skull materialises and gives cryptic warnings. Whilst on the way to help, the crones from CM1 - Test of the Warlords appear to give yet more cryptic advice. It seems that Douglas Niles likes this device so that the DM can impart information to the players. Annoyingly, they appear twice more for absolutely no help to the PCs.
So, what's the high concept? Well, it's the annoying kid, called Cutter who asks the PCs to help his village from a sickness which is connected with the river of the title. The fun idea with him is that he follows the PCs around, and somehow manages to remain unharmed. Of course, it turns out that there is more to him than meets the eye, because he is really a transformed intelligent blade, but he doesn't know this, nor do the PCs. Just in case "Cutter" isn't obvious enough, his real name is "Erbas" (read backwards :-) ). He will send the PCs to find "The Seer" whose dramatic warning starts off the adventure. However, the Seer is actually another manifestation of a strong Curse spell, and has no intention of helping anyone. In fact, he is quite aware of Cutter's true nature, and knows that Cutter is potentially the only weapon which can kill him. So he sends the party off to get the hilt from a random volcano. Unfortunately, the Seer combines the Cutter with the hilt, making his nemesis (cue the Companion Wrestling rules ...). Once the Seer is defeated, the PCs have to take the sword to the source of Sabre River, and .. leave it there. Ok, they have to kill 300 Carrion Crawlers and a Beholder to get there.
This module really needs to be properly prepared to be 100% useful. I suggest that before running it, you roll up some wilderness encounters in advance, because none of the monsters have statistics or even hit points. I suppose this module could be quite fun, but all in all, I felt slightly cheated by this adventure, when you think how much Gary Gygax squeezed into B2 - Then Keep on the Borderlands.
The designers suggest that this module is set in Norworld, after the PCs have founded dominions. However, there is nothing which ties this adventure to the "Companion Game World" at all, other than the pregenerated PCs, who again are the ones from CM1, but with higher levels.
|Designer||David "Zeb" Cook|
|Cartography||Dave "Diesel" LaForce|
|Graphic Designer||Ruth Hoyer|
|Interior Artist||Ben Otero|
|Cover Artist||Clyde Caldwell|
|Format||32 page book, and 3 pane cover (incl. 8 pull out pages, 4 for maps, 4 for pregenerated PCs)|
|Party||4-6 characters of levels 18-20.|
At last, a Companion game module that I really like. With mecha! After three fairly dull adventures, this is a good bit of fun. Essentially, a giant magical robot turns up in a PCs (or NPCs) dominion, and everybody has fun until Evil ForcesTM try to steal it for their own evil means. This is also probably the first time in which the Gnome race shines in D&D. The idea of them being mechanical tinkerers probably is first used here. This trope is endlessly recycled whenever a TSR D&D product needs some sort of magical technology.The tone is distinctly humorous, although the consequences of this machine wrecking the surrounding land will definitely not be thought to be very funny. The pre-generated characters are not the same as in the first three modules, and they have much more quirky characterisation. For instance, the magic user, McVay the Mighty, is now somewhat senile, and so requires the player to have an apprentice called Boy to help him!
Unlike the first three modules, it is not assumed that the PCs have settled down, although the designer suggests that if they have settled down, then the DM could use one of the PCs' own domains, rather than the supplied Vyolstagrad. Otherwise, it is assumed that the players are using the pre-generated characters, since the lead fighter, Alphonso is named in the introductory text. His Lord is leaving him in charge of the barony. If you don't want to play with the pre-generated characters or use a PC's domain, then the DM will have to set this feudal relationship up some time in advance. However I enjoyed the glee at which the designer says how great the destruction on the PC's barony will mean he will have to go off and adventure to pay for all the damage!
The adventure starts whilst one of the PCs is granting audiences. You get to role-play the local Patriarch regarding a long due holiday, a magistrate about a murder that has caused an incident with the neighbouring barony, and a showman, Milos Formiesias, who wants permission to hold his carnival on your land. The first audience essentially gives impetus to agreeing to the third. Unfortunately for the PCs, the agreement with the showman is a very dodgy contract, provided as a hand-out, where the type size gets increasingly smaller, right up to the bit (in 2 point) where essentially you are waiving all liability if anything goes wrong. This is where I suspect that any player in his or her right mind would never sign such a contract; however the PCs must sign, otherwise the adventure will never happen.
In the middle of the night, before the start of the fair, Earthshaker appears in the dominion, which causes immediate, but manageable, panic. The designer tries to ensure that the DM will be able to communicate exactly how big it is, which is 1280 foot tall, and gives some comparisons. There is a cross-section displayed inside the cover, with 20 keyed decks, 10 of which are given floor plans, and described in detail. The other decks are represented by combinations of two geo-morphs. Six pages are devoted to this, and are the only parts which could be considered a dungeon.
Earthshaker is actually operated by a clan of Gnomes, who then use it essentially as a carnival sideshow to make money. But more than that, it turns out that this is actually their clan stronghold as described in the Players' Companion. Essentially, knowledge of how each part of the machine is passed down from father to son, so how the whole thing works is a mystery, and thus the PCs will never be able to control it. However, there are rules on how to sabotage it!
One interesting feature added to D&D is techobabble. There is a special chart on the second page which allows you to randomly generate phrases for the gnomes if they are asked how the robot works.
Naturally, it wouldn't be an adventure if nothing exciting happened; and the villains in this adventure are a band of adventurers set on stealing and using Earthshaker for their own objectives. It turns out that the leader, Zhukharnov, has infiltrated Earthshaker with his men, and has a plan to control the robot with the mind gem, the original consciousness of Earthshaker. With this Earthshaker can be operated without requiring the non-magical power source - thousands of tons of coal, and more importantly, without any of the Gnomes.
Essentially, the plot from here is somewhat like Die Hard or Under Siege. Whilst Zhukharnov has a good plan to seize Earthshaker, it is quite possible for that plan to be foiled by the PCs, who are being conducted on a tour by Milos Formiesias. The nice thing is that the adventure is pretty open-ended. The PCs could possibly find Zhukharnov before he uses the mind gem. Or they could fail, but still manage to shut-down Earthshaker by destructive or non-destructive means. They could even try to rally the peasantry to topple it. Or completely fail and let Zhukharnov destroy the capital city. All these eventualities are covered, including the damage potentially done to the dominion. Even the audience with the magistrate from the introduction has its consequences, including war with the neighbouring Stamtral.
The layout is generally pretty good. However, the back of the third fold out panel gives statistics for all the NPCs, as well as the PCs. Actually, a lot of photocopying will be required to ensure that the players don't inadvertently see secrets things on their hand-outs.
All in all, this might look as if it might be a slight module. However, this is because it is more of a role-playing exercise, and I can see that it could make a very entertaining session. Like all of the first three modules, this is very much tied to the Companion dominion rules, and this expanded world the PCs now live in make the adventure inevitably have many consequences.
The designers assume that this module is set in Norworld, somewhere near the Wyrmsteeth range (no particular reason). after the PCs have founded dominions. However, there is nothing which ties this adventure to the "Companion Game World" at all
All material in this document is copyright Mark Bertenshaw. None of this can be reproduced in any manner without the express permission of the author.