Sunday, March 6, 2022

Comes Chaos Review

As I mentioned before, to my pleasant surprise, my entry made a good showing in JB's Year of the Rat contest, and he was kind enough to gift me a copy of his latest publication, Comes Chaos, as a prize (I already have his prior two publications, the Complete B/X Adventurer, and the B/X Companion). 

Per his ad copy:
COMES CHAOS is a campaign setting designed for use with the B/X fantasy adventure game (and compatible retro-clones). It contains the information needed to transform your home campaign into a chaotic hellscape populated with mutants and demons, dark sorcery and depraved cultists. 

The book contains new ways to use old character classes. It contains dozens of spells of dark sorcery. More than 100 mutations and "gifts" of the dark powers. New combat options. Scores of monstrous foes and demons. More than 50 unholy magic items. Rules for creating chaotic wastelands, rules for corrupting player characters, rules for demons and cultists and for running a setting of ever encroaching chaos and the heroes that struggle against its rising tide. Information on running a villainous campaign for aspiring champions of evil, as well as guidelines for redeeming those who fall to darkness.

A 64 page book, illustrated by Kelvin Green. Whether you're looking for a unifying theme for your fantasy adventure game, or simply want to spice up your campaign with demonic possession and vile enchantments, COMES CHAOS has plenty of demented ideas for your enjoyment.
Confronting chaos is a dangerous affair. Even the most devout or righteous characters may be twisted and corrupted by exposure to these dark forces and dark gods. Sometimes, these individuals are even more easily brought down and under the sway of chaos.

Comes Chaos provides a number of resources for campaigns at the edge of blighted lands, where heroes (or antiheroes) probe past the borders and attempt to investigate or push back Chaos. In spite of PCs' best intentions, each exposure increases the chance that they will take on corruptions and mutations, and/or will gain the attention of some chaos champion, or even a more powerful being. And, with each exposure comes the growing allure of joining Chaos and the 'rewards' it offers...

The book is divided into several chapters: "ruined" player characters; dark sorcery and new spells; exploration and the risk of physical mutation; alternate combat rules (including wounds taken in a save or die scenario); a bestiary of new critters and demons; bespoke chaotic weapons and treasure; advice on running a chaos campaign; and how to let the PCs go off on a villainous campaign. 

There is also a "witch hunter" characters class - a PC class dedicated to rooting out Chaos. While they have some access to arcane/divine powers, they are not so much a spellcaster as an investigator (This could also be a PC option for those who prefer a 'cleric-free' campaign).

This is a great resource for building a grimdark campaign, with investigations and contact carrying a cost for the player characters. The book contains a good selection of potential foes, as well as a small pantheon of chaos-gods and their relationships to one another. It isn't designed as a "PCs shall prevail" scenario or setting. They will be affected, harmed, and perhaps turned. For DMs/players who aren't into a campaign of antiheroes and attrition, this might not be your thing.

I personally wouldn't run this as a whole cloth setting/resource. However, Comes Chaos is an excellent resource for DMs who are looking to drop additional risks and world color into their campaign. Encountering a band of goblins or a bear sporting mutations or other body-horrors will indicate that something is not right in these woods... And unexpected abilities granted by said mutations can stir things up with those players who have memorized the Monster Manual. 

The idea of increasing risk/hazard or "creeping doom" coming upon the PCs, and the associated stress/horror may create an adequate time-bomb element for parties as they rush to defeat a foe before the environment itself overtakes them.  

Likewise, I've recently seen discussions of magical items coming with a "price." Any number of the mutations presented would be excellent side-effects as a hero continues to wield a magical sword that is slowly corrupting or twisting them. 

Although brief, the "DM advice" sections carry some good gems on world-building and how to utilize the goods in the book, either in whole or part. 

Overall, I'm enjoying this book, and I can definitely see bits of content creeping into my own writings and creations. I like to mix up spell lists and abilities on BBEGs to keep players off-balance, or create an unexpected effect, so Comes Chaos will definitely go onto my resource pile for adventure writing. Thanks again, JB, for dropping me a copy.


And, in a mini-play report, I ran the winning entry, Clearing the Warren, for the local band of usual suspects back in November.

(Spoilers below) - 

The party of four 2nd levels took on the mission, with the conceit of one having served for the Castellan in prior campaigning days. My note-taking was nonexistent, so here's what I recall... The party makeup was a human fighter, a dwarf, an elf and an cleric. I think. 

With a bit of successful RP and agreeable reaction rolls, they received a couple bits of intel from the captured mutineer via Column B regarding the hideout (avoid the front entrance, find the secret door). 

The party found the cave entrance, and waited until a wandering guard stepped back into the complex. Bypassing the front door by hiding in the shadows of the stone columns, they crept back into the caverns. Two PCs noticed the back entrance and investigated. And broke the ladder, making noise. Two guards stepped out, and the elf one-shotted one with a bow, with the other guard darting back into the compound. Knowing that surprise was lost, the party continued past to where they believed the secret door to be. Some investigation found the 'key' and they infiltrated the back way. Cautious exploration found the bottle trap, which was disarmed, with a PC taking the bottle.

The party worked their way through a storeroom, heard the galley and bum-rushed in, hoping to take surprise. An intense fight followed, with several close calls. A sleep spell disabled part of the guards, and the pair of gnolls were either dispatched or escaped. Zurka and one of the PC fighters shouldered a door back and forth before Zurka burst in, boosting a remaining guards with his 'healing potion' before fighting a rearguard action with his dog. Zurka fell, but a PC was able to calm his wardog, and took it as a companion (although noncombatant for this scene).

The party, after dispatching Zurka and securing the surviving guards, burst into the Diamond Hall of Pacovic and chaos mage Staorec's meeting. The chaos mage retreated, leaving Pacovic and his guards to deal with the party. A PC threw the mystery bottle, which broke, causing a wave of weakness to strike multiple individuals in the room. Another PC staved off a charm spell cast by Staorec, and the enemies closed. Pacovic, after having little luck with his own sword, drew Heghorlun's Crusader - only to be burned by its righteous fury. He fell a few rounds later, as Staorec and her surviving gnoll guard  escaped, bitter at the loss of their investment and cash box. The party recovered the sword (after confirming its true master's identity), a loot chest of bribe money, and rounded up the surviving mutinous guards for trooping back to the keep. 

As we closed the session, there was discussion that pursuing Staorec could be a future objective.

Well, I guess I'll have to gin something up. And who knows what hazards lurk out in the hinterlands where Chaos gathers.

If only I had a book of Chaos denizens and corruptions....

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