*Originally published at British Fantasy Society
There have been a slew of releases for Modiphius’ Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed of since the initial Kickstarter brought the game to life. However, the multi-part campaign, Waves Stained Crimson Campaign stands apart from the others. It’s a dark adventure on the high seas where the PCs are tasked with rescuing a kidnapped member of an elite family. On the surface, it feels fairly straightforward, but it’s absolutely not.
This really felt like a story-a tale by Robert E. Howard told in five acts. If someone were to readapt this into a novella of about the same length, it would read like a sort of harsh Lovecraftian fantasy. Elder gods, depraved sorcerers, deadly duels, intense battles, and more. It works very well at capturing the elements of Conan and puts players in what they’d expect to see in the classic fiction. Run it as a series of one-shots, or in its entirety. It’s flexible and accommodating.
The art complements this very well, and there are great full-colour illustrations of the story all throughout the book. It’s a very reasonable length, despite being much more than a single quest. Players are given a lot of latitude for resolving the different sections of the campaign, but it’s all smoothly crafted.
However, this is not for people that really like their characters. It is difficult. As expected, every chapter ends with a short section on rewards for successfully completing that particular part of the story. Yet, that same rewards section for every chapter begins with a phrase such as, “Characters that survive…” and then the rewards are listed. It’s fairly clear that PC death is to be expected while running this from start to finish.
Ironically, despite the difficulty, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this campaign should have had some kind of timer. Players should need to finish in a certain amount of time in the game world, or they lose. This might seem unfair considering how hard this already felt, but the primary antagonist has a plan that they want to see through to its conclusion. Although, the fact that PCs aren’t really on a clock makes Waves Stained Crimson more forgiving. If this had been a race against time, it would ratchet up the tension even further, but it also may have been a different kind of story.
This tale is worthy of Conan, but it might be a rough way to introduce new players to the game. Someone might be all excited about creating their first character only to have it die by the time the group has completed the first leg of the adventure, and then have another character die in the next section, and so on. If you want a swashbuckling challenge that is filled with freakish occult horrors, this will scratch that itch. Pirates, demons, treasure, and more! This is a great, albeit very difficult, addition to Modiphius’ Conan line.