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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Crown of Qthuken (A Review)

This time around, we're talking about the Crown of Qthuken, an adventure from Grumblefist Old School RPG Jams and Sean Wills, who, interestingly enough, was involved in what is possibly the first Pits & Perils campaign outside of our own, and the first outside of the continental United States; a double distinction, and so we're delighted to see him write under the OSL!

At 16-pages, this scenario packs a punch
that goes far beyond the scripted/stocked adventure alone... 

Note: Crown of Qthuken is designed specifically for Pits & Perils and requires its supplement to fully use. 

By way of explanation, this adventure setting imagines an aging empire (Tiberia, being an inspired mix of medieval Italy and imperial Spaniards of a later era) struggling to hold on to its colonies on a new continent.  The historical parallel helps create an authentic feeling to an otherwise fantastic setting, and this fact works to its general advantage.  

Additionally, the small town of Port Saint Willem is provided, chartered by a foreign guild and the King of Ausland, who hopes to reap his own riches from this new world.

Now here's the good part; the locals aren't especially keen on domination, and their deity, Qthuken, has united them in opposition to the Empire's plans.  To make matters worse, all this unrest endangers Port Saint Willem and its profits, forcing them to seek capable adventurers to investigate! 

Rival interests?  Check.  Restless locals?  You bet!  Angry indigenous gods bet of vengeance?  In spades!  There's a lot going on in Vinland, all of it adventure fodder...               

The Crown of Qthuken is a self-described "adventure toolkit" for old-school games, and it absolutely delivers on its promise, presenting both a specific adventure to play and a rich setting with abundant materials to sustain a continuing campaign, having many fully detailed materials for the game.

Port Saint Willem (home base) is presented with a clever mix of images and words that helps to tell the story without going overboard or robbing the referee of their own creativity.  Its many people, places, and things are fully statted for P&P and derived from both the basic rulebook and supplement, so you get combat maneuvers, an important detail as there are many fighters present in the port town who might later become enemies.

Oh, and there are secrets.  Lots of secrets hidden away in people's homes and in their hearts and minds, which is fertile stuff for campaigning and interesting side-treks. 

Some adventures achieve simplicity by leaving things out, which effectively leaves the referee holding the bag (and scratching their heads) wondering what to do next.  Still others do the opposite, piling on so much detail that little is left for the referee to do on their own; this time, an overstuffed bag.

The Crown of Qthuken strikes the right balance, presenting a richly detailed setting using a clever mixture of images, words, and perhaps most importantly, the reader's own imagination.  No small accomplishment, and this nails it...

The nearby Tiberian Camp is also detailed, giving the potential referee some idea of the Empire's values and interests, plus being fully stated for use when, inevitably, things happen.

Branching out, the surrounding wilderness is given or, more properly, wilderness encounters.  The forests are a deadly realm, and this adventure takes advantage of P&P's great simplicity to introduce original creatures, like thunderbirds, complete with their own magical powers drawn from the rules.  Needless to say, many surprises await those brave enough to explore!

As an aside, it's worth pointing out that while the adventure is designed for character levels 4-6th (and you'd best be before trying the great ziggurat), the referee has plenty of raw materials upon which to base other adventures, perhaps shipping in a new party from overseas and letting them work up.

The great central ziggurat (a Mesopotamian pyramid) is the goal, here residing Qthuken and his faithful.  This is multi-leveled and interesting to navigate (having a cross-sectional map), with numerous enemies and sneaky tricks for the unwary.  Expect a fight, and several deadly traps - oh, and an original spell cleverly inserted, adding to the scenario's value.

The ultimate prize is survival, for both the Tiberians and the colony of Saint Willem.  But there's also riches, and one fabulous prize that holds both value and risk.  

You've been warned...

VERDICT: Crown of Qthuken is a true adventure toolkit, but one providing a detailed and ready-to-play scenario.  Highly recommended for those serious about P&P and ready for something different, complete, and lots of fun.  Get this in softcover and eBook now!


  1. A perfect showcase for P&P and something of an RPG classic in the making. More please!

  2. Do you know if this is ever coming back? I was on the your website and clicked the link under OSL Stuff and it isn't there anymore.