Sleeping Gods

By on 25 February 2013

Sleeping Gods presents seven adventures for the Dragon Warriors role-playing game.

If all goes well, you can expect to see your characters rise from being vassals of a minor noble to being lords of a powerful castle, win! If things go poorly, you can expect your characters to end up as moss-ridden cadavers rotting in the tombs of the long-dead kings they dared disturb, bwahaha!

All of the adventures were first published in the 80s in the original Dragon Warriors paperbacks. The publisher has collected them into this one text, helpfully providing brief advice about how to thread each of the adventures together to weave a larger campaign. Expect to get ~10 or so sessions of gaming out of the adventures, plus more if your GM weaves in additional material suggested by the many hooks that the text leaves dangling.

The adventures are presented in the order that you’d likely play through them, starting with The King Under The Forest. Let’s have at ’em! And yeah, the rest of this review is proper bursting with spoilers.

The King Under The Forest

The adventure starts off brightly enough with a greedy parish priest in the market village of Axbridge. Axbridge is your stock medieval village and is painted in broad brush strokes: with some work—perhaps using The Village of Hommlet as a template—the GM could use it as a base for future adventures.

The adventure descends into a funhouse dungeon complete with a riddling dragon, a gorgon, and a procession of outré traps; I do not consider the presence of these elements a good thing. Happily, the adventure somewhat redeems itself by having a lovely kicker at the denoument when the characters unearth the “treasure” of Vallandar’s Tomb, one that recalls one of medieval Europe’s most enduring legends and is most in keeping with the “European folktale sensibility” that I expect of Dragon Warriors.

The adventure works well enough as an introduction to dungeon crawling RPGs. The subsequent adventures presented are rather more representative of the haunted mood of Legend though.

  • For 4-6 1st Rank characters.
  • 1-2 sessions of gaming to play all the way through.

A Shadow On The Mist

A Shadow on the Mist yet again starts in Axbridge, so any characters that survived Vallandar’s Tomb can continue with this adventure as part of a campaign. The adventure is a misty-dell-as-dungeon-crawl taking place in and around the tomb of a Wight, but the crawl is enriched by a dash of treachery, a gruesome murder, and revenge from beyond the grave.

It’s a bog standard dungeon-crawl, rescued form the well of pablum by grisly feudal backstabbing. If yet more dungeon-delving is not your bag, there’s plenty of scope to embroil characters in the murky politicking of the feudal setting using the events of the dungeon-delve. The adventure text doesn’t provide any more than a hook into such politicking, so you’ll have to weave that in yourself.

  • For 4-6 1st-2nd Rank characters.
  • 1-2 sessions of gaming to play all the way through.

Hunter’s Moon

Hunter’s Moon is another atmospheric dungeon-crawl that can easily follow on from A Shadow on the Mist. (Hints on how to dovetail the two adventures are provided.) The adventurers investigate a ruined citadel while travelling on a ship bound for Port Beltayn, and what they discover is suitably Legend-ary.

I do like the mythical vibe of the denoument, but the adventure is only okay because no real character motivation is provided: structurally, the adventure boils down to Go To Point A—Slay Some Beasts—Listen To Infodump.

  • For 4-6 1st-2nd Rank characters.
  • There’s only a single session of gaming to be found here, although the consequences for the campaign will likely be far reaching.

The One-Eyed God

The One-Eyed God tasks the adventurers with chasing down the Assassin who has made a failed attempt on the life of their leige lord Baron Aldred. The Assassin’s intended escape route is an Astral Gate conjured within an ancient barrow. Unfortunately, a cave-in has buried the Astral Gate beneath tons of rock and dirt, and the Assassin is desperately labouring to unearth it. The ancient barrow is filled with goblins, and the bulk of the adventure involves the adventurers hunting down the Assassin in the dark depths of the burial mound while fending off the goblins.

Yes, it’s a dungeon crawl and not a bad one as these things go; the adventure is lifted above the ordinary by the injection of the politicking feudal elements that leads to the assassination attempt on Baron Aldred: with a little work from the GM, this could be spun into some cool gaming action featuring zero dungeons and lashings of hot words and muddy medieval warfare.

  • For 4-6 3rd-4th Rank characters.
  • 1-2 sessions of gaming to play all the way through.

Sins of the Fathers

The Sins of the Fathers sees the adventurers escorting Baron Aldred’s son Almeric into the underground lair of a faerie king. They are searching for the corpse of a faithful retainer that Almeric cravenly abandoned to an unknown fate at the hands of strange boar-headed men while out hunting. The majority of the adventure involves exploring the Boar-King’s lair en route to a terrible revelation. It’s a dungeon-crawl, but one rich with a “European folktale sensibility.”

Happily, this is a dungeon-crawl that doesn’t feel too out of place in Dragon Warriors: the revelation at the denoument is wonderfully grisly in true medieval style, and there are plenty of shout outs to European folklore. Winningly, none of the funhouse elements from the first adventure are present here, so I’m pleased.

  • For 4-6 3rd-4th Rank characters.
  • 1-2 sessions of gaming to play all the way through.

Mungoda Gold

The Lands of Legend concludes with an adventure for 4-6 characters of ~7th Rank or thereabouts; I didn’t own the paperback that this adventure was first published in, and it remains the only adventure in this collection that I haven’t played.

Mungoda Gold! is set in the steamy jungles of the far south of Legend, which makes for a pleasant change of locale after the gloomy underworlds bundled in the earlier books. Cool shizzle includes greasy dealings in fabled Ferromaine, an encounter on the high seas with a trio of infernal Warlocks, and the looting of the crumbling Kaikuhuran pyramid of “Shefru Cha’af, Lord of Light, Master of Enchantments Against Enchantment; Wielder of Swords Against the Fray”.

The adventure reads well enough: a good thing about it is that it gets the adventurers out of Albion and close to Crescentium, Legend’s exotic equivalent our world’s Jerusalem at the time of the first Crusade, a city rich with hellish intrigues and adventure. For inspiration about adventures set in Crescentium check out The Demon’s Claw, an excellent gamebook penned by Dave Morris and set in that fabled city: that solo gamebook is packed to bursting with Arabian Nights-style imagery that makes for a pleasant counterpoint to the usual grimy medieval texture of Dragon Warriors.

  • For 4-6 5th-6th Rank characters.
  • 1-2 sessions of gaming to play all the way through.

The Greatest Prize

The final adventure, The Greatest Prize, is a standalone, open-ended affair that calls for an experienced GM. Three Knights returned from the Crusades task the adventurers with the murder of a wicked Sorcerer in his island tower. Naturally, the Sorcerer turns out to be a rather sympathetic fellow.

If the adventurers slay the Sorcerer, then they are afforded the opportunity to descend into the magical dungeon beneath his tower; if they choose to side with the Sorcerer against the villainous Crusaders, then they forgo any such opportunity but instead are rewarded with the gratitude of a powerful Sorcerer.

  • For 4-6 5th-7th Rank characters.
  • 1-2 sessions of gaming to play all the way through.

Presentation

Sleeping Gods is published in softcover and PDF formats. Both formats are 104pp, internally black and white affairs, sporting the usual ’two-column layout with generous margins’ design common to the Dragon Warriors line, and a full-colour cover painting by Jon Hodgson.

Sleeping Gods brings up another Jon Hodgson cover, another thump over the wicket for 6! Gosh, this is an excellent painting with a lovely nod to the Sutton Hoo mask. Some of the original maps from the Dragon Warriors paperbacks are reproduced, but many of the maps have been nicely redone by Andy Laws.

Closing Thoughts

Sleeping Gods is a bundle of short adventures, most of which are evocative of the desired “European folktale sensibility.” It delivers what it promises on the tin, so tick good. The adventures are easily repurposed to pretty much any fantasy role-playing game with a vaguely faux-medieval setting—Fighting Fantasy, PenDragon, that sort of thing—so long as you count slotting in your own stat blocks as easy.

The Prince of Darkness—which I reviewed here—is a similar offering from Magnum Opus Press, being a text that presents a slightly polished version of an adventure originally published in the 80s. That book supplemented the adventure content with a mini-sourcebook of sorts detailing the frozen land of Glissom, thus providing an incentive to purchase for folk who already owned the adventure in its paperback version.

Sleeping Gods offers no such additional content. If you already own the original Dragon Warriors paperbacks—your copies no doubt battered and yellowed with age like my own—then Sleeping Gods isn’t offering you anything new. That said, I’m well enough pleased that I banged down my cash for this supplement even though I do own the original paperbacks, ’cos it’s nice to have all the adventures collected in one bundle—I’m not oblivious to the fact that nostalgia played its part in getting me to drop my cash.

You can buy this product from DriveThruRPG/RPGNow.

About Pete Douglas

Pete Douglas is a colonial with a great line in belted coats. Indie Pete is the name he scribbles on sign-up sheets at UK conventions, where the lad runs RPGs ranging from the hippie and sexy—Love in the Time of Seid—to the homespun and heartwarming—Mouse Guard. Late 30s, 5'10", sober, LF a dish for STR, plate spinning, and mutual basket appreciation.

One Comment

  1. Baz

    25 February 2013 at 7:47 pm

    Thanks for reviewing this Pete. I played every one of these back in the day AND the Elven Crystals too. Big time DW fan. I think it’s worth bearing in mind that the dungeon was still the only really popular adventure in town back then (see D&D and Fighting Fantasy), and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. DW had its own little Brothers Grimm vibe, which was a good twist back then. Perhaps it’s all a bit gauche nowadays, but for its time, these adventures worked, and got played. Can’t fault that.

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