So you’ve read that title, you’ve seen the sixties-riffic art, and you’re curious about what exactly this thing is. That was how The Hydra Cooperative hooked me when they sent us a request to do a review of their 5e adventure Mortzengersturm,The Mad Manticore Of The Prismatic Peak. I’m going to pick apart this quirky adventure for you here, but if you’re interested in seeing it yourself, go leave a comment on the post and we’ll automatically enter you into the random draw to receive a physical copy of the 32 page adventure!
What Is It?
One look at the cover for this 5e adventure and you can tell it’s not your standard D&D dungeon crawl. The tagline of “THE CHALLENGE – SURVIVE THE MAGIC MANSION OF A MAD MANTICORE WIZARD!” and the 60s cartoon style art are super-evocative of the whimsy and tone that you’ll find throughout the book. Everything in this adventure calls back to the pink panther, Dr. Seuss, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Rankin-Bass animated specials of the sixties and seventies. While this wouldn’t easily fit into a more serious or grim adventure, the adventure’s dedication to the style and tone will make it an incredibly fun aside or one-shot. In a less serious game, you’ll find this a great fit. Geared at a party of 5-6 characters at 4th level, this module might work well with a younger audience with a little tweaking or leniency on the Game Master’s part, and the cartoony style will fit in well with children. That all being said, the adventure is in the OSR styling and more about the nostalgia than made to entertain kids.
Writing and Content
The focus of the adventure is that the party must go to Mortzengersturm’s lair atop the Prismatic Peak and acquire the Whim Wham stone. A section at the beginning explains various hooks and reasons you can use, and gives some background on the Mad Wizard who turned himself into a Manticore through the use of restricted Wild Magic. The Prismatic Peak is a crystal mountain atop a plateau, perfect for Mortzengersturm to set up his lair and continue his experiments in changing and manipulating the forms of things. The adventure is laid out in terms of various challenges and interesting sites, but is in no way a forced Dungeon Crawl. It is suggested at the beginning that the party peacefully find their way inside so that Mortzengersturm can give them a tour.
Many opportunities are given throughout the adventure for the party to gather information from the many inhabitants (trapped imps, goblins being birthed out of some kind of slime machine, a dwarf polymorphed into a horse, and Thedabara a vampire companion to Mortzengersturm). There are many strange and mixed up creatures here as well. The adventure also has a “board game” component which can be used or ignored, but works as a good “tour” of the peak and the many oddities found there. The layout is very old school reminiscent, utilizing compressed stat blocks and margins to provide a main description with stats and info to the sides. It makes it very useful for snagging what you need quickly.
I heavily appreciate the many puns and references that the writing takes, things like the Gruebird or Miszm Throppe. 8 very interesting and whimsical pregen character cards are included with the adventure, which makes it easy for quick one-shot play.
Art and Design
Okay, I’m a sucker for good and interesting design, and this has that in spades. The style and look are appealing to me since I watched many cartoons in this style growing up. The look and feel is well done and the art is of incredibly high quality. Interesting maps and visuals provide interesting ways to convey information. There is a lot of art that is going to be useful in conveying the proper tone to the players. In terms of that, the PDF version of the book will be useful to extract or selectively convey art elements.
The design and layout are in line with the theme, and the 32 pages of the physical adventure are fit into a comic book style presentation. That in itself only adds to the uniqueness of the adventure. The 32 page physical version doesn’t contain some of the appendices and extras of the 38 page PDF, but it’s beautiful and quirky and fun. The comic book size is PERFECT for the size of the adventure and it is making me consider printing adventures as comic books from here on out.
Final Thoughts and Giveaway
Mortzengersturm,The Mad Manticore Of The Prismatic Peak ($7.99 on RPG NOW) is an incredibly fun and whimsical adventure! It is great as an aside adventure in a regular campaign or as the start of a game that emphasizes humor over grittiness. The style and design are superb and really evoke the feel of whimsy alongside the OSR elements of the module. The writing and setup are solid and allow easy use of the adventure as is or the ability to easily pick it apart and rework it. I’ll be running this as a one-shot in some form soon, and I’m looking forward to Hydra Cooperative’s future adventures in The land of Azurth.
We procured an extra copy to use as a giveaway for Gnome Stew readers! As always, every member of our Patreon is automatically entered in the giveaway, but you can enter to receive a free physical copy of the adventure by leaving a comment here. Tell us what you think about this style of adventure, tell us if you’ve played it, or just tell us you love us and we’ll enter you in the drawing! Comment before 06/02/2017 when we will close off the contest.
All of Trey’s work is amazing, but this is a special wonder.
Sounds like something my old GM would appreciate. He loved to make adventures based on classic rock albums like Hotel California and Sgt Pepper
I got a copy of the pdf and loved it. Trey always does great work and this is no exception. I’ll be using it in my group soon.
Sounds amazing. Can’t wait to win or purchase a copy. My players would love this as a one shot. We all cut our teeth on the same cartoons and the old “Red Box.”
Gnomestew is the best stew, and Mortzengersturmthe looks fantastic. I didn’t realize it was comic book formatted. That’s interesting (a bit like the zine style, I imagine).
Man, I got hooked on hydra with marlinko and sucked up the rest of that series. I had previously read blogs about HC and didn’t realize the were connected and was all in after that!
I love the stuff coming out of the Hydra Cooperative!
My love of the Pink Panther and monocles demand I try to win this.
If I don’t, they demand purchase immediately post-contest.
Also, I will judge the book by its cover and say this must be the best adventure written. Ever.
Yeah, that cover is utterly brilliant!
Yeah, looks great, I’d love to get the free coppy 😉
They really got the look and feel of an old comic down and the art is amazing!
If I don’t win I’ll pick it up anyhow just for ideas.
I think it’s a great idea to print adventures in comic book style. I’m also always on the lookout for quirky adventures. Even if I don’t run an adventure as-is, I can mine them for other uses.
Came to this a little late, but I just took all of the commenters and patreon supporters, randomized the order, and rolled lucky number 33. The winner of the giveaway is Evan Harrison Cass who is a Patreon supporter. However, we had two copies of this, so I rolled the die again and came up with lucky number 9 for Solomon Foster! I’ll be contacting both of the winners off site and sending the physical copies out soon!
So, the copy I won (thank you!) came a few days ago and I read it over the weekend. I love this module! I haven’t GMed D&D for some 30 years now, so I’m unlikely to use it directly. (Though my 8yo asked me to teach him D&D yesterday, so maybe that will change.) But it was a joy to read. I’m already trying to figure out how I can incorporate some of the material here in the games I do run. It’s so full of perfectly whimsical and imaginative creatures and items that I’m likely to be borrowing from it for years…