I was recently given the opportunity to take a gander at Prisoners of the Secret Overlords, a 1st to 2nd level adventure by David Matalon, soon to be come to Kickstarter by Dragon Peak Publishing. It is intended as the first installment of Against the Secret Overlords, which has a nice nostalgic echo of the A Series of modules published by TSR for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
The adventure is also clearly inspired by Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and characters will find a good mix of encounter types with a strong helping of the otherworldly mixed into them. Fans of comic books and Appendix N fiction will find other references which are not overly subtle. I suspect that the adventure will be very fun to play through, although I have not done so yet. There is no clear need to have later modules in the series; this should stand well enough on its own.
I am very aware that I am looking at a pre-launch version of this adventure, with placeholders for some artwork, less-than-finalized maps, etc. Still, I am impressed with the artwork already in place. General layout, artwork, and font choices are reminiscent of Goodman Games modules, which is always a plus in my book.
On the other hand, this adventure requires more work than average for the judge to run. There is a lot of background information, which is a blessing, but which increases prep time. The module would be improved by another editing pass. Because of its complexity, a short recap of elements at the start would be appreciated before diving into the longer background information. This would include word/page count, of course, and the pdf I am looking at is already 56 pages long (including covers). For those unfamiliar with publishing, page counts are always in units of 4, comprised of two front-and-back pages from a folded sheet, so adding a recap isn’t always an easy decision.
Although the module is intended as the first in a series of linked adventures, there is no reason why it cannot be run on its own, without using the later adventures. The adventure also could be easily modified by the judge to shift from one campaign milieu to another. There is more than adequate opportunity to use Prisoners of the Secret Overlords to shift from the Shudder Mountains to DCC Dying Earth or whatever else you want to do. Again, this requires some adjustment, and the basic adventure doesn’t force these kinds of changes on you. I would argue that the adventure would work fairly well in Mutant Crawl Classics with only minor changes to the adventure start, and would be a good way to transplant MCC seekers to a DCC world.
This is a big adventure with strong science-fantasy aspects. PCs get to use strange alien weapons and meet NPCs who've been kidnapped from multiple worlds. For most groups, running the adventure will probably take at least 4 sessions, and there is plenty of material for a creative judge to use in an ongoing campaign.
I would definitely run this adventure, and I have no doubt that I will get it.
The Kickstarter launches October 3rd. If you are interested, youcan check it out here.
Absolutely check out the work of artist Kiril Tchangov here.