Review: Cakebread & Walton – The Alchemist’s Wife (Clockwork & Chivalry)


Product Name: The Alchemist’s Wife
Publisher: Cakebread & Walton
Author: Ken Walton, Peter Cakebread
System: RuneQuest II
Setting: Clockwork & Chivalry
Theme: Alternate History
Type: Campaign (Kingdom & Commonwealth Volume I)
Link: http://www.clockworkandchivalry.co.uk/

The Alchemist’s Wife is the first volume of the Kingdom & Commonwealth campaign for Clockwork & Chivalry. It follows on from the introductory adventure found within the core setting book and greatly expands and develops the overarching storyline. By taking the adventuring party throughout the lands of England from Oxford to Cambridge, The Alchemist’s Wife presents itself with a wealth of knowledge that expands upon the high-level details on the setting, historical and alternative.

However, the book is not simply a piece of a campaign, it contains much more than that. The Alchemist’s Wife is a wonderful blend of source material, campaign plot-hooks, and adventuring; all brought to life within a well-done layout containing valuable maps, 17th century illustrations, and a fantastic storyline.

PART ONE

Part One begins with a brief summary as to why the adventuring party is being called upon to take on this journey. The GM is then introduced to two of the major NPCs of the overall storyline including their stats and full description. You are quickly brought into the storyline with the continuation of the story originally found in An Elementary Mistake from the core setting book. The content is filled with storyline narrative for the players to consume giving them the overall feeling for why they are there and what they need to do. This narrative introduction is quite fitting to the “look and feel” of the setting in that this is more than just a simple quest.

The PCs are then given the opportunity to stock up before leaving on their journey, taking them from Oxford to places North. Part One also introduces the GM to Wandering Encounters. Wandering encounters are non-storyline encounters meant to provide flavor to the journey, make the trip more interesting, or create encounters that are keep the players more involved. These encounters are completely modular in that they can occur almost anywhere at almost anytime. There is a wide variety of encounters wandering encounters detailed throughout and the total number gives the GM more than enough possibilities.

All of this keeps the story moving forward and creates the framework for the adventure, but the content doesn’t simply stop there. Contained throughout are numerous explanations of the surrounding landscape and territories including the ones that only pertain to the wandering encounters. These details not only create a much more vivid look to how the GM portrays the journey, but gives more than enough source material to be used outside of the entire campaign. A map of the area is included along with numerous NPCs encountered along the way. There is a planned combat encounter and it fits in well with the overall storyline and especially the Clockwork & Chivalry setting.

The storyline narrative continues throughout and NPCs are always detailed in the location of the content where they appear. This keeps the story easily moving forward as you read through the content instead of having to flip back-and-forth between the content and an appendix in the back or a table near the end of the chapter.

By the time I finished reading this chapter, I was completely hooked and totally wrapped up in the storyline.

PART TWO

Part Two does a great job of moving the storyline along at a preferable pace and is filled with more wandering encounters, great source material, reference maps, and even a little back-story. This chapter follows pace with the previous chapter but gets more involved with the NPCs that appear throughout.

This chapter finds a little more investigation being brought into the storyline through interaction with the NPCs. This is done very well without bogging the storyline down by forcing the players to turn from an adventuring party into an investigative party.

A major combat encounter occurs in this chapter which is directly linked to the storyline introduced immediately in the first chapter. The combat is written well but should keep the PCs on their toes while keeping the storyline moving forward instead of simply interjecting a major combat for flavor.

The storyline is truly blossoming as the chapters move along.

PART THREE

Part Three is consists mostly of an investigative encounter which ultimately has some very important storyline clues. It adds an interesting flavor to the overall adventure/campaign but brings about another grouping of options that a GM can use throughout any adventure or campaign.

While this encounter may seem trivial, it actually adds a great amount of value to the storyline and ties together bits and pieces of the previous content with bits and pieces of the upcoming chapters.

PART FOUR

Part Four finds the adventuring team making their way to the dreaded Tainted Lands, first introduced in the core setting book. There is a HUGE amount of source material concerning the Tainted Lands and this chapter alone could easily be its own source supplement. The potential for plot-hooks, adventure ideas, and campaign encounters is quite vast and there is no shortage of details that can be extracted from the content (and storyline).

There are a number of wandering encounters and often times important NPC interactions. There is potential for combat, especially with the very interesting wandering encounters, but the bulk of this chapter is important storyline information and the interaction with the NPCs. There is also the opportunity for PCs to perform their own side adventures throughout this land.

PART FIVE

Part Five is short but filled with source material and wandering encounters. While a GM could potentially breeze through this part of the journey, they are also given many options to make it more interesting. This journey takes the adventuring party through the last stretches of land (and the two included maps) to their proposed destination of Cambridge.

PART SIX

Part Six finds the adventuring party finally making their way to Cambridge and hoping to gather they information they seek and complete the appointed task. The chapter is filled with lots more source material and an interesting side-story (not storyline affecting) of the tensions taking place within Cambridge. Once again, there is a wealth of opportunities here where a GM can make the story as quick as possible or as interesting as possible. More NPCs are introduced and some extremely pieces of information are gathered.

While there are no wandering encounters published in the chapter, you can easily extract some from the given content.

PART SEVEN

Part Seven is the big finale. The other major encounter (and the last one for this volume of the campaign) is found within the pages of this chapter. All of the clues lead the adventurers to this place where everything is finally tied together. The area is fully detailed for use with the encounter but may be of little use as source material. However, its meant to set the scene for the big battle and that’s what it does. I really like how this encounter is written and the options that are given for the encounter depending on how the PCs act. Certain activities may have a negative outcome…

The chapter finishes up with hooks to further the overall campaign along and completes the tasks set forth when this journey began.

APPENDIX

The appendix contains some quick references to adversaries used throughout the adventure and wandering encounters. These references are better placed in an appendix as they pertain to multiple adversaries throughout.

OVERALL

I have a hard time summarizing how I feel overall as I got really wrapped up in the storyline and could easily visualize the surroundings and the environment. There is so much detail that it truly is more than just a section of the overall campaign, its more like having a novel at your fingertips where your players get to determine the outcomes.

It’s a solid storyline filled with vivid descriptions of the landscape and NPCs, dynamic encounters, and a blend of combat and adventuring.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
The Alchemist’s Wife has an improved layout compared to the core setting book, but still has some maps and tables that are placed where they intrude upon the reading of the content. While this is much better than before, it can still get in the way. Besides this little detail, the location of the NPC introductions/explanations are perfectly placed as they fall in-line to the content exactly where they appear within the storyline, as opposed to being mentioned and then having to refer to an Appendix for all the details. The illustrations follow the quality of the core setting book but the maps truly make the setting shine! I only wish they were all placed on their own page(s) for easier printing (without the border and any other game text) and usage as a players handout.

Storyline: 10 out of 10
The storyline is fantastic! When I read through the core setting book there was a little unknown thought of how a campaign would be written, but Ken Walton and Peter Cakebread have put that to rest. The story is well thought-out and filled with interesting plot-hooks, investigative qualities, and believable encounters. The introduction of so much source material gives a true 3-dimensional feel to the storyline as the entire surrounding areas are introduced and described.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
The Alchemist’s Wife is a wonderful blend of investigation, adventuring, and combat while allowing the GM plenty of options to adjust the campaign depending on the style of play desired by the players. Possibly the biggest appeal is the flexibility offered throughout giving the players the chance to run the story in directions the GM may not have considered while having the tools to succeed. The number of wandering encounters can make game-play as interesting as desired or as fast as desired, breaking the monotony that may occur from a more simplified journey.

Overall: 10 out of 10
I highly recommend The Alchemist’s Wife not only as an interesting campaign to run, but as a publication for source material, plot-hooks, and random encounters that can be placed within any campaign or adventure. This is definitely a valuable book for every Clockwork & Chivalry GM or even someone that wishes to create a similar setting within a different system.

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2 Comments

  1. Aaron says:

    It has been properly pointed out that the illustrations are not actually from the 17th Century. My original thinking was actually that the illustrations represent the 17th Century and how I imagine 17th Century images would appear. I should re-word it, but oh well. Sorry for any confusion!

  2. doomedpc says:

    I think our artist will be very flattered by the review, so no worries on that score :)
    For ease we put free downloads of the maps and npc illustrations from The Alchemist’s Wife on our website – http://www.clockworkandchivalry.co.uk/downloads/

    Really thrilled you like the game – Long Live The Mainspring!