Review: Cakebread & Walton – Thou Shalt Not Suffer (Clockwork & Chivalry)


Product Name: Thou Shalt Not Suffer
Publisher: Cakebread & Walton
Author: Ken Walton, Peter Cakebread
System: RuneQuest II
Setting: Clockwork & Chivalry
Theme: English Civil War, Alternate History
Type: Campaign (Kingdom & Commonwealth Volume II)
Link: http://www.clockworkandchivalry.co.uk/

Thou Shalt Not Suffer is an investigative, sandbox-style adventure that continues the Kingdom & Commonwealth campaign storyline into (and out of) Cornwall. The adventure has a known beginning and end but everything in-between is mostly determined by the direction and actions the adventuring party wish to take. There are numerous modular encounters and a fairly flexible time-line giving the players the ability to truly determine how easy (or difficult) the final encounter will be. The adventure also incorporates witches and witchcraft into the Clockwork & Chivalry setting.

Thou Shalt Not Suffer follows the same framework as The Alchemist’s Wife with a vivid storyline, appealing encounters, great adventuring opportunities, and a wealth of source material but with a seemingly fatal twist if things don’t go quite right for the adventuring party. Make sure you cover all your bases…

CHAPTER ONE

Chapter One starts out with a basic introduction to the adventure and the hooks bringing the adventuring party from The Alchemist’s Wife to Thou Shalt Not Suffer. From here they meet with the 2 major NPCs of the campaign and are given a briefing of what needs to be done. Important background history is found here along with a swarm of plot-hooks for this campaign and possible adventures and campaigns of new design. While the majority of the introduction is done as a discussion between different parties, players would be keen to listen to the details as they may actually assist in their efforts down the line.

What all this basically means is that the storyline is created within this introduction along with the preferred outcome. But if a player isn’t paying attention, they may find that additional efforts are required later on in the adventure to hopefully quash the plans of the witches. To me this already feels like an investigative adventure is supposed to feel. Once the framework is laid out for the adventurers, they quickly become faced with the wrath of these witches while they attempt to escape and set out on their journey. After reading the entire book, this chapter not only makes more sense in the way it’s written, but it’s inherent value to the overall investigation becomes immense. If the players don’t ask the right questions, then their job may become that much more difficult.

This chapter finishes up with the source material back-story explaining the witches and the Witch Queen. Again Cakebread & Walton keep with the high value of their campaign books by including valuable source material for this campaign and possible other adventures and campaigns.

CHAPTER TWO

Thou Shalt Not Suffer is different than The Alchemist’s Wife in that the journey to the final destination does not find the adventuring party coming across any dangers. The adventure itself revolves around the Duchy of Cornwall and the happenings inside it’s boundaries. It doesn’t take long for the madness to set in once the party leaves the “safety” of Devon and enter Cornwall.

Each section of Cornwall and it’s associated society are properly detailed within Chapter Two. This includes a plethora of wandering encounters (as noted in The Alchemist’s Wife review) that are grouped into 5 categories depending on where (physically on the map) the adventuring party is. These are all very modular and meant to add interest and flavor to various sections within the adventure. With 35 total encounters, a GM can truly make this adventure as long or short as possible.

After getting through the source material and encounters, the adventuring party quickly come upon their first major obstacle. Depending on how it is handled depends on the actual outcome. This open-ended part of the story can make for some very interesting role-play or possibly a very heated combat.

Throughout this chapter are some well designed maps including one of the entire Cornwall area and the entire set of maps for the major obstacle. While this obstacle may seem out-of-place, there are some very valuable storyline features contained throughout and once again more hints dropped for the adventuring party to use during their investigation.

CHAPTER THREE – FIVE

Chapters 3 – 5 contain the three sections of the “sandbox”. These are the areas where the investigation occurs and certain events ensue depending on the direction taking by the adventuring party. Each chapter details each section in a very similar manner. This is by far the bulk of the adventure and period of time where the players have the most control.

Each section is properly detailed not only with its description but a look at the history, details of key locations, introduction of key NPCs, and sometimes a pre-determined time-line that fits within the adventuring party’s investigation. These sections are written to give the GM all the information they need to describe what the adventurer’s see, where they may go, who they may interact with, and what the results of those interactions. However, the lack of a defined time-line on these descriptions give the players that flexibility to make their own decisions on where to go and who to see without changing the overall storyline.

Throughout these chapters lie the clues needed to move the adventuring party in the right direction on how to better affect the epic finale of the story (although the players do not know the details of this). How well the players perform here directly ties to how much easier it will be in the end. However, the sections are still written so that if anything is missed, the results are not fatal, just a little more difficult.

CHAPTER SIX

Now that the adventuring party’s investigation has completed, they must come to terms with the reason they have been sent on this mission. Keeping with the flexibility of the adventure, there are many options given throughout this chapter on how the party physically reaches the final showdown and how their previous actions may benefit them now. The storyline becomes quite dramatic and really builds the suspense which leads to an epic finale.

Without giving away any spoilers, the finale is written in a broad sense so that the players are allowed to come up with creative ways on how things will end. Once again, these decisions not only affect the ending but also affect how Cornwall continues to function once the party leaves. There are so many “what ifs” that it’s almost conceivable that you could run this adventure over-and-over again without reaching the climax in the exact same fashion.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Chapter seven is not part of the adventure but rather a source material compendium introducing and describing Witches/Warlocks and the mechanics for Witchcraft. While this section is meant to aid the GM in running the adventure, it provides many new opportunities for PCs, NPCs, plot-hooks, and new material for a completely unique campaign.

Everything is properly detailed including a new faction, professions, and a substantial listing of new spells (for the setting).

I would also like to note that this section is meant to provide options to a player as well as a GM, however, this means the players will all have to purchase an adventure module without being able to utilize 90% of the book.  This could easily be augmented by extracting this chapter and offering it as an inexpensive PDF for players to use.

OVERALL

Overall I find the adventure and the source material to be quite interesting and entertaining. The inclusion of Witchcraft into the Clockwork & Chivalry setting is a good way to expand the available options and give GMs and Players a new direction for their own adventures and campaigns. I find the sandbox-style of the investigations to be very appealing and the epic ending to be quite exciting while still giving the adventure direction and purpose.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Cakebread & Walton continue to improve upon the quality of their publications but there are still a few interrupting illustrations. The general flow of the storyline is considerably different as the play-style is more sandbox-like and Thou Shalt Not Suffer does a good job of creating that atmosphere. I would have preferred to see more definition when specific events or encounters are occurring and more page references when a specific encounter refers back to a previous encounter or has an in-game effect on a subsequent encounter. However, the layout is still done well and I had no problems following the overall flow of the adventure.  I will add that an index or section headers for the adventure could make running it much smoother for when a GM has to refer back-and-forth between pages and chapters looking for where the players are going next.

Storyline: 10 out of 10
The storyline is a bit tricky to grasp the magnitude of when the adventure firsts begins, but this is actually a good thing. The adventuring party, and thus the players, may not fully understand the scope of the investigation they are performing. Along the way the story builds and builds to an almost epic proportion and creates a sense of suspense with determination to make sure this epic event is thwarted in the end. I found this style of storyline to be quite exciting at times, even though you had to jump around a bit (in your mind, not on paper) following the modularity of how the adventure is written.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
By the completion of the storyline, I couldn’t wait to see what direction Cakebread & Walton will take the campaign next. The incorporation of more investigation and less unnecessary combat give the actual combat encounters more meaning in that they are larger turning-points to the adventure (and possibly the campaign). I find the sandbox-style to be very advantageous to role-playing groups that like to have more control over their game sessions without feeling railroaded.

Overall: 9 out of 10
This rating is based on the flexibility, presentation, and content for this style of adventure rather than how it rates against other styles of typically found adventures. It should be noted that groups who prefer hack-and-slash may get completely lost in the investigation moments of the adventure and should stick to something else. However, groups that prefer an adventure that is more involved may find Thou Shalt Not Suffer to be just what they are looking for with a fantastic blend of investigation and combat creating a vast amount of role-play possibilities.

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