Friday, June 24, 2016

Magic School Campaigns: Young Minds Review

Cover Art by Laurel Shelley-Reuss

Spoiler Warning: This will discuss several encounters and characters from the aforementioned product, so if your gaming group is adventuring in the city of Mordenheim or your GM indicated that he may run this book, then look no further!

I had an inquisitive eye on this adventure ever since it came out last month, but didn't get the time to read it until very recently. Its publisher has a reputation for making rather clever and unique adventures in addition to more typical fair, such as a training academy for adventurers and players new to Pathfinder, a fairy-tale adventure series based off of the tales of Snow White.

Young Minds is the third of a series set in the weird city of Mordenheim, where the ecology of fantasy monsters and magic are integrated into society's structures. It is a city where gargoyles deliver the mail and people's addresses are painted on the rooftops, where ooze-handlers send their slimy charges down streets to dissolve trash and detritus, and tax collectors need to hire experienced adventurers to take their cut from ornery mages and monsters well-capable of driving away unprepared soldiers (a plot point of the first adventure B17: Death & Taxes).

For the adventure itself, it is a mystery-focused plot, where a ravenous intellect devourer murdered one of the teachers at the prestigious university Leverinac University. To prevent panic from spreading, the Dean hires the PCs to investigate. But as intellect devourers are known for their ability to hijack other people's bodies and masquerade as normal folk, the adventurers-for-hire must go undercover as prospective students via shapeshifting magic rings at the start of a new school year.

The adventure has its fair share of social encounters, with some combat encounters to mix things up a bit. It has a lot of the charm and feel of a modern high school but with a fantasy twist. In one encounter, PCs participate in a dodge ball game against a team of giants with magic size-changing projectiles so as to give the smaller races an even footing. In another, they'll have the opportunity to join either the honor society or troublemaker's clique, and thus tasked with stealing or protecting an important book used for initiation ceremonies depending on their faction choice. Beyond that, the three primary suspects of the body-hijacker are all capable in their own right against a team of mid-level adventurers, from an ettin dodgeball coach to an arrogant prefect with a badge capable of animating the omnipresent suits of armor lining the school's halls.

Successfully endearing themselves to certain NPCs during the various encounters (especially the 2 factions) make a visible difference in the final encounter when the intellect devourer's nest of eggs hatch beneath one of the frat houses. PCs with a good track record can better rally the students and cooperate with allies to fight them off, or end up as a bloodbath if the party hasn't had a lucky streak.

My only real complaints with the adventure are its briefness and the two major factions. We only see the bare basics of Leverinac and its students and staff, but I suppose that makes sense for a quick adventure. There are seeds for further ideas in some of the write-ups of minor NPCs, but aside from there's not a lot of further adventure hooks for a school full of monsters, mages, and stranger inhabitants. My other complaint is that a large portion of the adventure is predicated on the PCs joining either the honor society or troublemaker's, who although both are in charge of the major Houses of the school, is no guarantee that the PCs are going to pick a side so soon at risk of alienating about half the student body.

Aside from these minor shortcomings, Young Minds is a fun little title which makes for a nice change of pace from dungeon-delvings so common to the genre.

Young Minds can be purchased from DriveThruRPG/RPGNow.