The Heir of Orcus (both verses, which I’ll cover at once) combines a lot of things I like into a couple of short adventures: pixel art reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda from the NES/SNES days, comics, Roll20, and an open-ended story that grants maximum flexibility to the players. Anthony Joyce is a new author for DMs Guild but he clearly has a grasp on what he’s doing and has created some great content for Tier 1 characters.
The Heir of Orcus Verse I / Verse II
Writer: Anthony Joyce (edited by Jay Africa)
Publisher: DMs Guild
Cost: $4.99 (each)
Product Length: 41 pages for Verse I and 29 pages for Verse II
This is a tale most evil and foul, a horrible tale indeed. There was an angel of Tyr sent without fear, to destroy the Temple of Orcus! SER VINDICTUS, Ser Vindictus we can still hear her prayer, as she led her poor knights to their ultimate doom…poor Ser Vindictus…poor Ser Vindictus, no one hears her prayers in that unholy tomb!
I read these adventures as previews prior to publication on DMs Guild. I have skimmed the published ones as Anthony told me he made some corrections in those versions. It appears that he did, in fact, correct the more glaring mistakes that I noticed in the preview copies so I will take it on faith that there are no major issues in the versions that you would download if you buy these.
The Heir of Orcus adventures are unlike any that I have ever seen on DMs Guild. For starters, they are Adventurers League titles and I don’t normally play or review AL content. But there is something more that differentiates these products. Each comes with several tokens to use in Roll20 as well as Fantasy Grounds files. I also got to poke around in the Roll20 sessions and was thoroughly impressed. Anthony had the jukebox playing free music in there which really set the tone.
Bear in mind that this is a “two for one” review wherein I will cover both Verse I and Verse II in this single review rather than break it out into two. To do so would be redundant on my part.
These adventures have the most strength in their NPCs when it comes to originality. Each of them comes to life with Anthony’s descriptions of their looks, personalities, and motivations.The Mafisto Twins are excellent and have a nice little Piers Anthony vibe to them. Especially Orianna. And then the Heir or Orcus…well, I don’t want to give anything away. But that is a great NPC as well. You’re sure to have fun with that encounter (you will have to play both Verses to do so).
Anthony is a competent writer and 60 pages (total) may seem like a lot of reading for these adventures, but there are a lot of maps, stat blocks, and handouts that account for several pages. Those additions are not overdone. They are incredibly helpful and top quality. The writing is easy to follow if sometimes a little redundant. The redundancy comes in the form of reminders/restatements of important information and I don’t mean to suggest it’s a nuisance. In fact, it’s quite convenient more often than not. As I mentioned earlier, the simple mistakes I found in the preview copies appear resolved (i.e. “Knights of Holy Judgement” corrected to “Knights of Holy Judgment”).
These adventures are great examples of setting the standard. Yes, the internal art and cover images are all pixel art and they may be a turnoff to you. It isn’t for me. Particularly since Anthony focused these adventures for an online-only convention known as AetherCon and also for Roll20. As a matter of fact, I would argue that the pixel art is perfect for VTT. I wouldn’t necessarily want all DMs Guild products to start incorporating these kinds of graphics but I wouldn’t be upset to see it used a little more here and there.
The maps, tokens, and Fantasy Grounds files are great additions. You will get enough art assets with these purchases that you will not need to make any additional purchases to run them in Roll20. I love that the front and back covers look like NES game boxes. I don’t know if AL titles are supposed to follow the same guidelines with only showing the DMs Guild logo on the cover image. Nonetheless, I love these (see below).
I was left wondering why the comic wasn’t incorporated a little more. It felt a little mismatched with the rest of these products’ style.
Anthony focuses keenly on all three pillars of play, but more than that is that he allows for maximum flexibility in player choices. The same way you can choose to play Fallout to earn good, bad, or neutral karma, you can also play Anthony’s adventures as a good, bad, or chaotic group and he has provided guidelines for each scenario without railroading the adventures.
Both Heir of Orcus adventures are wonderful products that remind me of both early Zelda and early Final Fantasy installments. As I am not familiar with the specifics of any Adventurers League titles I cannot speak to whether the AL rewards for players or DMs are accurate or not but these are fun adventures to play outside of an AL setting if you ask me. The $4.99 price tag may seem high but think about the total package with the PDFs, the art assets, and the .mod (Fantasy Grounds) files when you consider these purchases.