Road to Monsterberg offers a GM a highly flexible landscape and quest set in medieval Eastern Europe. This is a fantastic module for a variety of reasons, and a lot of different play styles could make good use of the content found within these pages.
The Road to Monsterberg, Crypt of the Raubritter uses the Codex combat system and the Codex Superno magic system. If you haven’t already picked up those rulebooks, I have a review for each of the systems as well. Check them out here.
Now, don’t let the fact that this module is written for the Codex game system lead you to believe it has to be played within that system. A creative GM could easily make use of this module without needing to put too much elbow grease into making the DCs or enemies fit their core system. Of course, using the system this module is designed for is recommended.
The Codex core rules and Superno magic system are designed for a low magic setting. If you’re running that kind of table, do yourself a favor and pick this book up. Writing interesting games without the use of high magic elements can be difficult, but in this module, the developers prove that they were up for the challenge.
What’s it about?
The setting is based on real-world 14th-century Europe. And as you explore the various twists and turns the landscape offers, you realize you want to know more about this world. You want to know who lives in all the keeps and castles scattered across the countryside. You want to know what’s really going on in that haunted forest. You want to know what happens next. The game is full of rich detail and intriguing mystery which will engage your players and incite their curiosity.
The format of the module is easy to follow and well organized. A series of events referred to as “episodes” drives the story. Each episode contains a plot point that the players need to experience in order to progress to another location and adventure. However, these episodes don’t need to be played in chronological order. No matter how well the adventurers manage their encounters or what they decide to do, there is a path forward through the story.
The GM can relax and not have to worry about the players driving the game in weird and unforeseen directions, and the players can progress to another location and further the story without feeling railroaded. The Road to Monsterberg can offer this flexibility because of its length and magnitude of content. The module runs 150 pages.
Because they manage all this content through a highly flexible episodic system, it’s easy for the GM to remember locations and events. You can shuffle the plot points and NPCs as the players move around. Every GM knows that you can’t plan on anything the PCs are going to do. This module gives you all the tools necessary to stay one step ahead of those irksome adventurers.
How does it work?
An episode contains a location, NPCs, and a series of events that may or may not occur depending on the decisions the players make. These locations are true to medieval Europe. Which is to say they are not large when compared to the modern world. A lot can occur in each of these episodes, but the towns are small, gritty, and full of danger. Each episode gives the players plenty of opportunities to make their own decisions but offers the GM the security that the game won’t go off in some random and unpredictable direction.
Death is a real possibility in the Codex system. The players need to take care and strategize as they progress. This also helps prevent the game from running off into uncharted territory. It’s seriously dangerous in this world, so it’s best that the characters don’t act too foolish.
The huge amount of content and options, the flexible plot points, and the harsh landscape gives this module something special. The players have a ton of options and never feel railroaded. But what is really impressive is the fact that the players get all these options without the GM needing to put in hours of prep time. Because the world is so harsh, the game progresses at a steady, but exciting pace. The GM doesn’t need to memorize every episode and can easily predict where the game will go next, but the adventure is still exciting because death waits around every corner.
Who is this game for?
The module is designed for the Codex system but isn’t restricted to it. Of course, it would be easiest to play this module with the game it was designed for, but you can certainly take the settings, NPCs, and plot and apply it to any other system. If you do that, however, you’ll need to keep the general approach Codex employs in its gameplay.
The Road to Monsterberg as well as the rest of the Codex systems offers a low magic, realistic, and challenging game. The Codex combat system is based on real-world historical European martial arts, and the Codex Superno magic system brings old-world witchcraft and sorcery to the table. The world this system builds orbits around principles of realism. Both the combat and the magic system focus on tactics, so this realistic approach to game mechanics yields a real threat of PC death.
Games aren’t fun if you can’t lose, after all.
If you’re looking to run a harsh and gritty game, this module is perfect for you no matter what system you’re playing. Yes, using the Codex system would make it easier, but the setting is perfect for anyone looking to instill a sense of realism in their game. If you want to run a high magic game, you could still make this work. You might have to put in some time and energy filing this low magic setting to fit with high magic game mechanics, however. You’ll need to ensure the players can’t maneuver around obstacles that would impede adventurers in a low magic world, but it can be done.
I will admit my own bias on this point, however. I personally enjoy tinkering with my games. I would take a sci-fi module and rework it for a fantasy setting any day of the week. Doing that sometimes means I’m up till 2 AM rewriting basic mechanics because the module doesn’t account for how the game system is balanced, but who needs sleep?
If you don’t want to dive too deep into rebuilding the mechanics, you really need to play this as it was intended. Your players shouldn’t be able to cast “fly” or any other high-level spells in this world. The Road to Monsterberg is supposed to feel rough and dangerous. If that’s your thing, you will enjoy this book.
Overall, I found this module enjoyable, flexible, and easy to employ.
I personally have only had the opportunity to run a handful of dark and harsh games. I’m a lighthearted person and have found my players typically end-up laughing and joking when I’m running a TTRPG. That being said, the darker games I’ve run and play through are typically more challenging. That’s something that I personally appreciate and value in a TTRPG.
The harder and more tactical a game is, the more fun I end up having as a player. The writer of Road to Monsterberg seems to feel the same way. Players are going to have to think before they act. They’re going to need to watch their back. Hell, they’re going to need to watch their front and their sides too. The world they’re walking into is filled with danger, and they’re going to need to talk to each other in order to strategize. Which is excellent for role-playing.
I’ve recommended the Codex system in the past, and I’m recommending this module for the same reason. It’s a fun and challenging RPG centered around strategic gameplay. The story is intriguing and rich, and you get a sense of what life was like back then. The places and events that unfold within the module are based on historical documentation. I’m not saying you’re going to history class, but you do get a idea of what medieval Europe was like.
If you do pick up The Road to Monsterberg, Crypt of the Raubritter, leave a comment and let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts on the module or on the Codex system.
Until next time, I hope you all roll a natural 20.
PS: If you want to pick up Road to Monsterberg: The Crypt of the Raubitter, you can do so at DriveThru RPG. Or by clicking the following link.
You should also check out the there site, Codex Integrum. You’ll be able to see what else they’re putting out and read up on what inspired the game.