M2: Vengeance of Alphaks (1986)

Here’s M2: Vengeance of Alphaks (1986). For a long time, I thought the pegataur on the cover was an alphak, and that a bunch of them were pissed off. Turns out, no, Alphaks is the name of a demon who is pissed off about the events of the last module and hatches another convoluted plant to get them and destroy humanity at the same time. The pegataurs (I honestly thought I just made that up, but turns out that is what they are officially called) are the escort for the big Borg cube in the background, which in the adventure is called a flying castle, but honestly that doesn’t look like a castle to me at all.

Anyway. Because of the power level of the PCs at this point, and the assumption that they have domains to run, a good deal of effort is made to make the politics of the Known World feel both weighty and suitably complex here. I’m into that in theory. Not super into it in practice. It boils down to a lot of war, really. There are also enormous beetles that cause earthquakes and the aforementioned flying castle. I like this one better than M1, but the stakes seem simultaneously super high and totally shrug-worthy, and that is coming from someone who counts the Known World as his favorite conventional D&D setting.

I think part of this is that it is very hard to author conflict at this scale. Getting to this point in a homebrew, you’d feel the weight of history as a player. You’d know all the ins and outs of how things got to this point. But an outsider to that totally amazing 15 year campaign would probably feel like I do about this module. And TSR knew this and tried to address it, because a lot of the M modules spin right out of CM1: Test of the Warlords. It doesn’t help.

Jeff Easley’s cover is pretty great, though. I thoroughly enjoy Mark Nelson’s interiors, too, few tho they are. I’m a sucker for Zip-A-Tone.

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