X11: Saga of the Shadow Lord (1986)

X11: Saga of the Shadow Lord (1986) boasts one of the best covers in the entire X-series, by Keith Parkinson. The room is subtle, but great, with the altar, gate and even the hellhound setting the scene. But the star is the creepy mage. He’s pretty standard as mages go, but that frowning mask sells the whole thing. So much character there! The interiors feature some pretty sweet Mark Nelson Zip-A-Tone, too.

The adventure itself weighs in at 64 pages – a big boy! It is really two separate, but linked, adventures involving, well, the Shadow Lord. They’re both fetch quests centered on snatching key items from the Shadow Lord’s grasp (one of which is an evil artifact called the Blackstick, which sounds intriguingly Satanic to me) and thereby preventing wars, or something. The plot is pretty thin but there are some small hex crawls punctuated by sturdy enough dungeons.

Nothing about X11 is as exciting as the cover, honestly. It isn’t bad, not by a long shot. It is a pretty by the numbers old school formula adventure. If it was a house, I’d say it had good bones. You could spice this up with some weirdness pretty easily and have a heck of a good time. Just don’t go in expecting anything crazy. This is 64-pages of straightforward.

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