This Module Has Nothing to Do With Zak (previously Ezmerelda vs Ravenloft)
In the spirit of full disclosure I was gifted a copy of this adventure in what seemed to be a ‘I’m sorry you got pulled into a social media drama with me because you enjoyed my work and some jerk didn’t, so they accused us of being in a relationship’ present.
Just a reminder Oliver and I have a sassy passing acquaintance on twitter and my reviews are always open and honest, so there!
So I am rather late to the party on this, but I have just been so busy with requests and health stuff, though I have been really looking forward to diving into another one of Mr Clegg’s (@deathbybadger) ridiculous offerings. This truly is the apotheosis of Clegg; the setting is Ravenloft, the style is his Kartoon Khaos comic panels introduced in Killer Kobolds from Outer Space, the subtext is as subtle as Death House and as queer as the Babadook riding Tiamat in the Chromatic Dragon Pride Parade, and oh boy, after the fun the finale is as bleak and dark as the man’s soul. Peak Clegg.
(CW: Assault, Kidnapping, Stalking
So this began life as Ezmerelda Versus Ravenloft, which pushes glasses up I have a first edition pdf framed on my computer, but later became This Module Has Nothing to Do With Zak, after a fart company made a real boo boo furiously tries not to swear in case it makes the DMs Guild blush promoting their poopy product using the name of a Marmite jar filled with maggots and faeces, which was faux pas...that had absolutely nothing to do with how this title changed and was total random happenstance... However, the price did change from $4.99 to PWYW ($4.99) with “all author proceeds from this module will be donated to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)”, which is a pretty classy move that in no way makes up for what’s inside both versions.
They are both the same on the inside, with only the words on the front cover, and a certain hipster pride emanating from the former, while the latter is for charity, or whatever. (obviously the charity thing is awesome, but I’ve worded myself into a corner with a weird hipster tone, so forgive me).
In this version of Ravenloft Ezmerelda and Ireena are in love, but Strahd vardos-blocker-in-chief of Barovia has kidnapped the fair Ms Kolyana. Ezmerelda must fight to get her back through battling her seven evil exes with the aid of the only person she trusts Van Richten... Nope HERSELVES FROM OTHER REALITIES!
The pregenerated Ezmerelda characters consist of a wonderful collection of versions of the Vistani monster hunter drawing from cartoons, video games, movies, classes and general fun and inclusive tropes:
Play Princess Ezmerelda, and murder your way through to Ireena with your bow, Friendship
Play Ezmerelda Enraged, and burn your enemies to cinders in glorious technicolour
Play Robo-Ezemerelda, and terminate anyone unfortunate enough to stumble into your path with ironic prejudice
Play Ezra, and run circles around everyone with your super speed and trusty weapon Stabby McStab
Play Kombat Ezmerelda and delight in severing vital organs from each other
Play Magical Girl Ezmerelda and destroy mankind without breaking a sweat (or your costume)
It turns out there were other iteration-eldas with Clegg releasing this unused Bear-merelda who is a huge chaotic neutral grizzly on his twitter the day I started writing this in some Dark Powers twist of fate: https://mobile.twitter.com/deathbybadger/stat-
The players choose their Ezmerelda/ Ezra sheet, which are all rendered in vivid arcade style with their bio, stats, spells, abilities and special abilities all shown as if they are clickable buttons. These sheets are ridiculous and wonderful in their sheer gaudyness in Clegg’s inimitable Kartoon Khaos style.
The game uses its own simplified version of the standard 5e rules with everything but the spell descriptions on the sheets and Ezmerelda’s being limited to casting one of their spells per encounter. Similar to Killer Kobolds... this is actually a quick and fun pick up and play version of D&D that can be used for quick and silly games, as well as a fantastic way to trick cool kids into playing this hip game, unaware it is a gateway into a life of homoeroticism and tabletop roleplaying games...
The adventure itself is optimised for four or five Ezmereldas as they play through the seven ex encounters one after the other in a Scott Pilgrim Vs the Word inspired gauntlet. Hoo boy, these are some problematic boyos, so “Content Warning: Abuse, Domestic Violence, Stalking, Men in General”. The Exes take the form of “monsters who exemplify the some of the very worst traits that man has to offer”, including White Knight, Nice Guy, Gavin... & the Baronvia of Barovia himself, multiple lifetimes worth of creepy and recent star* of Weekend at Strahd’s, amongst others. These guys really are the worst ranging from the annoying to the truly horrific – looking at you Gavin!
This is an opportunity from some fun, frolics and vent some frustration at some problematic excrement in a cartoon death match gauntlet of swords, spells and sticking it to the Strahd man. A game in a can with glorious, ridiculous and obscenely stylish comic book design. The whole thing is a delight and I cannot wait to take it for a spin!
Disclaimer: “[Oliver] is absolutely not qualified to write about lesbian romance but he hopes the opportunity to beat some misogynist senseless makes up for it.” I’m not sure where that leaves me and my qualifications to do my best at reviewing this beautiful hot mess of awesomeness, but what the hell grab yourself some great fun and raise money for charity!
(Seriously, the whole something bad happens and Oliver’s response is to make his most appropriate adventure PWYW with all proceeds he would have made going to a fantastic charity. That’s pretty pooping awesome, you know?)
[5 of 5 Stars!]