Of all the products James Raggi has recently released, it's not an exaggeration to say that his adventure module, Hammers of the God, is by far my favorite. Indeed, I'd go so far as to say that it's my favorite product he's ever released, eclipsing even the supremely excellent Death Frost Doom. In almost every way, Hammers of the God is a step up over Death Frost Doom, which had already set a very high standard for contemporary old school adventures, making this a very good adventure indeed.
Before getting into the meat of the module itself, let me first discuss its physical and esthetic qualities. The cover, by Dean Clayton, is moody and mysterious, setting just the right tone for this adventure. However, the cover is dark, which makes it difficult to read Lamentations of the Flame Princess logo, which I think should have been printed in white or even purple like the bottom half of the illustration. The interior black and white art, by Laura Jalo, is likewise superb, as it always is. My only complaint is that there is not more of it. Ramsey Dow's cartography is clean and, most of all, useful, which is the standard by which all maps should be judged. Raggi's dense text is presented in two columns, spread over 36 pages; it's well-written and edited and, best of all, evocative, imparting the adventure with feelings of melancholy and shame, two emotions one does not usually associate with fantasy roleplaying adventures, especially dungeon delving ones.
Hammers of the God is a location-based adventure intended for a party of characters between the levels of 3 and 5. The location in question is an ancient dwarven stronghold, long since abandoned, and reputed to be filled with great riches. There certainly is wealth to be found within its halls, including one of the hammers from which the module takes it title, but the most important thing to be found is knowledge. The ancient stronghold holds the key to many secrets of dwarven history, secrets so shameful that they are vehemently denied by those few dwarves who still know them -- secrets they would rather no one ever know.
It's here where I think Raggi is at his best. Other writers could very well have come up with a secret for the dwarves that was worth keeping hidden away from other races and even their own kinsmen for millennia, but such a secret would likely have been some Grand Guignol horror show that recast the dwarves as monsters. Raggi doesn't go that route. Instead, he creates a surprising secret, one that is simultaneously true to the default portrayal of dwarves in most fantasy RPG settings and yet recasts them in a way that makes it hard ever to view them in the same light again. It's a remarkable bit of writing that made me regret that my Dwimmermount campaign already has its own unique take on dwarves, one that isn't at all compatible with Raggi's vision. Fortunately, though, most other settings are and one of the greatest virtues of Hammers of the God is the way it could be used seamlessly with most fantasy settings, something that is decidedly not the case with many of Raggi's other adventures, good as they are.
The dwarven stronghold itself is well presented, filled with dangers and dread, as well as hiding oddities that eventually reveal much to those who make an effort to decipher them. Raggi builds slowly toward the revelations the dungeon conceals and this approach serves him well. He's taken great care to avoid a cheap "Aha!" moment that reveals all at once, going so far as to devote 14 of the modules 36 pages to cataloging and describing 100 books found within the stronghold that provide many clues to the dwarves' shameful past. And even these books, numerous though they are, don't paint the whole picture; to make sense of it all the PCs will need to explore the entire dungeon and then face that most difficult of all challenges: making sense of it all.
Hammers of the God is, like all James Raggi adventures, light on monsters to fight and heavy on mystery and mood. Just as Death Frost Doom evoked a sense of creeping dread in the fashion of a classic weird tale, this adventure almost achieves that elegaic quality I regularly claim is impossible with D&D (thereby proving, as some have suspected for years, that I have no idea what I'm talking about). I'm not quite sure he succeeds, but there's no question that Hammers of the God has a mournful quality to it that I found affecting and one that sets it apart from just about every adventure module I can think of. I've noted before that I think Raggi's true strength lies in adventure writing and Hammers of the God does nothing to change my feelings on this score. It's a top-notch adventure that deserves to be widely read and, more importantly, played.
Presentation: 9 out of 10
Creativity: 10 out of 10
Utility: 8 out of 10
Buy This If: You're looking for an emotionally powerful adventure that cleverly casts standard dwarf stereotypes on whole new light.
Don't Buy This If: You already have your own unique take on dwarves or aren't interested in adventures that are heavier on mood than on action.