Song of the Beast-Gods.
This should come as no surprise, since I'd already read and enjoyed Braten's previous adventure The Spider-God's Bride, which, like the present one, is written for the D20 system and set in a fantasy world called Xoth. Xoth is a fascinating setting, calling to mind both Howard's Hyborian Age and Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique, suffused with hints of eldritch horror. It's almost tailor-made for the kinds of pulp fantasy adventures I most enjoy. This fact probably goes a long way toward explaining why I found it easy to overlook the D20 stat blocks and related mechanics and see Song of the Beast-Gods for what it is: a fun sword-and-sorcery adventure for characters of 2nd to 3rd levels.
Before discussing the contents of this adventure, allow me to briefly discuss its appearance and presentation. Like its predecessor, Song of the Beast-Gods uses a two-column layout for its dense text. I occasionally found it slightly hard to read, but that probably says more about my aging eyes than the layout itself. Maps, important details, and notes to the referee are highlighted through the use of boxes. Titles and headers use evocative -- but legible -- fonts that contribute greatly to the pulp fantasy feel of the adventure, as does the artwork, which is a mix of original pieces and public domain engravings. All in all, Song of the Beast-Gods is attractive and well put together, something I find particularly impressive because it's the product of a one-man operation, with Braten acting as writer, cartographer, and graphic designer.
The adventure itself concerns events in the city of Khadis, where, until two decades ago, the Great Red Sphinx "was placated every year with offerings of treasure and blood." That all changed, when the High King of Yar-Ammon instituted a religious revolution that overthrew the old gods, such as the Great Red Sphinx, and replaced them with a previously unknown deity, the First One. To cement this reformation, the petty king of Khadis sacrificed his eldest daughter, who was being groomed as a priestess in the old faith, to the First One, an act that reverberates even unto the present day, when the player characters make their appearance ...
It's difficult to say more about the adventure without spoiling its secrets. Suffice it to say that events two decades ago did not go quite the way that history records them. This provides an opening for the PCs to become enmeshed in several plots within the city of Khadis that have far-ranging repercussions. What I most liked about Song of the Beast-Gods was that it is, at its heart, a location-based adventure. Certainly, there are plots, but these plots are the plans of various people seeking to take advantage of the situation in Khadis rather than a foreordained sequence of events the referee is expected to follow. Thus, there are no pre-arranged "scenes" or lengthy sections of boxed text to be read as long-winded NPCs try to involve the PCs in their schemes. Instead, what we get are situations, along with detailed descriptions of adventuring locales -- the city, the royal palace, dungeons -- and it's up to the players and referee to use those things to craft an adventure of their own.
For this reason, I think it'd be quite easy to ignore even the situations described in the adventure and simply use its maps, locales, and new monsters on their own. Of course, doing so would deprive one of what I think is a terrific scenario filled with both exuberant sword-and-sorcery excitement and the potential for further developing the fallout from the events the PCs set in motion. Song of the Beast-Gods is the kind of adventure that could easily kick off an entire campaign and a pretty interesting one at that. That alone makes it worth the $5 cost of the PDF ($12 for print). My only real qualm in recommending this adventure is that it's not specifically written for older versions of D&D and thus using it will require a certain amount of conversion but nothing too onerous. In the end, it's Morten Braten's ideas that are this product's main selling point and they're very compelling if, like me, you prefer your fantasy with a healthy dose of pulp.
Presentation: 8 out of 10
Creativity: 8 out of 10
Utility: 8 out of 10
Buy This If: You're looking for a well-done, low-level sword-and-sorcery adventure and don't mind doing a little conversion work.
Don't Buy This If: You either have no interest in sword-and-sorcery or are unwilling to convert D20 mechanics to your preferred system.