Oliviah the local tavern and inn owner has some of the best private auctions in the realms. The mystical armor of Ivan Goramavich has come into her possession and will be auctioned to the highest bidder. It is an item of legend wrapped in mystery. She needs a little security for this one and the security team might have more on their hands than they bargained for!
An “investigation” and then mostly linear crypt crawl define the twenty-one pages of verbose text. It introduces a difficult decision at the end and has a monster or two that is new. It takes a leisurely approach to getting to its destination and could use more focus. It does provide a creepy moment or two in the crypt at the end.
During a rare items auction up comes a set of armor that makes the wearer immune to magic. After the auction it turns out that one part is missing, rendering the armor useless. Having been hired to provide security, the party investigates the bidders and the bar where the auction was held. This leads to a local magic-user who lives in an old shine of the dead a couple of days away. A short little mausoleum crawl later, the baddies soliloquy reveals a vision: if the auctions winners get their on it then they will kill every magic user and cleric in a bloody pogrom. Thus ends the adventure, with the cliffhanger question of: return the armor, fail the mission by not returning it, or do something else.
The investigation portion of the adventure is the first eight or so pages. Two paragraph read-alouds and long passages about what happens are the hallmarks here. A short outline and some bullet points, or some such, would have gone a long way to eliminate the conversational style and make the information a lot easier to locate during play. This would have also freed some space for inclusion of some more NPC’s to mix in, as well as a few descriptions of items also for sale at the auction, something that’s just abstracted in the current text.
There’s a genuine creepy thing going on during the travel to the wizards shrine. Undead rise up out of the ground and wordlessly trail behind the party. When the group gets to a certain size they attack. This is an interesting and evocative sort of thing to include in the adventure and should result in several decent encounters. Three decent sentences can a lot to an adventure to where several paragraphs, or pages, do not.
The ossuary is nine rooms that are in a mostly linear layout. Rooms get about a column of descriptive text each, maybe a bit less in some cases, which is far too long for what is actually going on in the room. In spite of this there are flashes of great content in places. “4 bone creeps slowly scrape and drag their way around [the catacombs]…, and a room with skeletons hung on the walls that predict “terrible personal things”, like “dying of plague at a young age” or “losing a spouse.” This is a good example of the abstract being the enemy of the specific. This room goes on for half a page, but could be edited down quite a bit AND expanded with SPECIFIC saying of the skeletons. A read-aloud sentence or ten about the mustard pus running from their eyes as buboes fill their groins and they die screaming in agony, alone, in the dark. That would have been a good read-aloud. Instead we get the abstract stuff about plague and spouse and so on.
The ending is just a wizard summoning a demon for the party to fight, and then surrendering so he can leave the party with the moral quandary about whether to finish their mission or not and bring back the missing bit of armor. I’ve run in to a couple of these “what happens after the adventure” lately that have had this theme of No Good Answers. I like the complexity of these because they act as springboards to more complications for the party. Not obstacles. Not roadblocks. But more going on in the campaign world to add more color. That’s a good thing.
It could be a lot shorter. It could have more treasure (it’s a bit light in that department for AD&D gold=xp) and more evocative writing for the rooms that do exist, as well as better organization of the investigation. Such is life.