Footprints #5 – The Lost Cache of Father Tomas

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by John Turcotte
Freely distributed by Dragonsfoot
AD&D
Level 1

This is an adventure through a strictly linear trap dungeon with a religious theme. The idea here is that a misguided priest, now dead, secreted his church coffers in his old temple before it burned down. The old people remember, in particular, a jewel encrusted chalice. A dozen or so trapped/monster rooms later the group finds it … maybe. It’s linear, much in the way a tomb dungeon usually is, and the room descriptions are long for what the adventure is.

The background information here is a little longish, two pages or so. This is just about my limit for backgrounds but strangely I didn’t mind as much on this one. What makes things interesting here are some familiar elements used in a good way. An old-ish man who remembers seeing the chalice when he was only a boy. A clue on a stained-glass window fragment, now destroyed. A previous group who fled in terror: “Father Tomas is still burning!!” This is all mashed up with the story of the priest, a man who thought he was doing good when he was just getting rich off the taxes of the poor. These sorts of classic themes ad environments will be familiar to the players and will let them latch on to things in their minds, or should anyway, which is a very valuable way to help build a kind of shared immersive setting. It’s pretty rare, IMO, to be able to latch on to these very evocative environments. Turcotte has done a good job here, especially if you ignore most of what he’s written and instead work his themes in during the course of an evenings play. Old treasure hunters, rumors of ruins, and tales in the tavern could help build this up quite a bit. That’s the sign of a good adventure: when it gets you excited and starts your own mind working in how you can use it and expand on it. That’s the kind of adventure I want to see.

I don’t particularly like “tomb dungeons.” That’s what I call a mostly linear dungeon in which each room has some kind of set piece or trap or some other lengthy piece. They remind me of funhouse dungeons but with all of the fun removed. This fits that mold. I Has Sad. :( There’s a decent idea or two in here, especially flavor-wise, but that’s not enough to overcome the core design. Essentially each room has a trap and/or puzzle to overcome. They are not bad, per-se, but the core”straight line tomb robbing” is my problem. There’s a nice little broken flooded room trap, terrifying phantasms, a classic pull-ring door trap, and several puzzles (with clues) straight out of an Indiana Jones or funhouse tournament module. The clue/hint map is a nice touch here and it’s hard to take offense at any individual element. Yes, the roos descriptions are a bit long at only two or so to page. They could use some serious boiling down to remove a lot of extraneous detail while keeping the core of the flavor.

Turcotte continues to do a good job with his monsters. They have an “english countryside” feel to them, or maybe they come from an earlier, gentler time. Recall he has put giant scarecrows with pumpkin heads in earlier adventures and he does a few similar things here. The Straw Golems have this flavor, and to a smaller extent even the burning priest phantasm. I now find it jarring when he DOESN’T include interesting monsters; the giant rats and zombie feels out of place after seeing how he’s treated undead in more recent works. There is a decent bit of treasure in the adventure, maybe enough for most party members to advance. For the most part its not very interesting although there is a hint or two of something more; such as the clerical vestments that radiate a spell of magical vestment.

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