The Old God has awoken. He feels the pain of being broken and wants to be free again. He has cursed the party to find his body and make him whole again. They must venture into the caves and face foes who will thwart their every move. If the party has the wits and the will they will succeed. The Old God demands success!
This is a 64-page adventure in some caves with about sixty rooms in it. There is some pretext about an old god and a new god and worshippers, etc, but it’s really a funhouse dungeon with a large number of mini-areas with almost no relation to each other. Charming, a product of madness, youth, or a fantasy education that stopped at age twelve without any hint of Tolkien or D&D. Fantasy as written by Tom Sawyer. Overly written, no effort at layout, unrelated encounters … and the type of pure simple imagination that I’m not sure anyone is capable of once exposed to “mainstream” D&D. Troll? Art project? Youth? I have no idea.
There’s no layout to speak of. It’s all single column with a large font. Room names are bolded. Monster stats indented. A few pieces of art in a simple, charming/amateur style. The hook? You dream, and are transported at fantastic speed over the sea past seas monsters and ship to find yourself on a rocky shore next to a village with a voice having said “Come and find me.” The starter village is a mess, with events mixed in to keyed locations in a small eight keyed location that takes four or five pages to get through. They worship a sun god the priest knows nothing about, there are bat themed (The New God) hints all over the place and the people grow hostile when the Old God is mentioned. This is all crazy … except the village god setup IS a good one. The kids play “bat and mouse.” There’s an old bat mask in the church. People get angry at the talk of the old god. Eventually a girl leaders the party to the caves. Inside they get a vision/voice telling them to find the old gods eight parts and join them together. It’s completely obvious with no attempt really at a serious pretext. The old god/new god thing isn’t really going to come up again, except in the form of a few cultists you fight.
There’s nothing from the books in this. No treasure. No monsters. All fresh content. It reminds me, in a way, of the writing style of Tracia, Dungeon of the Bear, and of my favorite adventure The Upper Caves from Fight On! Magazine #2. Treasure? How about a cup that burns water like it’s a torch. A little doll the size of finger. Held in the palm of the hand, it does a little dance that heals 1d4 hp once a day. A green gauntlet that causes plants to wither. A stale loaf of bread whose crumb feed you for a day. A stick that turns in to a shovel and back when you will it. What the fuck? For real? A fake eye that glows red … if you stick it in an empty socket you get infravision. Almost all of them are non-mechanical; describing effects instead of the mechanics they produce. +1? That’s boring. I’ll take the fucking stick shovel ANY day over a +1 sword. It preserves a sense of wonder and mystery. There’s cursed armor in Upper Caves/Fight On #2 that shouts “Here I am! Here I am!” when you get close to undetected enemies. No mechanics. Just a description of what it does in plain english, just like in this adventure. The treasure is MAGNIFICENT!
The encounters proper, have little reason to them. Two or three rooms at a time might be related, like a trap that deposits you in to a room, or the three rooms related to shadows: in one you pass through a weird wall that mucks with your perceptions, in the second you fight some shadow monsters, in the third you’re offered the chance to rid yourself of your shadow. Or a vampire hunter which you meet in one room, see a group of slaughtered bodies in another one, and an empty vampire coffin in the third. The relationship between the rooms and the pretext, the old god and new one, isn’t clear at all … if it’s there at all. I get the feeling this is more a funhouse dungeon. Not with puzzle rooms, per se, but with a series of rooms that exist BECAUSE. Why is there a piece of the old god in a bird cage hanging from the ceiling? Because that’s cool. That room, the cage shocks you. If you break it to get at the part inside then you lay 1-2 normal chicken eggs every 12 hours for a week. When the hell was the last time you saw a curse like THAT in an adventure?
Here’s a section of text from the tempt in the caves. There are fourteen sentences in three paragraphs and these are the middle three sentences: “The men attack with their knives while the large manunbat shouts orders at them. When half the men have been killed it will reveal its true nature. The arms and legs will fall away and it will become man sized. It will remove its head to reveal that it is a plant skeleton that was wearing a costume.” They attack with knives. It shoults orders. It’s plant skeleton in a bat-beast costume. It’s a simple on-forced style of imagination that’s going on. And room after room after room delivers this style of imagination. A board/plank bridge that breaks under weight, of course! A crazy guy with one arm and leg that fires blow darts from a ledge and hits you with his crutch. A bald hermit sitting in a chair in a glass globe. Vignettes in a cave … it reminds me of one of those lost childhood adventures, with Pirates of the Caribbean and so on.
Based on my standards and continually harping on usability at the table, this is hard to recommend. Ignoring the hook/village, the encounters can be arbitrar at times, with a plank on the bridge breaking and the character left hanging. Or an earthquake sealing the party in. It’s text heavy, and the encounters CAN be inconsistent with many working better than others, but they ALL are imaginative.
It’s $4.50. The preview on DriveThru shows the table of content and the last page shows the “dream” hook. I wish it had also shown one of the encounters, so you’d know more of what you are getting in to with it.
Go buy it, if for no other reason that I have someone to talk about it with!