(5e) Orcs in Tarodun’s Tomb

By Kiel Chenier
Zero/Barrier Productions
Levels 1-2

A sepulchral tomb.
Magical tricks and traps.
Brutish orcs guarding a vast underground treasure.

This eighteen page adventure deals with a small eight room tomb that has been invaded by orcs. Compared to other 5 adventures, it’s a masterpiece. Compared to anything actually good, it’s constrained. It does some nice things with layout, but it comes off as dull and uninteresting, with a “find the red key for the red door” fetch quest to finish things off.

The rooms take up about one column per. First comes a little mini-map of the room, and then a bullet point format of the room features. All in a generous easy-on-the-eyes font. I like the bullet point style chosen. Combined with the bolding used it makes it easy to scan and absorb the different aspects to the encounters. Keil has chosen a good format for presenting information. It’s not the only way to do things, but it does work. He’s also got a little bit of order of battle information.

Ok. Nice guy Bryce is done.

The map is constraining & simple. I don’t think the map insets work for this. The descriptions are not quite evocative. There’s not much to fuck with. A prisoner betrays you. Useless information abounds. It’s just not that interesting.

I’ve said in the past that I don’t like Dyson’s maps. I think, though, that it may be I don’t like MOST of his maps. It seems like most adventures that I see that use his maps tend to use the smaller maps. Smaller maps are just not that interesting. There’s not enough space for something to go on. It doesn’t have room to breathe. I recall seeing a couple of larger maps that were ok, but I just don’t think it’s possible to have a good exploration map with eight rooms. I guess that’s not Dyson’s fault, t’s more the people who choose to write an eight room adventure. And for no reason whatsoever let me name drop now. Kiel.

I don’t find the descriptions evocative at all. Just more like facts. “A holy room devoted to the preparation of bodies for the afterlife. Long tables line the walls, covered in an assortment of embalming tools, and full and empty urns.” Or how about “The stone walls and ceiling are painted with detailed frescoes of the elven afterlife, showing the souls of elves rising from their bodies towards the ceiling.” Note, that if an elf sees that last room then they have to make a save or be overcome by the frescoes majesty. That’s a nice effect, but it doesn’t match the boring ass description.

It also engages in the a little bit of extraneous tables & information. It gives names to all of the corpses in one tomb, that has no impact on the game. It’s got a rando orc name generator … because somehow that’s going to be important to the adventure? They attack immediately in, I think, every case?

And of course, the prisoner you rescue turns on you. At this point I just kill all prisoners. It’s easier. I don’t recall the last time I saw prisoners NOT turn on PC’s. That should be the new trope, helpful prisoners.

And there’s no magical treasure? What’s up with that? This dude was an ancient elven hero. And his “hoard” is 200gp in a chest, some small silver statues, a picture, and a couple of books. Nice hoard? More like “stash in my mattress” maybe?

Let’s talk 5e. Compared to just about every other 5e adventure on earth, this thing is magnificent. It’s clear and gets in and out fast. But that’s more commentary of the state of the 5e dreck.

There’s just not much going on here. The map doesn’t allow for it. The room count doesn’t allow for it. The encounters that do exist are pretty simple and straightforward. Yeah, at one point a dead due bangs on the inside of his coffin and asks to be let out. That’s about the only standout.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages and shows you next to nothing. You do get to see the hooks on the last page. The first one, with the elf prince trapped in his castle, could be nice if expanded upon.

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4 Responses to (5e) Orcs in Tarodun’s Tomb

  1. Last Bus to Dwimmermount says:

    Not as bad as it seemed, then. I too find Dyson’s maps tiresome.

  2. Gus L. says:

    There is something either supremely confident, perversely overconfident, or profoundly obtuse about making an adventure that is literally ‘Orcs in a Hole’ at this point in adventure design. Those are going to have to be some really interesting orcs in a compelling as heck hole to move me beyond disdain and contempt these days.

    On a general note I think small maps are generally tiresome for dungeon crawls if they aren’t nodal – but that’s also an influential 5E style which doesn’t quite seem to grasp what a dungeon crawl is. The idea of trying to make an exploration mega-dungeon using 5E rules with 100 plus keyed locations is maddening.

    I suspect any map problem here may not be with the artist but with the writer(s) hiring him for what amount to lair maps. Then, I enjoy Dyson’s style, like Dyson, and find the maps he produces for his own fun – especially his “My Own Private Jakalla” mega-dungeon ( sprawling, looped, well Jaquayed) to be utterly top drawer.


  3. Shuffling Wombat says:

    Concerning prisoners, PCs can use divination magic (know alignment, detect evil, detect lies, ESP etc, or a paladin’s innate ability,) to smoke the traitors out, in the same way you have a find traps running or a thief scouting rather than blunder into every trap. This is tougher at low level, of course, when you have fewer resources; in this case I prefer some clues e.g. Ned in the Haunted House in
    Saltmarsh (U1), has been knocked out and bound by undead? Perhaps you could have two captives, each arguing the other will betray the party. If you give them useful knowledge/abilities, this becomes a meaningful choice. And should PCs be trusting known evil creatures, such as the fire giant Boldo in Hall of the Fire Giant King (G3)? As Victor Virtuous, adventurer (deceased) said,
    “Gnolls? I release every one. George Washingtons, the lot.”

    • Melan says:

      In this particular case, the NPC prisoner has every reason to be grateful to the adventures (for not being cooked alive by the orcs), and absolutely no reason to attack them beyond a death wish (since the chances of victory are close to nil even with a weakened party). The encounter is utterly dumb.

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