By Roland O’Connell Gamer's Group Publications 1e Levels 1-12
Gordax “The Terrible” is gone but, the ruins of his cursed castle remain. The last band of adventurers to enter the ruins met a horrible fate. Can you discover the truth of the ruins? Can you discover the treasure of Gordax?
This 46 page adventure, from … 1989? Features 76 rooms in a three level dungeon. You got nostalgia for older adventures? This will cure it. Almost exclusively stabbin with interactivity essentially “find the blue key” spread out in padded text.
Well, back in 89 SOMEONE didn’t like T$R very much! According to the adventure intro “As an avid supporter of the fantasy role playing games, I became discouraged by the lack of quality in the modules I was purchasing.” Ha! So dude went all Role Aids and did a whole “Zealots and damage points” reskin of AD&D and published this thing. A glorious mess of a thing, with the emphasis on mess rather than glorious. I salute you, Roland O’Connell, for bringing your vision to life and publishing! A fine example of Direct Action! If you want better D&D adventures then write a good D&D adventure! But, also, sometimes you want to go to a doctor who graduated from a real medical school …
“Can you discover the treasure of Gordaz?” I swear to fucking god, if its friendship or his wifes love or some ass I’m gonna loose my shit. Ok, so, Gordax the barbituate needs some help killing shit and summons Garznik the demon then fucks him over. Garznik kills his wife so Gordax kills himself, but wishes beforehand so he can come back to life and kill Garznik. That leaves us with a three level castle dungeon to explore. With “an arena where the servants of good are forced to do battle” Jesus H Christ. What is it with tests and arenas? Is this another one of those bs fantasy novel series from the 70’s that I ignored while reading Gerrold? Anyway … away we go! And no, I will not be bitching about the single column text or the weird room summary is not boxed by the DM text is boxed oh and also lets include space for notes. We’re just gonna assume everything before today is formatted terribly and everything after today is a paragon of formatting for ease of use and comprehension.
I will be complaining about the interactivity and writing. It is written casually with little focus. Some rooms get the victorian list of pantry contents. Others are full of “appears to be”. Appears to be a barracks. Appears the rooms hasn’t been entered in a long time. Just padding, with little notion how it plays out. And, backstory. “The pillars are a special type of guardian created for Gordax by the mage Septor. Their purpose here is not to keep creatures out, but rather to keep creatures in” Great. No purpose at all in the adventure though. And it’s all mixed in in a kind of conversational way “As the party enters this room they will notice that it is inhabited by several small humanoid creatures.” Just a lack of focus. A room that is all burnt up has a great detail that the party smells smoke when they approach … but then all we get is that the room has been gutted by flames long ago. Nothing more. An opportunity lost to really hammer home a vibe. And that goes for most of the descriptions. The room environments are just not present or only in a perfunctory This Is Whats In The Room way. Which was the style at the time.
“As the party traverses this hallway, they notice four bodies laying on the floor of a room ahead.”or “As the party cautiously advances they find themselves standing at the entrance of a room.”
Interactivity is mostly confined to combat. Like 95% confined to combat. A few traps (deadly as all fuck) and a hole lot of Find The Blue Key To Open The Blue Door. Or, maybe, Find the Blue, Red, Yellow, Orange, Magenta, Fuschia, Mustard, White, Bone White, and Antique White key to open the Blue door. One side effect of this is the map. While the map has some interesting features on it, it doesn’t really serve as a exploratory map because of the key thing. The party is going to have to pretty much systematically explore the dungeon to gather all of the keys. And if you have to go somewhere then its much the same as a linear dungeon: you have to go there. A little better, sure, but the outcome is the same.
And the dungeon is weird. The first level is pretty humanoid centric and pretty open to low level play. But, notice the adventure goes to level 12? The lower two levels get pretty damn fucking tough. Some nice themed areas to go with it, like an undead zone and so on, but still pretty fucking rough. This makes it almost megadungeon like. (I’m thinking of my own megadungeon world, Dungeonworld, where all of the megadungeons exist close-ish to each other.) You’re gonna explore the first level of this dungeon and then go do other things and then come back to the second level when you can and so on. There’s no explicit notice of this anywhere, but there’s no other way to tackle something like this. Which is fine, but a little support in this area, or being upfront with it as a campaign centerpiece, would have been nice.
I’m really down, though, on the lack of interactivity and exploratory elements. I don’t know what to think here. I guess I should mention one of my favorite features, which appears right in the beginning: “ About five feet inside the room lie the dead bodies. Hanging from the ceiling are three wooden bird cages with large crows in them.” That’s their alarm system, some crows in cages. Pretty sweet. Exactly the kind of naturalism I like in my dungeons. But, otherwise? An interesting footnote in history, I guess, much like Vampire Queen.
This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is nine pages. You get to see several rooms on the first level. While the rooms get a bit more complex the deeper you go, I think they are pretty representative of the style of the adventure. So, good preview!