The Monastery of the Order of Crimson Monks

by a Dragonfsfoot Consortium
Levels 5-9

This is a free module from Dragonsfoot. It was a community project to fill out the sample dungeon from the 1E DMG. They’ve done a good job of filling the map with encounters that are interesting and fun.

This sample dungeon appears a couple of times in the 1E DMG. The first three rooms get a description (the skeleton in the stream with the scroll tube, etc) and then there’s spiders that drops down and gets stamped on by a boot in the play example. A group on Dragonsfoot has kept the map and first three rooms and filled in the rest of the encounters in a community project. They did a great job.

There is, essentially, no introduction at all. Just a brief four sentence explanation that it’s a community project and a couple of small “please don’t sue us for using the map and first three rooms” statements. The product then launches in to the wandering monster tables and the first three rooms, as they appeared in the DMG. The entire story of this place is told through the encounters and it works GREAT. I was a bit taken aback at having no introduction/background at all but you seriously don’t need one. Either the guys doing the rooms did an amazing job or Vlark, the compiler/editor, should get an award for putting it together … or maybe there was just some monkeys @ typewriters thing going on and it just happened. An example? Ok. One of the wandering monster tables has goblins on it. “Ug” I say to myself upon seeing this. I hate humanoids and they appear to be seriously out of place in this dungeon. My feeling just gets worse as I read through: “Why did the goblins leave the dead guys treasure there? Why is that? Doesn’t make sense!” IE: the kind of nit-picky stuff that you think about when something gets caught in your head. And then I ran in to a brief paragraph way down deeper in the dungeon: “Since then, the dungeon has been mostly inhabited by various goblinoids every now and then. They barely avoid the many undead residing in it, yet stay here as the undead dissuade other monsters to invade the place.” It makes perfect sense and easily explains the goblins on the table: they are explorers, maybe looking for their kin or just having heard this was an ok place to set up camp. Two great things have happened there. First, a bunch of extra nonsense background/introduction section was avoided and the story of the dungeon told naturally through the encounters. Second, the module gave me enough information to get my own imagination working, letting me fill in the details of the adventure, without burdening me with a lot of extra bullshit detail. Those both hit my targets almost exactly for what I’m looking for in a product.

The maps a pretty good with multiple loops and several ways down to deeper levels. There may be five or six different way on to or off of the level … and that’s in a only forty or so encounters on a level that does NOT fill the page completely. Lots of weird room shapes, good secret placement, concealed doors, multiple ways in and out of place. I heartily approve. There are LOTS of options for the players as they explore the map. Good map complexity allows for complications, exploration, and mystery. No linearity here! It should be noted that the map has two distinct sections, with only one way, a tough secret door, between them. I was worried about when looking through this, only to have my worry addressed: there’s a good clue in the accessible half that the door is there.

The encounters in this are generally pretty good. The rooms have a decent amount going on in them and they provide some good ideas for the DM to flesh out. I particularly liked the underground tunnel filled with water. Yeah, I know it’s not that uncommon. I don’t know, it struck me as pretty cool the way it was presented. Several of the encounters are triggered, which I appreciated as well. On one room there’s a goblin body nailed to a door. Looking closely at it reveals two small red lights burning in its eyesockets. Ought oh! Touching it draws a wraith out of the skull! That’s the kind of encounter I can really groove on. It’s a pretty good bit of flavor text, short and evocative. It also rewards observant play and should almost CERTAINLY freak the players out before they trigger it. I LOVE it when the players get freaked out! There are a couple of other similar encounters as well. Almost every room has some little effect or something to explore or poke at. I approve. There are also a couple of little vignettes present in rooms. These are little scenes that give the impression that the dungeon is a real, breathing place. Two priests having an argument. A group of dead adventurers who have crawled in to a corner to die, along with the evidence that they were there. I love these sorts of things and I think they help a lot in turning static words on a page in to a place that seems real without unnecessary and burdensome realism getting in the way. There are also some great curses: pains in the ass without being crippling. This is combined with several other interesting effects the party can trigger in the dungeon. I love that sort of thing; I really find it brings the mystery and wonder to a game without being arbitrary.

This dungeon seems FULL of things to talk to. I don’t think it actually is, but it seems like it is. That’s probably a good thing. There’s an NPC party, a demon and a Crypt Thing, all of whom can offer some opportunities to break up the exploration & hacking. The monsters are the unusual suspects of skeletons, vermin, ghouls, wraiths, EHP, etc. It’s a good classic mix and they don’t feel stale at all. There’s three of four new magic items detailed that I was happy to see had proper backgrounds, etc. There’s also a couple of examples of things like “3/4 full yellow-green potion of invisibility” and so on. A little more variety in this area with the other book items would have been appreciated.

There is a bit too much detail in some places. We’re not talking 3e or 2e levels, but there _is_ an issue with verbosity. ROoms sometimes have three paragraphs or so describing them, which makes it possible to only fit three or four to page. Combined with the generous margins, line spacing, and font size it means it’s hard to get a good handle on the room quickly in many cases. A little tighter editing would have been in order, although I suspect there’s a fine line there especially in a community product. It does feel a little generic, or maybe I mean “not themed”, I’m not sure. The rooms have a lot going on but it feels like Just Another Dungeon Crawl. Hmmm, maybe I mean it wears the trappings of Just Another Dungeon Crawl. We’ve all seen a hundred of those poorly done generic dungeon crawls that all seem to look alike and run together in your mind. This adventure looks a bit like that on the surface and so perhaps that’s where the feeling comes from. But it’s not. It’s full of great encounters.

I’m pretty happy with this one. It’s not going to win any awards but it is a solid product and better than the vast majority of product, free or otherwise.

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5 Responses to The Monastery of the Order of Crimson Monks

  1. frothsof says:

    I love this adventure; very creative what they did with this.

  2. GLEN KLEPIC says:

    I really like this adventure. I’m not thrilled with the map (the original map from the DMG), so I did a redesign of it. I wish I could find a way to post a pic of it here for you.

    • binkley says:

      how about posting your map somewhere else and putting the link here?

      • Glen Klepic says:

        to the
        Monastery of the Order of the Crimson Monks
        to be used with my re-draw of the map

        Introduction- Your party of adventurers is traveling North on a trail that runs along the West side of the river. Up ahead you see high above you that a 6’ wide waterfall cascades some 30 or 40 feet down the side of a steep rocky hillside on the opposite side of the river, splashing into the river below. You can see the remains of an old building on top of the hill about 50 or 60 feet above you, beyond the top of the waterfall. Beyond this, the hills go on and on getting higher and higher. A few hundred yards further North, you reach a bridge that goes across to the East side of the river. At the East end of the bridge a trail leads East, along the North side of the hill and then turns South, winding up the side of the hill until it reaches a level plateau. From here you can see the building South-West of you. The trail continues South until it comes to a small stream that flows Westward down the gentle slope. The trail turns Westward to follow the stream. The stream comes to a sudden and unexpected end just 50 yards North of the building where it disappears into a large hole in the ground. The trail bends around this hole and heads South to the building. The building is now nothing more than a burned-out shell. You easily find the stairs leading Eastward down to the cellars below and soon find yourselves in room #1.

        Room 2- The adventurers may choose to exit this room by entering either the east cave where the stream enters, or by entering the west cave where the stream exits. The stream enters the room at the East end through a cave that is 6 feet tall above the water level and 4 feet wider on both sides than the stream itself. A cold 30 mph wind blows out of this cave. (If the adventurers enter this cave and follow it going upstream, it will after 20 minutes of rough hiking, lead the adventurers to the place 50 yards North of the building where the outdoor stream flows into the hole and becomes this underground stream. Here they may exit into the open air.) Just West of the pool the stream exits through a cave in the West wall similar to the cave at the East end of the room. Here the air is sucked violently into the cave, along with the water. However, there is only 2 or 3 feet of space between the water and the cave roof and no space to travel into the cave on either side of the stream. Adventurers can only travel this way by “swimming” (letting the current carry them) down the stream. They will be swept downstream through a dark tunnel where they will exit a cave, and go over the 35’ waterfall, and land in the river below. They must make a DC 15 swim check or suffer drowning damage equal to the number of points that they missed by.

        Room 3- On the other side of the secret door, the long hall south of room 3 now slopes slightly downward so that the crypt area at the other end is at a lower level.

        Room 6- In the north wall there is now a short and narrow stairway leading down to a wine cellar.
        Room 8- The goblin is nailed to the far wall, NOT the far door. There is no such door.
        Room 9- I have a problem with the door on the south. It is described as a Concealed door but is also called a Secret Door. There is no mention of how it is concealed from view from inside room 9 or from inside room 23. I also have a problem with the Glyph of Warding. I am, admittedly, unfamiliar with this spell. As I understand it, The Glyph itself is invisible and so I think there should be some sort of hint so that the PCs have a chance of detecting it.
        I’ve added room 9 ½. It has the same history as 7, 8, and 9, but there is no encounter in this empty room. I’ve changed the layout so that now, in order to come or go from the living quarters (7, 8, 9, and now 9 1/2), the occupants must go through 10 & 11 (which is no longer a dead end) or go through 12 or 13, unless of course you use the secret hallway to the west or the concealed door in room 23.

        If you walk down the hallway of rooms 12 & 13, you can no longer bypass both rooms. You must go through one or the other.

        Room 14 was described as a “long hallway” but was actually just the other half of room 16, so I moved 14 slightly north into what really is a long hallway.

        Room 16- Room 16 has TWO doors in the South wall. One door is locked, and the other is unlocked but is being held shut by one of the corpses in room 16. He died while holding the door shut. There is no longer a door on the east wall.

        Room 15 is no longer a wine cellar. (I thought it was too big to be a wine cellar and too far away from the dining room to be a wine cellar. There is now a smaller wine cellar north of room 6.) Room 15 still holds the stirges, but it now has two doors. One door is locked, and the other is unlocked but is being held shut by one of the corpses in room 16. He bled out while holding the door shut. Inside room 15 there is a hole in the ceiling that leads to a stirge cave above which in turn leads to the outside world.

        On the south wall of room 16 are two doors that both lead to Room 15. One door is locked, and the other is unlocked but is being held shut by one of the corpses in room 16. He bled to death while holding the door shut. He was trying to push it closed it all the way so that it would latch shut, but it would not shut quite all the way, leaving a one-inch gap. So, he continued to press against the door holding it shut until he bled to death. The reason the door would not shut all the way can be clearly seen (by anyone that is not panicking and bleeding to death). It seems that while he was trying to shut the door, his fellow adventurer was on the other side trying to open the door and this man’s hand was wedged between the door and the frame only inches above the floor. Inside room 15 the body of that adventurer still lies on the floor with his hand still stuck in the doorway. There is a hole in the ceiling that leads to a cave full of Stirges above, which in turn leads to the outside world.

        Room 17- The message of the magic mouth now say’s “crypt area” rather than “catacombs”.
        I think there needs to be some kind of hint that helps the players know how to activate the magic mouth, but I don’t know what that hint should be.
        Room 18- #18 is not really a room, and never was. It is a feature (a pit) located in room #17. The pit now leads to a room 30 feet below it that is now shown on the map. When they walk into room #17, the adventurers will see a rope tied to a thick beam near the ceiling. The rope appears to dangle down and touch the floor. The truth is that the rope extends down into a pit, but the trap door of the pit has closed and has pinched the rope. 150 pounds or more will trigger the trap door which will open and then immediately reclose. Because the rope is preventing the trap door from closing completely, the trap may be noticed more easily than it otherwise would be. The drop is 60′ deep and ends in a small crypt room which has a hall leading to area 24. (6d6 damage). There is no “cave system” to speak of.
        Room 19- You can now enter room 21 directly from room 19. Since the door from 19 to 20 is barred from inside room 20, you must go through 21 to get to 20 unless you choose to climb through the open window that leads from 19 to 20. The window was installed so that the people in room 20 (the office) could talk with the people in room 19 (the waiting room). The opening is 4 feet up the wall and easily climbed through.
        Room 20- There is now only one door on the south wall of this room, and it is NOT barred. The “hammer” symbol on the map is recognized by the adventurers as being the symbol of Samintho. He was a cleric of Bahamas (Lord of good dragons) who lived 1000 years ago. It is said that he was buried in a tomb along with his mighty +3 plate mail and his +3 shield.
        Room 21- Anyone entering the Eastern section of this room will have to make the save vs Lydia’s color spray. Alternately, the DM may decide that this room was dedicated to the God of Thieves and the color spray will cause them to have “selfish tendencies”.
        Room 22- Ignore the second paragraph of the room description and use the following instead:
        There are two doors on the south wall that are both shut but unlocked.
        There is an open door in the north-east corner of the western section of this room that leads to empty office rooms similar in design to rooms 19, 20, and 21. In the south-west office room the floor is but an illusion, with a 20′ deep pit and pikes below. Falling there will deal 4d6 of damage. Among the pikes are the skeletons of two goblins and one human; with a successful search check, one will find a small dark crystal key clutched in the human skeleton’s fist (that key opens the stone door of Area 40 in the level below this one).
        There is a door on the north end of the western section of this room. This door is locked and leads to room 23. Read room 23 for more about this door.

        Room 23- This room is NOT 30’ X 30’. It is only 20’ x 20’. The symbols and ruins are painted on the inside (north side) of the southern door (there is no western door). These runes will be visible to any character in the room if they have line of sight to this side of the door. (Did they close the door behind them when they entered, or leave it half open?) Again, there is no western door- any reference to such is really a reference to the southern door. Since this door is “locked and bolted from the inside”, can it be opened from the outside or the inside without the use of the key?
        I have a problem with the door on the north wall. It is described as a Concealed door but there is no mention of how it is concealed from view from inside room 23 or from inside room 9. I also have a problem with the Glyph of Warding. I am, admittedly, unfamiliar with this spell. As I understand it, The Glyph itself is invisible and so I think there should be some sort of hint so that the PCs have a chance of detecting it.

        The crypt area (27 – 39) is now accessible through the pit at room 18. The whole crypt area has been cleaned up and made symmetrical. Since it is symmetrical, adventures may guess the location of the secret door of room 38 and the concealed door of room 34. A few additional empty rooms have been added.

        Room 27- Apparently the rock to the South (not West) was of poor composition, ready to cave-in if dug any further. The walls and ceilings of both the southern part of the room and the dark, low and narrow tunnel going South (not North) are supported by many wooden beams.

        Room 31- The “hammer” symbol on the door is recognized by the adventurers as being the symbol of Samintho. He was a cleric of Bahamas (Lord of good dragons) who lived 1000 years ago. It is said that he was buried in a tomb along with his mighty +3 plate mail and his +3 shield. There is a sign that says, “Pray and confess before entering”. This sign is a hint that the password (pass-phrase) to enter safely is, “Lord be merciful.” This is a common phrase found in prayers of confession or repentance. The PCs may remember the engraved text in the Repentance Chapel (room 11) that says, “I have sinned against my faith. I will declare mine iniquity: I will be sorry for my faults. Lord be merciful to me, an unworthy dretch.”
        If the DM wants to make the PC say it in the ancient ceremonial tongue of the region, it would be, “Eem oot luf-is-erm eeb drol”.

        Room 36- A concealed door in the southern (NOT eastern) wall is a normal door hidden behind these curtains.

        Room 37- The tapestry, the fire pit, and the concealed door are all on the Northern wall (not the Eastern wall).

        Room 38- I would give a reason for the deaths of the people in room 38. I would say there is some kind of slow acting poison in the room (maybe carbon monoxide) that killed them as they slept. If the current party spends more than an hour in this room, they may become victims of the same fate.

        Rooms 40 – 45 (the lower levels) are fine the way they are so I didn’t re-draw them.

  3. binkley says:

    I love the idea that they “finished” that sample dungeon from the DMG. I’ll have to check it out!

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