How many times must it be said? When the forces of evil build an outpost near you and the good army defeats it, the job isn’t finished until you completely and utterly destroy the complex. How many times have we been witness to the forces of evil resettling these sorts of complexes and starting trouble again? A fellow could probably make a really good living following good armies around and contracting for the destruction of the evil lairs.
This time around it’s Shattered Mountain, and the tunnels underneath it. After being a source of evil for awhile it has been quiet for quite some time now. Recently however soothsayers have taken a break from saying sooths to let everyone know that a Devil, with a capitol D, now lives under the mountain and is planning something. It’s up to the party to stop him! That’s the extent of the backstory although it’s really not needed; the adventure is a fine little underground adventure in it’s own right.
The DM is presented with a ‘wilderness’ map for the tunnels under the mountain. It’s about 20 miles wide and about 20 miles long with a nice branching tunnel structure. You can get to any encounter area in the complex, and there are about 12 areas total, without being forced to encounter a different area. IE: all of the encounters take place in ‘dead ends’ of the branching tunnel system. Using the given hook then the party can avoid all of those encounters which don’t advance it’s cause. As a general Hole In The Ground crawl this should provide the DM with lot’s of opportunity for chases through the tunnel, diplomacy, and various amounts of treachery and villainy. A wandering monster table is provided with 20 different encounters on it ranging from vermin to intelligent humanoids. It’s a pretty basic table without the monster motivations I am usually looking for. This is probably to be expected given the scale of the map; it’s hard to make each wanderer unique when you may encounter them multiple times while delving.
The individual encounter areas are described briefly. There’s about two paragraphs of text that include the stat blocks and treasure which gives the layout of the monsters lair, where the treasure is located, and what the creatures are doing. This entire section reminds me quite a bit of D1 – Descent in to the Depths of the Earth. The monster lair maps, one cavern complex for each encounter is mapped, are typically three or four room rough caverns, much as they were in D1. In fact, the entire first half of the module is very similar to D1, both in encounter descriptions and maps. The encounter descriptions are all business, which is just the way I like it, with a few ‘weird’ things thrown in to a couple of encounters. There’s quite a bit of loot in these, along with a decent amount of magic items, most of which are fairly typical.
One of the encounters has significantly more detail: the lair of the Devil Sheth. He has a two-level mini-dungeon complex where he is plotting to reignite the volcano, flood the surrounding area with liquid hot magma, and create his own hellish kingdom on earth. It seems he had an ‘incident’ back home in the Hells and is in exile so he’s making the best of a bad situation. He’s the real deal; a named devil entity. His complexes map is fairly interesting with a couple of loops on the first level and several paths between points on the second level. That, my good readers, if the Real Deal. It allows the players to approach a room from multiple directions, avoid encounters, and be surprised when enemies show up behind them. These kinds of maps, though small in this case, allow for much more choice from the players and many more options are put in front of the DM. And those are Good Things. The actual dungeon is a hack-fest. Eight encounters on the first level and eleven on the second with just about every room having a creature in it to battle, and usually some kind of devil or devil-kin. I think I counted five rooms without creatures in them. There are a smattering of tricks/traps in the room, which I found very interesting. A room full of magic mouths or a corpse that turns in to a ‘Thing’-like monster. One of them is a terrible ruse: three friendly guys and an old woman welcome you in to sit & drink. The correct players response to this, my putrid pals, is to immediately say “Fireball.” The final encounter with the Devil will be a tough one, especially after the slog through those encounter rooms. There are a couple of ways to slow down his plans without killing him though, which is nice to see as well. It would have been nice to insert a couple of more references to the devil prior to meeting him, although I suppose the DM could insert this himself if/when the players encounter the other creatures in the ‘wilderness’ area, assuming the party doesn’t slaughter them all outright. We do get about four new monsters, half devils, and two new spells, as well as four new magic items. The magic items are interesting and tend toward the ‘unique’ side of the house, although they don’t quite make it to the ‘weird’ side of things.
This is a pretty solid OSR product, which in Brycelandia means that it’s a fairly interesting dungeoncrawl with lots of variety and interesting maps. It’s close enough in flavor to D1 that you’ll like it if you like D1 and be unhappy if you dislike D1.
This is available on DriveThru.