Gygax #3 – The Marmoreal Tomb of Garn Pat’uul


By Ernie Gygax & Benoist Poiré
TSR/Gygax Magazine #3
Levels 1-3

This is a 33-ish room dungeon in an old dwarves fortress. It’s a pretty decent little adventure with a great map and nice degree of variety. It perhaps relies too much on standard monsters and is light on the treasure. It’s also a little verbose at times and could use a good edit to prune back some of the wordiness. It’s got a good foundation but could use a little more personality and the insertion of some faction play would add a whole lot to it.

There are almost three full pages of introduction and “advice” to kick this adventure off. There’s about one full page of background and history of the dungeon. This is WAYYYY too much for the length of the adventure. If this were setting up a megadungeon then maybe it would be appropriate, but its not really offering anything unusual or different. Dwarf stronghold. Invaded & massacred. Done. The should of the adventure belongs in the rooms and the text therein, not in a giant all of text up front that doesn’t really do a whole lot to expand the adventure or offer opportunities. Every word has to add to the adventure. Every. Single. One. The background is then follow by just under two pages of advice. Not advice relevant to this adventure but rather the same general advice seen a thousand times before. Read the whole adventure first. “When you feel ready, gather your players and have then create new characters for the campaign.” Maybe also “Breath in. Roll dice. Breathe out.”? Yes, I’m laying it on a bit thick but I can’t stand this sort of thing. There might be two or three paragraphs worth of relevant and useful information … about the amount I would normally expect to see. I find everything else distracting and the … languid? Conversational style a turn off.

This less than strong effort is followed up by a less than great wandering monster table. Stirges. Kobolds. “Choose something relevant.” “Death scream.” This is not really what I want to see in a wandering monster table. I don’t mind the stirges (especially since they come from someplace on this level) or even the kobolds (who are wanderers fresh to the complex exploring like the party. I like the addition of death screams and the like, especially for mood setting, although I’d like to see a couple of more suggestions. That point, and the “choose something relevant” are really what I have a problem with. As the DM you have to put A LOT of work in to an adventure to fill it out and run it. I’m looking for just about everything in the adventure to provide inspiration to me to help me run the thing. “or some such” doesn’t help me. Nor does “something nearby.” If you’re gonna put “something nearby” on the table then I expect you to annotate the map with the creatures. Otherwise I have to go look up the room numbers of the stuff nearby, check the key to see if there’s a monster there. There’s not so I have to go check again … and so on. The map looks like Poiré had a hand in it. I don’t know if he did an original or simply tweaked Ernie’s, but it is one of the best. The layout of the map is excellent, with lots of loops and features on it and elevation changes, all hi lighted by the color treatment I’ve come to know from Poiré. This is exactly the kind of map you you hope to see when you crack open an adventure. What’s that thing? Green blobs?! Cool, columns and rubble! The map inspires … exactly like EVERY part of an adventure should.

The meat of every adventure are the encounters. The encounters here are a strange mix of interesting and not … quite … there … all in the same encounter. There’s a great encounter with a huge ogre on a pile of junk, digging through it oblivious to its surroundings. There’s a great piece of art accompanying this, showing a kind of ogre king on a throne, a little reminiscent of that final shot in Conan, showing Conan the King. Unfortunately there’s not much else to this encounter. Just a couple of extra words, with a name and the role the ogre plays in the dungeon and his relationship to the other groups would have added an immense amount of life to the encounter … and to the dungeon. There’s a decent number of encounters like this, needing just a little bit more. There are also pot-bellied gnolls who use a balcony as their toilet, a great little water spider encounter. There are A LOT of goblins here, in a colony, and even a quite large group of wolves and stirge. Thus there’s a good variety of single and double creature encounters interspersed with large colonies of creatures. There does sometimes be a tendency to explain history and former uses, which are all wasted words. There’s also a room or two that LONG overstay their welcome. The potters is full of smashed pots, a couple of which can be put back together if you try hard enough. The pots are described in an excruciating level of detail … which no visible pay off. Perhaps they refer to different levels or I’ve missed something. Likewise a ghostly room has a journal with A LOT of detail. One of those long soliloquy’s that no player can sit through. There’s a decent amount of variety though and the real standouts are the things that are NOT from any book: a nest area of weird birds and a strange vampiric cloud. Those elements give portions a real weird/OD&D feel, the kind I like so much.

The magic items are motley consumable with a touch of the unique. Potions and scrolls of no unusual element with bog standard spells are sure to be used and yet don’t provide any interesting opportunities. There’s a unique magic item or two that add a nice touch and are interesting. There’s also a common item or two that are nice mundane treasures, like an inlaid sword. The vast majority of the treasure is just not that inspiring. IN fact, I shouldn’t use the words ‘vast majority’ … there’s not really much here. The level feels a little light in the treasure department. That goblin horde has next to nothing and perhaps the only decent horde (1400gp) lies with a potential ally. I actually kind of like the moral quandary that provides … I just think that it’s going to beVERY difficult to level.

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8 Responses to Gygax #3 – The Marmoreal Tomb of Garn Pat’uul

  1. JeremyR says:

    Some people like background and description. You blather on and on and on in reviews, rather than just getting straight to the point. Brevity could do you a lot of good as well, but it’s more fun to write more. And I suspect that’s why module authors do it – it might not matter to you, but it matters to them.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      Absolutely not. I categorically reject this position.

      Adventure writers are producing a technical work designed for a specific purpose. The purpose of their work is to help a DM run an adventure. My reviews blather on so that people who do not share my tastes can determine if they would want the product even if I do not like it. My work fits in to its intended purpose. Long-winded writers generally detract from their works; a well-known fault with writers.

      • gmccammon5 says:

        The other pertinent point is that one is paying money for an adventure, as you so often point out, while this list of reviews is gratis. I’m more and more agreeing with your opinion that if I’m paying for something, I want as much value out of it as possible, and yammering, bloviating, and blathering do not value provide, especially when I can get a metric fuckton of inspiration and bit pieces off the ‘Net for free.

  2. Buttmonkey says:

    How was the AT?

  3. Bryce Lynch says:

    Cold, wet, and much slower than we had planned.

  4. bbarsh says:

    Great to see you back blathering on…:)

  5. PrinceofNothing says:

    Awesome to see you back bryce.

  6. elbeghast says:

    Thank you for the review, Bryce! I like your style, because it communicates as much about your own specific tastes as it does about the module being reviewed. This is invaluable input for a game designer, because it allows me to get what you grok and ponder how I could design things in a way that satisfies a greater number of gamers while still reaching my design goals.

    I knew, given your enthusiasm when reading the Hyperborean Laboratories I authored for AFS Magazine ( ) that you would have some issues with the Marmoreal Tomb, but that’s okay. You want something very specific for your own game table, with a precise approach and methodology followed to fit your tastes best, and I can’t fault you for that. I much prefer to talk to someone who has tastes and knows what he or she wants rather than the alternative, yes men and otherwise.

    I’m very proud of the Marmoreal Tomb, because it was really a challenge of game design. When we set out to write it Ernie and I, we had a set of very specific goals we wanted to fulfill through it.

    The module had to introduce and evoke the tone of the Hobby Shop Dungeon. This meant playing in the sandbox created all these years ago by Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, hence these elements that might seem very conventional and “vanilla”, like the pot-bellied gnolls or the stirges, while still having great value in game play. We’ve discussed about this before you and I, and you know I’m not a fan of originality for originality’s sake. Sometimes an orc is just an orc, and plays great as an orc at an actual game table. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it (which of course doesn’t mean you can’t be original as well, as I think we’ve demonstrated with the Achaean firebirds and the Horla).

    The module also had to be solid and playable straight on without modifications by people who like the classic expression of the game and its more original twists and turns as well. Ernie and I are not in the business of solely catering to a narrow range of experts in DMing and role playing games. We want to reach out and let people know about the Hobby Shop Dungeon and in essence, spread the play style that is best remembered as the exploration of the realms of your own imagination. In concrete terms, this means that whatever your imaginative leanings, you should find something you like in the Tomb, and that from there the module should welcome additions, modifications, expansions.

    This is why the encounters are spaced out on the map, explicitly to welcome another layer of inhabitants in between if the DM sees it fit, why other areas are classic and can be expanded upon, (such as the ogre, if for instance you decide it has made friends with the goblins of the quarry and they positioned themselves with say, some old dwarven ballistas around the market place to assist him in guarding the place, and the like), and why yet other areas are described with the intent that you could use this fodder and add to it on your own (such as the potter’s and barber’s workshops you alluded to in your review). The design of the module and map also allows for greater developments on the DM’s part. It could even serve as the start of a megadungeon proper, explicitly so.

    This is also why the text goes through the motions and brings back the advice that is so often repeated in the classics, along with additional information in order for the DM to understand what this module is, what it’s built for, and what to expect in play, so that even those DMs who are not familiar with these classics can come to appreciate the play style in his own right, play those games as fun alternatives to their other tastes in role playing games, and hopefully come to play Lake Geneva style exploration games as cool campaigns in their own right.

    The tone and feel of the writing was also a concern. It had to be evocative, faithful to the role playing tradition it tries to bring back to the fore, and yet fulfill our previously mentioned goals. People who like Gary Gygax’s prose, you like to read modules and internalize their ambiance to then recreate it at their own game tables, will appreciate it, I think. Our stand at GP Adventures (Ernie’s and my company) was from the start to talk to the DM like he is an equal, not an underling. We do not like a module to feel like a purely technical manual to use a toaster oven. What we want is to talk to the DM and allow him to unlock his own imagination and do his own thing, his way, which requires a sort of “here are the keys to the kingdom” approach on our parts. This is an area where clearly you can’t please everyone, though a lot of thought and effort have been spent on doing just that.

    This is a module that really has to be played. It is challenging in its own right, and some of the elements that seem the less original or special in it can take on a surprising dimension in play. I know the stirges for instance have been a real threat for some of our playtest groups, including Ernie’s, where they could have TPK’d us if we had not played intelligently.

    Speaking of which, the wandering monster table is purposefully designed to be light, and use the imagination of the DM in playing himself the environment, selecting for instance an inhabitant in a specific quadrant of the map to go about its business, and the like. This is a specific tool to bring the DM to internalize the environment and play the world, instead of just going by the words on the page. This has worked wonders with some referees out there we know of, but I would expect some expert DMs to want more and retool it to their liking accordingly.

    One point I agree with you on is that the treasure could have been more bountiful. This is something that will definitely be corrected in our future offerings, including the expanded module DU1 MARMOREAL TOMB OF GARN PATUUL, which will include the material released in Gygax Magazine, plus an additional level, extra encounters, advice, and more besides. Which makes me think, the extensive background indeed hints at a lot of different elements that will take on meaning as we unfold the world of the Hobby Shop Dungeon through its modules and add-ons. This is not the last time you will hear of Krassus the Cambion.

    Once again, thank you for the review! It is deeply appreciated. I hope you will check our future offerings, once the GP Adventures website goes live. In the meantime, you can Like the Hobby Shop Dungeon facebook page here:


    Benoist Poiré
    Founder, GP Adventures LLC.

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