AA#14 – The Verdant Vault of Malakum

Deep in a jungle lies a strange giant stone head. This leads to the tomb of Malakum, a fearsome ruler & sorcerer of old who dabbled in all sorts of strange plant-based abominations before being assassinated. The newly rediscovered tomb is ripe for the plundering and the party is hired to explore and map it’s depths and bring back Malakums spellbook.

The PC’s must hack their way through the jungle to reach the head, covering only 4 miles a day if they have porters and 2 miles a day if they do not. At this rate of speed they will reach the tomb in … less than a day since it’s only 3 miles away. Wandering checks are called for twice a day and three times a night, with a 40% chance on each check. The wandering table is sprinkled with vermin, undead, and and a few plant-based abominations. Oh, and the jungle is super-evil, so attempts to turn undead are at a -2. It’s unclear why the jungle is more evil than the surrounding area, but I’d like to thank Gygax for introducing this nonsense with his undead amulets in B2. Obviously the trek through the jungle is very brief. It would have been nice to see it expanded on a bit, perhaps lengthened and some local color thrown in: swarms of insects or other stuff. Jungle Ruins of Madaro-Shanti handled the overland portion in a bit more colorful way, especially with the wanderers.

The tomb itself is a fairly simply affair, being linear. And man, do I mean linear: The 15 rooms follow one after another, almost without exceptions. There are four rooms in a straight line, then a 5-way branch with four dead-end rooms, and then six more rooms in a straight line. I don’t like this. It’s too much like a puzzle instead of an adventure. “You have defeated challenge 24, now let us move on to challenge 25.” That does not convey the sense of wonder & exploration I am looking for in a product. I will now be petty: The Verdant tomb has two rooms with paintings of plant-life and three rooms with plant-like creatures in it. Yeah, I know there are certain licenses to be taken with the naming of marketing of a product, but green tentacles from the walls, a fly trap, and a room with shamblers in it does not a verdant vault make.

The complex has several trap/puzzles in it. They seem to have correct solutions, which are enforced through design. I don’t like this sort of thing. You enter a room and the doors slam shut and wizard lock. Teleport/phase door/passwall don’t work in the room. Fly spells don’t work, etc. make seven Dex checks at -3 or you’ll have to make a Save vs Magic at -4 or die for each you miss. There’s another similar trap room which has a ‘riddle’ and a correct solution and attempts to do things other than give the correct solution are hampered through the other elements of the room. I would have much preferred a puzzle/trap room set up WITHOUT a solution given/possible, but allowing the party to come up with their own way out through the full use of their resources, instead of limiting the spells or physical acts they can use. Oh, did I mention that the entryway stairs to the tomb complex have 13 trap triggers on them in 60 feet? There’s another room full of traps that does damage to the group every round unless they figure out the correct solution, and there is most certainly a  correct solution. If you guess the wrong solution then you Save vs Spells or get disintegrated. None of those are wrong, in and of themselves. You push buttons at random and you’re gonna get slapped down, and deservedly so. Combining the two irks me though. “Quick, make a Decision! But if it’s not the exact one I’m thinking of then you’re gonna die!” The fact that these sorts of rooms are combined with “A round after the PC’s enter the trap triggers and damage starts” makes things even worse. I believe he group should get a chance to look around and that traps and puzzles should generally be triggered through some action of the party, and walking in to the room generally doesn’t count. Go look at the walls and search the room and THEN start messing with the buttons. Eliminating that option takes control out of the hands of the party and they need to be in control of their own destinies, especially if there’s some Save or Die involved. There’s another room with a riddle in it and 5 levers. Pull the one the designer wants you to pull or die, no save. Hope you’re thinking the way the designer is … and yes, your teleport doesn’t work because of the permanent anti-magic shield around the room. If it weren’t for the shield you wouldn’t NEED a solution. Just start the trap in motion and let the party use their imaginations to come up with a proper solution

This is a tomb complex. It is linear. It is full of Save or Die. The puzzles have a correct solution enforced through gimping the PC’s. It has lots of doors that slam shut and Wizard Lock when you enter the room. The final room has the tombs occupant, now alive and ready for action.  This is the same as in AA#9 and AA#18, by the same author.

This is available on DriveThru.


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One Response to AA#14 – The Verdant Vault of Malakum

  1. James Smith says:

    Man! Thanks for doing all of these reviews!!!

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