Once upon a time a group of monks created a prison in their monastery to lock away that which should not be found. Over time they became corrupted and the monastery fell in to ruin and that which should not be forgotten, was. This module depicts the monastery, it’s prison, and a dungeon level underneath, with a small wilderness adventure in order to reach the main adventuring site.
The hok here is not the strongest. The party shelters for a night with an old hermit and the next morning the hermit is gone, with two mysterious tiles left behind, and small rough map to a location called Solitude. The tiles each have an animal shape on them that moves when the tiles are placed together in a certain way. These are actually two of the six keys needed to gain full access to the prison portion of the monastery. Like I said, not the strongest hook, however it should be easy to work the map and keys in to a hoard to provide a better hook, or perhaps send the players on a quest to gain entry to one of the prison vaults for some reason. The adventuring site and module background are strong enough to be easily worked in to an existing campaign.
The wilderness map has the party traveling through a mountain pass and three valleys in order to reach the monastery and is of the “one each equals four miles” variety. The wandering monster table for this section is full of ‘normal’ animals, such as bears and goats, with a group of ogres thrown in. There’s not much detail however I found the animal-heavy table a refreshing bit of realism. There’s an up-river rapids & waterfall stream that the party could take also to bypass the three valley sites also, however it’s going to be off limits to parties without the means to take advantage of it. The alternate paths to the site, one normal and one outside the box is a nice thing to see. The valleys have a lake full of beasties and a giant ant colony, a field with patches of carnivorous grass, and a couple of ‘dragons.’ The valleys proper are large enough that the players can explore and pursue alternate paths through them and the encounters once again provide a nice dose of realism and a welcome change from the ’12 kobolds attack you’ linear encounters that tend to be a staple of modules.
The monastery is a compound of buildings with a surrounding wall, much like a medieval citadel/fortress. The outer wall complex is about 400 feet on a side and the interior is DENSLY populated with large rooms/buildings which are integrated in to the design. It’s a very clever location for an adventure site; essentially a small walled town with streets and buildings, or those large japanese compounds we see in samurai movies. There’s A LOT of room for the party to choose where they want to go and how to get there. Every map should be that way. The rear of the compound has another building attached, the ‘jail’ portion in which the monks kept their charges. The current occupants of the out monastery consist of two factions of gnolls in the west half and animals, of the giant variety, which have occupied portions of the eastern complex. It’s a relatively straight-forward exploration of an abandoned ruin, with a THIRD faction thrown in for good measure, if the party recognizes it as such. There are not a lot of tricks/traps in this section, although there are one or two which fit in well … I know when _I_ was 12 I used to cut open bodies in D&D looking for loot. There are several features and descriptions which give this level a lived-in feel, as if life was going on before the party showed up and will continue after it has left (if they don’t slaughter everyone.) I enjoy that kind of detail quite a bit, it gives the place a touch of the real. We’ll get back to the jail portion in a minute.
Underneath the compound are the dungeons. There are four separate factions running around down here, including that mysterious one I mentioned up above, so the party should be able to mix things up quite a bit between diplomacy, exploring, and combat. In addition there are some undead, automated guardians, and vermin/slime/fungi. The various factions have some pretty good backstory attached with enough detail for the DM to get a good feel of them and how they will react to the PCs. The rooms also have some good descriptions, such as with The Chamber of Filth. The map is another good one, with lots of ways to get from point A to C without having to go though B to get there. Again, it’s low on the trick/trap quotient. The other four tiles/keys are to be found down here.
The prison complex requires the tiles/keys to open the various ‘cells.’ Between two to six tiles are required to get in to the cells, depending on how large they are. Some cells are empty, some have creatures in them, and some have items locked away in them. These range from evil water elemental princes to an Avatar of Famine, and several other creature. In fact, the module contains 15 new monsters, all of which are very interesting and have their own flavors. I really enjoy it when designers load of a module with new creatures. Nothing scares the pants off oaf a PC more than an unknown beastie showing up and doing something weird.
This is a great module. The location setting is a good one, and while the given hook is week the ease in integrating it in to your own campaign should more than make up for it. The maps are nice & complex with many many ways to get between locations, giving the party many more options than is typical in a module. It’s almost megadungeon-like in it’s maps. The various factions give the party more than one way to approach encounters and other subplots to pursue while adventuring at the site. The heavy use of ‘animals’ in the wilderness portion and half of the monastery, as well as the backstories for several factions and several of the room descriptions give the site a lived-in feel, all of which tend to reinforce a realistic feel to the adventure. I can certainly recommend it.
At this level of play the party may have a stronghold, or be thinking about planning/building one. There are two magic items present in the module that directly impact this area of campaign play. That’s usually not something you see in published material. It is bot interesting and noteworthy.
This is available at DriveThru.