Oh No! The Sultans fifth wife has been captured by desert nomads! The party is sent to recapture her! Except … the Sultan is actually a horribly disfigured man, replete with dripping pustules, and wants his wife back so he can use her special blood (she’s descended from the Pharaoh’s of old) to perform a vile ritual and raise an undead army. Of course, the party doesn’t now the second part … Thus starts a pretty damn good little adventure by Andrew Hind. It contains a short overland section and two small dungeons.
The party tracks the nomad band through the desert and in to three encounter locations. A small wilderness map is provided, however it’s mostly a chase/tracking exercise. The three encounters, as well as the wandering monster table provided for this portion, are all very well done and interesting. There are ghouls disguised as lepers, jackals which only hang around the edge of camp, a sandstorm (de rigueur for deserts), and a nice little starting encounter with driving off a group of normal vultures in order to get access to the abduction site. There is a nice blend of the normal and the fantastic and a nice set of twists thrown in. For example, a pack of zombies who were raised by the scorpions that cover them. Flicking off the scorpions makes battling the zombies easier. That encounter also illustrates another nice feature: a good set up for each encounter. The party actually comes upon a group of nomads who’s remains are partially buried in the sand. The flavor text and setup are pretty nice and should provide a lot for the DM to work with.
The first dungeon is set in an old dwarven mine complex. The dwarves were very greedy, probably evil, and were eventually overrun and killed by derro they met. Those were, in turn, destroyed by the an evil hybrid dog/giant rat animal that they has created to server them. C’est la vie … The complex map has a nice little backstory and the flavor text works well with it. The map is essentially a star shape, so there’s lots of choice on which ‘corridor leading to a room’ to take, with only a couple of ‘rooms behind a room.’ Not linear, which is good, however it could be better with some loops. There are no wandering monsters, as usually defined, however the parties actions do have a chance in several places of attracting groups of those dog/rat things. The complex has the sense that it has history. Skeletons crawling off to die, manacles with skeletons in them, doors half open and such. It’s a mystery Charlie Brown! Those sorts of details about a complex can give the party more to chew on and always gives them a feeling of accomplishment when they figure out what is going on, no matter how obvious. I approve heartily of this type of description. It gives the place a lived-in feel.There are a couple of tricks/traps, but really the ‘history’ aspect is what gives the place it’s flavor. There are also a couple of rooms which lead to areas the DM can expand upon. This was a feature of the old products that I really got in to when I was younger and I like seeing those additional hooks in published material. It _might_ be possible for the party to get & rescue the wife without fighting anyone, and maybe having only one encounter, in the foyer/entryway room. This is the sort of thing that a smart party should eat up. Complete the mission while avoiding combat and grabbing some easy loot! Or, be a completist and get your ass handed to you …
Upon coming out the party is set upon by an overwhelming force of the Sultan and left in the desert to die. Now Mr Sultan, I realize you are evil, but why do this? Why not just pay the party for their work and go about your business of raising an undead army? Another item for the Evil Overlord list, I guess. This part is a railroad. Surrender or Die. Break out of your bounds in the desert and pursue the wife and/or get revenge. Not a cool interlude to what is otherwise a good start.
The second mini-dungeon is a tomb complex with three parts: the eastern tomb, the west chambers, and the Sacrifice chamber. Again, the party can make it to the wife by only encountering one group of creature prior to the ‘climax battle’ with the EHP (who’s a MU) where the wife is to be sacrificed. As I stated earlier, I like this. It doesn’t force a smart party through attrition encounters, it let’s THEM choose to attrit themselves. This complex has a couple of nice creatures with some history behind them. For example, the party comes upon a group of guards who are in the process of doing a little looting. There’s also a nice ghoul priest with disgusting features. The eastern tomb complex is a nice little egyptian tomb raid. The entire place has a nice egyptian feel without ramming it down your throat, with several weird fantasy elements thrown in, like a fountain of blood. There are several places in which foolish characters are going to die if they play with the ‘buttons’, which is exactly how it should be. It’s not arbitrary kiddo, YOU are the one who chose to defile the statue …
This is a nice little adventure. The short linear wilderness adventure as well as the two dungeons have a good mix of the normal and the fantastic. There’s a nice little backstory, and also nicely short, for the Sultan and the two mini-dungeons. Their lengths are just about right. The dungeon encounters and their rooms have a nice lived-in feel, as if there were things going on before the party arrived on the scene. This sort of in media res really adds a lot to an adventure, I find. The worst thing I can say about it is the railroad in the middle when the party the Surrender or Die choice. That’s a minor issue in a module full of nice new beasts, new freaky magic items, and two flavorful dungeons.
This is available on DriveThru.