DA1 – Dark Journey

This is a module for Castles & Crusades but it can be easily used for any pre-4E version on D&D. More on that at the bottom.

This modules is centered around the home fortress/dungeon of a famous wizard. Not too long ago he built this place as a refuge before finally disappearing on one of his travels. An example wizard is given however the DM is encouraged to tailor the wizard to his own campaign. This would be akin to finding one of the old homes of Elminster or Bigby, I suppose. The backstory is very brief, only a column or so of text, and mainly deals with the travels and life of the example wizard. The product then launches right in with a paragraph on the dungeon entrance and room 1. This is by far the shortest introduction I’ve seen, and while I usually like a terse style this introduction could have been a bit longer. There’s no actual introduction to the dungeon at all or what is now going on inside. As such the introduction falls a little flat and is terse in the wrong way, describing trivia instead of current events. There’s no overland/wilderness portion.

The maps for this things are great. There are two primary levels and small third level. The first two are exactly the sort of map I like to see. They very nearly fill a full page each and are full of loops. This gives the party a great opportunity to explore, route around dangerous areas, get ambushed, and set up ambushes. They are on par with the map for the core ASE1, and possibly even better. We;re talking full on Mordenkainen’s Fantastic or Barrier Peaks goodness here. There are not really more than one way to get between levels, which is a bummer given maps this good, but other than that I can’t complain at all about the maps and indeed hold them up to high praise. There are about 45 or so keyed encounters on each of the two main levels.

The levels are essentially the household and lair of an ancient powerful wizard. Since he’s abandoned the facility a group of humanoids has wandered in and set up shop in a portion of the two levels. The humanoids are not densely populated on the two levels and there are a few encounters with undead and a dungeon vermin thrown in here and there. There are a LOT of rooms to explore, and many have some sort of puzzle or some kind of object for the PC’s to play with. Far too often these involve riddles. I’m not a big fan of riddles in my dungeons, especially at low levels when the players don’t have access to divination spells. There are a few areas where the old DMG 1E potion mixing table could come in to play, which I loved, especially since it was mixed in to a room that encourages the PC’s to Push the Big Red Button. The traps present are few and far between, mostly chest traps and scything blades in corridors/doors. Treasure is scattered around with a good mix; some in monster rooms, some unguarded, and so on. Generally a careful party should be able to great a great deal of GP/XP without fighting too much, which is perfect given the map layouts.

The great please for the PC’s in this adventure is going to be figuring out, room by room, who this complex belonged to and some of trivia associated with the wizard. Kind of like visiting an abandoned home and poking around in the drawers. Who is that in the picture? Why did they put that there. Ah! So that’s why, and so on. There’s no wandering monster tables and the boss fights are anti-climactic, the Lareth the Beautiful syndrome. “That dudes the big boss? Huh. Oh Well.” There’s no build up at all to the boss fights and no ‘Order of Battle’ should one room run to fetch help from another or raise the alarm.

Mechanically this dungeon was pretty much perfectly built. Large looping maps filled with rooms. A high number of empty numbers a smaller number of rooms with monsters. Unguarded treasure and guarded treasure. I could have used a few more tricks/traps, and as I said, I don’t like riddle rooms and there are a fair number of those present. I would have liked some more trick/red button rooms for the PC’s to poke, prod, and explore in. I generally like my magic items to be more unique than “Sword +1” and there are not too many of those to found here, if any, depending on your definition. I also like my monsters quite a bit less standardized; weird things freak out the party, especially if they don’t come out of a monster manual, and I find humanoids pretty boring opponents. The intelligent monsters could have used a bit more tie in for me though.

This would be a  pretty good modern replacement for B1 – In Search of the Unknown. The backstory has obvious similarities and the dungeoncrawl like elements are similar. If the DM did a little work ahead of time on a wandering table, noted on the map the rooms with monsters for response purposes, and personalized the magic a bit more then this would be a pretty solid introductory dungeon.

A bit about conversion. The monster stats in C&C can pretty much be used as is for D&D. AC is ascending, the exact way it is in 3E. Saves are linked to stats in C&C, which doesn’t matter, just use the same saves system you’re using in D&D. STR is Paralysis, Con is a Death Save, Breath Weapon is DEX, Wands are INT and Spells are WIS. If you are using skills, then a DC 16 check equates to a CL1 in C&C, a CL2 is DC 17, and so on. It’s really pretty trivial to convert, and can be done on the fly. I just pull the XP from the DMG 1E appendix.

This is available on DriveThru.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/90312/Castles–Crusades-DA1-Dark-Journey?affiliate_id=1892600

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