Dungeon Magazine #141

The Sea Wyvern’s Wake
By Richard Pett
Level 5

Savage Tide adventure path, part the third: a sea voyage. This installment is hard thing to review. It’s heart is in the right place but it suffers GREATLY from the three-column Dungeon format. Combined with the word-bloat common to Dungeon it makes this thing very hard to run. But … it has great elements. The party is hired to be “ship #2” in a two-ship expedition to a colony on an island and this adventure deals with the voyage. “Ship #2” allows for the party to make their own decisions but for there to a lifeline available. Run the ship how you want and if things are too bad then ship 1 is there is bail you out. And, of course, vice versa in certain situations. There’s an allotment of NPC’s to spice things up on board, some generics to die horrible, and some locations to visit along the way. “Hey kids, Meteor Crater is right on the road to the Grand Canyon!” Linear, but not exactly a railroad! The NPC’s have decent motivations and are interesting enough to get them involved with the party. As always, they could be organized better for use during play … a typical failing. But, still, recurring folks on a three-month voyage is a great thing to have! And their detail is PLAY focused, not just generic trivia that will never come up during play. There’s too much detail in place, such a entire column of text on “securing a vessel” when much less would have sufficed in an adventure that’s a follow on to capturing a vessel. In other places a little more could have been included, such as better help in recruiting crew and provisions in town before the party leaves. Similarly, there’s a small section, a column or less, on ship combat, but it suffers from the Dungeon 3-column text block problem, making it hard to reference during play. There are a few other nits, like a priest who dies a day after getting sick to reveal a slaad … nice, but if it were dragged out a bit it would be even nicer. Also, a stowaway assassin that takes a DC30 to find if the party searches the ship … because there’s an event built around them. The players should be REWARDED for thinking of searching the hold, not punished because it’s on the DM’s ToDo list for later. The thing is full of nice little vignettes and encounters on the way to the island. In short, I think it’s a pretty damn good sea/travel adventure, one of the best I’ve seen. It needs more expansion before town is left, and reference sheets for important things like NPC’s, combat, etc, and a complete rewrite of the encounters to pull out important details … but it’s heart is in the right place. It just needs a complete reworking to be useful …

Swords of Dragonlake
By Nicolas Logue
Level 12

2p backstory
Holy fuck, what a mess. This is an investigation in to a missing person … at a theater. Ug. Fucking Magical RenFaire shit. Anyway, there re about a thousand NPC’s, each of which get almost an entire page to describe them, along with an entire section on Gather Information checks for each one. MASSIVE amounts of text and a unfocused writing style make this one a bear. “In addition to the dressing rooms, the PC’s may decide to investigate the grid-like iron catwalk and rafters above the stage from which the moving scenery pieces [long list] and heavy sandbag counterweight are suspended.” Yes, Nicolas, they might. Which is why I, the DM, and looking at the “Fly Rail and Grid” section of the fucking adventure. This kind of crap just clogs things up. Scene/Event based and a mass of text make salvaging this one a losing cause.

Vlindarian’s Vault
By Jonathan M. Richards
Level 18

Oh man … can you accept the fact that the city has a storage facility/warehouse that has a bunch of slaadi employees? If so then do I ever have the Grimtooths adventure for you! You’re pleaded with to rescue a guys mate from a vault where she’s being held captive. There’s some nonsense about them being disguised silver dragons, but that’s irrelevant. This adventure JUMPS in to things immediately. Seriously, the keyed locations start on page 2 and I’m not sure I’ve EVER seen a Dungeon backstory/into that short! And the intro even includes a bullshit plan involving a magical shield and portable hole to smuggle the party inside the storage vault! It’ all feels a little Harry Potter/Gringotts, with a healthy dose of Grimtooth. Walls of Force that appear and disappear, teleport circles, rolling boulders. And every guard is either a slaad or devil, with the boss being a beholder. The maps a fucking disaster and needs a cross-section to clarify the confusing relationship between the levels and corridors. I’m going to forgive the abstracted treasure because the entire thing is so ridiculous. I love it! No gimping. High level. Absurd enemies and deathtraps! A glorious glorious mess! A little (lot) restatting could make this a fine low-level adventure also. Hard to recommend to seek out, but if you NEED this sort of adventure then this is IT.

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6 Responses to Dungeon Magazine #141

  1. David says:

    The cover mentions Return to Lost Tamoachan, one of my favorites back in the day… anything interesting there? I might look for a copy just for nostalgia. Thanks!

    • Commodore says:

      IIRC, it was just a brief “get off the boat at some ruins, enjoy some fun set pieces”. Like a couple-day limit to your explorations.

  2. Wik says:

    Aw man. I remember the Sea Wyvern’s Wake. We actually had a lot of fun running it, even if it did kind of implode.

    I remember cutting one section of the module to expand upon the tamoachan bit (one of my favourite classic modules). There’s a gibbering mouther in there, and I was pretty excited to run it. Naturally, one of the PCs (A Goliath Fighter) ran up to it, hit it with power attack, and killed it in the first action of the combat. SIgh.

    The best parts of this module, for what it’s worth, are the parts where you can kind of get off the rails. Many of my favourite 3e sessions happened in this module – and those were all parts where things went off the rail (the PCs getting chased off an island by angry natives, a rooftop battle in the adventure prior to this one that progressed to a cat and mouse thing in the graveyard, and a competition that the PCs decided to have with the other ship all instantly spring to mind).

    Oh, and at the gates of some ruin in this module, I had a bunch of statues of petrified adventurers. The PCs had a scroll of stone to flesh, and I was expecting them to pick one adventurer to bring back. They decided to save the scroll for on their way out in case they needed it.

    They didn’t. But they forgot to use it on the way out, until they were two days away from the island.

    “Should we turn around…?”

    “Nah. Fuck ’em.”

    Comedy Gold, that.

  3. Anonymous says:

    A good review of the Sea Wyvern’s Wake. You might extend the “slaad infested false priest” encounter by making use of ideas in a previous Dungeon adventure. (Stage Fright in #77, if memory serves.) The NPC descriptions in this adventure seem very bloated.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Part 1: The letters in this issue are interesting, highlighting how player perceptions have changed from the TSR era to 3.5. Jeff is indignant that some adventures challenge players rather than characters. Joshua considers any restriction on use of PC abilities as adversarial DMing. More sensibly, another (?) Jeff criticises the zero to hero passage of a 16 year old nobody to 17 year old 20th level fighter during an Adventure Path. The editor counters with the progression of the hobbits in Lord of the Rings, although I would suggest they had a lot of high level help, and didn’t start at level 1.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Part 2: The question of how justified it is to nerf PC abilities is an interesting one. There doesn’t seem to be much reason for the teleport ban in the Drow series D1-3 except to stop the PCs missing out lots of encounters; on the other hand it is entirely reasonable spells don’t work the same way in the abyss, or not at all, in Q1. I think intelligent monsters/adversaries should be allowed to make countermoves against obvious strategies, especially if they have access to limited wishes etc. If the PCs cast negative plane protection before their dinner engagement at Castle Dracula, that seems sensible play rather than unfairly curtailing the Count’s menu. Any high level wizard who fails to protect their tower against scrying and passwalls is a few spells short of a grimoire.

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