The Hyqueous Vaults

By [Various]
Level 3

A centuries-old map leads to a mysterious cliffside complex, rumored to be flooded, and supposedly holding a dead necromancer’s fortune. Sages believe the arm-length metal implement accompanying the map must be some sort of key. The complex stands ripe for exploration by a party sufficiently strong and sneaky to wrest any treasures from the depths within.

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words—
Fullerton, Dettmann, Grohe, Johnson, Riedel, Zisch, Redmond
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good DM teach his players;

This is a 20 page adventure detailing a one level 67 room dungeon, and old necromancer’s lair. A group effort to celebrate the 10th anniversary of OSRIC, it has no faults.

This thing doesn’t fuck around with backstory or introductions or other padding that doesn’t’ contribute to the adventure. You get one paragraph of background and one to start the party: you found a treasure map wrapped around a metal rod. Sages point you to a wilderness location. GO! More than enough for a one shot. More than enough to integrate in to an ongoing campaign. Magnificent in both its brevity and usefulness. And wanderers! Broken up by sections of the dungeon, the table is short, efficient, and a great example of incorporating action in to the encounter. Goblins nervously fishing or on an errand for [NPC.] Shadows lurking to ambush the rearmost member of a group. Trogs searching for an escape path. This is not a mindless and boring table copied from the DMG but abstracted encounters in their own right. Just enough detail to get the DMs head working without boring them or making it hard to grasp the encounter immediately. They are perfect.

Speaking of perfection, let me talk about the map. The dungeon features a river” flowing through it. It has multiple entrances. It makes great use of color. It has little annotations on it to help their DM understand what is going on. There are a lot of “same level: terrain changes, like same level stairs, ledges, rises, and so on. It’s got loops to allow ambushes and ambushing. There is enough conventional cartography present to make the map immediately accessible to a DM and yet it does not let itself be bound to a corner by being forced to follow convention mindlessly. It presents a GREAT adventuring environment (loops, terrain, features) while still understanding that its purpose is to be an aid for the DM. I fucking love it,.

Speaking of loops and ambushes … Room three has some bodies in it. Room four has some eel-men, prepared to ambush a group. And they can run through room 3, or a nearby hallway, to get behind the party. A dynamic fucking environment in a dungeon?!?!?! Holy Cow, these people must understand dungeons! It’s one of the reasons for loops and why they can help make play interesting.

That one little section has so much representative of good design. A hint in room 3 that bad shit is nearby, in the form of the bodies/previous ambush site. Other areas of the dungeon have deep scar marks on the floor (oh shit! I wonder what’s nearby!) and other hints that something is nearby. It both builds tension and provides hints for the with-it player. The dungeon does this to great effect over and over again.

Oh, and eel-men, you got that right? Eel-man is a GREAT monster name. It is both magnificently descriptive and magnificently vague at the same time. Enough description to get your juices. your mind races to fill in the details. Koa-toa? What the hell is that? FIsh man? Meh, a little vague. Trout-man.” Perfect! I know what they look like! And yet there’s enough vaugery to allow me to fill in their culture and specifics. I fucking love it.

Room 1’s, the outdoor entrance, has a name of “Clearing.” It says “animal prints near the creeks edge. Two long-unused fire rings.” That’s it. That’s the description. The first two sentences. I know it’s a clearing, I know what’s there. It’s perfect. There a couple of short offset sections (offset with paragraph breaks/whitespace) that describe what you find if you search. IE: more information. It’s a great format. It communicates immediate information to the DM and then expands upon it … but in a terse and easily understood manner. It’s easy to scan. “Ruined Bedchamber” is another room title. You know immediately what it looks like just from that. The description tells us it has a smashed open door, broken 4-poster bed, musty clothes. PERFECT.

I haven’t even touched on the actual fucking content of this thing yet. Great tricks, traps and encounters. Not the arbitrary bullshit of other dungeons but well thought out encounters that are still easy to understand and run. Doorways/archways that do things … but, I will cover one in particular.

There’s a giant troll in the dungeon. He’s a fucking asshole, extorting people, including, almost certainly, the PC’s. I don’t know where to start with him. He’s presented as an NPC, so you can talk to him. That’s almost always a great idea. You can always resort to stabbing someone, but by adding a social element the encounter becomes so much richer. There’s also this aspect to motivating the PLAYER instead of the character. An asshole monster extorting the party should do that, in spades. The PLAYERS will fucking HATE the guy, and from that great D&D moments are born. I’m in LUV.

Offsets and white space are used to great effect. There’s a monster reference sheet, with all stats on it. I could go on and on. IF I had a complaint it would be that some of the (ahalanhum) rooms at the end get a little longer. But “every room isn’t perfect” is a pretty petty thing to bitch about.

This is free at Lulu.

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14 Responses to The Hyqueous Vaults

  1. Darnizhaan says:

    Free and good! Now that’s an adventure.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Some of the authors’ names sound familiar to me – Allan Grohe, Guy Fullerton. Fullerton published Many Gates of the Gann, among other things, also rated highly on your site. And this is for free? Wow. I’ve just downloaded it and the map does indeed look great: Classic, but with plenty of twists and useful annotations. So thanks to the generous and creative crew behind this and to Bryce for bringing it to my attention!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oh this sounds great! Thanks for the tip.

  4. Jeff says:

    I was sold after the first two paragraphs, and then it turns out to be free!

  5. Bryce, thanks for taking the time to read & review! I thought of you while finishing up the wandering monster table 😉
    An at-cost print version is in the works, hopefully later this month. Details will be here:

  6. Allan Grohe says:

    Thanks for the review, Bryce. Guy did a masterful job managing the project and editing the text into its final form!


  7. Anonymous says:

    Can’t wait to run it, and I already have it prepared for my group. K&K’s got the real deal.

  8. Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

    The free adventures seem to be much better than the ones for sale… funny economic model that.

  9. Edgewise says:

    Picked it up…it really is a great adventure.

    As for the economics, the market for content is flooded across the board, and even the growing
    demand for tabletop RPG material can’t keep up. Very hard to earn a living writing OSR adventures.

  10. I picked it up; I like it very much. However, it’s not scaled for 3rd level 1st Edition (or Simaculara) PCs. There is an 8 HD vodyanoi, an 8 HD proto-pudding, a giant troll, several wights, a sphinx, etc.

  11. Steve Queen says:

    Great adventure. Thanks for the review—all of them actually. Don’t forget to put this one on your “favorites” page.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Yes, it’s not for level 3, as indicated at the top here, but rather level 6-8. Appart from that, great review! And a great adventure as well.

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