A3 – The Wicked Cauldron

This is a Castles & Crusades adventure module, although it can easily be used with any pre-4E version of D&D.

This is a seven level fortress/dungeon set in a ziggurat. The entire place is populated by one army. There is a certain amount of interesting detail, however the writing is a little bland and verbose. A DM running will need to spend significant time prepping the module.

What we are presented with here is a very good example of a LE fortress. The forces of evil have an ancient ziggurat that they are conducting operations out of. From this regional base they send out spies, bribes, assassins, raiders, and generally scheme for the domination of the surrounding region. Leading this particular fortress is the Witch Queen (not related.) She’s running a working temple and bureaucratic base and trying to get a lot done. If the modules have been played in order then the players have a thrown a wrench in to some of her works in A2 and have followed up to find this base of evil. They have their work cut out for them.

The Ziggurat has seven levels and 78 keyed locations. That’s a lot of dungeon to epxlore. Since it’s a ziggurat, the levels get larger and larger and the characters descend in to the fortress. While the first level only has three rooms the final level has 25 or so locations. Despite many of the initial maps being small the level layouts are pretty nice. Most of the levels have alternate paths between locations, and each of the levels has multiple stairways up and down. There are many secret and concealed doors as well. I like this sort of map complexity because it allows for more player options. The party can decide to sneak around a different way, or even take the stairs down to the next level to come around the back way. It also allows for many more avenues of flight and for ambushes, something which should come up a lot in this module. There’s a nice wandering monster table provided for the wilderness that has some monster motivations ion it. This is just a word or two, but I like it when products do this. It helps bring the world to life. The ziggurat table is a little more boring, just a typical list with a couple of NPC’s thrown in.

The fortress has quite a few goblinoid servants, who are mostly cowardly, as well as lots of humanoid guards ranging from orcs through ogres to trolls. In addition there are a smattering of priests around, as well as the witch queen proper and a few of her guests and visitors. The party MAY have the opportunity to bluff their way in, however once combat starts things are going to get hairy. My reading of the module is that folks are packed in pretty tight and a combat is going to bring guards to investigate. That _should_ quickly lead to a coordinated response to the interlopers. This is probably the biggest fault of the product;with a large and organized band of opponents the DM could use some help. A brief chart or map entires noting nearby guards and their responses would be VERY helpful in running this. Without it the DM is going to need to spend some serious time making map notations and charts to help coordinate the inevitable response to the parties incursion. Hopefully the party is smart and runs easily; a group of 3rd and 4th levels characters are going to have trouble with a well-coordinted response from large numbers of multi-HD creatures. Remember all those alternate paths and stairs? They work for the monsters also …

The fortress is populated with an assortment of folk. A party bluffing their way in, it is a working temple after all, should get to interact with both guards and other humans and the like. While they generally do have some background motivations presented it does end up being mostly a moot point. They are all evil and no one is going to change their ways. At best they betray the party later to get in good with the boss lady. This lack of factions in the module is disappointing. With so many evil people running around you’d think SOMEONE wants to be in power besides the Witch Queen. They are all good little drones though, so no factions.

There’s a decent assortment of traps and strange new magic items presented. While the traps tend to be of the ‘trapped chest’ variety, he magic items are more interesting. Many of them are atypical. I’m looking at adventure modules because I’m an unimaginative git who needs help getting things going, so new magic items with unusual powers are exactly the sort of thing I’m looking for. In addition, many of the rooms have some unusual features. There’s a sad lack of “pools of water” or “trees with strange fruit” to experiment with, however this is an evil temple. That means a large assortment of “you feel strange ” rooms, rooms with negative modifiers, and strange idol type things. I generally like these sorts of things. In this case though, the writing is a little … bland. Maybe it’s because it’s also a bit verbose, but the entire module just feels a little flat to me, in terms of atmosphere. I wish I could be more explicit in my analysis but I don’t think I can be. The product just didn’t fire my imagination. The overall atmosphere of a LE humanoid base just wasn’t interesting and there were no strong weird elements or atmospheric elements to kick it up a bit.

This is available on DriveThru.


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One Response to A3 – The Wicked Cauldron

  1. RE: “A brief chart or map entries noting nearby guards and their responses would be VERY helpful in running this. ”

    Did you make one up that you are willing to share?

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