Pyramid of the Lost King

By Johua De Santo
Genius Loci games
Levels 1-5

Millions of year ago the lands of Usarm were devastated by a great Cataclysm in the final days of the war between the Gods of Usa’arm and the demonish threat of the N’zi. In the wake of a final assault by the Usa’arm the very fabric of reality was torn asunder flooding the world with arcane energies and rips that sundered other worlds and realities … and in the process sank Usarm into the dark depths of ruin. Now, Usarm is home to races and monsters dragged through those rips; refugees who now call a world ravaged by magic home. Wars between some races is common, and a dark threat rises in the North and another in the far south. A south that until now was left unexplored by the peoples of Usarm. Intrigued by the prospect of riches the Merchants Guilds of Newrk stretch their arms and money into the great southern desert of the Saragubi hoping to find new peoples and new cultures to trade with and to grow more wealthy by.

This 107 page adventure describes a desert/wasteland region with several small and a couple of larger adventures. Resembling more of a regional adventure module, such as Shadow of the Demon Wolf, it provides a base city and several adventures to pick up throughout the wasteland, including the titular Lost Pyramid. The expanded scope is good to see, and the adventure has a good mix of roleplaying, tricks, traps and fights. It gets long in places but it IS a pyramid adventure that doesn’t make me want to slit my own throat. That alone is a major accomplishment. Those with lesser standards would probably like it. I’ve tried to write this review this times and failed.

This is an EXPANSIVE adventure. It does a great job describing an intriguing small region. A great desert, divided in to two parts. The upper portion has a home base, a great chasm rift, and is generally less mysterious. The lower portion is separated by a great shield wall with a long pass in it and contains the mysteries of the dep desert/wasteland. In fact, I get more of a Badlands vibe than I do Sahara vibe … which is a joy because I don’t think I could stomach another bad desert pyramid adventure. Gus L did an adventure called Along the Road of Tombs and my ancient memory wants to draw parallels to the vibe that offered. A lot of adventures are quite small, a single small dungeon being the proto-example, maybe with a small wilderness like B2. Then on the other end of the spectrum is the megadungeon/adventure, large and in charge. Regional adventures seems few and far between. Sure, there are a lot that CLAIM to be that, but having a lot of places for the characters to go and reasons for them to go seem few and far between. Something that lets the characters breathe and fill their lungs for many sessions. Demon Wolf comes to mind.

The region, with the interesting terrain of the two halves separated by a shield wall (ATOMICS!), a great chasm, a long outpost, fallen monoliths, etc, is supported by an interesting mythology and features dotted throughout the landscape that refer back to it. And then each of the little places, supplemented by four or so medium to major locations. And then each of these places tends to have some little adventure associated with it that you can pick up at the base.

For the most part is the usual design that you would expect from an old school product. Some roleplaying available with some monsters, like gnoll hunters, and some factions … which are generally evil humans. The Save or Die mechanic is present in a few places … unwarranted at this level I think, because of the arbitrary nature of some of them. One of the random wanderers is a giant sandworm that pops up. Save or Die for someone to be swallowed whole in round one, and in round two it disappears back under the sand to not be seen again. I prefer my arbitrary save or die stuff at higher levels, at lower levels I prefer situation where they miss the clues or do something stupid.

I could take exception with other things. A puzzle door that a thief or knock spell can’t open … that smacks of gimping the players, especially at these low levels, You learn knock so you don’t have to put up the DMs bullshit … at the expense of your fireball. It’s a resource management tradeoff. The wanderers are also a bit wonky. They ARE doing things, which is great, but … there’s alike a 50% chance each day of hitting one, and there are only eleven (thats in one section, other sections have similar issues.) The frequency combined with the variety seems a little off to me. “Oh, look, another buried chest.”

There are the usual usability issues. Long-ish read-alouds that are not particularly evocative but are trying too hard to be, combined with long DM text. Evocative examples of writing include rooms that are long and large. These are boring words. Monolithic, cavernous, massive … take advantage of the language to find more evocative and descriptive words. You’re trying to conjure an image in the DM’s head when they read it. After an ok town description … a bit long for how generic it is but not massively so, it has a long section on NPC personalities that repeats the one or two essentially info from their businesses and supplements it with paragraphs more nonsense background. It doesn’t matter if he has a twin if it plays no part in the adventure or doesn’t impact the roleplay substantially. “Talks to his imaginary twin”, on the otherhand, is something to hang your hat on.

I don’t hate this, and in fact I’m intrigued by it. But I’m not going to slog through the text to run it. The imagery needs pumped up while the word count is halved. Invoke the DM’s imagination.

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages and hows you NOTHING of the writing. Bad designer! Bad! No cheeseburger for you!

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