This is a Castles & Crusades adventure although it can easily be used with any pre-4E version of D&D.
This is an evil tower complex with an associated cave complex underneath. It does a fairly good job of recreating a sparsely populated evil tower, and has several trick/trap areas and a couple of nice weird elements. There’s a time limit associated with the adventure.
Do you recall the chapter/scene in The Return of the King where the hosts of Mordor empty the lands and pour out of the Black Gates to confront the armies of the west, the noble king, and the resplendent Gandalf the White? Do you know what my players would do when that happened? “Dude! No one is left to guard the treasure in the Black Tower! Let’s loot it!”
The fortress presented here was once a minor waypoint for a mighty evil empire. When the Dread Lord fell his minions were scattered. The current ruler of the tower has one claim to fame: When the Dark Lord fell he was still alive. He’s moved in to the tower and is gathering other forces to him. He intends to gather a great army and force his way south, reconquering the lands and paving the way for the Dread Lords return. Go Team Evil! As the party approaches the tower they notice a huge force of evil humanoids, a thousand at least, pouring out of the gates, emptying the tower and it’s grounds. It’s STRONGLY suggested that the party overhear a couple of the remaining guards mention something about the army coming back in 48 hours. “I’d like to do an appraise check on the master Palantir. How much?”
There’s a small wilderness adventure to get to the fortress. It’s quite heavy on humanoids, however this was the marshaling area for the dark lords troops. he encounters do have a little blurb associated with each one. They are not overly interesting however the effort is appreciated. For example, there’s a random number of goblins who can show up, however they only attack if they outnumber the party at least 3 to 1. There’s also a special encounter or two, like … The Flesh Pits. Oooo, that just sounds bad ass doesn’t it? Wandering hordes of flesh golems who kill things and dump the bodies in the pits they were created in. That’s pretty cool. There’s really not much to the encounter beyond that, although there is a great deal of text. That’s a good description for the entire adventure: interesting tidbits wrapped in a lot of text.
The maps for the tower complex remind me a lot of Dark Tower, by Judges Guild. I’m not sure why … maybe because the tower complex in this module is composed of multiple towers with internal connections between the the towers, with multiple stairs up and down. That’s really the only similarity, there are no ‘external dungeons’ like there are in Dark Tower. The maps also remind me a lot of those MERP supplements, Cirith Ungol or Camath Brin from Trollshaws. There are about 36 encounters in the towers and about eight more in the caverns underneath.
These towers have a lot more going on than those MERP supplements. Great flocks of ravens fly around. Giant bird statues do freaky things to PC’s who mess with them, and the souls of the dead all talking at once and driving players mad. Weird blood ink/ooze. There’s a lot of freaky stuff in this module and I. Love It. The tower is only sparsely populated, unlike many of the previous modules. I suspect this is primarily because of the limited time: with only 48 hours available the party is going to have to move it, and large numbers of creatures in the towers are not going to allow that. There’s a nice selection of freaky magic items present as well, and quite a bit of treasure for parties who can cart it off in 48 hours. Most of the encounters will deal with evil humanoids of one type or another, with not too many being powerful. The bad guy is just a wizard of sixth level. He’s got some hefty magic items, but if the party find him without his orken guard then he’s probably going to go down fast. I believe “Kill the MU first, and fast.” is a universal piece of wisdom.
It’s an evil tower, full of evil humanoids. That’s not a recipe I generally fond on. The weird components, tricks, and freaky stuff, combined with the timed element, really work together. I suspect that the PC’s will talk for a long time to come about that tower with the freaky stuff they looted, just before the army returned.
This is available on DriveThru.