Bone Mountain

This is a PDF-only module that centers around a mountain full of gold nuggets and bones. It strongly invokes a homebrew environment, in a good way, and has many strange & new encounters. There’s a sense of whimsy and weirdness, but not in the dark way.

Rumors abound. Somewhere out in the wilderness is a mountain covered in gold. Literally covered. The mountainside is littered with gold nuggets so thick you can’t walk without kicking one. Then the party comes upon a map to a certain mountain …

Oh yeah, and the mountain is covered with bones also. Oh, and it’s essentially alive. And it animates the bones when people leave the paths, like, in order to collect gold nuggets. This place is INSANE and I LOVE it!!

This is a short 10-page adventure that focuses on one location: Bone Mountain. The mountain is a kind of animal/creature graveyard and spiritual repository. As a side effect, it causes gold nuggets to work their way to the surface. The mountain protects itself though, primarily by animating the bones when folks leave the mountain paths. There’s a small hook (you find a map) and a short little 6-entry rumor table. The rumor table is a pretty good one even though it’s short; it’s homey and has an air of … authenticity? to it. The journey to the mountain is really just an advice section (locate it three weeks away from civilization) and a small wandering monster table with six entires. The table is really just a tack-on; the focus of the adventure is Bone Mountain. You should probably use whatever else you have; the bugbears, ogres, spiders and hill giants are not going to be very interesting.

The mountain proper has several trails leading up on it, and nine fixed locations. Before getting to this this there is a short section on the mountain itself. There are rules for slower movement moving up the steep paths, and returning back down them, which amount to 50% travel rate. There is also a set of special rules dealing with priestly powers on the mountain. As a home to the spirits of the departed animals it seems priests have several issues. Protection from Good/Evil don’t work, turning happens three levels lower, no fly, levitate, etc. Essentially, nothing to let the players skip over the dangerous parts of the adventure and a quick refresher on the special rules surrounding skeletons. There’s also a section on how the mountain can drive the players insane … a certain % change each day, along with nightmares they’ll have on the mountain. The environment here is quite challenging. I usually complain about this in modules, however for some reason I don’t feel it’s as big an issue in this adventure. Perhaps because the skeletons are so integral to the adventure AND it doesn’t smack of a magical economy?

Finally, there’s a section on what to do and what happens when someone leaves the trails. This is in two parts. First, how much gold do they find. Essentially each 120’x120′ square (of which there are about a 1000) has 2d12*12 nuggets in it. That’s a lot! I hope you know your encumbrance rules … Second, each square will develop 3-12 skeletons in it, ranging from 2-7 HD, in a slightly random creature layout. The encumbrance, insanity, and skeletons, which reform, are the basic mechanisms for limiting the amount of loot nuggets the party can claim. Even then … I’m not betting on the mountain. A PC party can be pretty resourceful …

There are nine fixed locations on the mountain. These range from unusual bones to water features. They almost all have the sense of wonder, Weird and whimsy that I’m looking for. Water that does things when you drink it. Giant skulls with strange effects, and almost non monsters at all from the monster manual. There’s a cockatrice and a chimera however everything else is a strange new & unique creation of the author. I love it! New creatures can freak out players, especially when encountered in a place that’s already full of ‘Get your freak on’ strangeness. I love to see people running away and trying to sneak back because they don’t know what a monster will do. THAT’S old school!

This evokes memories for me of the the sense of wonder I had when first playing D&D. Everything is new, unique, and terribly interesting. The party will have no idea how the world works, and won’t know yet that chandeliers fall on people and bookcases have secret doors behind them. That’s the kind of new, interesting, and evocative environment I’m looking for, and this product delivers. There are some problems, most importantly, how to deal with the potential for the explosive amount of wealth. The insanity, skeletons, and encumbrance (3 weeks from civilization) should help, but the DM is going to have to think long & hard prior to running this one. I’m sure it can be done, but you have to prepared for a major game changer.

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One Response to Bone Mountain

  1. Caderly says:

    Great review.

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