Evil cults: You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them … because every time you stamp one out they go and leave some evil kind of evil temple complex behind. The evil order in question this time is the ancient toad cult of Nav-k-Qar. His now long-dead followers built a false temple on top of their real one and filled it with death traps to punish looters, as evil toad god cults are wont to do. The location of their long hidden main temple falls in to the hands of the party, after the discovering scholar is found dead covered in flies …
A small rumor table about the temple is provided for PC’s who want to find out more before playing tomb raider. The temple proper is located underground in a great and vast swamp, under a giant toad idol on a marshy island 1000 feet in diameter. A small wandering monster table is provided for the island, in case the party wishes to exit & rest between forays in to the temple. There are only about 5 entries and they focus on “monster kill” type of encounters, although there is a ‘special’ encounter provided with an NPC who could possibly provide some additional temple detail. It would have been nice to have a small overland section with a few more encounters detailed on the way to the toad temple, but such is life.
The temple complex is on two levels. The upper level is a small complex of branching hallways, each of which tends to dead-ends in to one or two rooms. There are a few interesting/spooky/weird details about the complex. First, the entire place is covered in toad bones, so much so that it will inhibit combat and give the party penalties to rapid movement. That’s a very nice descriptive touch! There are also a couple of features which give certain areas a weird fantasy feel. There’s a dungeon-wide theme of small illusions, dancing lights, spooky sounds, and so on meant to confuse the party and draw off resources. The DM is encouraged to sprinkle these liberally about the dungeon. That’s a nice idea however the examples cited are a little generic and non-specific to a toad temple complex. There are also a couple of other features, such as pool that generates a low-clining mist that causes hallucinations. I love that sort of thing and it brings to mind vivid imagery of doors opening and fog billowing out, and such. Unfortunately these are used only sparingly; I would have preferred to see much more of this. The traps are somewhere between generic & good, for example, a statue that vomits acid when someone opens a door. The monsters are hap-hazard at best. There are a couple of ‘cheap-shots’: living creatures held in stasis and freed when the party does something. Nothing special, just bugbears & ogres. A little more work could have gone in to replacing them with something else. There are a few undead encounters also, although a couple of them just feel tossed in without reason other than “Need another encounter.” The parties major challenge on this level is going to be recognizing the ‘false’ shrine and finding the stairs to level two without attritting too much.
The second level is essentially just a series of linear rooms, a trip through each of the seven shrines. Each shrine has a combat encounter or a trick/trap that must be ‘defeated’ in order to pass on to the next section. ‘Defeat’ two, then move to the next two shrines, Defeat two, move to the next two, and so on. Defeat is not defined, and it’s unclear to me if the monster encounters must be slain to be defeated. Actually, the implication is that the monsters must be slain and the traps triggered and survived, which is kind of lame. This is just a slogfest to find the last of the seven shrines, with a final battle with a toad statue and, hopefully, a treasure hoard. The shrines themselves are not very interesting: a booming voice and a detail or two. Overall I didn’t find the encounters here too evocative. There were a couple of exceptions, like some curtains, which I totally need to steal the idea for and use heavily in some other adventure. All of the weird fantasy momentum that was building on the first level seems to disappear on the second. It’s like two separate modules.
I felt things could have been improved upon by providing a wilderness travel aspect, including more weird fantasy elements, a bit more description of the traps rooms (for the players) and the more creative use of monsters and their selection. The maps are really not that interesting, and while the first levels does provide for a bit of an exploration it could be better, while the second level is just linear and a bit arbitrary in it’s encounters.
This is available on DriveThru.