By John Heffernan Island of Bees 5e Level 3
The adventurers are hired to enter into a catacomb to discover the treasures inside before a rival faction of thieves can get there first. Their employer, a goblin named Krillo, offers them all of the treasure that they find inside, and only asks to keep the relics and magic items. Can the heroes enter into Krillo’s Tomb and escape with their lives? There’s only one way to find out!
Yeah yeah, 5e on a Wednesday. My raging against the entropy is less successful than usual and I’m behind. I’ll do some OSR on Saturday.
I’m an open-minded person not an ossified old man. I’m an open-minded person not an ossified old man. I’m an open-minded person not an ossified old man.
This 34 page adventure has six “scenes” that compose the dungeon exploration. The core adventure is on about fourteen pages with the rest being pre-gens and a dwarven runic language treatise, as well as rules for a Stealth minigame. It’s not all together terrible for a newer game, but it is rather boring, with an emphasis on mechanics rather than en evocative environment. IF it were evocative then it would be a fairly normal 5e adventure. IE: straightforward.
Bob the goblin hires you, for 100gp, to go loot a tomb. He wants the magic and you keep the loot. Seems there’s a mercenary company of archeologists (!) on their way soon and he wants to loot the place before they arrive. He’ll give you 100 more gold if you do it non-violently! Yes, you have to stretch for the pretext. Yes, the nonviolence thing is fucking weird. Yes the tomb is strangely devoid of cash, you might get 300gp more in the tomb. For the sake of my own sanity I’m going to ignore all of that.
The scene thing is WEIRD. It’s like little set pieces. In scene one you are trying to sneak past the guards outside the tomb. There’s a little map with things to hide behind, and rules for sneaking and guards being on alert and spotting you. There are notes about the guards being helpful, and how they get annoyed and call for help. I’ve never played Metal Gear, but I suspect the designer has. This is straight out of “the stealth level’ in every video game every game that has one. It takes a page of text to describe the scene, ? to repeat the stealth rules in the appendix, ? to describe the general guard attitude, ? for the stat block, ? for the aftermath and seven sentences to describe where the seven guards are. Likewise for a mummy chase scene. It feels videogamey, with the blind mummy jumping from platform to platform and the party trying to be quiet. Not exactly a bad idea, but the focus on mechanics makes it feel like a videogame rather than a living breathing D&D adventure.
And it’s all written in this weirdly abstracted/generalized text style. “The north half of the left room has an altar in the center with an imprint of a laying dwarf carved in the center. Stone tables are covered with rolls of fresh bandages, and a series of empty clay jars. The roof is domed and covered with stone spikes that jet out.” Very fact based text. And that’s true of every encounter. In fact, A LOT of the encounters are like weird Grimtooth traps you’re trying to navigate, at least the Grimtooth “room” traps. Lots of elements and a convoluted mechanism.
Once of the scenes takes place between two other, when a door opens. While a big door opens a bunch of thieves come out from behind you and start blasting away at you. While the door opens. That’s the scene. Others are more like some weird Grimtooth room that you’re trying to navigate.
And then there’s the dwarf runes mini-game, with the party trying to decipher the runes in the tomb for clues. I’m not opposed to these sorts of things, in fact I think player puzzles can be fun. But this particular one seems more like the dwarven runic language being described and the party trying to figure out the entire thing. I could be wrong about this and it could be fine in AP.
As a Challenge Dungeon or tourney dungeon this might be ok. It’s hard to get past the focus on mechanics though. I wish it were more evocative. That might smooth over the mechanics and make it something to whip out for a D&D tourney.
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggest price of $3. The preview is eight pages long and a good one, showing you the first three scenes. This includes the “sneak past the guards” scene, a “dungeon exploring” scene, and the thief/elf-bandit attack scene. Elf bandits attacking. Thematically, modern D&D is missing something.