Spire of the Kobolds

By Megan Irving
Aegis Studios
O&O / BX
Levels 1-2

The Untamed Gauntlet has many mysteries. The Spire is one of them: a huge tower of gleaming rock pointing towards the heavens, with a winding dungeon carved beneath it. Currently, a clan of Kobolds have found it empty (or empty-ish), and are using it as their base. Fearful of invaders, they have thoroughly trapped the upper levels, hiding their best treasures at the very bottom. The party has been issued a writ of salvage for a simple task in the Gauntlet (perhaps a location or goal detailed in another Odysseys & Overlords adventure module.) On the way to their destination, the adventurers see movement near the Spire. They know that monsters periodically move into the Spire, and might have treasures worth pursuing.

This nine page adventure details a small eleven room dungeon on about 2.5 pages. A pretty straightforward hack on a small map with little exploration, it’s just a few kobolds in a hole. It’s focus is on dry descriptions rather than evocative environments, and goes through contortions to use a map without any modifications. Weird. Not egregiously bad, but not good either.

The spire is huge tower of gleaming rock pointing upwards towards the heavens. On the way somewhere else the party sees movement near it. They know that monsters sometimes move in to it and might have treasure. This is, just about word for word, the introduction to the exterior description of the Spire and the inciting event. There are not any more words than this to describe the outside environment, spire exterior, or the moving monsters. The only other words are a stat block of a kobold hunting party and how they react to being avoided or fought.

I’m a big fan of FOCUS but abstraction has to be of the appropriate level and it’s not in this opening salvo. Either it’s three paragraphs of generic information that’s not needed or you need to change a few words and give us a little more concrete under our DM feet. The pieces are too far removed from each other to put together. Dyson (it’s a Dyson map) has a nice little rendering of the spire next to the map that, taken together, provides a little more inspiration. It’s still lacking though. It’s the designers job to add that little bit of inspirations and it’s not there in either the spire or “the movement.”

Room one is an “imposing hall” with “arcane carvings.” Again, a level of abstraction. Telling us the conclusions that we would draw from a more concrete description. Not a longer one, but a more concrete/evocative one. Imagine if different words were chosen to describe the hall and the carvings. Ideally they get the willies as they come to THEIR conclusion that it’s an imposing hall and the carvings are arcane. The adventure does this sort of thing over and over again, avoiding the concrete and instead relying on conclusions and abstractions. A room with “mostly junk” is not the value add I’m looking for in an adventure.

Other room elements are missing. The kobold king wears a dented crown, never mentioned again. Those arcane carvings get nothing more noted about them. Throw aways not impacting the adventure. You can do this, a little, but in such a small adventure I would expect more interactivity and follow up of individual elements called out by name.

The map, a Dyson one, is small and I’m not a particular fan of those. OSR games tend to work best in exploratory environments rather than Lair environments. You need room to breathe, in my experience. Accepting that, though, the map itself is treated a little too holy. I’m guessing it came pre-keyed and the designer want to expand a bit on sections not keyed. Rather than put additional numbers on the map, or features like tripwires and oil pools, they instead rey on the text. There’s a fair bit of text between the description of room one and room two, one describing some storerooms and another a ramp leading from rooms one to two. This seems a tortuous workaround to the problem of just putting  notes 1b and 1c on a map. I’m pretty sure Dyson don’t care, from his website language, and it these notes, tripwires, oil pools, etc would go long way to both overloading the map with useful information and removing some of it from the text. This allows the text to focus more the actual adventure instead of describing where the tripwire is in the room, or where the oil pool is.

On the nitpicky side, lots of tripwires and lots of traps, all of which get almost the exact same description. Spotted with remove traps, etc. Pulling this out to a general section in front of the keys would make the individual descriptions shorter, allowing more focus on the actual room and easier scanning during play.

This appears to be for a game/setting called Odysseys & Overlords, which appears to just be B/X or a derivative. There’s almost no real treasure in this, but for a magic sword, which makes it suspect as a Gold=XP game … if indeed it is one.

It’s not a terrible thing, but it’s not a good thing either. And the level of abstraction pushes it to the bad side of line. One of the best descriptions is of the first ramp: “A long stone ramp leads down into the darkness at a steep angle. Strange skittering and echoing noises can be heard from below. There are torches on the walls, but they aren’t lit.” Downward at a steep angle in to the darkness, skittering echoing noises. Those are the sorts of descriptions I can get behind. It paints, in just a few words, a visceral picture, a feeling.

This is $1 at DriveThru. There is no preview. Boo! Boo I saw sir! Boo! Show us what were buying before we buy it!


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6 Responses to Spire of the Kobolds

  1. Matthew Ruane says:

    I believe that Odysseys & Overlords is a variant for Basic Fantasy RPG.
    This is a where I came across that tidbit:

  2. Dave says:

    “…a huge tower of gleaming rock pointing towards the heavens, with a winding dungeon carved beneath it.”

    So the spire is just a landmark, and the actual dungeon is underground beneath it? That’s a missed opportunity. Underground dungeons I can do myself or get for the asking (several random generators online or unkeyed off Dyson’s own site), but a spire dungeon with platforms open to the sky and the vertical connections figured out would actually bring something rare to the hobby.

    Speaking of which, can I ask that our host review Spire by Simon Forster? I know the title page calls itself “a system-neutral fantasy setting”, but that seems to be mainly because it has a town and three specific cults in it. It’s mainly centered around the eponymous dungeon/Spire. It is long, but that’s more to do with the size of the dungeon than padding.

  3. Reason says:

    mmm, “Hall so high your footsteps/voice echo” OR ” Hall reaching further & higher than a man can throw a spear…”,
    “Carvings of primitive lines & shapes which almost but never quite actually quite seem to form together into a proper, geometric pattern…”. It’s a few words but it could change the mood & effect.

    But yeah, if the thing is called a Spire, I want some height & going upwards & falling, climbing or flyers & whatnot.

    Sounds like maybe a hex filler but if I’m looking for variety & product as described i want something else from a “spire”.

  4. squeen says:

    I can’t parse what is going on on the cover…but something is ON FIRE!

  5. Hi, I’m the author of this module! thank you for reading & reviewing it, I appreciate your comments.

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