Many generations ago the land that is now the Blackened Fen was actually the thriving and warlike city-state of Shyyth. Populated by a race of evil humans knows as Annelids, Shyyth was a religious center of dark renown where the Annelids held sacrifice to their vile god Hirudinea …
This is a mostly linear adventure that has been converted from a 3rd edition format. It has a cool monster, the Leech-men, and not enough loot.
Remember the old “Top 100 Things I’ll do if I ever Become an Evil Overlord” list? It seems that D&D has the opposite problem; it’s the good rulers that are always making the silly mistakes. Put a watch on the evil ruined tower. Stamp out the thieves guild. Drain the swamps and turn them in to farmland. In this module the local ruler hits the daily double: the thieves guild is waylaying people and sending them to the once-destoryed-but-now-being-repaired evil temple in the swamp. Yes, and evil swamp cult trying to bring back their god. EVIL has a decidedly “I’m a joiner” bent in D&D.
Here’s the low-down: thieves guild is waylaying people and sending them off to the evil swamp temple by boat. Evil swamp temple is sacrificing them to bring their god/cult back. The module starts off with the party watching a local band of the towns finest shaking down some merchants, and then the party. As far as I can tell there is no reason for this encounter, except to maybe drop a potential hook. However there’s a hook already provided in encounter #2. Once the party reaches the town, of which no information is provided, they are jumped by the thieves guild. Note that this is 12th level party. The fighters no doubt have plate, the clerics are glowing with holy light, and the wizards probably have a permanent cold flame shield surrounding them. Of course that means the guild, looking for some easy coin, jumps them. This entire encounter is really just a way to convey that there are people being enslaved and taken to a river barge in port. The railroad then moves to the barge, with perhaps a short layover for a giant croc attack if the party doesn’t fly/teleport. The riverboat is … completely linear! Attack the guys on deck. Go down the stairs. Attack the guys below deck. Free the prisoners. Find a way over the pit of leeches. Open last door and kill mini-boss. There’s not much of a challenge here. The leech swarm in the pit and the 3 leech-men on the boat are pretty cool, but otherwise it’s just a linear little run with 2,000gp in loot. Oh, and the mini-boss will drink a portion of gaseous form and escape through the wooden sides of the ship. You know, the water-tight and/or leaking water planks since this portion of the ship is under-water. As a player I would call foul.
Part two involves taking the riverboat through the swaps to the cults hideout in the middle of the swamps. There are no random encounters or wandering tables. The DM is given two fixed encounters to include if they feel the party needs more challenge. The temple is about 40 miles in. Once the lizard men (encounter 1) and wights (encounter 2) are defeated then the party gets to assault the temple. It’s partially underwater and has about 15 rooms. Built as a kind of beaver dam, I really think an excellent dungeon opportunity was missed. There’s really one way between the main levels, although there are a couple of underwater entrances as well. This would have been a fine opportunity to create a really nice multilevel environment with lots of ways between the levels. Populated with leeches and leech-men it could have been pretty cool. Instead we get a couple of leech-men (3, to be precise), some 1HD guards and 2HD lizard men, a couple of scrags and two nagas. There’s a cool mud golem (with super-cool illustration!) and a giant leech/god to battle, but really the temple is a very boring place. If you’ve got cool monsters then you should use the crap out of them! Leech-men! Leech-men! There is a small order of battle provided, so if the temple goes on alert you know what order the party will slaughter the under-powered opponents.
There are some nifty ideas presented in this module. Things like the leech-men, the pit of leeches, and the beaver-dam temple. There’s also not NEARLY enough loot, a whole lot of under-powered monsters, and a very linear encounter path. A larger map with multiple ways between the levels, more evocative environments inside the beaver-dam, and more leech-men, leeches, leech-magic, and leech inspired magic items could have made this in to an adventure the players would remember for ages to come. Instead, it shows off the flaws in doing a conversion from d20. Linear. Not enough treasure (XP), and nothing really fun inside the temple to play with. Come on, an idol that turns the touchers mouth in a leech mouth! Or a bunch of leeches that fall from the ceiling as a trap! A giant leech on the floor like a trapper! Oozy blood that the leeches collect! There’s a missed opportunity here.
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