The Hidden Tomb of Nephabti

By Jeremy Reaban
Self Published
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 5-7

Aeons ago, the forces of Apophis defeated the great paladin of Isis, Nephabti, and imprisoned her in stasis in a hidden tomb, along with those that had failed Apophis. Somehow or another the PCs have stumbled across the tomb.

This seventeen page adventure features a small egyptian/pyramid dungeon with 23 rooms spread out over about seven pages. Jeremy’s dungeon are interactive, and terse enough that the words don’t get in the way of running them, but they also fall on to the minimalism side of the evocative spectrum.

Statis tombs are not favorite. It’s one of the old problems in dungeon design: why the fuck are the monsters there? And “they come out of stasis and attack” is one of the oldest solutions. “Kept prisoner here and now insane/angry/etc” is another one, and it shows up as well. It’s an attempt to make sense of the monsters in the dungeon and why they are there; I guess a nod to ecology. Neither really work well, IMO, when overused. More than about one a dungeon and I start to sigh. It feels like an easy out and when I’m using something by someone else I’m not looking for the easy out; that’s what MY adventures are for. There are multiple stasis fields in this dungeon, releasing monsters. It feels, I guess, too much like a DM declaring “now is the time you fight monsters.” Yeah, I know it’s a tomb and its hard to justify. 

Which is not to say that there’s nothing else going on here. There are mummies, murals coming to life, stasis fields, guardians held hostage and the like all present. They add a welcome variety. In particular, I’m sure the murals will quickly be defaced upon room entry. 🙂

Interactivity is good. For every swirling well monster there’s another one in which the well swirls are not a monster. Poke things, prod things, bend bars, lift gates, talk to NPC’s, and drink from the fountains. Mummies go up in flames, with their dust clouds and, as I mentioned before, just about anything that could animate DOES animate, in one room or another. It might tend a little to the monster/combat side of interactivity but its a far sight from from an endless hack.

Certain rooms are brilliant, with electric eels forming a kind of rat ring, their bodies wearing gold rings. When Jeremy is at his best that’s the kind of content and imagination you get. A Bench of Ramming to batter down doors. In other places there’s a kind of weariness. One room has nothing but a monster in it, with no other description, and the +2 weapon is found far more often than the Tub of Bathing.

There’s a minimalism to the writing that I can both appreciate and be uninterested in. Jeremy doesn’t mince words. He writes a description and then gets out.  Here’s a typical room description: “In each corner of the room is a sarcophagus. On the northern wall is a gong. On the southern wall lies a wooden chest.” Just the facts maam. That keeps the room descriptions minimal, thus mitigating any Ease of Use issues. Large Apes. Sinister Alters. Your feelings about this adventure are going to hinge on those three phrases. Is that a good room description? Are Large Apes and SInister Alters ok with you? I think “large” is a boring word and Mr Thesaurus could have come up with something better. Likewise, I think sinister is a conclusion.  And the room description lacks anything which could be considered evocative in its writing. A tarnished gong, moldy chest and gleaming copper is more what I’m looking for. It’s the value that I think a designer adds, or should, when they write and publish an adventure. It’s part of the value I’m looking for anyway. The marketplace is too crowded with options for less.

I might say, also, that most of the NPC’s and intelligent folk you meet along the way have few notes about their use. There’s generally a roleplay note or two (which are useful) but “where the real tomb” and “whats in that next room” are likely to be questions that the DM gets little to no guidance on. Hey froggy froggy, what do you know about the tomb? Alas, the world shall never know. Look, yeah, I can make it up. But then again, I’m paying, in time if not money,for someone else to help out with that.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $1.50. The preview is seventeen pages, showing you the entire adventure. Good on Jeremy. He’s a decent designer and he gets the scene.

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8 Responses to The Hidden Tomb of Nephabti

  1. Ron says:

    Wow, Jeremy is a pretty prolific LL writer. Even has 5 reviews from you Bryce! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this review, I’m definitely going to check this one out.
    Be well!

  2. Gnarley Bones says:

    I despise Dungeon Ecologies.

    PLAYER: “So has that nereid just been hanging out in that haunted fountain for centuries, waiting for PCs to enter?

    DM: Yes.

    PLAYER: … Well, OK, then.

    • BubbaDave says:

      I like dungeon ecologies because they give players more strategic options. Found the underground river where the Orcs get their water? We can poison it, besiege them, lurk there to ambush fetchers of water… If there’s a logic to the dungeon than players can react logically and make logical plans.

  3. PyroArrow says:

    I hope Jeremy, eventually gives his cool modules an upgrade via Kickstarter, with expanded content and original artwork!

  4. Reason says:

    Sounds useable, a quick margin note for each room with a few adjectives to use. Dice or another note to give some inhabitants 1 true fact & 1 hazy/almost right thing about the dungeon…

    For PWYW, that seems reasonable. Easier to add in like that (if its minor & it is only 23 rooms) than edit down I find.

  5. Knutz Deep says:

    Certainly sounds like it qualifies for a No Regerts, although we need another “Egyptian Tomb” module like we need a hole in the head

  6. Unco Lober says:

    A pretty damn nice little adventure that I might even use at my next game, but I’m not sure about the terseness, “minimalism”, “minimal descriptions” et al.

    Here’s a passage from room 5:
    “As the party approaches, they see the well has been filled with sand. Unsurprisingly, as they watch, the sand begins to undulate and swirl, then rise up, forming the shape of a beautiful woman. Surprisingly, it doesn’t attack, but appears to plead with the characters.”

    In my opinion, that’s not minimal. If we assume that “minimalism” is the goal, the passage should read something like this:
    “A well filled with sand. On approach the sand begins to undulate and swirl until it rises up, forming the shape of a beautiful woman. Doesn’t attack, but appears to plead.”
    Same amount of information, same level of (nominal) evocativeness, 2x fewer words.

    • Reason says:

      I guess it got a pass as minimal bloat. Maybe some rooms are better.

      Certainly I can scan those few sentences as they are & pick out the key words to frame my description. I wouldn’t even need to edit or highlight so I guess that’s why it’s a “neutral” on the Bryce scale between punchy/sticky/evocative + effecient *** middling ground *** over-written, assumption or conclusion based walls of not even evocative text/long + boring or confusing.

      “A mud-brick well, now filled with sand. It begins to swirl if characters approach, rising into a shapely woman’s form, undulating in supplication, pleading almost.” is my attempt. Only had to add 4 words; “mud-brick” for visuals; “shapely” as more interesting than beautiful (a conclusion); “supplication” as a less clunky signifier that adds tone & says that this creature was not attacking; “almost”just for tone, I’m guessing I want a sad, forgotten, hopeless tone in this pyramid.

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