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.