Temple of the Harpies

By Morten Greis
Aegis Studios
Levels 2-3

A small child has been stolen from their parents, and the adventurers must find their way to the temple not just to gain riches and uncover secrets of the past, but also to save the child. During the exploration of the ruin, the characters may unleash an army of undead, whom they must contend with.

This fourteen page adventure describes a ruined midwife temple with twelve rooms in about six pages. Decently organized, evocative writing, interactive … it manages it all before throwing in a bunch of room history to muddy things up. This needed a hard edit and it didn’t get it. Still, it’s ok.

There’s this concept of unique monsters that is not usually touched upon. You’re not fighting A troll, you’re fighting THE troll. It elevates the monster back to mythic status. This adventure has a bit of that going on … you’re fighting the first harpy. In the place where was cursed to be one: the temple to a midwife of which she was in charge. And she now steals babies to turn them in to harpies. That’s a fucking story. It makes sense, and when things makes sense you can build on them. It’s not followed through on much; there’s a village nearby that knows there’s a harpy there, so the whole mythic angle kind of falls off … but still, harpy stealing babies is great.

The adventure pays attention to things the DM needs to know. The entry for “outside the temple” has a little section on what the party finds out if they scope out the ruins for awhile. Perfect! That’s something parties do and the adventure gives you some advice on what they see. Two sentences. It also notes obvious ruins entrances. Again, perfect; that’s the question people ask and the adventure helps the DM answer it. This sort of thing continues in the adventure. One room has notes about attracting the attention of creatures in the next room, with notes about how they react. It’s got a cross-reference to point the DM at the relevant section. 

It’s not that adventures need a “view from outside the ruins” or notes on what the party sees if they stake the place out, or notes on reactions of nearby creatures. Not per se. What’s notable is that IN THESE SITUATIONS IN THIS ADVENTURE the DM could use some extra guidance/help and the designer recognized this and provided it. Yeah, these specific examples are going to fit a lot of adventures, but the general rule is the important one, not the specific one. The creatures that you could conceivable talk to, by parlay or torture, have a little sentence or two on what they know. Again, just what the haggard DM ordered. 

Interactivity is good. Exploring, talking to ghosts, interrogating kobolds. And even, potentially, bargaining with the harpy for the most recently kidnapped baby. Secret doors need things to be opened. A room causes you to cry tears of holy water. You can swamp a statue baby for a real one. For only twelve rooms it’s pretty good.

And the writing it pretty decent also. Leaves blown in to the corners of rooms. A stench of wet dirt. Low mists with gravestones peeking out. “None of the skeletons have any skulls.” It’s primarily from the read-aloud, which is kept short. It feels a little forced at times but I’m going to attribute that to perhaps some second-language issues. (And to be clear, the english here is excellent, perhaps just missing some of the nuance that a REALLY talented writer could bring.) 

The read-aloud generally refers to things in the DM’s text. The DM’s text has paragraph breaks with holding to draw the eye to the appropriate section “The Items on the floor” section has the details on … the items seen on the floor from the read-aloud. The writing does tend to be a bit long but the combination of the read-aloud referring to the bolded section that follow, with the use of whitespace makes it all pretty easy to find what you need in a hurry. 

This is an O&O adventure, which I THINK is based off of B/X. If it’s gold=xp then the gold is a quite light.

I mentioned that the writing can be long. THis is generally because of the rooms history. “Originally this room was a blah blah blah” says the paragraph that drones on for four sentences. I don’t care why the roof is destroyed, be it time or siege. I don’t care that visitors nevers went to this room, only midwives. This doesn’t matter to the adventure. Or, rather, I only care about those details in as much as they relate to the party exploring. Crumbling roofs are great. How they got that way is useless trivia that gets in the way of quickly scanning the text to find what you need to run the room. Unless, of course, it has some bearing on the adventure. Some DIRECT bearing on the adventure. Not a “might be nice” detail. Not a “depth and richness for the DM.” There’s a place for that, but not two cousins removed. 

Decent adventure which would be made better by the delete key. I don’t see an editor listed, but, that probably wouldn’t have made a difference anyway, so oh well.

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is only three pages. The last page shows you the “outside” text and the beginning of the first room. The read-aloud is not the bets in the adventure (it’s one of the poorer examples), but the DM text and attention section are good examples of what’s to be found deeper in. Another page of “real” text would have been appreciated.


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12 Responses to Temple of the Harpies

  1. Slick says:

    Is that supposed to be a skeletal brasier or is she cupping her breasts? That’s the only background info I want explained.

  2. Lord Mark says:

    Hello, being a real, actual, factual, vampire may be within reach – and at a modest proce, but even such a life changing transformation isn’t a cure for boorishness.

    This adventure apparently has problems, common, oft-repeated ones – not unlike tenfootpole.org’s community of YDIS rejects. The reviews remain honest and are undoubtedly a thankless task, that only someone with eternal, perhaps vampiric, patience would undertake – but the community here is utterly undeserving of these efforts.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Kent’s a vampire now?

  4. ericscheid says:

    If the roof is crumbling, and the players ask “why?”, as a DM I don’t want to either a) say “dunno, whatevs”, or b) stammer and stumble as I try to concoct a reasonable response. I actually prefer a cheap throwaway background reason.

    That said, if it really doesn’t matter (i.e. no mechanics attached), the background/history reason can be as simple as “(destroyed in a siege, 25 years ago)”. I don’t need 4 sentences.

    The brevity is also a clear signal to me, the running DM, that the reason isn’t important (mechanics wise). That way when I do come to a room that has 4 sentences providing background/history, I could infer (by the length) that information is important and to scan ahead for relevant mechanics.

    Not sure where I first saw it, but some adventures will bold various terms in the read-aloud, and then those terms are used as headings in the DM-eyes-only text that follows. Just gotta remember not to *emphasise* those terms when doing the read-aloud.

    • Tim says:

      Do you really need to answer why? How would the characters ever learn that information?

      • ericscheid says:

        The “why?” is shorthand for “I examine the current environment for [possible hazards, or evidence of recent activity, (etc etc)]”

        The DM only has to respond with what the PCs can discern.

        If the roof is crumbling because there’s a great stonking catapult boulder in the wreckage, then they can likely rule out it being a carefully constructed trap. If the roof is crumbling simply due to the passage of aeons of time, then they know not to trust other structures that decay with time. If the roof is crumbling because some (likely) intelligent creatures types stole away useful building materials .. then conclusions can be drawn about possible upcoming dangers. And so on.

        Their conclusions can be entirely wrong, of course. (Especially if the dungeon is old school “funhouse populated with random rolls”).

        • Slick says:

          Giving the clue of the massive catapult boulder, or some creaking support beams, etc. should be all the players need to infer that “It was hit by a catapult” or “It’s old and brittle”. Why the hell would they need to know (or more importantly CARE) what the name of the battle was, or which army general authorized lobbing the boulder?

          • Knutz Deep says:

            Exactly! It’s useless filler. The author should include those details in their novel, not in an adventure module

          • ericscheid says:

            Pretty much so. There is a spectrum of information depth, from scant to deep, and it should mostly be just what would be apparent to the PCs.

            The only time that extra background is useful is when the DM specifically (i,e, not the players) needs to know so the DM is able to properly infer and consequently improv accurately. If the DM improvs a bit of scenery description which happens to *not* integrate with some actual scenery description (in say, the next room), then actual play gets disrupted and weird.

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