By Nickolas Z. Brown Five Cataclysms OSR Games/Five Cataclysms "High Level" ... and he means it
A powerful Wizard named Timothy the Wise has cloned himself a hundred times, and all of the clones have run amok, eager to differentiate themselves from the original Tim; they need to be special unique individuals. This has led to absolute chaos in the Wizard’s infinite tower, but that’s quite alright. Timothy just needs you to crush their skulls and retrieve the soul marbles he planted in them. For reasons.
This 126 page adventure features one hundred rooms of a funhouse dungeon. Very high level, no gimping, decently organized, fanciful without going over the line inBob Barker dungeon farce but blows away any hint of a pretentious campaign. Focused on situations a combat, but that’s the mission. A great work, but fuck me if I know how to use it.
Let’s use Blue Medusa as a baseline for this adventure. Blue medusa presented a wide variety of rooms, each with something interesting in them. A person, a situation, something. There were some loose connections between things. It pushed the boundaries of logic but nothing went too far overboard. It you were running a serious campaign then it would not be too much of a stretch to work Blue Medusa in. On the other side of this is a dungeon with a game show host in it and modern anachronisms. Not your normal “wizard has a raygun shit”, but stuff like a 50’s diner and so on.
100 Clones is somewhere in between those two. A hydra with Tim the Wizard faces. A matador Tim. A Tim-ber. Basement Dweller Tim. It’s pushing the 50’s diner line, hard, but I don’t think it is relentless in going there. But it IS a departure from the usual D&D pretext and your ability to use this adventure depends a lot on how you would frame the odd tone this and work it in your game.
It’s easier, I think, because it’s high level. Someone asked me once what a high level dungeon would look like and I think this adventure is it. And to be clear, I think you can have a high level adventure that is not a dungeon, and be more serious, but to keep it a dungeon at high levels you need to expect some things to go a bit wonky …On the plus side it doesn’t gimp the players at all. You can come and go as you please and cast all the spells you wish. The only dungeon limitation is in holding the doors between room open. Otherwise, run away and Wish all you wish.
So, Tim the WIzard lives in an interdimensional tower. He’s cloned himself 100 times and they’ve run amok. There are 100 rooms and 100 Tims, but some rooms have no Tims and some have multiple Tims. It’s random, with the DM rolling before the game or during it to determine how the rooms are connected … but once connected they stay that way.
Each room is a little vignette, much in the same way Blue Medusa was. Some are small. Small or small-ish room, like a chandelier in the ceiling with a Tim tied to it … and a deadly trap on the floor under him. Others are huge. Room one is ten miles in diameter with 500 1HD monsters, an 18th level Necromancer Tim, a 20HD monster, and a small village of 127 people. Everything/one except the Tim is a hand. Like the thing at the end of your arm. Some giant. (It was pretty clear, but the time I got to page six of this thing, that Five Cataclysms and Unbalanced Die Games are the same people.)
You’ve got a basic set up of a village of hand-people (farm hands …) and a tower full of undead hands that only come out at night and attack light sources. And a 20HD hand monster that only attacks those without light. And a day/night cycle of 2 hours on and 1 hour off. And the Tim necromancer living in the tower on the top floor with his 500 hands stuffing the bottom floor during day cycles. And … Go! The rest is up to to DM to run.
Typical encounters are 20HD monsters. 120 8HD skeletons and a 50HD skeleton. Weird monsters. Unique powers. Lots of loot and very deadly encounters to get it out.
Like most funhouse dungeons there is a possibility that some rooms can be overcome with by a part of almost any level. And when things turn deadly they turn DEADLY. Higher levels let you fuck up once or maybe twice before fleeing. There are some allusions to things people will recognize, like a Sorcerer’s Apprentice brookstick room and even a fake Time .. .the tool-man.
Encounters can be long, a page or two for some of the longer ones. They are organized well with a brief intro paragraph, bolded words, and then follow-up paragraphs that start with that same bolded word/s to guide the DM’s attention. It’s pushing things with its room lengths, but survives, I think, by providing those succinct summary intros to each room. I can’t imagine rooms much longer though being able to pull this off. Good use of paragraphs, bolding and white space also contribute to making information easy to find on the longer rooms.
And I must say … I like the Unbalanced/5Cat humor style:
“Timothy – (Believes he is the real Tim, and acts very much like him. However, he will find that he has little to no power, cannot even cast spells, and has no items or contrivances to assist him. He is an HD1 nobody. If he convinces the players to take him back to his tower, the true Timothy the Wise will guide them to his ‘x-ray’ chamber to show everyone the soul marble in the clone’s head. The clone may initially object. The x-ray device is actually a smashing device which will instantly pulp the false Tim’s head. The real Tim will pluck out the soul marble and say “Oh, look at that! I managed to get one back all by myself!” he will then stride out of the room whistling contentedly leaving the characters alone with the mess of brain, blood, and bone.)”
This is a delight. I don’t see how you can use this in any way other than some dedicated campaign time with high-level characters and a GOOD old school player group that thinks outside the box for most solutions. Full on Tower of Gax.
This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is nine pages with the last few showing you the first four or so dungeon rooms. Room one is that Necromancer domain while room two is a column-long Chandelier Tim. They give you a good feel of the writing style, tone, and content of the adventure.
This is the most positive review I have ever seen from
Then you haven’t been here long. Check out the link at the top for “My Favorite of the new old school adventurers”.
I think you’re right about Unbalanced Dice Games. Good catch.
Unless Nick started writing secret adventures I don’t know about, we’re different (groups of) people.
Duly noted. The search continues…
Ah, pity – and I thought the mystery was solved!
Unbalanced Dice Game & Five Cataclysms are not the same group