By Chance Dudinack Self Published B/X Levels 3-5
An age of splintered tribes and infighting ended with the death of the priest-king of the Hunahpu people. As punishment, the gods sealed their sacred pyramid with powerful magic. Generations later, those old gods and their kingdom have been forgotten. With their powers diminished, the seal on the pyramid has broken, leaving all its ancient treasures ripe for the taking.
This 38 page digest adventure features a fifteen location pointcrawl on a mezo-american island and two expanded locations: a dungeon with about 25 rooms and an evil frog-man village with about ten. It does a good job at a passing pop-culture meso-american, and the entries don’t overstay their welcome.
Ok, island, one village, deeply rainforested, hence the pointcrawl. Rumors of ancient treasures in the jungle. Go!
And thus begins your pointcrawl through the jungles. Verdant valleys, meso-ruins with pyramids, jaguars, evil tribesmen … and lots of vampires and demons. I guess the vampire thing fits in well with the blood thing that we sometimes think of meso-america as having? I like them here, their more primative and gaunt look doesn’t scream vampire and its a good template for a weirdo monster for the party to encounter. Likewise the demons, which are unique in this, have some personality to them and they fit in well with the weird, primitive, brutal vibe thing going on in this.
The encounters, both in the pointcrawl wilderness and in the dungeons, are pretty well put together. They feel just a little bit different, and because of that a bit fresher. Caves with sharp teeth entrances seen on the distance. Fire opals in lava pools. Bodies in trees and jaguars peering down at you. Statues with heads to turn. Fangs on snake sculptures to pull like a lever. And, of course, a decent amount of blood sacrifice required in various rooms/locations.
Magic is decent, as is mundane treasure. It’s all well described without being pedantic and varies, in about half, from book standard objects. From an obsidian tipped spear to a suit of jaguar-skin armor … as +1 leather that lets you speak with cats. And it can go further … how about eating the still beating heart from someone to get a +2 stat bump, or using a coutyl feather for a stat bump OR experience? This are all good example of turning a book items just a little, be they monsters or magic or mundane, and in putting in exceptional items for the party to play with and experiment with. Exactly what an adventure should be doing. Treasure is probably ok, especially is you bring back the main one, to make the adventure actually worthwhile.
There are misses. Rumors that could be more in voice. A lack of “what landmarks can I see” both from the coast and upon entering a courtyard. A few magic items don’t try very hard, like a ring that gives you a +! Level when turning. Boring and out of place, especially compared to things like shrunken head magic items also present. In at least one location an order of battle is missing, when you encounter evil frog-men in their open compound. In other places the text can be a bit confusing. “A coiling feathered serpent has been sculpted over the back wall of the room.” one room tells us. Then we’re told you can crawl through the mouth, but nowhere previous do you really get the sense of SCALE of the sculpture that this would imply. Just little bits like that in various places where initial encounter impressions don’t match, I think, what was intended. A choice extra word or two would have helped.
How can you not like an adventure that has a swarm of venomous spiders swarming from the mouth of a corpse, ala Mummy.
This is likely to be an acquired taste, with its strong meso-american theming, but a nice little place a little funhousey, in terms of high interactivity, without being silly.
This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages long. It shows you several of the pointcrawl locations as well as four or so of the dungeon locations. It’s an excellent resource for telling if the writing, amount of detail, and theming are what you are looking for.
Also, the only place the adventure level is mentioned is on the cover. Bad designer! Put it in the DriveThru description also!https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/295092/The-Isle-of-Forgotten-Gods?1892600