By Walter Srebalus Aegis Studios B/X Levels 8-10
[…] Pravus was a dedicated follower of Ragnar and decided to keep hold of the temple. Pravus and his fellow priests headed under the temple to wait out the war and maintain prayer to Ragnar. With continued dedication to Ragnar, the god bestowed upon Pravus the knowledge of a ritual called Everlife. The Ritual of Everlife was a guarded secret that wasn’t widely shared with mortals. This ritual grants priests that Ragnar deemed worthy the ability to gain an everlasting unlife to continue their worship.
This fourteen page adventure features a two level temple complex with nine rooms, three above ground and six below. It has a couple of gnolls up and the usual shadow/wights/lich below. It just seems like someone wanted to write a short adventure with a lich in it. The read-aloud and DM text could be the platonic example of how to not do things.
I don’t know what to do here. It’s coherent; I guess that’s good?
Yet Another Abandoned Temple. And a small one at that. Your level eight party is going to kill seven gnolls, to start with. Is that a challenge? Do you even try at this level or do you let your torchbearers do it?
The upstairs is a ruined temple with three rooms with those seven gnolls in it. The adventure, proper, is behind a secret door. The entire adventure of six more rooms. So you won’t be going on the adventure unless you find the secret door. Which means that if the party doesn’t find the secret door then the DM is going to fudge the roll and let them find it. Which begs the question: why have a secret door? Don’t put your fucking adventure behind a die roll of any kind. You have to succeed on a spot/secret door find/negotiation/diplomacy in order to continue the adventure? Don’t do it. A treasure room at the end is one thing, but the main fucking adventure? No. This is bad design.
The DM text is full of useful information like “The characters can arrive from any direction and at ay time of day.” I am now empowered. It’s full of things like explaining what an ossuary is, what it was used for, how it was used, and other trivia that has no bearing on the actual play of the game at the table at all. It’s nothing. I’d say it gets in the way of the useful data ut I’m not sure there IS useful DM text. It’s just a monster listing, that attacks when you open the door, and some treasure, separated by the background trivia.
The main baddie, the lich-priest, granted eternal life by his god for being a good worshipper, lives in a locked room behind a metal door, with the key to open the door in another room. Why s the main priest, granted unlife by his god for being a faithful worshipper, locked in his room? Who knows. As in, I’m not looking for (more) backstory here, but the set up makes no sense. Why would he be locked in?
Gnolls grunt and yelp at each other upstairs, according to the read-aloud. Given the ruined nature of the temple, with no roof and broken down walls up top, shouldn’t we be able to hear that before we enter their “room?” Noting things like this, things that impact other areas of the dungeon, in their own room tiks me off. It shows an lack of thought for how actual play works. People listen. They hear things. This shit needs to be noted elsewhere, or on the mpa or something. If you’re in a 1000 floor wide cavern and something as bright as sunlight is glowing on the other side then you don’t wait until you get to the other side’s read-aloud to tell us there’s a light in this area.
But, the read-aloud. It is, perhaps, the most magnificent ever. You get evocative writing like “this large area …” to describe a room. Don’t use common adjectives and adverbs. English is a very descriptive language. And you can steal words from other languages. And you can make up words and use them in wrong way. You can do ANYTHING to get your vision across. Was your vision really as boring as the word “large” implies?
The read-aloud is quite bad. It explains backstory that the characters would not know. It provides details that should not be provided. “When the temple wasn’t in ruins, the lower level of the temple was used as an isusuary for patrons and a crypt for the priests.” What the fuck is this? Is that what the party is experiencing right now? A monologue from a lecturer? Another room goes in to detail on what the party sees, what frescoes look like, their damage, detail on what statues look like. This DESTROYS interactivity in the game. You provide a general overview, then the party follows up with questions, searing and examining the frescoes and statues. Of you tell them all of this up front then there’s little reason for them to look at them further. This back and forth between the DM and players might be THE key mechanic in a RPG, and yet these sorts of overly-descriptive read-alouds destroy that.
Let’s see, this is four to six characters of levels eight to ten. Let’s say five level eight characters, an average of, say, 120,000 XP needed for level 9, each. The haul from this adventure is going to be about 15,000 in gold, divided five ways, that’s going to be about 3000 XP per adventurer. If the party goes on forty more adventures like this then they can make level nine! So, look, I know. Walter wanted to put in a cleric lich and worked backwards from there, to a short adventure Travis would publish. But it doesn’t work, not in a campaign.
This is $2 at DriveThru.There’s no preview at all. Why would you deserve a preview? So you can determine what you’re wasting your cash on beforehand? I think not!
Agreed, a lich should have beaucoup treasure—but to my thinking, it’s not wrong to expect that a very high-level party should have to go on a dozen or more adventures before leveling-up. I think it’s a mistake to fetishize PC level advancement. Play a lot, get into some crazy stuff, and then *BAM!*: It’s Your Birthday!
My $0.02. Thanks again Bryce (ticking off another one with a cool cover).
Here’s a thought! Maybe the lich is a Python-esque hermit that WANTS to be locked in his room. The party break in, and instead of fighting he just moans a bunch about the pointlessness of Eternal Life and then starts following the party around moping and being a pest.
Now that’s gold != XP!
Alternatively: He locked himself in there by accident, is THRILLED the party as rescued him, and gives them the 15,000 gp in exchange for any food they’re carrying—because he’s STARVING. Saying,”I know if not enough for you to level-up…but it’s all I have.”
It is fun that the dungeon itself is hidden behind a secret door, but the key to the lich’s bedroom/prison(?) is in the next room. 🙂