The Castle of Septor

Gamer’s Group Publications
1e
Levels 4-12

The mighty wizard, Septor the Green, has disappeared, but the ruins of his castle remains.  This once proud landmark has become a haven of evil. Few adventures have been brave enough to explore the ruins and those few, have little to show for their efforts.  Still rumors of the wizard’s treasure persist, as do rumors of a dark cult lurking in ruin’s dungeons. Are you courageous enough to brave the ruins and battle the creatures that call it home?  If so, maybe you can discover the wizard’s treasure. The Castle of Septor is an Old School Revival module designed for 4th to 12th level characters, and intended to be placed into an existing campaign.

Welcome to another installment of “Bryce shits on a labour of love”, week six in shelter-in-place edition.

This 48 page traditional dungeon exploratory adventure details a two level dungeon with about seventy rooms, using about thirty pages to do so. Long read-aloud, lots of backstory in the rooms descriptions, and unfocused organization make this a skippable adventure.

Written in 1984 and published this year, it claims to have been extensively playtested. It has quite a large level range, with level one (and the castle ruins above) being kobolds and gnolls while level 2 features a fuck ton of high-level undead, a fuck-ton of demons/devils, and a lich. Quite the difficulty range between the two. For added fun, the stairs to level two are right next to the entrance to level one. I love it!

The adventure features some art that is evocative, in a kind of “brutally realistic humanoid” style. There’s not a lot of it, but it matches a nice low-fantasy tone … even though this isn’t a low-fantasy adventure. The adventure also does a great job of describing wide open areas using an overview. Outside of the castle you get a brief description of key features that might draw your attention, and when you enter the courtyard you also get a little overview of what you see that’s obvious. These sorts of “vista overviews” are something that a lot of designers don’t put in, and should, when encountering areas you get a wide overview of vision of. 

The humanoids are supposed to be organized, the kobolds outside and the gnolls on level one. And, I would guess, the lich on level two? But there’s not really any advice to the DM on order of battle. This, though, is minor, when compared to the major flaws: it’s boring and misorganized.

The boring part is relatively easy to recognize. Most creatures wait in their rooms. The map is a big open square space with little boxes drawn in it, representing rooms and hallways, giving it a grid-like feeling. The rooms are essentially just combat with little interactivity beyond that. “This room is inhabited by 8 gnolls that will attack if the room is entered.” Mind Blown! When there is more then the DM text tends to be organized poorly. A fine example is the very first room, room 1, the Castle Entryway. The first paragraph details what was. It used to contain winches and pully’s for raising and lowering the drawbridge. In addition, it housed supplies for defending the castle. There’s nothing to this. It’s trivia. In best use case I might mention some specific debris in the description, but I doubt I would put this as the first thing the DM sees when scanning the room descriptions. The second paragraph tell us that it now serves as a makeshift barracks for kobolds, they use it for a base of operations, and have a general knowledge of the creatures in this level of the castle. I take exception with the “now serves as a makeshift barracks” portion; again, that can be done with a description. The general knowledge part is ok, as a kind of tail-end of a room description, to let the DM know what’s up if they are captured/bribed etc. The thir paragraph tells us that the kobolds keep constant vigil on the front gates and are unlikely to be surprised and attack weak and helpless looking foes (at level 4 characters?!) They have a deep hatred for elves and attack them immediately. Not the most stunning of DM text, but it does give you something to work with. And, more importantly, it is CLEARLY the most important part of the this description. It should be the first thing the DM sees. You approach the gates, the Dm scans the text, sees that they vigil and elves, and runs that. As opposed to have to read three paragraphs of text in order to find out what should happen. IE: the format introduces the area, then the monsters, and then what the monsters do. A better format would be something like “What’s the most obvious/immediate/important thing? Put that first.”

If you fuck with something in one of the rooms then two ghouls “will appear.” Just, “will appear”, nothing else to help you out. Blink in to existence? Come through a door? Released from a wall niche? 

Read-aloud is LOOONNNGGGG but the things MENTIONED in the read-aloud are essentially just window dressing. Three paragraphs to give us a description of a room, and it’s almost always the case that the descriptions provided are useless. There’s nothing to follow up on. It tells us things like “The basin contains a small supply of drinkable water.” or “Despite it’s poor condition it appears that someone is using this area as a barracks” … yes, the kobolds/gnolls/whatever that are standing in the fucking room, not mentioned in the read-aloud, and are about to stave your heads in. “When the floor is stepped on … “NO! I DIDNT STEP ON THE FLOOR! The read-alouds are too long, people play with their phones when you monologue them, they need to be short. Read-alouds ignore important shit in the room, like the fucking omnsters about to kill you. Read-alouds assume that you’ve taken ten minutes to explore the room and look at things, like the “basin of drinkable water.” I know that from looking at it from the doorway? Or the “The floor makes ripples when you step on it” stuff. What the fuck man? The descriptions re full of conclusions, like the “Despite it’ poor condition it appears  that … “ No. Just no. Just describe the fucking room and let the PLAYERS draw the fucking conclsions. 

So, bad read-aloud, poor DM text, no real interactivity, wide level range. Boring magic items from the book, full of +1’s, a dearth of treasure by which to gain XP’s. Monsters that have “+2 to hit and +4 to damage because they have 18/75 strength!”/rationalizing. 

No.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. The last two show you the first six rooms of the upper level ruins of the castle/outside. Note the last read-aloud on the last page, room 7. We learn from the read-aloud, because it tells us directly, that the wizard once kept a team of gardeners to weed and prune the garden, as well as what could have once been found here. 

(And fuck you Google Docs. I prefer in to and not into.)

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/306852/Castle-of-Septor?1892600

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6 Responses to The Castle of Septor

  1. Anonymous says:

    Please calm down.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I wanna defend not-putting-monsters-in-the-read-aloud for a second here: if you *are* running it such that monsters move around rather than waiting in rooms for the party to murder them, it makes sense to leave them out since they won’t always be there or could have left to chase you if you made noise elsewhere, etc

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yes, but is it old school? I can’t tell from the cover.

  4. OSR Fundamentalist says:

    >full of +1’s
    LITERALLY nothing wrong with this, especially if you’re playing RAW and making them sentient and glowing like torches

  5. Okay, maybe I didn’t miss all of April…I remember reading this review.

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