Fight On! #9 – Caverns of the Beast Mistress

I’m working my way through Fight On! magazine, reviewing the adventures. The magazine proper is a great resource in general, with many articles that will inspire you and lots of content for you to lift or to spark your own imagination.

The Hobgoblin God’s Crown
by James Quigley
character levels 3-5

This is a 31 encounter dungeon inside a temple/mountain inhabited by a hobgoblin cult. A local hobgoblin has parked his army outside and is getting anointed inside, which gives the party the chance to infiltrate, kill him, and steal a holy relic, titular crown. The lead in is good: the party gets to find a way around a giant army, past some guards, and in the open temple doors before they lock behind them. What follows is sure to be a large pitched battle with all of the hobgoblins inside. The guards will raise the alarm and everyone will come out of the woodwork to slay the party. An order of battle would have been nice, it generally is in these situations, but at least we get some notes in the room descriptions on who will respond with what. A little work by the DM should be able to conjure up the needed OOB. The room descriptions are quite a bit longer than I prefer, with space being taken up by a lot of mundane information about use and mundane decoration. It would have been nice to see more strange monster things. Th doppleganger ere are a couple of examples of this: the goblins secret cooking spices are a good example. Another would be the infiltrator of the temple; nice to see the monsters having trouble also. There’s quite a bit more ‘rational engineering’ though. By this I mean a kind of high fantasy rationalization of common elements, like the Gelatinous Cube garbage disposal and monkish monsters. This kind of rationalization is a real turn off for me. It smacks of trying to be realistic instead of trying to be fun. This isn’t the OSR I’m looking for.

Caverns of the Beast Mistress
by Tavis Allison
for 5th level characters?

FO9 is dedicated to Paul Jaquays and this dungeon is a tribute to Thracia/Walking Wet. It’s a 45 room level inhabited mostly by minotaur-kin and the like, with a heavy dose of nature & slime. While there’s no explicit order of battle for the inhabitants there is a system of variable wandering monster checks. Essentially, the more obvious the party makes their presence felt then the greater the chance of wandering monsters, the greater the chance they will be looking/seeking the party, and the more preparations the monsters will make to “meet & greet” with the party … up to and including using the ever-present vines to deliver some slime buckets over their heads. Thracia and Dark Tower had excellent maps and this adventure tries hard to capture the same feel. This level has multiple elevations on it, with several ladders, spiral stairs, passages crossing over others, etc. It’s complex enough to need the cross section diagram that’s provided. There are lots of natural caverns mixed with worked passages, statues, broken ruins and secret doors to keep things interesting. The encounters are a mix of the mundane and the whimsical. Many of the rooms, especially the early ones, tend to be rather mundane with a slight twist to them. A mushroom forest with metal detecting shriekers. A guard post with arrow-slits. Not gonzo but with enough mundane detail to make it just interesting. And, of course, the even-present vine and wandering monster response to the party. Each room does have a small event listed, one of the vines flowers opens, the party hears muffled voices, etc. This is clearly an attempt to bring the dungeon to life and make it more dynamic. The later half of the encounters get a bit more strange and are more my style. Idiot savant bulls, playing dress-up with mystical statues, and the slime monster. Both the magical and mundane treasure have a good amount of detail to them, adding that personalized touch that appeals to me so much, and the monsters are generally ones the party will not have encountered before. This is a solid adventure and worth your time to check out.
The Blasphemous Shrine of the Tentacled God
by Jeff Rients
The Darkness Below – Level 12

The Shrine level sits deep below the earth. Inside it’s 30 or so rooms are all sort os … villainy? While not quite a joke level, the Shrine does introduce a lot of sillier elements. Trolls eating two-headed circus bear, with $600 confederate and a unicycle as treasure. A high priest in disco robes. A Star Trek transporter with a note by M. Scott, and so on. None of that really bothers me at all, although I WOULD have like to have seen a wandering monster table. My biggest complaint of this level is that it doesn’t seem … coherent? The dungeon is launched right in to with a description for room 1. I’m not a big fan of long introductions however a short paragraph giving some layout/background would have been nice on this level. We’re left trying to construct a scenario ourselves on the whys and hows the various folks on this level interact with both themselves and their neighbors on the levels around them. The ladies in the Fane hit the tavern on six from time to time. The trolls ‘rule’ the dungeon, and so on for the other levels. This one though seems to come right out of left field with little to no ties to the other levels other than the entrances and exits. Now certainly it’s not a bad thing for a DM to have to add a bit to adventures, however I would have appreciated just a bit of context for this level. Again, not so much to justify the sillier elements but to help place it within the overall schema of The Darkness Beneath. Otherwise, it’s a pretty good level. Lots of weirdo elements, like a vivisection machine that instead grafts imps on to the victims body, and strange room elements like thousands of dolls hanging from strings in a room. The treasure and magic could use a little personalization; a bit more detail on the gems or more unusual mundane treasure livens things up IMO, and magical treasure certainly needs personalization in order to keep them wondrous. There’s not a lot in the way of monsters and most are plain old book creations. I did get a kick out of the Electroweak-force Elemental though (the last survivor of his race, most having perished 10^^-12 seconds after the Big Bang.) That’s typical of the dungeon; it’s a bit creative, a bit silly, a bit disjointed, and it looks like a lot of fun.

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