By Gavin Norman Necrotic Gnome OSE/BX Levels 1-2
A bubbling stream cascades into a hole in the earth, leading to a series of underground watercourses and scintillating grottoes. Adventurers who delve within may discover odd mosses and fungi, a ruined temple complex, and the lair of a crystal-eating dream dragon.
This 56 page adventure features a two level dungeon with about sixty rooms. Multiple factions and lair areas combine with some weirdo dungeon stuff (in the more traditional definition of weirdo dungeon stuff) to crate an excellent example of The Dungeon As A Weird Place To Go Down In To. A more sensible Operation Unfathomable, or something similar to the The Upper Caves in Fight On. The classic OD&D dungeon.
There’s an airy forest glade, wide and clear. A dream like atmosphere, where time seems to dawdle and a cheery stream running through the glade, bubbling over rocks. There’s a hole in the ground. The stream flows in to it, all misty waterfall style. There’s a pool at the bottom. There’s a rough cut set of stone steps going from the surface down to the pool.
That, gentle readers, is a classic dungeon entrance. You get this idyllic little scene, with hints of otherworldliness, like the waterfall mist and the dawdling time. And then, the hole, with rough steps leading down. THE MYTHIC UNDERWORLD AWAITS. You know, as a player, that shit is about to get weird. Your heart beats a little faster. This is the waiting line to the ride at a Disney park. It sets you up for the experience to come. It’s done GREAT in this.
The map is a series of zones, on two levels. Different factions live in each zone. There’s some VTT maps, for this day and age. [As an aside, while I don’t VTT, I do appreciate it. It’s a recognition that a substantial number of people DO vtt, and they need/want a map suitable for the fog of war feature.] The map is clear, easy to read, has great details on it to help fire the DMs imagination. It’s keyed easily, has an underground river (!!! Always a staple of beginning dungeon!) Monsters are noted on the map. I like it. Glynn Seal is doing great work. I don’t know how the fuck they are pulling of the writing matching the cartography so well, but its working for me.
There’s a fine summary up front, a loot summary, a summary of the factions and what they think of each other. Wanderers doing something without them falling in to the gonzo end of the pool. The rooms use a boiled keyword format, with section heading following up on it. I think it works well, as I’ve said in the past. I might quibble with the monsters not being in the initial description but rather in large sections later on, but, maybe I just need to get used to it. There are extensive cross-references, so if the key says the monsters are heading toward the BLACK TOMB then it also tells you (#44) so you know where the fuck to have them going without having to dig for it. The rooms also have notes like what you can hear down a corridor to the next room, and so on. Nice. These sorts of details are present throughout, giving the DM exactly what they need to run it.
A quick shout out to some of the art. The trogs herein are depicted as tall thin pot-bellied Gollum-types in hot pink. Reminiscent, in a good way, of the Kuo-toa. Other art has style that is reminiscent of … Adventure Time? I don’t know. I don’t know art. I probably just insulted someone. Anyway, it all fits in well with the MYTHIC WEIRDO (but not so weirdo as Operation Unfathomable) UNDERWORLD vibe. And, for the record, I fucking love OU.
There’s a degree of detail present in the rooms which is quite interesting. They are loaded with things to poke, prod, look at, touch, and interact with. Some of it is the classic interactivity that I’m looking for in an adventure (statues to twist, buttons to push, as the platonic examples) but others is just things to look under, in, read, and so on. The rooms are fucking loaded. A crystal grotto (lets fuck with/mine crystals!). Some of which are 2’ long, grey andkeening gently (weee special crystals to fuck with!) A sandy floor (eeek, whats under it!) with glowing purple moss BLANKETING the walls (note the word choice, blanketing, to evoke the imagery in the DM), a carved archway to the east of imposing stone (carvings? Of what?!) and a heavy stone fallen door to the west (with writing underneath it!) A spy fucking hole in the wall, with a metal grate. That is also crawling with bugs, spiders and centipedes. Oh, and then also the room has kobolds doing some shit. Like, what the fuck man, it’s like a magical fucking wonderland for the party! Even shitty book treasure like +! Arrows get a little detail, like “iridescent feather fletching”. Sweet! See, not hard at all to spice things up!
The rooms might be getting a bit long, but, whatever. THIS is what I want the baseline of our hobby to be. The fucking formatting and ease of use issues are essentially taken care of. The writing is evocative enough to be good. This then allows for concentration on the interactivity, the plot and that most elusive of all things, THE DESIGN. This should be the minimum acceptable baseline for our hobby. Yeah, it’s pretty transparently the shit I continually harp about that they solved. And?
GnWell, Gnthe Gnomes Gnhave Gntheir Gnshit Gndown Gnpat Gnby Gnnow Gnit Gnseems. GnThree Gnreleases Gnand Gnall Gnthree Gnfiring Gnon Gnall Gncylinders. GnDare Gnit Gnbe Gnsaid Gnthat Gnthe GnUG Gnis Gna Gnpublisher Gnto Gnbe Gnrelied Gnupon?
It’s $7.50 at DriveThru. The preview is nine pages long. You get to see several rooms, so you know what kind of encounters and writing and formatting to expect. Great preview.