By Joseph R. Lewis Dungeon Age Adventures Labyrinth Lord & 5e Level 3
The ancient world of Harth withers beneath its dying sun…but it’s not dead yet. High in the night sky, a vampire’s tower is torn apart by a rampaging angel. People and monsters are trapped. Magical treasure lies scattered everywhere. It’s all yours for the taking, if you can find a way out before the angel finds you. This adventure is a one-shot dungeon-delve into a wizard’s tower. In space. With vampires. This is an alien-survival-horror-movie of an adventure (or at least, you can choose to play it that way).
This 26 page adventure features a multi-level spacestation/tower with seventeen rooms. Well laid out, evocative writing, and a bunch of NPC’s make this an interesting and solid little dungeon. If you’re in to that sort of thing. Vampire spacestations in space, that is.
The designer, correctly, points out that this is just a wizards tower. A central staircase with a couple of rooms per floor. Only the “breech the walls and depresurize” thing comes in to play as a space mission, and that could be solved by, I don’t know, putting it underwater or in the swirling chaos void or something if the space thing turns you off. There’s an insane immortal angel on the loose in the tower, tearing shit up, and everyone in the tower lives in fear of it: the servants, staff, and vampire lord that rules the place. Everyone has essentially looked themselves in their rooms. The party gets teleported up when they use an known teleportation circle and find themselves faced trying to find a way out, since the return teleporter is broken. Thus this is a kind of escape the tower mission, as the party tries to get back home, grabbing loot along the way and trying not to get killed. This is how the adventure is for level 3’s, since there’s not a lot of roamers, the NPC’s are generally willing to talk to get ri f the threat of the angel, and so on. The designer notes level 5’s would be better for straight up combat, although, I think that’s only with the slightly modified vampires that inhabit the place.
This uses the standard Dungeon Age format, which is a good one. Each level starts with around a column, explaining what’s going on, who is here, what is here, and so on, a kind of summary. There’s a little read-aloud for each room, offset in a different color thats easy to read and clearly distinguishes itself as readlaoud. The read-aloud is short, only a few sentences, and contains some bolded words that are underlined. Those bolded words are then followed up in the DM text. So “A smeary trail of blood leads to the closed door.” would then have a section in the DM text, a list of bullet points, with one of them being the bolded word “trail.”
The DM text is, as noted, in bullet point form with each ullet starting with that bolded word. There will then be a a few words. Or a sentence, maybe two, that describes that thing and gives more detail. There may be other boxed text on the page to give more detail to a magic item, for example, or some such other “footnote” kind of information.
What’s nice here, beyond the easy to use formatting, is that the designer recognizes the core feature of an RPG: the back and forth between player and DM. The read-aloud contains things, hints we might say, of things for the party to follow up on. Too much is never given away in the read-aloud, but, rather, held back for someone to investigate, allowing the party to learn as explore the rooms instead of spoon feeding them all the information int he read-aloud.
The writing itself is pretty good, in terms of being evocative. That smeary blood trail from ealier. Scratched wall. Flickering red torches. Flimsy closet doors lie in battered pieces. Not the use of descriptive words, adjectives and adverbs to add color to what would otherwise be boring facts. This is what evocative writing should be doing.
The chief, but not sole, component of the interactivity here are the NPC’s. Everyone is in fear of the insane immortal angel and generally willing to deal to have something done about it. Or, potentially deal, that is. They are still vampires. But, we’ve also got clueless newborn vampire clones, an evil chaos lord split in to three parts, and the staff and servants who are generally just trying to survive. Along the way we get the usual assortment of acid eating through bulkheads and airlock shenanigans, tapestries to walk through and 2-way mirrors to talk to the neighbors. Who, it must be said, will send a group of “cleaners” to the site if they think something is amis … always looking to expand their own resources. And, of course, by sending someone they bring a lifeboat … a potential means of escape. Thus the party has a large number of options at their disposal for dealing with the situation and escaping and grabbing loot. (Which, I note, seems to be on the low side in terms of money but there are a deccnt number of magic items. Mundane potions augmented by some interesting unique items.)
“An adult male corpse with soft bubbling red skin. Dead, partially exploded arm, leg, and belly. His face a rictus of pain.” Ouchies!
It’s advertised as a one-shot, and as such its pretty good. The “locked in their rooms” situation does make it a bit static, at least until the angel wakes up or the cleaners (or a rival treasure party) shows up. The “museum” nature that tends to led is decently mitigated by that, although the simple layout of the tower (it’s a tower with a central staircase and several doors on each landing” doesn’t give one a lot of cat and mouse room. I think this sort of thing is whats causing me some reservation in it. With the formatting and writing not an issue then the design of the adventure, proper, comes in to play. It’s not BAD< it just feels al little limiting, or maybe slow? Again, until the other agencies add some chaos to it. I think it probably works better in play, and this might take some play to see how well it actually works out.
But that’s just dithering. All of the elements are present, and the only thing at question is how much of the best it actually is, an 8, 9, or 10.
This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is the entire thing. Check out that sweet sweet format! It’s not the only way to format things, but it does work well.
This has been episode <something> of Bryce reviews everything on his wishlist in order.
BONUS FEATURE – Elegant Fantasy Dungeon Generator
This is a 21 page document full of tables to help inspire a dungeon. You roll on the tables and then riff on them to create something. I like these sorts of things when I am creating a dungeon to kind of give me a kick in the ass to get the creative juices flowing; you need someplace to start the imagination up.
You roll for a general location, which has some features to help you, like a house location migt have servants, kitchen, ballroom, horrors, etc. Then a general mood table, “Elegant” also has Rich, Noble, and decadent as options, and sentence of tips on how to communicate that. Ornaments everywhere, heavy curtains, framed pictures. A table for origins, how it became a dungeon … so let’s say “an outpost during a war campaign” and it fell because of “something that dwelt there before” with its last denizens being soldiers who camped there for some time. The dungeon heart, the key room, is a tomb. Then you’ve got some layout guidelines/generation, and a lot of room features table.
It looks like it would work as well as any of the other “riff on” generators available, perhaps better since all the tables, except monsters, are here. I use a computer app IPP, Inspiration Pad Pro, to do these sorts of things. In my non-existent free time I may enter this in and see what pops up. AFTER the book is done.