By Frederick Foulds
They say Ursodiol the Mad was the greatest mind to have ever breached the great Cosmic Void; that he looked beyond the myriad stars and the blackest depths of the hells into the swirling magical protoplasmic morass that is the beginning and end of everything. When they found his corpse, so hideously changed was it that it drove those who saw it to madness and despair. Fearful, they entombed him in the crypt of his forbears and sealed it tight. But little did they know that Ursodiol brought back something with him from his cosmic journey. And it is hungry…
This 51 page digest adventure features a ten room dungeon with a decent amount going on in each room, enough to justify its page count. It’s a pretty basic adventure, with elements of otherworldly horror, using a bullet point formatting that it mostly gets right. A lot going on ni each room for a basic adventure.
So, little village has an issue, people going amnesiac, crops withering, rocks beeling, and so on. This leads to a teen room family croyt, with some undead, animated statues, vermin, and an otherworldly plant-like creature with hints of The Thing. Poke about in the rooms, maybe get some undead pointers, and then hit the thing with acid and fire, hopefulling looting enough to make everything worthwhile.
This has an … interesting format. It starts off with a sentence or two, in italics, that gives some kind of overview of the room. This may, in fact, be the absolute weakest part of the adventure, in every room. It’s a little purple in places, and gives a kind of overview that doesn’t seem to be a room concept, and doesn’t seem to be aimed at the players, and doesn’t seem to be aimed at the DM. One of the first is “Grandly decorated, a statue of G’vane stands in silent judgement of those who approach, whether they are here to mourn or to gain passage to the Great Beyond.” And another “A small chamber of religious respite, where bodies were brought to be viewed before being entombed in the crypt proper.” The rest follow in this manner. So, kind of like a room concept? But the writing is closer to what I would expect (overly grand …) if I were expected it aimed at the players as read-aloud. But then it goes on to reveal too much. It doesn’t seem to really have any place in the room, providing nothing to either the player or the DM.
What follows are a series of major section headings, noting large rooms features. Each of these then has a series of bolded words, followed by a few words in parens. So you move from the general to the more specific, making it easy for the DM to follow up on things. Very good in concept. In practice … there’s enough in the rooms that, combined with the digest format, the major headings run over from page to page. There’s A LOT to note.
In the first decently sized room. About 30×30 with a statue in the middle, according to the map. Our major headings are “Atmospherics, Decor, White Marble Statue of G’vane, Iron Doors, Giant Rats, Stairs, Secret Door” And then a large stat block for the Giant Rats and a table of diseases. (Good adventure support! That’s one of the reasons the page count is higher than normal for an adventure this size.) Our second level bolding, for the Decor, is “Grand, Stone Owls, Lined with tapestries, Cracked Flagstone. Then, at the third level, the parens for these elements are “20’ high rib vaulted ceiling carved with painted oak leave, stand by each corner quietly staring, faded and mouldering, cover the floor.” It make more sense when you see it in action.
There’s a LOT to look at and poke at and clean ovv and examine in each room. That’s good. A door covered in rust reveals a family emblem and motto, that is useful later. I don’t call each room a set piece, but they definitely take more time and are more indepth than the usual dungeon fare.
The primary issue I have is the selected major and minor headings. I get sections for atmosphere, decor, and the major elements, but it seems like it could organized much better, and perhaps trimmed back a bit. In the example text, the status is the most obvious thing, and maybe the grand environment, and the iron doors. I might lead with those elements, or put them in some kind of summary paragh/sentence. There is SO much going on, in terms of details and things to examine, in these rooms that the selected format is close to be insufficient. (It could be that the printed book uses a two-page spread and is thus a bit easier to grok “at a glance.”)
The adventure, proper, is a pretty basic family crypt, with defleshing room, osuary, chapel, the family crypt, statues, and so on. There are a decent number of things to play with, secret compartments to find, walls/tapestries/doors covered with something to clean off, statues holding things to play with (books, balance, etc.) There’s a lot to do and a lot to explore. And then you add the blood moss in. It’s a kind of alien plant that animated skeletons and has its own pseudo-pod thing like attacks, and a some mental attacks as well. This gives it a kind of vibe like The Thing. These elements could have pushed more, the blood red tendrils covering everything, an the horror of the creatures, to help magnify those aspects of the adventures. It’s not really an after-through, but it could have been pushed more to make it more forward, since it IS a major element of the adventure.
I’m not sure about treasure it does seem a tad light. A thorough looting (which the spirits inside are going to take exception to) might get you a lot more, I think? It’ still seems a little light for a B/X game. I guess, maybe, as an evenings adventure that gets you 25% of the way to the next level? Meh, ok, that seems ok to me.
So, straightforward adventure in a tomb, that you could have its horror elements pushed more and using a decent format that perhaps needed a reworking of the selected keywords, and reordering, to help with the length of the rooms. A decent attempt!
This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is eleven pages and does a good job of showing you the rooms and writing. Check it out!
Episode blah blah blah of me reviewing everything on my wishlist. Yeah, yeah, those long expensive things you requested ages ago are finally going to show up.
For an adventure that rates as one of “The Best,” this review is pretty unenthusiastic. Where is the gushing? Where is the excitement? Is this highly recommended?
A little more subdued than I’d expect, I guess.
Weakest “The Best” designation ever perhaps? C’mon Bryce, don’t water down your own categories. I’ve seen you be a lot more enthusiastic over adventures that you’ve given a No Regerts.
What makes this past the best line?
I read last line as A decent attempt!
Curious as to your mind
Thanks for the review, Bryce. I think you picked up on the fact it’s designed with a two page spread in mind for a printed book, which is why there is some run over of headings from page to page. Something that annoyed me when laying it out, but was seemingly unavoidable in the format it’s in. Perhaps two column is the way forward next time…
It’s given me some stuff to think about in terms of organisation of information for future adventures though, so thanks!
Have to agreed with others that, while I’ll happily take a ‘The Best’, this one sounds more like a No Regerts?
teen room family croyt