By Graphite Prime Graphite Prime Studios AD&D Levels 4-7
You have never seen a dungeon like this before! What happens when crazed mechanical beings from the future arrive on your fantasy world?
This 108 page adventure uses about sixty or so pages to describe a futuristic hellhole of a tower with about 45 rooms. Uninteresting descriptive/layout format complements the nature of the site and while descriptive text is low word count, it complements the art well.
Occasionally someone with attempt to write an adventure on a trash world. You know, the entire planet is a dumping ground and there are weird holes and tunnels everywhere littered with refuse, made up of refuse. Or, there was HoL, proper, or every those tunnel scenes of sewers in The Matrix or the alien warrens in Aliens. You get this idea of a chaotic area that you are picking your way through, uncertain exactly what is going on, surrounded by an alien environment. I’ve never seen this described very well. It seems to be a relatively popular area to explore, but the nature of the environment makes it difficult to convey the vibe in anything other than a visual format. Hence the HR Geiger stuff, the Matrix tunnels, and so on, doing so well to inspire. This adventure, also, relies on an art style to help convey the vibe, much more so than the words alone.
We’re up in the land of the ice and snow from the midnight sun with the blah blah blah. I’ve actually got Burn It Down on heavy, loud repeat right now, but, you get the idea: the frozen north, barren but mountainous and rugged. Rumors of strange things to the further north, from the last friendly fort, and strange creatures. You hex crawl north Miss Tessbacher, through 28 or so possible hexes, one to two hexes a day. Until you see, nestled in a valley of ice and snow, a rusted iron contraption, made of up rivets and pipes, draped with golden cables and wires. 900 feet high and 700 feet wide. Yup. We’re there kids, Wally World awaits! That is unmisfuckingstackably the place you want to go to. It cannot be recognized as anything other than a place of wonder. You. Have. Arrived.
Let’s imagine a government research lab, say Black Mesa. You’ve got the scientists, the staff and receptionists, the janitors and food service people, some soldiers, a few, ahum, “men of vision” and so on. Now, lets take the whole place, complex and all, and transport it so fucking far back in to the past that time looses its meaning. But, those Men of Vision are on a mission. But, the working dudes? Hey man, they didn’t sign up for this shit. Thus you have some human foibles mixed in to an otherwise focused “mission.” That’s what’s going on here. Except, the people transported back are cyborgs from so far in the future they no longer know that humans WERE their ancestors and they don’t resemble the cyborgs you know and love from movies and Tv. They are more like a loose collection of wire, like a pile of cassette or VCR tape, on the floor, that can pull itself in to different forms. They can’t really do that, but, imagine the pool of wirre HAD given itself a vaguely (and I emphasize vaguely …) humanoid form. A little insane, on a missione, some occasional moments of relatability … all while they harvest people and animals for experiments. Some are hostile, some curious (and therefore probably hostile in a “vivisection” kind of way …) and some are drunk or apathetic or resigned to melancholy. In short, NOT a monolithic enemy.
We must now discuss the map. And art style. And formatting choice. And evocative writing. Because, they are all one and the same here. Or, perhaps, working towards the same end, intrinsically linked.
There is an overview map, a big map showing the entire layout. And then that map is broken up in two four smaller “quadrant” maps, to help make things more manageable. But, the individual rooms? They EACH get their own map. Imagine a drawing of a room, in the center of a page. Scattered around it are small blocks of text with lines pointing to various parts of the map. If there’s a pit then there’s a small block of text describing it and then a line pointing to the pit on the map. You’re with me so far, right? Three, maybe four features per room.
And by “room” I mean “this part of the big ass complex weird and confusing complex.” There is SUBSTANTIAL verticality to this, with virtually every “room” having three of four vertical components separated by small “flat” sections. And it’s all this weird post-industrial/hyper-technology setting.
With a black and white art style that that is a signature of Graphite Prime. I wouldn’t want to draw comparisons, but ,those of you unfamiliar may think of Scrap and the “less is more” ambiguity that the black & white styles of both artists convey. (It is gauche to compare one artists style to another? I feel like I ned to do SOMETHING to give the gentle readership some basis to visualize …) It leaves significant room for the imagination to fill in the gaps, while still inspiring that imagination to actually do so. And the the words are rather utilitarian, the complementary art, IN YOUR FUCKING FACE on every page, does wonders to fill the gap. This is what passes for one feature of one “room”: “Floor Hatch: Locked. Opening this hatch unleashes a swarm of hundreds of time-bombs. They are
about the size of small cherries and aim to fly down one’s throat” Complimenting this is the actual room art, showing the hatch in the floor and the space underneath.
I might complain the the “always on” features of the rooms could be further front and center. There is a monster ref sheet, it could have gone there. Or on the big map, or quadrant map, or even on the “common features” map page. At best you get “is consistently lit by industrial lighting that creates a gold/rust colored glow. Otherwise, the Structure looks like it was crafted from Iron.” A little more in the “general inspiration” category would have done well. I don’t now. Oil? Something.
Complementing the dungeon proper is the hex crawl, which can almost be run with the mini-descriptions on the hex crawl map, the expanded text later on almost not needed. Wanderers for the hex crawl and for the dungeon are both great, with good actionable things going on, from weird and bizarre to deadly. And, the dungeon isn’t just a killer, there are boons to be found throughtout, wandering adventure parties, a dryad, pixies needing to be freed, and a whole fuck ton of “loot” to get way with.
There’s a techno element to this adventure, but, it’s not really science fiction. I mean, not in the way most of these “lets put in some science shit” usually are. The creatures and environment is from so far in the future that it essentially almost never comes up in play. I mean, you can tell, immediately, this is tech shit, but this is not the relatable tech from Barrier Peaks. This is almost at the point of Tech As Magic … except it’s not quite there … there’s a bare recognition of relatability that keeps it meaningful, from going off the deep end of the magic pretext.
I’d run THE FUCK out of this. Best.
This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is elevent pages, with the last few being “rooms.” I’d recommend taking a look, both to get familiar with the art style and if this formatting style works for you. I think it works GREAT for this kind of “indescribable” environment.