Delve of the Handsome Repeater

By Brine
Beasts & Barrows
"Low Levels"

A face protrudes from the ground; an ancient giant, buried to the chin and left for dead. Volcanic rocks drape the mound, giving the appearance of jagged tufts of sable hair. An agape cave mouth emits whispered echos from below. Locals avoid this place. They call it “The Handsome Repeater”. An ageless subject of rumor and superstition; its origins long since forgotten. Lately… creatures have been breaking free from its eerie depths.

This eighteen page adventure describes an eleven room mostly linear cave dungeon. It has some classical (as in Greek) themes and features Tricks more than monsters. But what there is can be quite interesting. It makes no sense, but, I’m intrigued, as a mini-dungeon that pops up in, for example, a hex crawl.

This is a mostly empty dungeon with a few things to poke at. But, it does, at points, have a kind of mythic feel. A lonesome, despondent vibe is present … made all the worse by the lack of creatures in the dungeon and/or the way the wanderers behave. It is this vibe that I want to explore first.

Read that marketing intro again. A giant face, mouth agape as if screaming, covered in volcanic rock. Did you rock form around it or did the was it carved, or did the creature melt in? Who knows. But, the design is certainly … weird? Mythic? You know you are somewhere else. Then, the dungeon itself has a lonesome feel to it. It DOES have references to Echo and Narcissus in it, which help contribute, and a lack of creatures, which helps contribute to this vibe. And, then … there’s the monsters. There are none. I mean, Echo appears in one room. That’s the extent of the creatures. Everything else is handled by wanderer rolls. “When the DM sees fit and/or the paty tarry too much.” I’m not a fan of that mechanic. It’s arbitrary, and not in the good way that wanderers are supposed to drive the game forward and provide a time pressure element. It’s just “fuck you, have a wanderer now.”

Having said that … oh what wanderers there are! I often talk about the wanderers needing to DO something. How they should not exist to only attack. They need something to spur the encounter on, to inspire the DM. These wanderers do NOT follow my advice. Or, maybe they do, but in an unusual way. They make noise. Scary noises. Thus the wanderer table has a monster name and the noise they make. I am a GREAT man of foreshadowing in an adventure. This usually comes in the form of avoiding Lareth the Beautiful syndrome. Other adventures sometimes leave clues around, like monster spoor on the ground. This is closer to that. What you get is something like “mortal bellow and the abrasive sound of metal on stone, dragging.” Let’s say the DM works that in a bit, dropping it around. Then, the players will be SHITTING themselves in fear. And the best D&D moments impact the players instead of their characters. When the actual minotaur shows up dragging its axe, then the players will all immediately GET IT, which is a great moment, they love figuring things out, and feel foolish for not getting it, and get to reap the rewards of their fear. Or, how about deafening screams and the flapping of heavy wings? The stench of rancid meat and sticky slitherings? It does a great job providing some meat to the encounter beforehand. The pre-ride line at DIsney, so to speak. 

Other than this, the adventure can be a hit and miss at times. The local village is only described in one word “shantytown” with “Dewy Churls” being used to describe the occupants. The’s probably all you need for an adventure like this. The rumors from the churls are an interesting lot. They range from the usual/generally poor of “echos from the delve curse all who hear them” ro “its the home of a beautiful naked angel “ and/or “the face is devilishly handsome … these are the real rumors that would flying around. Boobs! I can get behind the others. The echos, the “gateway to hell” and so on. I can wrk with them, but they don’t resonate like “naked chicks” do, when delivered by the local worthies. 

Encounter descriptions are clean. Mini-maps are provided on facing pages to hep the DM orient. Encounter descriptions are short-ish, less than a page, with generous bullets and descriptions that focus on the task at hand with little in the way or irrelevant detail to clog the works up. Bolding and brief italics are used to good effect. A very journeyman effort, providing good support for DM scanning.

The encounters are kind of puzzly. A pool of water that reflects things … your own image stepping out to kill you. But, not really evil … it can join the party! Thats something you don’t often see. The mirrored pool of narcissus acts as a gateway to another room, as well. A cup of poison in a silent room lets you speak if you want to take the poison of the people talking. Subtly there, eh? A maze of rooms, represented by just rolling random dice until you “win” the maze .Yeah … so … that’s not good. Basically the party just roll a die and waste time, with no modifiers to help or puzzle to solve, until they roll 50% enough times. Not cool. 

Oh! Oh! One more thing! That entrance to the mythic underworld? The mouth hole of the cave (literally …) with stairs in the back? It has a fesco on the back wall. Of a beautiful boy. A serene scene. That someone has crudely drawn a dick on. Oh, the locals! That’s exactly what WOULD happen in a dungeon entrance like this and I love this dungeon for putting that in. 🙂

So, a lonesome kind of dungeon. A few puzzle rooms. An overreliance on wanderers … whose effect/impact could have been achieved a different way. It’s just a little too quiet in this place for a “normal” game, I think. But, as a small dungeon in a hex in a hex-crawl I think it could work 

This is Pay What You Want on Itch, with a suggested price of $4.20. Which, I guess is funny. 🙂

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9 Responses to Delve of the Handsome Repeater

  1. The Middle Finger of Vecna says:

    Oh gee, a pot reference. How original these days (rolleyes). Oh look, someone drew a dong on the dungeon wall. Gee, how “epic D&D” that screams (double rolleyes). How “Venger” (triple rolleyes) Oh well, that shit is easily ignored.

    I have to wonder how much better this could be with triple the number of rooms and less linearity? Perhaps the author will see this review and try doing that with the next adventure. (hint, hint, author. hint, hint)

  2. Reason says:

    I must have missed the pot thing.

    But I like the graffiti, kinda funny. And like Bryce says, very human. We do find examples of ancient graffiti all the time- people don’t change that much.

    I’m not sure low level osr often shoots for “epic”- sometimes it does and that’s fine. But the idea things have to be “epic”… not so sure, that’s a campaign preference I guess.

    I think for a “trick” dungeon without much in the way of internal complications or factions or connection to larger events- the size suits. To go bigger and not have it get stale, you need some of those aforementioned and it’s an entirely different beast to write & run. You also expect to make multiple trips in & out & then need to expand the village or logistics…

    This one sounds good to me.

    • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

      Reason said, “But I like the graffiti, kinda funny. And like Bryce says, very human. We do find examples of ancient graffiti all the time- people don’t change that much.”

      Sure, we see real-world examples of such but that doesn’t mean that I desire that in my adventures.

      There are some very interesting bits and pieces here but the shortness of it is a turnoff. If this were an entry-level of a larger complex I’d be intrigued. I do get that there seems to be a huge demand for these really short adventures though. Just because it could be plopped into a hex crawl as a location doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be a bit more depth to it. C’mon, the description of a giant buried in the ground and only the head is visible is a pretty epic concept but the reality is that it’s a tiny 11 room dungeon. Not very epic at all.

      • Reason says:

        Fair points. In the “giant head cave/tower” genre Prison of the Hated Pretender does a very similar thing, but more in the depth. And with fewer pages.

        Maybe what this adventure needs is a way to raise the titan…

  3. 3llense'g says:

    Would this adventure be improved if you just take the random encounter table and place the entries in each of the rooms instead of randomly rolling?

    • Stripe says:

      That’s a good question.

    • squeen says:

      Most likely it wouldn’t be worse and would run faster. Also, after the author did that, he might see some holes or room for improvement. I’d save the random elements for things that need to be dynamic and changing to add life to a static setting.

  4. Evard's Small Tentacle says:

    I’d argue that that is the case for most such tables and encounters, unless there is specific value in generating the encounters randomly (GG did a great job of using this well- a bit of a lost art since then)

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