The Keep of Dragon Turtle Greth

By J Blasso-gieseke
21st Century Games
Level 2?

Fear the tides! For upon the ocean’s black abyss rides a keep of stone on the broad shelled back of the mighty dragon turtle Greth.

Fear the tides! For unbeknownst to the fisher families of Stonewave the tides have turned against them.

Fear the tides! For this night, the vast body of Greth will beach itself upon the shore and a score of Iguanamen will be disgorged to raid the town for fresh human flesh.

Can the party fight off the Iguanamen raid in the night? Can the party reach Greth in time to rescue the captives before he dives into the deep?

This is an entry in my Wavestone Keep adventure design contest. Which I held to combat the crushing ennui I feel when reviewing too many bad adventures in a row. The challenge was to write and short adventure, eight pages, inspired by the concept and marketing tagline of the Wavestone Keep adventure. Now, to combat my crushing boredom, and the perfectionism which prevents me from working on larger projects, I’m going to review the entries!

This eight page adventure details about thirteen locations, including a keep with nine rooms. It’s got some wonderful use of language, good treasure, and a fun “raid” mentality with a cool little mechanic. I’m a fan!

Generic vs Vanilla comes up all the time. Generic is bad but vanilla can be delicious! This adventure features two classic tropes that, finally(!) are combined in to a delicious vanilla. First, we’ve got the classic Dragon Turtle with a building on its back … with the threat of an impending DIVE! DIVE! DIVE! Second, we’ve got a sea raid by humanoids. Both of these have been to death … or so I might have previously said. As always, the classics are classics for a reason and, when done well they show you why. And this one is done well.

You’re asleep in the inn when shit hits the fan. A nightime raid from the sea by humanoids! They are dragging people off! You see some inside the inn and deal with them, run outside and see a guy standing there saying shit like they just ran off with the Potters kids! You go down to the docks (cause you’re fucking heroes! I usually deride this kind of thing, but, it works here, I think, because of the frantic nature. More on this later.) Ol Yurtle is about to head out to sea and you board him, maybe by rowing out if you were slow, and get on his back to raid the keep to free the people taken hostage. And, maybe, if you were very good little adventurers … find the treasure room before the turtle dives.

Also, this is gonna be one of those gushy reviews where I fanboy out.

Everything in this works perfectly together. The writing is evocative and descriptions terse by favourful. “A bloated corpse bound with iron kelp. 1 iguanaman glutting itself.” Bloated. Glutting. Fuck yes! Not to mention, the use of iguanamen itself father than lizardmen or bullwugs or some shit. Noice! When you run out of the inn for the first time you are greeted with “Johann Sparr, a simple, but powerfully built fisherman in his late-40s, will be standing barefoot on the cobbled street in a soiled night dress and cap wrestling with his conscience to go after the raiders.” That’s fucking perfect. Soiled, wrestling, barefoot on cobbled streets. I can run this entire scene, and, indeed, the rest of him since he’s an NPC that may stick around. Further, he don’t stick around and become troublesome, he can show you the way to the docks so you find them faster and pick the fastest boat to chase the turtle, which is probably out to sea at this point. Then, after reaching the turtle, HE GOES BACK TO GET HELP AND MORE BOATS TO TAKE THE RESCUED PEOPLE BACk!!! A fucking useful NPC! And, it gets rid of him before he becomes an escort mission. And, it makes the fuck sense! Nice!

It’s using a great 2-column landscape formatting to great effect, stuffing the pages full of text, but also using bullets and indents and highlighting/bolding to great effect to make everything pretty easily digestible. Oh! Oh! And you’ve got a little “check off” box for the iguanamen raiders and the hostages … cause some of those fucking people ain’t coming back “On the sea slick floor of the dragon turtle’s shell, 2 Iguanamen are hastily devouring a pair of corpses.” Ought oh! Better mark off two hostages! I love it! Good shaded boxes for monster stats also. 

We also get a Time Unit Tracker. A hidden chart, the DM marks off Time Units based on combats, fucking aruond, if the party has help from the fisherman, etc. It’s fucking tense as shit! Seriously, this is the first time I’ve seen a “race against time!” adventure that actua;ly FEELS tense! “Any time the party desitates, mark a time unit.” Fuck me! Gahhhh! I might put this up on a whiteboard or giant paper behind me and mark them off in BIG letters. It’s also recommending an egg timer, but it’s use is less clear. Anyway, this is great! Eventually the turtle dives, over three time units, giving the party time to escape the flooded keep on its back to, hopefully, the waiting boats. Or the one boat they took!  Fucking tense, I love it!

Treasure is great, including a conch that summons a ghost ship! That’s all there is and that’s all the fuck I need! I havent decided yet if its just a ship, ala folding boat, or like full of undead pirates, ala Horn of Valhalla, but I’ll figure it the fuck out … whch if the fucking way I love my magic items. Mystery! Wonder! Joy! Mundane treasure is good also, with things like a mother-of-pearl gorget. Everything is just a line or two, and the vast vast majority of the treasure is in one room in the keep … and you’ve probably found most of the hostages before then … although you don’t know that … Push your luck at its finest!

Specify is great. The hostages all get names, which should add to the roleplay fun, and the fisherman says something like “Some sort of lizardmen! I seen them carrying off the Potts’s kids!” when he’s encountered outside. That’s fucking great! That’s specificity! That brings the game alive so much more than just generic “they are abducting people!” 

I think I have only one suggestion for this. I might add, up front, that the turtle will dive soon. I don’t think I want to SHOW on the chart, when the turtle dives, that’s too immersive breaking, but, I do think I want the party to KNOW he will dive soon, to add even more tension. Some NPC yelling something about it always diving in an hour or something like that, just to get that across to the party up front as I’m marking time units publicly.

Our designer, here, claims to have just discovered RPG’s in January (a year ago, I think, not two months ago?) and claims to have NEVER played an RPG before. They just read and learn. God, I love them so much. Hey, asshat readers, let’s find out where the designer is and some of you non-sucky people run a game for them!

The designer doesn’t have a site yet, so here’s the adventure, with their permission, for download.

This entry was posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Level 2, Reviews, The Best. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to The Keep of Dragon Turtle Greth

  1. Gnarley Bones says:


    I did not win $100.00.

    Well done, sir!

  2. OSR says:

    A strong entry!

    The TU tracker looks very functional, but I’d have liked if it took faster movement speed into account so that players had an incentive to leave their armor behind to catch up with the turtle faster. Another nitpick is the very flavorful ability of the iguanamen to cling to walls for ambush isn’t used for the pre-placed encounters.

    I wonder when all the entries are reviewed if they form a “stair” of levels so that you could run a small campaign with nothing but Wavestone Keeps.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Fucking hell, the competition here is steep. My puny 5e entry is outgunned in every respect 🙁

  4. Anonymous says:

    HO BOY

  5. Glenn Robinson says:

    Awesome stuff! I’m running this one as soon as I can fit it into the campaign!

  6. Ken McKinney says:

    I really love how the time tracking is so central to this adventure. I’ve never seen time tracking better done, in fact. I can’t believe the author has never played RPGs, he’s avoided basically all of the ‘beginner DM’ pitfalls. I can’t wait to see what else he comes up with. And everyone at Hasbro should be required to read this.

  7. howardjones777 says:

    Damn! Gives me hope, this does!

  8. howardjones777 says:

    “And everyone at Hasbro should be required to read this.”

    So much this.

  9. chaeska says:

    Regarding the egg timer or hourglass etc. – it’s briefly mentioned in the text.
    It’s to keep players moving and keep them on their toes. When they start overthinking things and stalling you put the timer on the table so they have to act quickly.
    No real consequences to it according to the adventure but you know you will hurry up when there’s a ticking timer right in front of you. 😀

  10. I was too late to turn in my entry. Now I realize it does not matter; I never stood a chance of winning this!

  11. George Dorn says:

    Such a solid entry. I just skimmed the PDF and already feel like I could run this with no extra prep.

    I like the idea of putting the TU grid up on the wall, though I might not indicate at what time the turtle leaves or dives until it happens. The players just seeing that time is being tracked that way should light a fire. I love the tension that adds, and it’s not overly complicated.

    It reminds me of the time tracking in one of the best 3.5 modules/campaigns ever created, The Red Hand of Doom, only in minutes/hours instead of days/weeks.

    • George Dorn says:

      Also, it is worth noting that done efficiently, it’s only about 45-50 TU to get to the turtle and exhaust every room. So while the tension added by tracking it is delicious, it’s really not unfair and there’s a decent margin for error. If the party faffs about, though, that margin will run out pretty quick.

  12. Bilygote Mohawk says:

    After these first two, I know my rushed product is smashed

  13. Just wanted to thank Bryce for the review and everyone for their kind comments.
    I also wrote a Take 2 while waiting for Bryce’s review. I streamlined/reorganized the text and added an iguanaman queen who controls Greth with the crown of dragon turtle control. I thought this item would be the ultimate reward for the party’s selfless heroics. Maybe it’s too much? Don’t know.
    Either way, both will be available on DriveThru for free.
    If anyone runs this, shoot me an email. I’d appreciate any feedback and would love to know if the Time Tracker works as I imagined it.
    As Bryce noted, I just discovered rpgs last January (2021) during COVID and still haven’t played.
    If anyone’s running games near York, PA and wouldn’t mind a noob at their table, reach out.
    Thanks again.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      And don’t make J go search out a 5e game at a game store; you know those things are shitty. get J in to a good game for their first time!

    • Stripe says:

      Jay! Wonderful, amazing adventure. Yours puts mine to horrible shame!

      It’s not mom’s kitchen table, nor is it the coffee table in the basement, but virtual table tops can be just as fun in their own way. If you’d like, we’d welcome you at the OSR Pick-Up Games Discord server:

      There’s a few active games and bursts of one-shot “pick-up” games as well. Would love to see you around the table!

    • Gnarley Bones says:

      Controlling a dragon turtle at levels 1-2 would be a bit much.

      Hit up Dragonsfoot. I’m sure we have some PA members.

      • Anonymous says:

        Paging Kelsey D, unless its online I know she plays with Hankren Ferndale

        • *poof* My name has been spoken three times into a mirror!

          But seriously, Jay, this adventure is spectacular. Phenomenal work and something to be really proud of! I told Bryce I expected to lose gracefully to the bracing competition, and I’ll be darn glad to do it, too. Thanks for sharing this inspiring stuff with us!

          I play a lot online these days and we make it work! You’re always welcome at my table (I promise we’ll do a retro clone, y’all), shoot me an email at! I also have plenty of folks on my discord putting groups together for short adventures and can get you in there, if you want. 🙂

      • chaeska says:

        But would it really? Time and time again I have thrown out balance considerations in my campaigns out the window and it was delightful!
        Why NOT have a level 1-2 character control a dragon turtle?
        It would be hilarious! And YOU as the DM are the game world, you can make up ANY kind of challenge that ignores the Dragon Turtle advantage if you put your mind to it. Even if it’s the enemies using ‘Dragon Turtle Repellant’. I mean, c’mon!

  14. PrinceofNothing says:

    Fine work. Brings a darn tear to my eye.

  15. Glenn Robinson says:

    Started this module today with my boys and they are loving it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    People here are cool have coffee and await the next Bryce, mornings don’t hit as hard and the muse leaves me unproductive

  17. Anonymous says:

    Also Friday so maybe not my fault

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