Dragon Teeth of Kataphrasis

By M. Greis
Greis Games
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 3-5

In the ruins left by the wizard Kataphrasis are left strange artifacts from the age when the stars fell from the sky. In the dim corridors inhabited by foul goblin raiders and their gnoll allies are left strange magics and few explorers are left umtouched after exploring the depths. It all begins with a caravan plundered by goblins and a rescue mission to free the prisoners of the goblins but from the within the dark, deeper than the goblins care to go something calls to the curious – and this may be the undoing of the adventurers for magics of ancient wizards are better left alone.

This 33 page adventure describes a three level dungeon with about 25 rooms. It’s got some creative encounter details, and is also dense enough, with enough text, that I don’t care about the details.

Kind of a strange one, this one. At it’s heart is a standard “dungeon with some humanoinoids in it who don’t control the entire place, the rest of it being a ‘normal’ dungeon.” It’s a strange one because even though it does many things right, the information density is so high that I think it gets quite wordy and hard to scan and run at the table.

We’ve got the usual assortment of iffy hooks, including getting hired. The start is the party finding a destroyed caravan, along, perhaps with “Terruce, the young local they recently met at an inn, who wanted to be an adventurer and therefore took a job as a caravan guard.” I’m always up for a little mangled body of a local youth energy. It’s that kind of detail that pervades the adventure. That’s great specificity. The actual descriptions of the various things in the dungeon may not be stellar, but, the concept behind them? Absolutely. 

The dungeon, proper, starts with the party seeing a large namd of gnolls in front of the dungeon entrance, being sent away by a group of goblins and being told to return at sunrise. Thus you’ve got a timer, the return of the gnoll warband, to act as a force driving the party forward. (Along with, presumably, the rescue of some prisoners obviously taken from the caravan.) This start is all supported by a small table of six rumors that goes something like “Some herb gatherers” and “an ancient ruined fortress that nobody should ever go to.” The rumors have their heart in a good place, even if the writing is more than a little cumbersome in places … which is a great summary of the entire adventure. 

“Wagons are emptied and overturned, and guard  peppered by goblins’ arrows or ripped to pieces by savage gnolls. Among the dead are goblins and gnolls.“ So, sure. Empty, overturned, peppered with arrows. And less great, this read-aloud, telling us they are gnolls and goblins. Errr, sorry, SAVAGE gnolls. Its got more than a little taste of high brown/flauting in my mouth. Technically, you can see what they were going for, even though they didn’t reach there in a natural way.

The individual room entries can be long, a column or more not being uncommon. Green text telling (I just typed repent instead of green. This is not an autocorrect situation. Hmmmm, thats weird … the tribulation has begun?) us the room name. A grey text books of a couple of paragraphs with read-aloud text. “Here sits seven goblins swaying from drunkenness amidst dice, coins and empty wine bottles. The place reeks with stale wine, coal and goblin sweat.” The end of the room read-aloud, there, again is trying hard. Reeking. Stench, sweat, wine. Sure. But the description is more than a little off. Here Sits? Really? Then we’ve got a paragraph description the seven goblins in the room and their drunk attack modifiers. Then a yellow boxed text with some treasure details. Then a paragraph each for the vampire and portcullis in the room (starting wth thos bolded words to make finding them easier) and then a pink boxed text section on bribing your way in. It’s busy. Very busy. 

Is it wrong? Meh …. It certainly feels the fuck wrong. Maybe from how busy it is. Maybe from the length, or what it implies. Combined with the somewhat cumbersome writing, the grammar and sentence structure, and youtube a section of  text, for each room, that feels like a struggle to wade through. I look at it and just sigh. I close my eyes a moment to gird my loins for handling whats to come. Not exactly what you’re looking for in running something.

And the map … the map is really strange. Three levels, if a room has a 30’ high ceiling then it shows up on all three levels of the map. Isolated from the other rooms for the upper two 10’ sections, for example. This sort of multi-level map details should be great but it comes across as confusing.I had to keep returning to the text over and over again to be like “where the fuck does this room connect to?”

And yet it also does so many things right. The map, multi level complexity, is great. Its just a  poort implementation. And individual encounter elements being great, like the campfire attack details, or bribing your way in, or any of what feels like twenty other nice little details and specificity in the dungeon. One room, with a weak/collapsing ceiling, is supported by a sweet little table of a kin of escalating room/ceiling collapse type. I ike it, a lot. The bear claw goblin tribe gets no real “bear claw” descriptions, but, sure, what the hell, why not have each of them holding a cruller? 

It’s got great specificity, but it’s handled in such a cumbersome way tha tits hard for me to do anything like recommending it. And i feel like an ass for saying that *also, because I think there are some EASL issues) but, ultimately, I don’t want to run it. I don’t want to fight what I’m running to run it. Even though I’m not sure that’s the case.

This is $3 at DriveThru.The preview is six pages and shows a couple of dungeon rooms, so, good preview.


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6 Responses to Dragon Teeth of Kataphrasis

  1. Baldo says:

    Temple of the Harpies (no regerts)

    Mysteries of the Pillar of Blue Light (unreviewed)

    Today Only the above adventures from M. Greis (and the other stuff from Aegis Studios) “are 90% OFF!”

  2. Adam W. says:

    Way the tits hard lads.

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