by Roderic Waibel
for Sacrosanct Games
For people of the border town of Aldin, danger was a part of life. Savage beasts, extreme winters – these were things the people were prepared to deal with. What they weren’t expecting to face was something so unholy that it was forbidden to speak of. Now a young group of would-be adventurers on their way to the large city of Halidor are forced to take refuge in Aldin due to a severe storm. Will they manage to escape …
Well, that uplifting feeling that I had from OD&D & Carcosa didn’t last long.
The party is journeying through a mountain pass when a blizzard comes up. As they exit the pass they awarded 250xp and then enter an insular little town at he end of the pass. Wait, What?!! Yes, you get 250xp awarded to you for starting the adventure. Ok, not quite, but close. At this point the party has had to suffer through six wandering monster checks and THEN they get the 250xp story award. This isn’t starting well …
The village doesn’t have an inn, everything costs 5 times too much, and they don’t like outsiders. But the party can’t leave because of the snow so they stay, as does a merchant and his wife trapped by the storm. One night the party sees the merchant and his wife surrounded by 12 hooded figures, who then take them off to a crypt in the graveyard. The next morning the villagers tell the party that the couple left, even though travel is still impossible. What, what?!! Seriously? The hook is that much of a railroad? Yeah, I suppose that there is a very great chance that the murder hobos in question will do nothing but it’s also quite likely that they will charge out and massacre the 12 hooded villagers. What happens then? Well… the adventure is not really written that way. There’s a dungeon under the crypt that’s the main part of the adventure and attempts to deviate are not appreciated in this type of module. The village and its villagers are barely detailed at all, even though the party could spend up to six days i hte villager before they get attacked in their sleep. These things DEPEND on a well described set of villagers with interesting backgrounds and stories behind their motivations. Not here. In addition it’s pretty imperative that some general notes exist to describe the actions of the villain if the party takes the module off the rails, as parties are wont to do. Not here. This is all too bad because the village backstory is actually kind of interesting: beset by terrible wandering monsters and humanoids, the villagers are convinced by a wandering witch to let her raise the dead in order to protect the village. And it works out! Well, except for the whole “the witch sometimes kills travelers to add to her undead ‘army'” thing. But hey, nice thinking outside the box!
This being D&D, the little shithole town has a crypt consisting of three levels with ten rooms per level. The maps are mostly linear. The first level is full of undead, skeletons and zombies. The second level is full of strange things, like a white ape chained up, and a trained(?!) carrion crawler used to ‘keep the dungeon tidy.’ COME ON! There are some goblins the party can maybe free, and an anomalous water wierd … wtf os that thing doing there, before the party reaches the 3rd level EHP/witch, who, the module announces, has been alerted to the parties presence and is expecting them. This smacks of storyteling and I don’t want that. I want interesting villains and motivations and reaction suggestions so I can can bob and weave as the party puts their silly ass plans in to place. With no new monsters, no interesting magic items (just +1 swords and potions of boring) and nothing much going on in the dungeon except room after room of monster, this module takes a decent premise and squanders it.