Dark Obelisk 2

By J. Evans Payne
Infinium Game Studios
Level: Many

Infinium Game Studios


Level ?

At the end of Dark Obelisk: Berinncorte, the titular village lies in shambles, taken over and nearly consumed by forces of evil and chaos. Those few who survived the Obelisk Eruption are scattered and leaderless, with no hope of fighting back against the monsters that now walk the streets. In the wake of this tragedy, the PCs are tasked with gaining the aid of the nation of Druids who live to the northeast. The Druid Enclave has woes of their own, however: they have lost contact with the mining city of Mondaria. Upon arriving, the party finds a nearly-vacant city, torn apart by some unseen violence. Things look bleak and mysterious, and the PCs venture down into the dark murk of the mines to uncover the secret…

This 840 page adventure features a CRPG style exploration of a nine level mine and town. It’s bizarre, with rainbow formatting and an emphasis on looting everything in sight, along with a de emphasis on actual traditional adventure contents. It’s fuckign weird, and not in a good way.

So, whoever wanted me to review this is a bad person. I’m still working through my requests and, as with many of the things I’ve not gotten to yet, there’s a reason for it. And “840 pages of Pathfinder” is a pretty good reason to let this one wallow in the pit of unfulfilled requests. It’s taken me about a week and half to dig through this, working on it a few hours a day, and I still don’t know if I understand what is going on. What if the only exposure you ever had to an RPG was a dungeon level or two in the Icewind Dale computer game … and then you made a paper RPG adventure. That’s what you’ve got here. Seemingly every decision made is bizarre. And the, what if you made “interesting” decisions on how to format and layout your adventure? Then you’d have this adventure.

There is this choice being made to color code things in the text. Read aloud one color. DM text another. Traps another. Things you can open another. What you get is this rainbow effect on the pages, so busy that it makes my eyes hurt. An attempt to make things simpler and more logical results in the exact opposite: an obfuscation. And this theme will repeat: attempts to make things logical resulting in … other impacts.

At one point there is an attempt to explain the four factions in town. Each faction has fifteen different aspects to it, beyond the name. These faction descriptions take about a page, for all four. About a quarter of a page each. But then there is attempt to explain what each element means. So, each faction has a size, for example, and there’s a section telling us that “Size: Most factions have fluctuating membership; the size noted here is the typical range.” And this explanation of the key elements takes about a page also. So, as much to explain the key as it takes to explain the four factions! And this is typical in this adventure. There are these long and involved explanation of the key, or, rather, how to read the key, in nearly every section and for everything. It detracts from the actual game content. Did we really need to be told what “Size” means? “Leadership”, as a keyword, kind of stands for itself, as does size, and every other word. It’s like a dictionary definition was added for every word. It’s not, but I think you get where I am going.

The big hook, for the product line, is that every building is described. If you see something on the map, a building or so on, then it is fully mapped and keyed. So the blacksmith shop gets about a page of explanation and then about a page to describe the eight “rooms” that make it up. And this happens for EVERYTHING. 

But, importantly, is the emphasis of the text. Seemingly without exception you get a short little read-aloud and then a section telling you what in the room can be looted and which treasure table to roll on. I mean, it’s weird. It’s like the CRPG where there are barrels and crates everywhere and you spend your time busting them open … hopefully with auto-pickup on. The doors are the same way, with what locks. There are NO placed items, it’s all “roll on table Alcohol: General” … which means that in addition to this 840 page adventure you also need to consult the 250 page “Random tables” booklet. And this extends to the creatures, almost without exception. Roll on “Aboveground: Uban” monster table for an encounter. This is an absolute emphasis on the maps and describing everything, to the detriment of the actual content of the adventure, or what it should be anyway.

And then The read-aloud overreveals. Telling us that the room has two locked chests, for instance, removing that interactivity from the game of the DM and players that an RPG thrives on. And, occasionally, layered with overly flowery test “THis is clearly where the smith lays his head at night to rest.” Uh. Ok.

There’s a table to be used that has modifiers on it for NPC’s you encounter. It is a page long with over thirty modifiers on it. NPC’s have four levels of stats, I guess making this a level agnostic adventure. The NPC’s will sometimes have a page or a page and half of TINY text describing their special abilities … there is no way in hell you could run that at a table. 

I am reminded of the wargame period in the late 70’s and early 80’s. A period in which they got VERY complex. They were basically computer RPG’s but without a computer. And that’s what this is. Lots of maps. Everything described, but somewhat generically. “Roll on the clothing: winter table when you search the wardrobe or on the Fishing Supplies table when you search a chest. 

And the NPC’s contain, maybe, five or so elements at the end of each that contains what they know, in a Q & A format. If you ask A then then they respond with B. It tells us little of what they actually know about what is going on … in spite of paragraphs and paragraphs of descriptions about their motivations and backstories. 

This is a CRPG in paper format. That is almost impossible to dig through to get the larger context … in spite of the adventure trying to lay out summaries at every opportunity. 

It’s fucking bizarre.

Clearly, someones labour of love. But I can’t help think that a multiplayer Icewind Dale game would be better suited?

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is 23 pages and accurately represents what you find therein. Take a gander at it and stop by the smiths shop and enjoy running THAT!


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21 Responses to Dark Obelisk 2

  1. The Heretic says:

    840 pages?!? I thought that was a typo, but no it was not. Maybe someone was trying to get revenge on you for a bad review.

  2. OSR says:

    So many requests of bizarrely bad adventures. I wonder if it’s authors looking for exposure, or sadistic trolls, or maybe people who just enjoy reading savaging reviews of material nobody else would touch.

  3. Shitty Adventure says:

    Pathfinder is the antithesis of old school. Why review this stuff, requested or not? It’s a legitimate question to ask on a blog that is supposed to be focused on old school adventure reviews.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      “I bought these adventures and review them so you don’t have to.” is the tagline. My interests generally lie in the OSR, but I venture out of my echo chamber from time to time to experience the real world. What’s current in 5e/Pathfinder is greatly relevant to the hobby. As for the other, well, I don’t know. We all know I do a shite job of picking adventures. And, a loyal reader pick is just about as good as me picking at this point 🙂

      • Shitty Adventure says:

        Fair enough but at least some 5e stuff has been good (good, based on your review standards) Has you ever reviewed anything Pathfinder that hasn’t been crappy? I can’t recall except maybe one(?) that was decent but still not great.

      • PrinceofNothing says:

        The bonegarden (d20) and a lot of the earlier Necromancer games stuff for d20 was pretty good. This recent crop is too compromised I think.

  4. Anonymous says:


    Pathfinder is popular with the prison system here

    I will make sure to tell them not to purchase this

    Based on your review this does not seem rehabilitation material

  5. Gnarley Bones says:

    For comparison purposes, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers combine for 775 pages.

    For an apples-to-apples game comparison, TSR’s 1987 Realms of Horror compilation included, in their entireties, Tomb of Horrors, White Plume Mountain, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and ran 144 pages. I feel confident, without even looking, that this author failed to include, in 840 pages, the gameable content of even one of those adventures.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think this is supposed to be a solo module, as most “flextale” stuff is marketed for that niche

  7. Endless says:

    Credit where credit is due, you gotta admire the patience and level of detail from the author to be able to fill everything with a description, layout and keyed. I’m pretty sure this was quite the hardship to fully write.

    • Gnarley Bones says:

      Len Lakofka did something similar for his L4 and L5. I was involved in L4. It’s a brutal experience.

      • The Heretic says:

        Egad! Gnarley Bones, I feel for you. Trying to read L4 and L5 was painful enough, I can’t imagine how awful the editing process was!

        (L1 and L2 are still two of my favorite modules of all times)

  8. JLB Games - check out out .itch! says:


    “…In that Empire, the Art of RPGS attained such Perfection that the key of a
    single room occupied the entirety of a book, and the map of the dungoen, the entirety of a room. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Pathfinder’s Guilds struck a Map of the Setting whose size was that of the Setting, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of RPGs as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of RPGs.

    —Suarez Miranda,Viajes devarones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658”

  9. Reason says:

    Is the excruciating level of lootable detail different than say, T1?

    As for the painstaking explanation of the key… almost as if they _know_ their audience are idiots? Or is it that the author thinks we cannot grok concepts such a s size or leadership as well as they can? Or the author is an idiot and thinks these are obtuse rpg concepts which need explaining? Yes, the latter.

    It’s actually more interesting if the Blue Flame clan always have 57 members, blood in, death out though.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Dark Obelisk 2, not Dark Obilisk 2. Normally who cares about typos for your reviews, but the module title should at least be correct for search purposes.

    (The Mondarian Elective …. yeesh, what an awful title and cover)

  11. Jeff V says:

    Seems a bit odd to review Dark Obelisk 2 without reviewing Dark Obelisk 1, but looks like you don’t need play through the first one before running this one.

    Endzeitgeist has a lengthy review of this. As is usual with Pathfinder adventures, he likes it much more than Bryce does. I own 2 adventures that both of them have reviewed, and in both cases I am much closer to Bryce’s opinion than EZ’s. However, EZ does make this adventure seem rather intriguing – basically it’s as if the Dwarves of Moria had uncovered an evil artefact instead of a Balrog, and now most of the Dwarves ARE the Orcs.

    Even so, EZ finds the mechanics lacking. I don’t fancy the idea of rewriting 187 pages of Pathfinder stat blocks, albeit that only amounts to 47 pages in practice since there are 4 versions of each.

  12. Yora says:

    Just looked up the pdf page. I don’t know if it’s a single file or several and it does say 240 high quality maps, but the download is 556 MB.
    Pure insanity.

  13. Bucaramanga says:

    The Colossal Obelisk of Pure Autism

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