By Markus Schauta Gazer Press LotFP Level 1
Autumn 1631: Germany is plagued by the Thirty Years’ War. Bruckstadt has so far been spared, neither mercenary bands nor epidemics have reached the little town on the Katzbach. The inhabitants attribute this to the protection of St. James, whom they honor every ten years with a festival. In 1631 it should have happened again, but the explosion of the town‘s powder store buried the entrance to the saint‘s tomb. The saint, the citizens are convinced, will therefore no longer hold his protective hand over Bruckstadt. Count Reuben Wolfsgrau is now looking for volunteers to find another way to the tomb of St. James. A way through the Roman catacombs, where dangers lurk from beyond the grave.
This 104 page adventure details a few regional sites of note, with the main attraction being a five level dungeon. Dripping with flavour, organized well, it’s an excellent return to the lamentations that Lamentations has seemingly abandoned. A great achievement in the genre of almost-realistic dungeon crawling.
Fucking A man, this dude gets it! When I see an expensive product, or a long one, I sigh internally. My experience with both have not been good. But this thing (and, maybe, my recent forays in the depths of my Wishlist) has made me a believer! This is a Lamentations adventure of the Old Ways. No tricks, just a good time! Human centric, some undead running around, a werewolf, vampire, “stone spiders”, its an adventure, and dungeon, out of folklore. Never a funhouse but rocking the interactivity like few other things.
I don’t even know where to start.
So, the town, I guess. It’s DRIPPING. The guesthouse, where you’re likely to stay, is run by a shrew. How do w know this? “No magicians or heretics!” Plump, bossy, loud voice, hates cats, and devoutly religious. Fuck yeah! I can run that! The party is in for a good time when they stay here! Or, at least, I, as the DM, am in for a good time. 🙂 Oh, also, she loudly scourges herself every night. Fuck me man, THIS isthe atmosphere of thing. Imagine the party beng woken up buy this, investigating, and then quietly creeping back to their rooms … Things seen cannot be unseen. 🙂 I fucking love it. And this thing does this over and over and over again! The gravedigger? One of this notes is “Always surrounded by a bulk of cats, which he loves. When he dies in d4 days from hemorrhage, the cats will eat from his corpse.” None of that fucking high fantasy Forgotten Realms Drizzel Durdan shit in this! This fucking thing does life with a snark that is PERFECT for the fucking party to wander through.
Beyond a base of operations, the town serves as the springboard for several minor adventures. In attempting to learn more about the crypt, you learn what has happened recently, follow up on it, and get some clues on leads to pursue. All relevant, all interesting, and all presented very naturally. None of the fetch quest or de rigeuer investigation shit that we see so often in other adventures. No, here it’s all integrated. The town, as a resupply, is married perfectly to the town as an investigation source, which is married perfectly to the sites in the surrounding region, as a source of information and items for the crawl, which all prepares you for the main event: five levels of dungeon.
It starts strong, with some bandit-like folks on a lot of the first level. Are they bandits? Maybe? Yes, for sure. But, also, they fit in well and there’s this air of … naturalism. Maybe they just want an entrance fee to get in/past them. Not the usual sort of bandits in a dungeon, but some that fit in well, What if they were just living there, and you wanted to walk through someones living room? You’d expect that, maybe, they would charge you, right? And be a little hostile and possessive of it? Nevermind that they are squatters … .and, of course, there’s more going on than meets the eye.
Cannibals, undead, all sort of fun to be had in these catacombs, on your way to the crypt and the showdown with St James. Interactivity is strong. Not just fights. Not just talky talky. Quandaries. Things to do. Ways to explore. Sacrifices to be made. A stake in a corpses body? Dare you pull it out? Statues to worship, and traps to fuck with. Traps that usuallyhave some clues about. A dungeon, and encounters, that are not arbitrary but one in which the players get to push their luck and dare to explore more, for more rewards.
And such rewards! A great amount of unique magic items, the skulls and talismans and books of old folklore come to life! A death mask, with real rotting teeth, that lets you turn invisible! Oooh! Sign me up!
“Gnarled willow to which the head of a horse is nailed. The wood sweats red liquid dripping from the branches” Uh, yeah, so the atmosphere is quite strong here. Great evocative writing, terse. Just the seeds of an idea, with some mechanics attached to it. All you need, really. Maybe its role as “Translated from the Germanic” shows a bit, with the writing being a little less evocative than I would prefer, but this is no “big chest” adventure. Sparkling gemstones and golden cups with giant brown-black spiders standing motionless in a puddle, water dripping from a vaulted ceiling on to its shiny wet body. It’s all supported by a format that is decent, using bullets and bolding and whitespace pretty effectively. It’s a little busy and gets close to being TOO dense, but manages to handle things well in the end.
This is a GREAT dungeoncrawl! A perfect little thing to maybe start a campaign with. With a timer. And the usual CONSEQUENCES if the party fucks it up. This sthe grim and gritty human centric dungeon of your dreams, full of the flavour of Darklands, but turn up just a little more.
This is $14 at DriveThru. The preview is eleven pages and does an EXCELLENT job of showing you the format and encounter types of the adventure. What to expect, both in format and tone.