ST1 – Temple of the Horned Goddess

by Jim Baney
for Knightvision Games
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 4-5

The mining village of Hardin’s Point is in desperate need of some help. They have been constantly harassed by strange creatures from the jungle. Several adventure and mercenary parties have journeyed into the jungle to take on the threats but have yet to return. Mining operations and trade have almost come to a standstill. Do you have what it takes to find the source of the attacks and end the threat?

Let me first describe what’s going on. Miners are getting attacked and the party goes out to stop the lizard/skunk people menace. These are the first five linear encounters. This leads the party to some orcs in the temple noted in the adventure title. The orcs are mostly dead, being killed by the temple guardians.

I’ve reviewed a couple of products that were very clearly conversions from d20/OGL products. Even if the vocabulary and editing didn’t give them away then their style did. For whatever reason, products for a certain game tend to all have a similar style. This product has a 4E style. There is exactly one good thing about that … and one other good old school thing.

Let’s cover the good first so you don’t have to read the rest of this review. 4E did one thing well and that was unique monsters. Every single monster was different from the others. Strange powers, surprising monster effects, immunities and goofy attacks. Those were all great parts of the 4E monsters. It then screwed it up by standardizing them all, but I’m willing to ignore that. This module has a lot of unique monsters in it, each with special powers. Drag Vines grab you in the jungle, pull you up, knock you unconscious and stab you with spore pods. Moss Monsters infect you and you slowly turn in to a pile of moss until cured. Skinks are lizard/skunk hybrids. Cryo Stirges breathe cold and Straw Men are full of pollen. These are all great effects and make the monster encounters unique. The party doesn’t know what the monster does. It freaks out when the effect happens. It has to deal with effects after the battle, this is all good and makes their view of the world a better place, more personalized and more real.

The second nice feature are the unique magic items. The magic items are almost all unique. They weapons all have names, brief descriptions, and lots of unusual effects. The Scholar’s Brush is a +3 spear that also allows the wielder to block melee and missile attacks and has some special rules associated with it. The short sword Kamblast is also personalized and has unique effects. This also extends to other magic items, like the Ring of Damage Absorption. It absorbs all of the damage you take … until you take it off, then you take all the damage at once … I’s also a little loose and tends to slip off a lot … and generally found near a very mutilated body …. That’s a GREAT magic item! I really can’t stress enough how impressed I am with the magic items. It adds an air of magic and mystery to the game and gives the party a sense of wonder and makes the players much more attached to items. I’ve seen people keep less powerful magic items because they were ‘cooler’ than new ones they’ve found. That’s a good item and that feeling the player gets it what magic items should be shooting for. It’s not a min/max decision/optimization decision, it’s become a player enjoyment issue.

The rest of this thing sucks, almost completely.

Encounter 7 – Hearth Room
(Maximum 525xp)

Set the Scene
Place the characters at any entrance to this room. The room will be completely dark.

Read or Paraphrase
I’m read aloud text which doesn’t take in to account any of the cool things you, the players, have done. After all you shouldn’t be able to avoid combats in 4E.

The stirges will immediately release … blah blah blah … stat block.

Treasure: Treasure 1 description.
Treasure: Treasure 2 description.

Trap: Trigger failed roll – effect: chest heats up dealing 1d4 damage.

[Battle map diagram.]

I don’t need a layout that similar to the ones we’ve all seen for 30 years … I’m not complaining about the headers. I’m complaining about the scene/encounter based design with divorced mechanics. It looks like it’s scene based. The locations are little more than slaughter-fests … monsters attack immediately with no regard to player action. The mechanics are divorced from the environment, most notably in that trap description. I don’t need or want a description of how the skinks engineered a trap that heats up a treasure chest but I need a little more than an mechanic completely divorced from the rest of the adventure. Strangely enough, there are five encounters in the first area before the party goes off to a separate location with seven more encounters … this sounds a lot like 4E … The locations are all so sparten as to be irrelevant, in particular the town and miners mentioned so prominently in the cover teaser. Essentially, there’s not enough transition BETWEEN encounters. I know that sounds like a silly thing to say, however the module is boiled right down to the bare bones of scene/encounter scene/encounter scene/encounter … and I hate those scene based indie games. [More diatribes about Fiasco and why that entire genre sucks can be found in my Origins 2011 reviews.]

This is available on DriveThru.

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