by Thomas J. Scott
for Magique Productions
Stuck in the port city of Elisarus without a job and no adventure for six months. That is, until the characters learn of a treasure map uncovered by a mysterious pirate captain, which leads to the legendary forgotten isle.
This is supposed to be a tournament module, but there is no scoring information. It’s also non-linear in a way that tournament modules seldom are and it’s not exactly clear to me how you ‘win.’ But, what makes for a terrible tournament module can make for a decent home play module … uh … I think? The module has three parts which are loosely connected. The party will get the treasure map in the town they’re in, sail to where the island is supposed to be, and then explore a ruined city.
The first portion of the adventure involves the part obtaining the map in a port town. It’s a complete mess and also of the more raucous introductions I’ve seen. The party overhears two sailors mentioning a treasure map and the desire to find more crew for the voyage. The party is expected to go sign on and check in every day until they get told the ship is pulling out. No problem, right? Well, it turns out that the party has signed on to a PIRATE ship. This good natured bunch of guys are in ‘disguise’ in port, having changed the name of their ship and their captain. One night the party stumbles upon a group of them literally running amok and spreading mayhem on some little side street. After three days the ship pulls out, but when the characters get on board they see the crew all arming themselves for a last minute raid on the town. The local guard and citizens take up arms and stop the pirates, presumably in cooperation with the party. As a reward the party is given the ship, the map, and a magic item that works the map. A glorious hook and implemented as a complete mess. There is a small map for the town with about a dozen places identified, a small random city encounter chart, a description of the ship, several seedy hangouts near the dock, a description of the pirate crew and officers, rumors charts, legends and background information, people staying at a certain inn … and absolutely no reason on earth why the party won’t just park their asses in the inn and wait for the call from the ship. Meaning, there is no reason for the party to go explore the town, no reason to talk to the NPC’s, no reason to ‘investigate.’ The module seems to make a point that the party should be making inquiries but I can’t see why the party would ever do that. So while there’s a a terrific amount of support information there’s no reason to pul it in to play. The DM is going to have to be quick on his feet to get the party moving, otherwise they are just going to go straight to the mass pirate raid. It is absolutely non-linear though.
Part two starts with the party being given the map, ship, and secret decoder ring as their reward for stopping the big pirate raid climax in part one. They did stop it, right? My players might have joined in … Anyway, the party recruits a crew and sets sail. The sailors are all chipper and in great moods and full of esprit de corps. Then, suddenly, over the next three days, they turn on the party and mutiny. Yes, these seasoned salts of the earth mutiny in three days time because the 3000 year old treasure map has a couple of issues. Three days. Really? WTF? Didn’t Columbus sail for, like, forever on the the first voyage? Didn’t some of those circumnavigators sail for YEARS at a time? And these jack-asses mutiny after three days? There are a couple of incidents in those three days, a drunk hand, a fight between two crew, that could trigger the mutiny sooner. Eventually though the mutiny happens and the crew breaks in to the armory. If the party places a guard on the armory then the sailors overcome then. WTF?!?! I’m a6th level dwarf ass kicker guarding one door and I’m taken down by a bunch of un-armed 0-levels? Of course you are, because the plot says you must be. Because during the mutiny battle the party gets to A) Discover the real location of the island, which immediately stops the mutiny, and B) gets attacked by three evil cleric ships also looking for the island. Passing through a whirlpool causes all of the parties sailors to panic and abandon ship, conveniently getting them out of the way, while also killing everyone less than 2HD. I don’t know man, I didn’t write it. But I do know that the wizards gonna be pissed about his familiar. The party sees the isle, swims over, and finds has three encounters before a showdown with the evil clerics happens, ending part two. The sailors all get their own little write-up, as does the EHP ship. The sea battle might be interesting but the module cautions several time about letting a boarding action take place because it would interfere with the plot. The EHP at the end has a soliloquy, but it’s pretty meaningless since all the party knows is that they got attacked on the seas and none of his evil backstory. It’s like the party has has a nemesis all along that they’ve been thwarting at every turn … except they are completely unaware of the guy and had no idea he existed and the thwarting was accidental. Bizarre.
Part the Third has the party exploring a ruined city on the island in search of ancient super artifacts. This amounts to four encounters in the city ruins and 17 inside the evil kings old castle built on the side if an ancient volcano. The kings castle, while composing the bulk of the encounter areas, is a little anti-climactic. There are only a handful of skeletons, a magic sword that slays undead, and an undead to be found as creature encounters. The ruins outside have an encounter with something like 12 waves of undead, but even that seems relatively light. The ancient super artifacts that are the object of the quest get no description at all. The magic vault is described as being stuffed full of them but that’s it. I would have expected more, but then again this IS supposed to be a tournament module. There is an excellent portion of this section which has a room full of magical potions, substances, etc. Most of them have some effect associated with them and there are some kindly poltergeists present to help the party fully explore the items. 🙂 I really enjoyed that room and wished there could have been more rooms like that one; weird, idiosyncratic, and full of things to play with.
While the module has some interesting ideas, such as the pirate mix-up and the waves of undead, it doesn’t really fulfill the promise of traveling to a an island from the ancient past in search of ancient artifacts. I would expect more weird stuff, things to play with, abominations, and, ultimately, some actual ancient artifacts.
This is available on DriveThru.