Gilded Dream of the Incandescent Queen Footprints #25 HDA Terrible Sorcery Labyrinth Lord Levels 3-6
Nearing the end of her life, she explored every option to extend her years: magic mirrors, lichdom, medicine, even Infernal bargains. Nothing was satisfactory. Finally, she built the sanctum and attempted to transcend mortality itself. It didn’t work out.
This is one of the adventures in Footprints issue #25. And, as it turns out, was also at least partially developed in a contest on my Adventure Design forum. Which I didn’t participate in or even realize was going on until two years after it ended. My bad …
This 21 page adventure describes a two-ish level “castle” in the sky with about forty rooms in it. It’s doing everything right … and yet leaves me nonplussed. Maybe the Dwarf Temple problem.
One of the opening sentences to this is “Many NPCs in the adventure have useful knowledge about local dangers – parties who don’t gather information and put the pieces together might make a fatal mistake! Thus is the game played.” So, surprise surprise surprise, Terribly Sorcery gets it.
So, queen lady tried to become immortal by building a stairway to heaven, literally, from her cloud castle. It worked kind of like one would expect. Now the vil part of her broods in her throne room. Oh, also, rumors say the castle has something that can turn base metals in to gold. Let’s take a look, shall wel?
We’ve got a mostly functioning caste here. There are cloud butlers and marble courtesans running around. And some rotting corpses. And some ‘angels’ “the gilded ones” who’ve descended from on high having come DOWN the staircase. And a decent number of other weirdos to be found in the cells and dungeons and palace proper. The major groups get a little run down of some basic personality and desires – which is good for the more generic ones like the butlers, angels and courtesans. Our angels? “Culturally insensitive tourists with holy
Powers.” Noice! And the remains of the queen in her throne rooms? She wants “To increase the misery in the world, even her own. To be praised, flattered and obeyed. To live forever. To be beautiful again.” Nice stuff there. Realistic and runnable as an NPC. This is all supplement by a decent, if somewhat layout-expansive, wandering monster table good enough to add sufficient variety to the DMs imagination during play.This is how you add colour, people.
Treasure, both mundane and magical, is well described, generally, and a mix of unique items and book items. The map is …decent for the limitations given: the base outline is a triangle and shows us some features, like light and such. (And it’s worth noting that some rooms are bigger on in the inside … like the 2 mile diameter ocean inside of one rooms, complete with multiple islands. That’s a nice addition.) I might have found that the “always on” dungeon dressing, marble, etc, would be better served as a note on the map page rather than only in the text. I like general features somewhere I can reference them quickly.
Writing is relatively decent here. If, maybe, a little .. static? Low energy? “11 worthless remains are climbing up the pillars to catch and eat a group of 19 sunlight moths resting on the ceiling.” If I look at that description and I really THINK about it then it could be pretty cool. It’s certainly better than the vast majority of descriptions written in rooms in adventures. They are doing something, both crawling up the pillars AND trying to eat something, so, great job! Maybe a few better adjective/adverb choices would have given it a little more energy in the imagination. Likewise, let’s look at this room description: “CHAPEL – Hung with white and crimson banners, lit by golden candelabras. On a marble altar rests a glowing red cross which bleeds constantly, covering the altar and overflowing into a floor drain.” Again, if I really think about this then it seems pretty nifty. And it is ABSOLUTELY better than most of the garbage I run across. (This is what praise from me looks like. Its not the best food ive ever eaten in my life. Why is that the case?) But, again, it seems a little … ossified? Again, I think some better adjective and adverb choices. And, again, I will point out that I think this is the hardest part of adventure writing. Making a description really jump off the page and live in the imagination of the DM, immediately, is hard.
Certainly, we get a kind of mythic element to the adventure. There’s the golden stairway to heaven, which is described well and FEELS like what it’s meant to be: a major major location. A mythic place. And, likewise, the dungeons below have some shit equal to the stairs. Mythic things and rooms that you’re like “Damn. Yup. That’s what some soul scales are, where they live, and who guards them!” The ability to create, and communicate, the truly MYTHIC in quite well done. The designer understands the need to do this in an adventure and has the ability to do it.
The environment is a little austere, with marble hallways and the like. I wondering if my lack of enthusiasm here is because of that. There’s a tendency to make dwarf temples, and indeed anything dwarf, somewhat austere. And I think it’s quite difficult to communicate the grandeur of the austere in the written word. Magnificent desolation, and the like ot the southwest landscapes … how do you do that? It does seema lot simpler to appeal to those baser dark and dripping caverns with streams of blood and gore. Given the austerity of the place. “The hallways are polished white and grey marble, trimmed with gold and silver highlights. Furniture and artwork is clean and well-cared for. Soft lighting permeates the sanctum, like being indoors on an overcast day.” Maybe? I don’t know. It’s got a decent amount of interactivity. Mythic things. Good wanderers and decent map for its size. The rooms are decently written, and yet I’m not very excited here. Which is why I want to turn to the austerity excuse.
I think this is worth checking out, especially since Footprints is free. I’m just not sure this every makes it to my table?
Free at Dragonsfoot at: