By Malrex The Merciless Merchants Gold & Glory Levels 2-5
River trade between Farholme and Nordskamp depends on the working operation of the Dragon’s Gullet, an old water lock system built by dwarves. The Gilded Spear, an adventuring group claimed the ancient complex has been cleared of danger and an expedition was sent to inhabit and operate the water lock system. Your party is hired as extra muscle to protect the first river trade boat set for departure downstream. An easy job….right?
This 22 page adventure uses ten pages to present a one level dungeon with about fifty rooms. This is a good, classic dungeon.
Ah, the classic dungeon level! A thing of beauty, seldom seen these days. Lair dungeons dominate the market, with their claustrophobic five room design. They have no room to breathe! Being little more than maybe one encounter idea stretched out. But, ah, the dungeon level … enough room in it for a murder hobo to stretch his legs! A map with variety on it! Maybe some loops and alternative passageways. Some variety to what were exploring. Room for traps, tricks, empty rooms, friendlies and monsters galore … perhaps, dare we ask, in their own zones?! And that’s what we have here. A real dungeon level.
Let us first consider the map. Essentially, this is a tunnel under the mountain through which a river flows. Except, there are two rivers, one being a man made channel with the titular locks. THis leave rooms for river encounters, on both sides as well as some hidden water areas, as well as a path down each side and down the middle. Watcherfalls on one river, locks on the other. Tunnels under, rope bridges (or spiderwebs!) over. Stairs up and down, shores, ledges, rubble and the like. And outside a couple of gatehouses flanking the carved dragons mouth tha the river runs in to. This is a good map. A whole lof variety to it. Features on it. One of the best I’ve seen in awhile. This map really helps support the adventure, providing an excellent base from which to build.
And build Malrex does. We’ve got an adventuring party camped out, that cleared out the place. Except, they are actually bandits who lied. Also, their leader has been charmed by a trog shaman and is chucking captives, and sometimes their own men, in to the river for the trogs to eat. Ouch. Deeper in we’ve got some newt-people who also don’t like the trogs. Scattered throughout are prisons who can recruit, things to talk to, enough stabbing to keep the dice rolling, tricks traps and puzzles. All of which is made more interesting by the variety that the map provides. These two bandits are on a ledge over the river about to chuck a prisoner in! You’re not gonna get that, and the game possibilities, in a plain room. This is a really good effort in the interactivity portion. An old dwarf ghost who might get friendly if you fix a broken thing. Of course. Cause thats how ghosts work.
Let’s take the two gatehouses, on either side of the river. With a bandt lookout in them. Smoke coming from one of them … a sign to be aware. Horses camped nearby. Some light treasure, and vermin. And the bandits maybe on the lookout. Oh, sorry, adventuring company. And thus the adventure starts strong. Gak those dudes sight unseen? Capture and question? Trust them when they say they are supposed to be here?
“A square, stone building tilts towards the river as erosion from high floodwaters has destablized its base. Cracks and holes reveal only darkness inside. A huge rusted and broken chain (1’ thick) enters the building from the west wall. The once stout door lays just inside the entrance, covered in muck and greenish moss.” The Rex of Mals can write an ok description. We’re not winning any awards here, but it’s relatively short and takes a stab a good imagery. Descriptive writing is hard and while this isn’t a master class in it, its good enough to not make me hate it.
Malrex does get a bit long in their DM text. The formatting is good enough, I suppose, to support the length, but its getting close. Whitespace, paragraphs, bullets, bolding all work together. And, at fifty rooms in ten pages we can’t really complain about length too much, can we, given modern standards? Anyway, I find the format a bit busy to support whats there. Maybe its the blank line above the bullet starts? Idk. But, again, good enough.
I might have wished just a little more oob, for the trogs and newt-people in particular. But, It’s a decent adventure. Decent loot, some new magic. A great map and good interactivity and descriptive text and formatting that doesn’t hinder the adventure. And even supports it at times.
A good dungeon level.
This is $5 at DriveThru. The prev iew is fourteen pages; more than enough to get a sense of the thing.
But, also, this adventure needs more +1 swords
Wow that sounds great. The idea of an underground river engineered by dwarves. What a great idea. I’m gonna buy this and force my players right into it. Like some kind of weird birth canal thing.
So many of these adventures with gold material -and it’s great Malrex well done- could be improved so much by creating stronger headers for each key. Literally just a return after the title of the key and a bigger font. Everything runs together, the “busy-ness” that Bryce mentioned, if we can’t easily tell when a new key starts. Check out Key #10. The monster and treasure entries below don’t clearly “belong” to 10, at a glance they could be new key entries. 5 is another egregious example.
The single space between every paragraph – even bullets as Bryce points out – can be customized for what kind of line break you want to be creating. This is another way to cleanly differentiate what content “belongs” to which key, because you can make in key spaces smaller than the spaces between the keys. Another way to improve clarity is to avoid extending keys throughout two columns or pages. Malrex is a smart guy and has little “continued” cues in place for this problem but it’s not as elegant as I’d like it to be.
Not everyone cares about this stuff as much as I do, I basically make layouts that happen to be adventures as I teach myself various editing software. But it does make a substantial difference at the table.
Thanks Maynard, I appreciate the tips! I wrote this a few years ago but I find layout being a constant, never-ending learning curve. I’m using a new layout program currently (wasn’t used for Gullet, but Perils of Olden Wood) and it’s been a headache all over again.
Thanks Bryce for your time with the review. The ‘Rex of Mals’ will definitely try to insert a Sword +1 in the near future……(or not).
May I ask which one you use?
I used to use PagePlus…which isn’t supported anymore (and started to have issues with it) and now use Affinity Publisher–great price and great functions–just a learning curve for me as this is just a hobby and self-taught.
I’ll echo Affinity, the value can’t be beat!
Malrex your layout -for what it’s trying to do- is very good. It emulates the TSR style very well. They used it because of its space efficiency and readability. In the age of PDF’s we can afford an extra page or two for the sake of clarity (but not too much!)
The map alone sells me on it. Good maps are becoming a lost art, and they’re an element that I can re-use alone, or just repurpose if (unlike this one) they’re a lot better than they key.
This looks interesting.
I know what Bryce means by the text looking “busy.” I have Red Prophet Rising and there’s something just…hard to scan about the layout. Not sure why. Text is broken up, but it’s broken up in multiple ways in a fashion that still gives you a “wall of stuff” hitting you in Ye Old Eyeballs. Not a fan.
That being said, this one still looks good.
What is Gold & Glory? A 2E clone?
May Khazra take you to the Blood Paradise Becker!!! 🙂
Thanks for the feedback. I feel like I’ve made some changes since Red Prophet and actually Dragons Gullet as I wrote it a few years ago, but good things to digest for the future. For Gold & Glory is a 2e clone, don’t think it gained much traction, but pretty easy to convert to 1e or other retroclones.
Yeah. I feel like I did a review of For Gold & Glory a few years back.
When Zeb Cook developed 2E, one of the stipulations by the Powers That Be was that it be backwards compatible with all 1E material (as TSR still had a lot of old inventory they hoped to move). As such, it is far from surprising that a 2E retroclone is an easy mod for my favorite edition of the game.
Regardless (and as I said) this sounds pretty good.
Thoughts on scribner?