The Caper of Lanjin Kettlespin

By Malrex
The Merciless Merchants
For Gold & Glory
Levels 1-3

War in the tunnels below the dwarven city of Axeholme has kept the city guard busy. This caused the Constable to close down the Axeholme Museum in frustration and until further notice!! Why? Due to ‘hauntings’! Rumors have spread through the streets that locals have witnessed strange lights, noises, and normal objects that move on their own accord! Sounds like the usual to a group of adventurers such as yourselves. The Constable seeks adventurers to figure out the mystery of these hauntings….and you are hoping the reward will just be some of that sweet, sweet dwarven beer! 

This 21 page adventure details a three level dwarf museum with about 35 rooms. It’s probably fine. But I hate dwarf adventures and I hate museum adventures. Yes, I am a hater. The worst thing I’ve seen from MM, and Mr Bad King? Probably.

Let’s see here, plant room? Check. Statues that come to life? Check. Things coming out of paintings? Check. Animated things? Check. Earth plane creatures? Check. Some kind of forge thing? Check. Some kind of mine thing? Check. “Bryce, stop being so cynical!” Well, stop making it so easy! Sure, a museum is going to have those things. Sure a dwarf adventure is going to have those things. Just like an exploratory adventure will have a secret door and a chasm room. 

But I don’t care. I hate the implications. Museums. Phooey! And the dwarves here are nothing but a pretext. It could be a human museumfor all the theming. Yeah yeah. Bar in the museum. Mining exhibit. Whatever the nature of dwarves is, it’s not present in the adventure. And if you figure out what the nature of dwarves is let me know. That does seem to be the problem with all these dwarf adventures. No one seems to know what the vibe is. Including me? Anyway, museums suck in D&D, just like archeologists do. There are, of course, the required continual light lamps throughout the museum. Joy. Did I mention the legendary gnomish artist thing? No? I’m just ranting and rambling at the beginning of a review? 

Ok, so, the dwarf museum is haunted. Everyone is too busy so you get to go look in to it. What does haunted mean? No clue. Nothing provided. The curator opens the doors for you. What can the curator tell you? No clue. Nothing provided. Yeah, sure, you don’t have to. But, also, one fucking sentence would be nice. One sentence to communicate the curators vibe? Nope. I guess the intro says the constable is looking for volunteers, and the intro in the adventure says Balgor the curator is looking for volunteers. Whatever. There’s 35 rooms. Lets get in to it. Oh, shit, I forgot. You get 300gp each and please don’t steal.

Room one. Giant closed doors with a dwarf face on eit. Got it. Room two. Statues. One of them comes alive. Starting strong, I guess. “Three dwarven statues and one gnome statue stand in alcoves lining the walls, each graffitied with colorful war paint. The statues are expertly crafted with name plates. Each statue holds the tools of their particular trade.” *YAWN* Room three, Foyer, with “gigantic thich multi-hued glowing crysta;s emerging from the ceiling, floor, and walls.” *yawn*. Room four, Trophies. Statues of monsters. That have … come to life. Seven kobolds, five goblins and an ogre. Enjoy. Room five, mining exhibit. “Various sized lanterns hang from the walls emitting a glow on stone tablets of cartographic information. Wheelbarrows are half-filled with bits of golden and copper ore chunks and in-between piles of rubble. A few empty bird cages, expertly crafted hang from the north wall.”

Is this what you want from D&D?

The adventure is not badly done. You can understand what is written and follow along. I just have no idea WHY you would to do so. For a generic description? For seeing a trope that has been done a hundred, if not thousand, times before done in exactly the same way it was done those previous times? For a plot driven by a gnome illusionists search fo a book of literature about his dad. A BOOK OF LITERATURE?!  

I fucking hate magical society adventures. Just as I hate hell and all Montagues. 

Enjoy this, plebiscite. I trust you’re all comfy on your tacky sofas from Rooms-to-Go, lots of nibbles close at hand? Well, tuck in! And why not smoke between gobbles? Yes, go for the gusto America!

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is fourteen pages, so you get to see everything. There’s no faulting that! Just the way things should be.

It’s Tuesday, as I write this. I leave Thursday night to go live on a commune.

This entry was posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to The Caper of Lanjin Kettlespin

  1. AB Andy says:

    Seems like it’s one of Malrex’s adventures from back when he was writing for patreon. I didn’t check it yet, but if all you say is true, then it’s a prime example of how time pressure and patreon format can produce mediocre stuff. Because after he stopped, his adventures got way better quality than this.

    Having said that, what is so wrong about the room of crystals as an example? The premise? The “trap”? The interaction? The description?

    • SargonTheOK says:

      For the crystal room, not a bad description, it just doesn’t give the players much to do. Combine that with a delayed trap effect: 4 round delay, but nothing interesting enough to keep players that long. And if it really is rounds, not turns, that complicates time-keeping when there is no obvious encounter.

      Having skimmed the adventure, I think there is more fun here than what Bryce is giving it credit for, but then I’m less jaded about museum adventures. It’s been a good 9 years since I last ran/played one so I’ve not OD’d yet, and the illusionist heist premise is better than most (though I’d up the stakes past just some historical literature). And if you don’t like the curator-offered 300gp reward, it has other hooks. Hiring the players for a competing heist (hook #3) could be gleefully chaotic.

    • Malrex of the Merciless Merchants says:

      AB Andy is correct…Patreon days and 1 month time pressure and that’s why I quit my Patreon, although had a few wins from it–Kellerin’s Rumble, Red Prophet Rises, Trollback Keep, etc. I was going to tweak this a bit and put it in a future Axeholme setting/adventure we got cooked up a few years from now, but then the OGL fiasco made me panic so I released it early so it could see the light of day for a day or 2 before having to take it down…but then there was a lack of bite for the OGL and so here we are.

      Maybe I just don’t recall, but I don’t think I’ve ever read/seen a museum adventure…anyone have any (good) titles of some? The Lost City kinda gave me that vibe (or maybe I should re-read it). Ive seen library adventures and yes, plenty of dwarf adventures…

      I just finished play-testing a 4 level museum dungeon that’s part of the City of Vermillion. I believe museum type adventures can provide some history for a setting that can bring it to life. Weapons/magic items from legendary heroes (and clues on how to use them), potential for clues and/or treasure maps, learning about different region gods/culture–which could help if you travel there, why parts of a city are the way they are due to a historic war or clues to hidden areas in a city or region that may be forgotten…. and giving opportunities for bards to shine or mostly unused spells (i.e Comprehend Languages).
      A one off adventure?–perhaps it doesn’t work so well–as this review is an example, but if it’s an adventure in an established setting (i.e. Greyhawk, Vermillion, etc), I believe a museum adventure can be pretty interesting and help with future adventures in that area so that the history stuff isn’t useless. My unasked for 2 cents.

      I appreciate the time on the review–thanks.
      (turns up Wind Rose- Diggy Diggy Hole).

      • Anonymous says:

        Whether one likes Critical Role or not, there was a museum section on their current campaign that worked quite well. But only because there were references to a world the audience has been hearing about since 2 campaigns and many one shots. So I guess you are right about the scope and purpose of such an adventure.

      • Max says:

        I thought Patreon also had “pay by creation” option. Wouldn’t it be a better fit?

        • Malrex Morlassian says:

          Max–they might have that option now, I’m not sure, but I don’t recall that when I was doing it back in the day. That would be a much better fit.

      • Shuffling Wombat says:

        For a theft from an exhibition, you might try A Little Bit of Thievery, which Bryce has reviewed (and could be improved along the lines suggested). Although I’m not sure how much guidance you need, having written the excellent Kellerin’s Rumble.
        I see no reason why museum adventures shouldn’t be enjoyable, either as heists or Banacek style recoveries. “History on an item” does indeed work better if that history is relevant to later play.
        News of how City of Vermillion is progressing is very welcome. That is a product I would buy with no further questions.

      • Shuffling Wombat says:

        And Diggy Diggy Hole is surprisingly catchy.

  2. Artem of Spades says:

    Daaaamn, I have a soft spot for dungeon gardens and living statues/objects coming to life, and I have a HUGE boner for thing coming out of paintings/mosaics/frescoes/etc. Those are classics for a reason. I’d take them over rats in a cellar and orcs in a hole any day of the week.

    • rekalgelos says:

      Artem I couldn’t agree more. I really like everything you noted. for me this review makes it nearly a must buy…no regerts.

  3. Stripe says:

    Ouch, Malrex! Forget to pay Bryce off this month?!


  4. Anonymous says:

    And the Merchants lose coveted Buy Without Any Thought status

  5. David says:

    I just want to pay a compliment to this style of layout. I find it easy to read and reference, tables set out just enough, a little art to keep things interesting. No crazy fonts or color print on color background, just easy to absorb.

  6. Edgewise says:

    I always enjoy Bryce’s “drunk dialed” reviews, although I am starting to worry about Bryce’s liver. And kidneys. Seriously.

    As for this review, I kind of get what it’s complaining about, but there’s a lack of specificity. Bryce: what could be improved, here? That’s your mission, right? I mean, you know that you’re dealing with an earnest contributor to the form, so you should go the extra mile to state something actionable in your critique. I think that’s only fair, given Malrex’s many successes. Yeah, I’m biased, but whatever.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The only thing better than a dungeon museum is a having a zoo filled with monsters. Isn’t that idea amazing? Like you can have a completely random assortment of powerful monsters to slay right next to each other in cages and it would be totally legit! No need for any plot to explain why a dracolich is immediately next to a purple worm, a beholder, and a tarrasque. And a petting zoo with rust monsters. Just say the city is building a new castle where the zoo is and they can’t move the monsters. The mayor will pay the adventurers 300 gps each to kill the monsters, and of course, you can’t kill the monsters without going inside the magical cages.

    • Prince says:

      A good museum dungeon concept stolen from comic books, and I’m not saying someone should make a NAP entry for this, to be used when a Deck of Many Things Void card is drawn;

      The Abode of the Collector, a quasi-deity with demi-god powers in his own realm, with exhibits from all over the multiverse, artifacts, pocket planes, various creatures in stasis, spatial anomalies and so forth. Besides the exhibits, there are of course the museum’s myriad guardians, strange extraplanar vermin that infest the place, escaped exhibits, the Collector’s Guests and the Collector himself.

      And yes, you are going to rob the place.

    • Anonymous says:

      What we really want to see with museum dungeons (but never get): Have ALL artifacts and relics in the DM Guide in the same museum. The rod of seven parts in 7 separate museum rooms so you can do the whole campaign with less effort. Adventurers do their heist on the guards’ day off and the alarms are off by magical blackout. Several NPC parties descend on the museum at once for an all out battle between them using all the artifacts they can snatch. Of course, make up some reason that they cannot leave the museum without getting all artifacts and relics.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What specifically are all of these other “museum dungeons” that are apparently so numerous as to have become a cliche, and to which this compared unfavorably? I can’t recall ever seeing even one, much less so many for it to become a tired trope.

    • Jeff V says:

      The only one that comes to mind is Mists of Mwangi, a Pathfinder Society adventure from way back in the 3.5e days. I quite like it, as it brings the Jungles of Mwangi to the adventurers, and maybe one day I’ll use it to start off a Mwangi campaign.

      I’m pretty sure Paizo have set other Pathfinder Society adventures in the same museum, but I’d be amazed if Bryce has read any of them or has them in mind when reviewing.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s kinda like orcs in a hole. No one remembers the adventures, but we’ve all seen/experienced them. Remember that wizard’s tower where the wizard displayed his entire collection of stuff accumulated over the years? Yeah, me too. The stuff had traps and things would come to life, etc. I think by 4E and 5E they just called these wizard towers museums, because by then it seemed logical that Harry Potter would bring in the whole community to see the fantastic stuff for a small admission fee. It’s so Eberron. Contests of one-page dungeons have 1 or 2 per year that actually call themselves museums (and others are basically museums, but are not called such). And think about it, how easy it is to smash a bunch of unassociated stuff together in one place than to have a museum. I can put a giant blue diamond in the same location as an ancient tablet, an antiquated boat/ship, a reassembled temple, animated statues, suits of armor, scrolls of any nature, a bunch mummies, a undead dinosaur skeleton, and rare artifacts and art of any sort from all over the world/universe in one place. No more do players have to go to teleporter taverns to travel (or worse, travel overland) to exotic places to get this stuff. They now only have to walk into one building in their local city. Perfect for the lazy DM.

      • Malrex Morlassian says:

        Ya…I can see the resemblance although a collection of stuff may not have a historical significance that a museum could bring to a setting. I could also label that a funhouse adventure too, depending on what all is going on. But thanks for that–makes more sense where the museum cliche mindset is coming from.

    • Stripe says:

      The “rats in a cellar” genre isn’t heavily saturated, either, despite being the #1 example people will use as a cliche starter dungeon. I’m not saying there aren’t examples, but I understand it got its cliche status mainly because was the tutorial dungeon in Baldur’s Gate (1998). Personally, I have never *actually* ran or played “rats in a cellar.”

      • Stripe says:

        To be clear, I don’t think “museum dungeons” are cliche, but I don’t think that’s exactly why Bryce was saying he doesn’t like them, either. Sound like he just hates them kinda like he just hates travelling carnival scenarios. Dude’s a hater! Haha!

        (I agree with his distaste for “magical ren’faire, though!)

      • Artem of Spades says:

        If you extrapolate the definition slightly (and you totally should) to “pests of unusual size in a mundane confined space”, here is a prime example of “spiders in a barn”. The adventure is literally “go kill some giant spideys for Farmer Bob”.

  9. Chainsaw says:

    tacojohn ran us through Rob Kuntz’ Chamber of Antiquities (L16) from Dungeon 124 at one of the NTRPG Cons. I remember having a pretty good time.

    • Anonymous says:

      Okay, that’s one. Anyone have 99 (or 999) other examples, to explain Bryce’s claim that museum dungeons are “a trope that has been done a hundred, if not a thousand, times before in exactly the same way”? Blue Medusa, maybe, but he called that one of The Best back in 2016.

      • Chainsaw says:

        Apologies, I wasn’t responding to you directly, but offering up an example of a fun museum adventure I’d played as evidence that they can be fun.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It’s ok Nibbles he’s not talking about you *kiss my cat*

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