By DM Ritzlin
No Artpunk #2
The secret caves beneath the necropoli of Desazu are riddled with danger and nefarious evil. A bizarre cult led by a perverse necromancer has been desecrating graves and plundering corpses for their own foul uses. Who will put an end to their heinous deeds? Only those brave enough to venture into… THE LAIR OF THE BRAIN EATERS
This 13 page bonze-agy dungeon is set in tunnels under a cemetery. Sub-humans, undead, and rats combine with some leftover temple elements to give a straightforward crawl with utilitarian descriptions. It’s heart is in the right place, but comes off staid.
This has some good things going for it. You’ve got some great in-voice rumors and non-standard potions (eat some brains!) and descriptive treasures. Who doesn’t want The Nycoptic Manuscripts, (unless you’re looking for the unabridged edition?) Or, to eat the brain of a giant to get giant strength? Or, a skill with a gold tooth? Nothing like doing a little desecration when you’re in the tunnels under the cemetery. It’s also got some decent interactivity … in place. A wooden plank laid out on the floor in an empty room … why is that there? That’s weird. Except it runs over a pit hidden by an illusionary floor. Pay the fuck attention, kiddos, or suffer for it. Several of the monsters get a retheme. Humans get to be shaggy subhumans, mutated by eating diseased brains (a nod to our British games?) while rats, in places, breathe fire. When this thing hits it hits well. A giant venus flytrap with little buds that look like brains. “The Yoinog do not find these “impossible brains” nearly as savory as the real thing, but a man’s gotta eat…” A sly little comment like that warms my heart. And the fact that it manages to take a standard monster, tweak it a bit, and then make it fit perfectly in to the adventure? Gold. We get a rough little order of battle in places and a decent number of traps and specials without it seeming like that’s all the dungeon it.
And yet I’m left feeling more than a little disappointed in it. The descriptions of the rooms are very workmanlike. Not much imagery to be found, and an emphasis on … I don’t know … the facts of the room? It tells you, matter of factly, what is in the room, without embellishment or joy. A main room has a couple of statues in it “On either side of the wall separating the two rooms is a statue of Veshakul-a, the goddess of death, similar to the one in area 19, although these are 5½’ tall.” And, there’s a gotcha or two, like a room whose doors swing shut and wizard lock. *sigh*.
I get it that writing a good description is hard, but thats what sets an plain adventure apart from a good one. You gotta work this shit. And “This colony of rats made its way into Obb
Nyreb’s enchanted brain supply.” ain’t gonna do it for me. You want to describe the smell, the crunchy floor, and so on. Give them DM something to work with to riff on. The encounters don’t overstay their welcome, but in many cases they don’t really provide much in the way of that vibe that can turn a book roll on a table in to something that really hits home.
This needs to be tightened up. The room descriptions need a good edit. Both to remove filler word and place important things first, and to amp up the room environments a bit. I’m not talking set piece shit, and there’s always a place for an empty chamber with just a spiral staircase in it, but rooms like the rats nest are a good example of what is just expanded minimalism. Which I do not like. And, once you look at that room and make it better, why not do the main rooms also?
Before I regert this one, I want to touch on the entrances to the dungeon. There are two. The main entrance is in a mausoleum in the cemetery. It’s got nothing special to it on the outside and the inside entrance is well hidden. It’s not gonna be easy for the party to find. And, the lead in to this adventure is nothing special either. What this means is there’s some implied work for the DM to do. The DM is going to have to conjure up a stake out in the cemetery, maybe some tracks, or the party following people at night. I like this. I know, I know, I usually bitch about the adventure supporting the DM. But, this doesn’t mean that we need to spoon feed the DM. You can absolutely leave things for the DM to embellish and build on. As long as you do it well. And I think this does. It uses only a sentence or two, if that, to set things up. But, once combined with the rumours table, the party is heading in the right direction and the DM can fill in this little bit, just as the DM might fill in an inn or town or hook to get the rumours from. The second entrance is in the woods behind the cemetery, which a certain rumour might lead the party to. Good job on the entrances, and the mausoleum especially, feels like your entering in to a dungeon.