By Jonathan Becker No Artpunk #2 1e Levels 10-14
Vast beyond reason, the DUNKLE ZEE stretches beneath skies of perpetual twilight, its inky depths reflecting not a single star but only the occasional lantern of a passing ship. Yet few ships sail the black waters of this ocean between worlds, a measureless sea that connects every coastline from every time period and alternate dimension that ever was.
This 24 page adventure details a 36 room set of caverns housing a couple of wizzos and crew bent on destroying the multiverse. Good encounters, decent imagery in places and a straightforward formatting style that doesn’t have encounters overstaying with extra text. It’s a straight up dungeoncrawl for high levels with no gimmicks.
High level adventures can be rough. By the time your’s fourteens you should have domains and be involved in your own worlds goings on. Fitting a published adventure in to your own world is going to be a problem. A good one anyway; once with nuance and depth to it. Something more than the simple smash and grabs of your level fours. The nuance is depth is generally required to keep the party from just smashing and burning everything in their path to their goal. IE: you force them to gimp themselves because of the consequences instead of Ye Olde 863 wishes to keep the party from passwalling the whole adventure.
None of that here though. This is just a smash and grab. The only gimps are no spell recovery, which is fine. It’s a time pressure mechanic, replacing the standard wandering monster rolls. Two wizards want to destroy the multiverse and you’re off to the multiplaner nexus to do a little stabbin. You got a decent caverns map, and some high level characters and their henchmen. Don’t waste your spells and get in to fuck some dudes up!
And fucking em up you will to! One room has 24 ochre jellies. Another has 36 giant constrictor naked. Another has 96 stirge. All in the relatively confined space of a cavern complex. The scale is a little larger than normal, but, still, load up on those mass kill spells kids, loaded for bear! The smaller scale stuff is rough also. The usual mirror of opposition so you’re all fighting yourselves. Both types of Gith. Tentacle beasts, a good rot grub encounter (perfect for this level!) , a mind flay, and the wizzos with some great use of black puddings as a stand in for spheres of annihilation. This is all pretty much straight up fights. They generally have something a little extra to them to help bring them alive. Needlemen that are trees, the black pudding thing, as floating blobs, the ochres suck the walls and detach like some bad horror movie. Just enough there to help give the DM something to make shit a little more interesting than an “you enter the room and are attacked.”
I really can’t enough good things about the encounters here. They really hit that sweet spot I am looking for. Maybe just a little more would have been nice, for them, but they are what I think makes a good encounter for the DM. The black puddings. There’s a wizzo, mediating in a room, in front of two giant black blob in the air. Wammao! Two black puddings to add to the fray. The red ochres, throbbing, attached to the walls, kind of flying off or dropping on the players. One of the gith wears a ring of delusion, thinking, and acting, like he’s a lawful good paladin. Until he sees the flayer. It doesn’t require a lot to add just that little extra to your encounters, and the designer does this well.
Descriptions are hit and miss. A magic shield covered in ape filth and a magic axe with a gnawed wooden handle. Or “A dull red light illuminates this cavern, emanating from a huge serpentine mound of mottled crimson heaped against the far wall. The glow is visible as characters approach the cavern from any direction. The mound pulses gently, perhaps in slumber.” Again, nothing too much to these, but hitting at just about the right level of detail to turn something standard in to something that comes to life a little, just waiting for the DM to bring more to it, inspired. But, for every bit of interesting description there’s also an empty room with a simple bed in it. Or a “refuse pit for the trogs”, with nothing more added to it. And, glowing runes is a description fit for a large room. Both overdone and needing to be echoeing and pulsating. The bottom of The Bone Pit is “Many humanoid bones litter the floor. Few are human.” Not exactly the highlight of my year, month, or even week.
So,it’s pretty straight up thing. No real gimping, just a dungeon full of shit to stab, letting the party run wild with their magic. Divination, location, mass kills, and bypass spells, all put in to play. And, light on the tricks and traps, but, also, I’m not sure how you do that in something like this. Anyway, decent hack for those looking for a simple high level affair.