By Alex Zisch No Artpunk #2 AD&D Level 7
Legend says an aristocrat once kidnapped an alchemist and held him captive hoping to create untold fortunes and wonders for the noble’s domain alone. If the secret of turning base metals into gold was found surely treasures and magic can be discovered in the archaic prison.
This twenty page adventure details a multi-level dungeon with … fifty rooms? It’s got a … richness to it, a degree of depth that is seldom seen. And it comes off in many places as notes, or ideas for an adventure rather than an adventure. Until the last level of the dungeon is reached, where things chill out to a “normal” dungeon crawl.
The overland portion of this adventure is weird. There isn’t one. But, the multi-level nature of the dungeon kind of acts like one. You’ve got this plateau, with a tower, mine, and sewer pipe. Picking one can get you in to the main dungeon. After you travel through what I might call a mini-level. And it is these mini-levels and the tower/mine/shaft thing that I’m going to do the majority of my bitching. Once we hit the “main” level then things change.
These mini-levels/locations are quite strange. First, it’s kind of a neato idea. Placing the main level under or behind a couple of loosy goosy locations that you pass on the way to it. Very D1. But, in this, implemented kind of terribly. They are almost outlined instead of described. And, I think, that’s not the way to do this. Let’s look at the mines.
We’ve got a small map with maybe six-ish rooms on it, four keyed, with a lot of hallway/”mine tunnels” between them. This, alone, stands in contract to the 35 rooms on the main level. Then, we’ve got one room described as the “orc camp.” You see, there are thirty orc miners and a couple of supervisors. “Off duty orcs congregate here. Ten sleep while ten eat and gamble at a fire.” There’s a sentence about the casserole they cook and one about shovels scattered about, before a one sentence treasure description. More of a general idea, or an outline or the pre-adventure and what could appen than the main adventure encounter descriptions that we are sussed to seeing. Sure, there’s a couple of paragraphs in the “intro” to this level that describe the orcs a little more, their motivations and how they act, but, again, at quite the high level. The sounds of work and what happens is up to the DM to bring to the table. Which, to a certain extent is fine in an adventure, but, here underground, I would have expected something a little more akin to a traditional keying rather than a D1 type merchant caravan listing. And we get maybe four or five of these “sub level” locations. Very loose. The mines, for example, imply that the orc miners are dumping tailings outside, but there’s nothing on the plateau description to help with this. Detail about the exterior of the mines in is in the interior of the mines. And I’m still not the fuck sure where the fuck that sewer pipe goes. It’s all a jumbled fucking mess of text. Both too short and too long and badly formatted to aid in comprehension.
But all of this changes once we’re on the main level. Things chill out and you get a dungeon that looks and feels like a “normal” adventure. Some descriptions are a tad long, with four or so paragraphs not being unusual. But, also, this is mostly due to the complexity of the rooms. It manages it 35ish rooms in about seven pages, so it’s generally keeping things to a paragraph or so. This provides an interesting mix. For each “mundane” room, still choked full of lab shit (this is an alchemist level) you will then get one in which things could/can go south. The very first room on the level has three 3 foot tall humanoids floating in their own beakers, all weakening oversized rings on their fingers … each glowing blue. A great invitation to fuck around and find out, eh? Tempting the players is always a sign of a good adventure. I think we’re looking at about seven creature encounters on this level, not counting wanderers, and about the same number of puzzle like things or specials or whatever. Not really situations and, in spite of the theming in each, maybe a little disconnected, feeling like separate encounters.
Descriptions are decent in the dungeon. That first room is pretty good, and “Plucked giant cranes hang from hooks. Barrels contain white wine, smoked hare meat, dried persimmons, pickled tomatoes and salted dwarf bits. “ is nothing to slouch at, to mix sayings 😉
I’m not unhappy with this. But, also, I think it suffers as a part of ts origin story. Given some more time to work it, the dungeon encounters, the locales before the main dungeon level and so on, I thin it could have turned in to something rather decent.