By J Blasso-Gieseke No Artpunk #2 OSE Levels 5-7
Skalbak Sneer, the Stronghold of Snow, is located in the foothills of the Blackcrag Mountains. It is the northernmost defensive outpost of the snow dwarf realm developed eight generations ago by King Thazkal to remove pressure from the mighty halls of their central mountain hold, the vast Undercastle, Khazal Kharak. . The Stronghold was designed as a deathtrap, requiring few
dwarves to garrison. By way of rumors bruited about by dwarf ore merchants, the legend of the
wealth it contains ensures a steady influx of the foolish: parties of adventurers, greedy barbarians, and raiding bands of orcs and other savage beastmen — all test their mettle to steal its riches, never to return. The Stronghold is now under the stewardship of the eighth Skalbakson, Thulmir.
This thirty page adventure is a dwarf base, full of treasure, with about sixty rooms. It’s a straight up no-gimp lair assault. I can pick at it, for what it is and how it does things, but, also, it knows what it is and it does its job.
The snow dwarves have a fortress on top of a mountain. There’s no reason for it to be there. It’s not guarding a route in to their lands, or a passage to the underworld, and it can serve as a sally point. But we’re gonna ignore all of the real reasons to put a fortress up someplace. It’s chock full of cash and magic. And that means XP. Lets go fuck up some dwarves! The hooks, as well as the hirelings mentioned, all kind of lead you toward this. Some have rumours, some have bits of the map. It’s all oriented toward the task at hand: getting in, killing dwarves, and looting the place.
First you gotta climb up some stairs on the outside of the fortress to get to the mountain entrance, four hours up. Griffins make it harder. Then, inside, you’re stuck in a kind of series of looping passages, where the dwarves use the numerous murder holes to stab and shoot at the party, as well as opening some monster cages to set them loose on the party in certain rooms. The main task for the party is to act like a bunch of level sevens and not n00bs. Don’t play the dwarves games. Don’t go for the main entrance but look for the hidden ones. Get your ass passwall’d (or something) behind them and out of the main murder-hole/cage loop . Don’t play the DM’s game but rather be the free thinks that got you to level seven in the first place. There’s a good order of battle here, with various reactions of the dwarves to the party and plans to fall back, etc. And the little shits have a kind of doomsday device: when the place is ready to fall and you’ve slaughtered almost everyone they release the wights of the former fortress commanders to cleanse the place. (I’m not so sure about this … I seem to recall clerics fucking up wights at this level. The different games all tend to handle turns differently though, so maybe the fact that this is OSE prevents too many of them getting cleric’d?)
Descriptions are a little boring. The rooms are a bit sparse, a combination of The Dwarf Problem and needing to make whats there a bit more. It’s a concentration on factual room descriptions, the contents, rather than what the room feels like. It’s not bad, it’s just not great. Formatting is decent. Lots of headings and bolding and so on. The rooms do tend to run a little long for what they are, I think. I’m looking at you, Mr. Kitchen, as an example. Perhaps an emphasis on descriptions everything in a separate heading instead of leaving some stuff alone and just moving on, covering the more interesting bits and letting the doors and drab gray curtain exist without more detail. Now that we’ve got formatting down, lets pull back and use it appropriately.
The challenges/interactivity is ok, for what this is. I mean, it’s a lair assault. You’re stabbing things. The main loop should confound the players and, hopefully, they “imaginative play” around it. And, you can see one of the treasure rooms almost immediately, giving that tantalus effect to keep people moving and interested. The multiple entrances, all but one hidden, help as well. But, once inside, you’re mostly just fucking dudes up and it’s the order of battle and the DM running a large and long battle sequence.
There’s not much support (none) in the way of trickery and diplomacy for the fortress so that’s up to the DM. And that map. Man. It’s wonderful and terrible both. Lots of detail on it, maybe too much for the scale provided. And the color coding gets a bit heavy in places. It sure is useful though. I suspect that a two page map or some such would have helped quite a bit.
As a hack, this is not a bad adventure. Not my thing, but, hey, dig in if you want to stab things.