by Alex Fotinakes
for Phychedelic Fantasies
Each adventure module in the Psychedelic Fantasies line revels in unconstrained imagination. Every monster, every magic power, and every magic spell is a unique and never-before-seen creation of the author. No orcs, fireballs, or +1 swords will be found within. Leave the familiar behind to explore hitherto undreamed of wonders…
Oh, D&D, how I love you!
See what I did there? I subtly mentioned OD&D. I LUV OD&D. Not the game system; that sucks. It’s the attitude that OD&D brings. It’s the first time you experienced a pit trap. It’s the first time you experienced rot grubs, green slime, or a cube. It’s finding some weird ass magical item that you have NO clue what it does “… a helmet studded with sparkling jewels? What’s THAT do?!” OD&D embodies the magic, mystery, whimsy, and wonder of fantasy RPG’s. I don’t give a crap about the system. It’s the FEEL I love. It just so happens that this feel is most closely associated with OD&D in my mind, and in the mind of many other I believe. This adventure brings the OD&D.
There are three columns of introductory text before the adventure kicks off. A brief intro, a history, getting to the dungeon, brief descriptions of the dungeon and some detail on the two different factions that call the dungeon home. It’s not as odious as most introductions and it does provide a good overview of the situation. It also tries a bit too hard at times. There’s a whole OSR philosophy about the mythic underworld and how entering it should be special. This module hits those points and even uses the words ‘mythic underworld.’ That’s a little too much for me; by naming he thing you destroy its power. Up to that point though its AWESOME. At the center of a ruined city stands a large edifice crafted of black stone and untouched by the ages. A large iron gate fronts the facade, mostly closed it is sometimes open. Those who have passed through return changed men; mute, shaking, sometimes wounded, sometimes fabulously wealth, often not at all … A long winding steep stair leads down, near the bottom so narrow you have to turn sideways to fit. AT the bottom a large a underground lake, with a boatman who can take you to the other side. On the edge of the sandy beach is a steep stair leading down in to a cliffside … That’s BAD ASS man! It conjures up all of that cyclopian imagery from years of 70’s fantasy & Lovecraft, and a mish-mash of everything else! The players are gonna be freaking before they even step foot in the dungeon!
The dungeon has about 55 encounter areas in it. The main level has about 39 with two small sub-levels having about 7 each. The sub-level each have a small loop while the main level has about three separate areas, each with their own feel and loops. This is not a super-complex map but it does have enough variety to support some decent explorative play. The players and opponents should be able to bypass encounters and ambush their opponents and get ambushed themselves. That’s the sort of thing I want a map to do; be an actual part of the adventure rather than just a straight line or boring old encounter key. As an extra bonus, at least one secret room can be found by not-so-careful mapping by the players! Score one for attentive payers! There are two wandering monster tables, one for the constructed rooms and one for the natural caverns part of the map. Earwigs, Wall Creeps, Year Puddles, Pholcidae … none of these guys, or any other creature in this module, are going to be found in any monster manual! This does a great job of bringing the atmosphere. Vermin, tribesmen, fungus/yeast things, those are some monsters I can really get in to and should go a long way to really freaking the party out. They’ll have NO idea how powerful it is, what its special attacks are, what its vulnerable to, or anything else. I LOVE that!
The dungeon is in three sections. Two warring tribes take up two sections while the third is considered too dangerous by them to venture in to. The rooms are a good mixture of empty, monster, treasure, and just plain weird. Trip wires trigger stones from the ceiling, cultists held in a stasis bubble, worms bursting through walls to implant their egg sacks in to characters, invisible treasure pots with curses, real curse!, inscribed on them … so much to do, so much to see, so what’s wrong with taking the backstreets, you’ll never know if you don’t go, you’ll never shine if you don’t glow …
And glow you will! There’s a gonzo/technology element at play in parts of this module so there’s a ritual chamber full of The Glow! Hey Kids! Who wants to grow an extra arm! The module also does an ok job of trying to be dynamic: some rooms can change over time, the party can meep corpses of others, and of course there are the factions mentioned earlier. I LOVE factions! They keep the dungeon interesting and help provide a kind of motivation, all with a built in R&R stop for the players. Meet strange new cultures and kill them , or their enemies, or both sides, or play them off against each other while trying to score a lot of treasure for minimal risk … that’s what D&D adventures are made of.
I get a strong nostalgia feel from this module, brining back memories of Dungeoneer and Arduin supplements. That kind of strangeness that filled those pages, but without the mess of their layout and editing. The print version of this is dirt cheep. There’s no art and it’s printed ‘pamphlet style’ on sheets of letter sized paper that then folded lengthwise, making a 11″x4.5″ format. It works perfectly, and presumably it very inexpensive to produce. This is a GREAT first module in this series and I hope to see more. The RPG world deserves to see more OD&D-like content.
This is available on DriveThru.