Echoes from Fomalhaut #11 – On Windswept Shores

Gabor Lux
First Hungarian d20 Society

This is a 68 page zine, issue number eleven in the Echoes from Fomalhaut series. It contains three principal items: the tomb of a dead elf lord, a massive hex crawl, and an abbey of law ripe for plundering. All three are fine examples of adventures, but not hitting the high peaks of expectations. I’m going to briefly cover the hex crawl and abbey and then look at the elven tomb a little more. Lovers of The Judges Guild will be very happy with this, and, frankly, it has everything a good zone should.

The hex crawl makes up about thirty of the digest pages, covering mostly some larger islands. It feels like there may be 75 to a hundred of the hexes populated, so, it’s quite dense. The hexes are generally fine examples of well done situations. A village, subject to sea raiders, preyed upon by a ogre who claims his nature is claimed, and a vampire nearby … I wonder if thats the ghost-like spirit that leads them to safety during times of trouble? Gotta keep the wolves away from the sheep, after all. “1 SMED: Cages with charred skeletons and stakes decorate the burned ruins of a pirate stronghold. 6 wraiths haunt the place, offering their final treasure map to any who would first carry out their vengeance against their slayers in Poicette. “ This is a good example of a hex. A little bit of description in the way of charred skeletons and stakes. This leads to the six wraiths, standing in their dread countenance, burned, decaying? And their silent charge to right their wrong. That’s what a good description does … it leads you to more than the words on the page. And the brief descriptions here, ranging from a few sentences to a paragraph to almost a page in some instances, offer that kind of description again and again. A brief idea, a situation, that can be expanded upon and, most importantly, inspires the DM to expand on it. THis is the kind of thing that makes you want to run it … which is what ALL adventures should do.

The abbey is a fine example of a lawful dungeon. We all know evil is ripe for murder hobo home invasions. And druids are assholes always worthy of being butchered for their fucked up plans and views. Most parties would side with law. But, in a world in which you’re just trying to grow enough turnips for the winter and not get eaten by wolves … well, Law can be just as bad as Chaos. And, remember, all that wealth in the Keep in B2? Hex crawling has always felt a little more morally ambiguous anyway. We’ve got the town outside of the abbey, with a healthy criminal element. And then the above board abbey descriptions. And then The Winter Tunnels underneath … a secret way in and more dungeoncrawly than the abbey proper.  Lots of great descriptions in this and things to put together. A room with records tells us of a Brother who went missing in the Dragon Cave baths. Which perhaps causes the party to investigate those areas further. Which leads down down to goblin town. Err, I mean, the mineral caves proper, and their giant lizards. The town and abbey aboveground get as much effort as the tunnels, but, I might have appreciated a little more of an overview of the town. It’s there, but a little lite, IMO. Also, I find these parts tough to run the way I like to run them as this is written. I need a little more of an overview to get the vibe and get the juices running. It’s present, in the keys, but you have to kind of put it together a little more than I think you should have to. But, still, this is an excellent excellent little place. Perfect for that hex crawl. 

Elven Grave – Levels 5-7

In ages past, there were none as great as the elven lords, and none as strong as their hosts. Some 600 years ago, Narion, Son of the Pure Fire was the last reflection of this greatness, and his alliance with the race of men the last great undertaking of elvenkind. United against the arctic empire of Sark, the Twelve Kingdoms were saved at a great price; but Narion lay among the dead, and dead were most of his warriors also, a loss from which the elven kingdoms never recovered. The body of the lord was laid to rest somewhere in the mountains in a beautiful marble tomb, and carefully hidden with magic. Only elven songs recorded the way so pilgrims might visit in remembrance of the great gift Narion and his kin gave in sacrifice. But that was long ago, and the pilgrims have stopped coming, while a few copies of the elven songbooks have found the way to the archives and libraries of men, where they await the discovery of treasure-seekers. What shall happen to the Elven Grave is not in question – the only uncertainty is “Who gets there first.”

This is, unsurprisingly, a little elven tomb. It’s got about twenty rooms and takes about five pages to describe. The map is a decent little affair with some variety to it, the sort of which you don’t usually see in something of this size. 

This is not a bad adventure and is better than the dreck regularly produced for the OSR. But, it’s also not a surprisingly good adventure. In some ways a victim of his own success … “I’m sorry Mr Nabokov, your new work is just not as good as Lolita …” I think, though, that several issues drive me in this direction. There is this lack of melancholy in this. Not that, perhaps, we need to hit it overly hard, but the concept of a high elven lord, fallen in battle, and now lying a tomb, once in splendor and now waterlogged, is not hit very hard. Adding to this is a bit of plundering by barbarians. THis should be a fine concept to add some more Barbarians at the Gates issues. And while these elements are present, the adventure doesn’t really drive them home much more than putting the words to the page. This is, I suspect , somewhat related to the Always On tomb descriptions. We get this up front “… cream-white marble and alabaster with frequent floral ornamentation. However, seeping groundwater and the decay of centuries have marred the tomb’s beauty with dirt, fallen stones, cracks, and unstable construction. The walls are darkened with damp grime, and the floor is covered with a slurry of mud and small debris” That’s not bad, by itself, but you need to keep turning back to it for inspiration. This keeps the individual entries short, but then also the tomb loses some charm. A problem yet to be solved in the OSR, I think. 

But, also, great ideas in this. The entrance, next to a glacier lake: “someone who looks on the lake surface from the correct angle can see a splendid marble archway on the opposite shore, and steep white marble stairs disappearing in the darkness”. That should be more than suitable for an entrance to the mythic underworld! We get suitable hints, by way of inscriptions on the wall, on how to solve a couple of puzzles and such. And, as a high point, a room with a pool of water. Shadows swirl within, staying there unless you touch the water. Also, there’s fire trap in the room … perhaps leading to someone plunging in to the water to cool off? And setting off the shadow, almost like a double trap. The shadows are supposed to be the remains of the drowned … which perhaps could have used a little more, a word or two more to bring the drowned shadows to life more, so to speak.

Descriptions range from “Scratching noises come from within the chained sarcophagus, which

contains a mummy.” to the more elaborate “ 3. The pavilion-grave of Olorme: Cool air in this vaulted 30’ crypt. The grave of OLORME (Rune Name) rests under a canopy. The source of the cold is a colony of brown mould (1 Hp/turn outside the canopy and 1d8 Hp/r if freed, grows rapidly from heat) covering the sarcophagus in the manner of thick fabric.” Those are, I think, typical examples. Perhaps a little too minimalistic. You can see, in the brown mold example, a more typical Melan writing where he inserts the mechanics in to the description to form a situation. The formatting, here, gets a little wonky and detracts a bit, specifically in this example but in a few other places as well. A little too busy. 

A decent tomb adventure and better than most!

This is $6.50 at DriveThru. The ten page preview will show you most of the elven tomb. That hex crawl is great!

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4 Responses to Echoes from Fomalhaut #11 – On Windswept Shores

  1. Shahar Halevy says:

    Issue #9 presented the setting with a detailed setting overview (inspired by Vance’s Lyonesse trilogy).
    Issue #10 expanded one of the smaller kingdoms within (court of the Beggar King in one of the hexes) and included the palace, a side-view dungeon beneath, which opened to an actual dungeon with a druid adversary boss. Issue #10 also expands the City of Vultures and includes some of the best material for the zine so far. I’d love Brice to review it, I think he would approve.

  2. The Ensanguinated Fangs of Voluptuous Drelzna says:

    It is great to see another review of the Echoes from Fomalhaut series here! I have just finished reading #11 having read the previous issues in the series – I personally found them very inspiring and would highly recommend them!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Fomulhault is the real deal

    Are you a DM that wants easy to prep material for you and your players to run with?

    This is what you want

    GABOR, ToAD and go

  4. Shuffling Wombat says:

    I’d agree, a superior quality hex crawl. Plentiful interesting rumours, several linking to locations. Entries are of the right length, intriguing premises not suffocated by overwriting. Good variety in the encounters: some manageable combats, others where the party will need to engineer an advantage before attacking, and a number where talking or fleeing is the more sensible option.

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