The Chest

By Aaron Fairbrook
The Merciless Merchants
Levels ?

There is no purpose, no reason, no why, and no suggested character levels as it really depends on how greedy the players want to be. No hooks, no main villains, no huge storyline….Instead of another chest full of glittering treasure for your greedy players; inside are just stairs leading down. In fact, that’s the hook! Stairs descending downwards into the unknown. Are you adventurers brave enough to explore the contents of The Chest?
This sixteen page adventure uses four pages to detail the fourteen rooms in a dungeon that is inside of a treasure chest. The concept remains nice, but it’s more of a treasure than it is a dungeon. Which is fine. But, also, uninteresting as more than a curiosity.
You find a treasure chest. Inside the chest are some stairs going down. Mini level time, for the dungeon! A classic dungeon element, the level within a level, I’ve seen … four? other adventures like this. Which is not to say the concept is bad, but, also, there’s not much new under the sun. And not much new in this. Uninteresting, to put a point on it.
There’s basically one room devoted to each treasure type with some kind of guardian in it. Some copper coin creatures. Liquid silver dudes in a pile of silver coins. Some gold featureless dudes with a gold dragon. A jewel golem. You get it. Along the way we’ve got a gelatinous cube cleaning the place and some large ants running around moving coins to the proper vault. There’s an alien tentacle beast also, drawn to the treasure up your butt (oops, wrong adventure …) It’s there as a pressure valve in case he party abuses their new treasure chest home. You just make a bunch of them invade when the party gets uppity after the adventure is over and they are abusing the place.
There is the usual problem here, with treasure. How to make it a cool place with dreams of avarice, while retaining the level limit shit. “r. Despite the vast amount of gold (walls, floor, ceiling, etc.) covering this room, including the golden liquid of the stream, attempts to chip, collect, and leave with the gold (besides the coins) will disappear if it leaves the room.” So, that’s how you do it. I’m never a fan of this. Maybe just do a 1e thing and give them a level and close to the next one. I did this once at level one, it worked fine.
Interactivity here is … off. A few things to fight. Talk to the dragon. One very obvious and blatant non-subtle riddle. This is not an adventure/magic item t o haunt the players for years to come with riddles, mysteries, and unexplained areas beyond their reach
Descriptions are … straight forward. “14. Bed Chambers ? Simple rooms with small bed, foot locker, small table, chair, and a candle.” This is, herpes, the worst of them. It’s not clear to me why this is even here. Otherwise, in other rooms, an attempt is made. The opening room begins with “The liberation of light from the open chest, reveals the top of two ominous hooded stone statues flanking a claustrophobic 30 foot stairway leading down” SO, I get what is being trie for here. But the liberation of light thing is purple and the actual description, two statues flanking stairs down, is descriptive rather than evocative. And, all of the room descriptions are this more of this workmanlike variety. I understand that evocative writing is hard, but, also, it’s worth it and is what really makes an area come alive. Which benefits both the DM and the players.
Ultimately this is more of a Magic Item With COmplications than it is a dungeon. And, as a dungeon, it is a bit too staid. Mystery and wonder would have gon a long way here. Things to unravel for years to come. And towering descriptions for the players to revel in. Alas, it was not to be.
This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages long. Which means you get to see the entire dungeon. Great preview!

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11 Responses to The Chest

  1. Malrex says:

    Wow, a blast from the past! One of my first adventures and one that has a special place in my heart as it helped me meet this dude back on Dec. 18th, 2017:
    I feel like I’ve improved since then and partially due to Bryce’s and other reviewers teachings. Thanks for the review!
    And shameless and unapologetic plug here, if you are interested in this adventure or others by the Merciless Merchants, 1$ gets you in the door for almost all of our adventures that are heavily discounted and/or pledge for the pdf and you can get first dibs to our newest set of adventures The Coming of Winter–but for only 6 more days!
    #winter #dnd

  2. Stripe says:

    What year is this?

    This looks like something Bryce wrote years ago about a product from years ago . . .

  3. Mary Mysacks says:

    > The preview is seven pages long. Which means you get to see the entire dungeon. Great preview!

    Except there’s no map in the preview. I fail to understand how Bryce praises this, besides a friendly association/bias with the author.

    Blah. This place sucks like everywhere else now.

    • Soren Andersen says:

      Did you read the review? It’s tepid at best, essentially writing that this is a multi-page description of a magic item, nothing new in the adventure to recommend it, all retread. I didn’t detect a note of praise. I thought he could have at least said something nice about the cover art.

  4. Soren Andersen says:

    I know covers can sell books. This cover is cool, but not enough for me to check out the adventure further after the review. But tell me more about that cover art!

  5. Knutz Deep says:

    I like the concept of this. At least I think it’s an idea worth building off of. Place a chest like this in a dungeon or better yet, a mega dungeon and see what happens when the PCs stumble across it. It needs work but I like the idea.

    • Malrex says:

      Thanks, I like the concept of the dungeon within a dungeon too. Its especially helpful when you run out of time for prepping and finishing your dungeon and need to ‘stall’ the party. I think this was my second adventure I ever published–so I know I’ve learned a lot since then (and still learning), but at least it wasn’t another orc/goblin in the hole, had attempt at a riddle (ya, I suck shit at riddles), roleplay opportunities with a dragon, tricks with a door, new monsters, and new magic items. Plus, it was an adventure the party could drag with them because some of it is probably way too high level for them to conquer on their first attempt. My group had fun with it (the platinum coins scared the crap out of them) until they left it behind when fleeing a monster when they emerged out of it. My second attempt at a dungeon within a dungeon is The Sun Orb, which fared better vs. Bryce.

  6. Sparklemtn says:

    this at least is different than other shovelware and as Malrex has stated was their first product for sale and has learned since them.

    Good to see author’s can take critisicm and grow in their craft instead of raging at Bryce for not liking their work.

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