The Buried Convent of the Headless Saint

Eon Fontes-May
YouCanBreatheNow Games
Level 1

Buried ‘neath a forgotten landslide, deep under the foothills, is a ruined cloister with a secret. Long ago, nestled into the mountain there, it is said that a true saint lived and died. The pious woman never spoke a single untruth from the moment she drew breath, and the gods blessed her to continue speaking truth afterward. Old folks whisper that the Healdess Saint is still enthroned down there in her lightless cathedral. They say that if you bring her a skull then it can be made to answer questions, truthfully, from beyond the grave.

This seven page adventure uses two pages to describe about 23 rooms in a buried nunnery. There are a lot of interesting ideas in this, but, also, it lacks descriptive thrust and, perhaps, is a little low on interactivity beyond some basics. But the ideas here, the basic concepts and some of how they are implemented, are quite intriguing!

We’ve got this convent. It’s buried, they say. They also say that if you take a skull to it then you can make it answer questions. SWEET! I love that kind of oracular shit as an adventure hook. There’s so many command words and things to know in D&D, and why not exploit the mythos with some ripping of knowledge from the beyond? 

Approaching, you see just the top of a tower, nothing more. Cause it’s buried, duh. Although, a short distance away you can find some exposed roof tiles … thus you have two ways of breaking in, both of which could involve some crowbar action. I approve! There’s a three floor tower, buried, along with a flourish floor connected building (the roof tiles, duh.) And, thus, the convent. The map supporting this is a charming little affair, with little bits of drawing and notes on it to help the DM run it. Monsters and major room features are noted, along with a note or two like “rotting floor” or “bodies” next to a pile of little bodies. There’s a few ways up and down between levels also, and a few hard to get to places because of that. This is a great fucking map, in all respects, especially for a smallish 23 room dungeon. The notations and illustrations help run the place and the map complexity contributes to an exploratory vibe. Quite nice.

And then we’ve got this starving nun, who goes cannibal, and thusly turns in to a ghoul. And her fellow sisters take down doors and such to build a barricade to keep their fellow away. Pretty sweet! As well as the bodies intertwined who took poison. (Second time in a short while in my reviews for that one, eh?) 

Steal some of those gold candelabras and holy symbols from the dead bodies and really go after looting those religions items. (WHat are those called? Not relics? Just the normal religions shit you’d find in a church?) Anyway, stuff em in the loot bag. And, there are some decent non-book items. LIke a skull to carry around, or a warhammer in a stylized skull. Or an actual skull used as a mace. Hmm, lots of skull theming here. 😉 Anyway, nice little bits and bots here and there, both in the mundane treasure and the magical, and mixed in to some more generic items of both types. I like the extra effort, I just wish there were more.

My major problem is two fold: the descriptions and the interactivity. There is a general “always on” description note at the top of the encounters page, and since it’s only two pages long, it does help a bit with atmosphere. But this is generally to the exclusion of much other in the way of a room description. And, the interactivity is a little lacking as well. But, the monsters descriptions are all generally on a monster reference sheet. So what is the room description doing? That’s a great question. One room tells us that “The dormitory staircase hides a secret tunnel that the abbess used to sneak around and snoop on the young women in the convent.” Ok, so, thats very nice, but also, it’s backstory and not really relevant. It’s SUPER interesting though. It goes on “It’s very hard to spot, but a hinged panel leads to a cramped passage filled with spiderwebs and insects.” Ok, so, now we’re cooking! Cramped, spiderwebs, insects. Got it! Hinged panel is great. Hard to spot is not useful, if a secret passage; the default is hard to spot. Then “The tunnel remained mostly sealed and is disgusting but harmless.” Again, another pretty useless sentence. It’s backstory. It’s justification. “It continues for 150ft until a trapdoor in the ceiling that leads to the rectory. Area 18)” I’m not getting the disgusting part of this. Cramped, spiderwebs, ok. Cramped is good but spiderwebs and insects could use some beefing up. The hiinged panel is great. The rest is … meh. Maybe keep on or two concepts here, but you need to work them in differently. They can’t be the main focus, and they are in this description. We need more about the webs and insects. 

And this is not an isolated room. A great many of them are like this. It is integrating shit like that well, to create an interesting product TO READ … but we’re here to play. And the descriptions tend to not be focused on that. “The storage basement was accessible only by a hidden trapdoor, but now lies exposed by the hole left behind when a derrogar fell from the ladder.” Again, I could live my life forever without the first clause, but the second is decent. It needs more of that, with better descriptive use of adjectives and adverbs to bring the environment to life. To this end, the interactivity is all modeled after stabbing things. There’s some interesting lead ino, or follow through, from stabbing things. But it’s mostly just stabbing things. A potential rats nest of treasure, literally, telegraphs a rat attack. That’s great! But, also, a puzzle with the solution of “tell the skull seven secrets” that you learn the answer to in another room, while decent in concept, is not enough to carry an entire adventure.

So, again, a GREAT deal of promise here. The room descriptions need strong edits to retain their charm and add an evocative environment. And the interactivity could be more varied, especially given the exploratory nature. I’m a little perturbed by a couple of padding pages that add nothing much, but I’d get over it if the room descriptions were a little better. These little things are, I think, showing some interesting promise, they just more hard work on the core of it: the room descriptions and interactivity. I could be generous with a No Regerts here, but I’m not going to be.

This is $4 at DriveThru. You get three pages of preview, including the map page. A page of descriptions would have been good.

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6 Responses to The Buried Convent of the Headless Saint

  1. Sevenbastard says:

    This sounds good? My one thought is what’s the time pressure on the PCs. Can they just 15 minutes a day this until they get through the place?

    Sounds like it needs a “the kindly priest of your village is going to be hung unless you retrieve the headless Saint to prove his innocence in 5 days”

    Otherwise I see a long cautious slog of a adventure.

    • NewMoonTonight says:

      That… is a great idea.

      Not only the time pressure, but the whole “how do we haul this heavy statue / fragile remains on a fragile chair (depending upon what the Headless Saint down there really is) out and back”.

      Doesn’t erase the issues, but would definitely help me keep focused and invested if I were a player.

    • Eon Fontes-May says:

      Hey there, I’m the author of this module. I totally agree with you! As written, the Headless Saint only does her little “bring me a skull” trick on the equinoxes. So the full setup encourages the PCs to arrive a day or so before the equinox and begin delving. Then there’s some night-of-the-ritual surprises in store for them, to add to the pressure. Anyway, I hope you check it out and enjoy the scenario!

  2. Beoric says:

    So, if I ever published anything, and I got a review like this, I would def put “Almost a No Regerts at” in my my writeup.

  3. Knutz Deep says:

    Get thee to a buried nunnery, go. Farewell.

    Just don’t make it a habit.

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