Grave Titan Harvest

By Joseph R. Lewis
Dungeon Age Adventures
Levels 5-8

Far below the Fields of Petrichor is a vast cavern containing the skeletal remains of a long-dead Sonorous Titan, a whale-like beast that once floated through the skies of a lost age. Amongst the bones are ravines and grottos home to bizarre creatures and lost treasures that are as beautiful and valuable as they are deadly. Ghostly shapes swim through the air. Glowing mushroom groves hide frightened creatures. And the Titan’s bones sing sadly as an ambitious wizard and his weary hirelings dig for its precious marrow..

This 29 page adventure details an underground cavern with a MASSIVE skeleton that is being mined. It’s got a decent amount going on, to explore, and is full of interactivity. Of a sort. This early Lewis design is one of his weaker offerings, lacking the verve of his later fare.

The ol villagers say that in that field nearby, haunted by ghosts, there is a hut. And in the hut an old woman, surviving amongst them. A trip by the party reveals she’s been set there to guard a teleport stone, by a wizard. But, oh yeah, he is supposed to give her this religious tome in exchange, holy to her, and he’s been dragging his feet. So, you know, maybe you can come in and she doesn’t have to kill you if you’d kindly go fetch it for her? Note the bones of this, a fetch quest done right. You’re bargaining a little more than usual and it is essentially a hook to get you to the underground cavern … that you know nothing about at that point. We also see some hints of what will become a trademark of the Lewis Style Of Things. On the way to her hut, through the ghost fields, you might be attacked by a paint of ghosts. But, also, you probably know, at this point, that there was a battle in that field between two rival gangs … and sure enough the two ghosts are in different colours. You could set them against each other, by simply pointing that out. Taking the world around you and seeing option A or B … and instead selecting hidden option C. And, then, again, the woman, if she attacks you? It is as a monk. But, also, she splits herself in thirds, all with her full stats! No explanation at all. She just does it. No magic item. She just does it. THIS is the idiosyncratic D&D I love. What’s that line from Fargo? There are no rules. 

You’re now inside a cavern a mile long and half a mile wide with a large skeleton in the middle taking up a lot of it. You’re also in a small mining camp. The wizzo in question is mining the skeleton for marrow in order to make a flying boat. Wanna help? Or kill him and take the boat? Or help him and THEN kill him to take the boat? This encounter kind of exemplifies most of the encounters in this adventure. There’s something going on and you could do something about it to help, or profit, or some combination of the two. And, maybe, even throw in that hidden option C. At one point the ghost of the skeleton whale wants to be put to rest. And you could do that. Or you could help the wizzos apprentice get the ghost in to her wand. Or, you could take hidden option C and convince the ghost to go in to YOU. Yeah magic ghost spirit inside of me giving me weird powers! The entire adventure is like this. 

And, the entire adventure, being just like this, is a little devoid of what we might call standard dungeon encounters. The only combats here are the ones you are going to explicitly be getting in to, for the most part. Just about everything can be talked to, moreso, I think, than any other adventure I’ve reviewed. Or, at least of the ones that don’t just suck because of lack of interactivity beyond simple talking. For talking here can, and frequently does, result in a combat with one or the other of the parties involved. 

And there’s a wide variety f shit going on beyond those talk to situations. Rust Monsters breeding like rabbits, of a sort. A termite mound full of beetle shells than be sold to a jeweler for 100gp. Or a spicer for 150gp. Nice variable treasure! And the magic items are almost all unique and great, well described and interesting. 

The descriptive text here, while fine, is also not quite up to the standards in later works. There’s no over reveal in read-aloud, and certainly its a far bit better than most adventure. But it’s also not quite the very high standards achieved in his later works. Similarly, the various situations encounters don’t quite have the depth of some of the later ones. I don’t think that formulaic is the right word, but it tends close enough that I considered using the word. And, also, for each encounter that seems similar there is also a goat in a goat pen, bleeting in pain, that if fucked with bursts forth with parasitic beetles. Always a good one that! Lure em in and smack em. ?Plus, there are ghost piranhas! How can you blast an adventure with ghost piranhas?! 

Thusly, a weird environment full of weird people who want weird things that you can help with and/or stab them for. I’m gonna regret this, because it’s a fine adventure. But, also, as an earlier work, it doesn’t really stand out the way the later works do. Lewis does, though, remain one of the standout designers working today and I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase any of his later adventure sight unseen.

This is $2.50 at DriveThru. The preview is fifteen pages. More than enough to get an idea of what the encounters are like. You get a real sense of the adventure from this preview.

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