Standoff at Sandfell Sea Fort

By Malrex
The Merciless Merchants
Levels 4-7

Eerie lights? Strange noises? Ships are sailing blind into the rough shores of the Bay of Saurvorn. Why is the light out at Lokrom’s Beacon? Will the party find clues to a murderer? Or is there something more sinister at stake.

This 24 page adventure presents a small cove/bay. About twenty miles square, with a number of things going on. It’s got a decent mix of encounter for a small regional area, and the three “dungeon” have some interesting enough things going on that mix well with the denizens of the area. A solid adventure for Shit To Go Down. 

I like an adventure with a decent number of things going on. It creates a kind of potential energy for the party to take advantage of, and fuck up, that I think creates those situations that good RPG sessions come from. And this has something going on. So, the light in the lighthouse went out a week ago. A rescue party to relight it hasn’t returned. Also, a ship went ashore, not that the lighthouse is out. Also, when you find them you’ll discover that some of them have been taken captive. Also, turns out that they’re pirates. Also, there’s some seal-people hanging out on a big kelp island, you can see the eerie green lights of their village. Also, the nearby fort has been taken over evil seahorse people. Also, a raiding party of the seal-people went missing when they raided the fort. I don’t know what the fuck else, something, I’m sure. And this all kind of leads naturally from one area to the next. It develops deeper and richer over time. 

This is all supported by some detail, some specificity, that helps the DM bring the adventure to life. A rumor telling us “Calos swears he saw the biggest crab he has ever seen along the coast to the east. He yapped at me sayin he would use the shell for a hut or some such nonsense. Hmm, funny thing, I haven’t seen him around lately.” Dude yapped. He had a dumb idea about a house. It’s in voice, or at least character, for a run down dude in a run down dive bar. You can work with that. Likewise the wanderers are all doing something, like crabs fighting over the drowned dead sailor corpse for lunch. You can immediately conjure that up in your head. And that allows you to add and twist it much more easily to bring the encounter to life, riffing on it for the players benefit. Or, even, a kind of throw away line in the Seal People village, of an old woman giving a spellcaster a robe made of lacquered shells. That’s fucking touching, man! 

And our descriptions, of the rooms and places, are pretty decent. One of the rooms has “This room smells of sea stench and dead animals. Several corpses of sea horse creatures lay flayed open and scattered about the room. A hoarse and raspy breathing, rag tag group …” That’s the missing raiding party of the seal people, taking a breather, kind of trapped in the seahorse people fort. Raspy breathing. Hoarse. Sea stench. Great use of descriptive words to help bring the are solidly in to the DM imagination. And the adventure does this more often than it does not. It’s not consistently hitting, room after room, but then again this is an earlier work by the bad king. 

I’m not sure how I would really describe the setting here. Not quite a regional setting. And the dungeons, while there is a lighthouse, a ship/cave and the fort (by far the largest at about 21 rooms) are not entirely the main focus … although they are? I mean that in a good way. What you’ve got here is a small area of wilderness with a lot going on, anchored by some people who want things (the town, the seal people, the shipwrecked survivors) and the three closer-to-traditional dungeons that are more exploration/raiding oriented. This FEELS like a little place where you back and forth between areas. I don’t actually think it is; I suspect that there is a natural order to the encounters in the area which leads to others, which leads to others. But it FEELS that way. And that’s what should ne happening in these things. You should feel like you are in control of what you are doing. You CaN do things but are not FORCED to do things. I know, amazing concept. 

In particular, I want to c all out the final dungeon, the largest one by far, at about 21 rooms. It’s supported by a grat map, with varied terrain, flooded chambers, same-level stairs and the like. It is much more complex and interesting than I think most maps of this size would be. And that’s supported by what’s going on INSIDE the caves/dungeon. It’s not just a flooded complex. It’s not just creatures to hack. You’ve got a few interesting details, and the seal people raiders, and so much more. It feels more like a traditional exploration dungeon in many places. And I think that’s an amazon accomplishment given its size.

THis is quite a solid work. It’s not gonzo, or epic, just a REALLY solid little cove region with a decent amount going on and lots of opportunities for the party to interact, with the people, with the dungeons, whatever. The town has just enough information to get it going well, as do the rumours, wanderers, and various “outdoor” encounters. Just enough, specific. It does SO much with what it has. Even if I do think the treasure situation is a little sparse … unless maybe the party is clearing out everything.

This is $5 at DriveThru.The preview is fourteen pages, more than enough to get an idea of what you are buying. Although, I’m not sure the entire impact of the adventure is made apparent.

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9 Responses to Standoff at Sandfell Sea Fort

  1. AB Andy says:

    I think Malrex knows how to write a quality adventure.

    Would you say your quality had risen since you dropped the patreon? I know it has for me. Bryce hasn’t reviewed mine after patreon but I feel the stress of releasing every month reduces quality and especially enjoyment. And kinda, even if we get a bad review… it doesn’t hit the same as it would for a patreon adventure.

    • Malrex says:

      Thanks AB Andy for the compliment.
      At the beginning of Bryce’s review of any of my old Patreon adventures makes me cringe inside because I busted them out in a month. Without the deadline, the quality of the adventure definitely goes up because of more time for editing passes, playtesting, and acquiring original art. It’s one of the reasons I stopped my Patreon due to getting nailed for a lack of evocative language (which I continually try to work on) and not having time to fine tune it (which started to REALLY bother me)–let alone only able to playtest a few ideas/small encounters rather than the whole thing. Therefore, the 1 month deadline had to go.
      I found this to be true recently after taking 2/3 of my Patreon adventures that are compiled in The Coming of Winter and having ample time to do a full revamp with more edit/pass-throughs and making things clearer, reducing wordage, and being able to include original art (as well as expand the adventures)–I find them to be way better than the originals. But the Patreon days were fun and I learned a lot from the process and I think my backers were relatively satisfied with some decent adventures they could run with (like this one!).
      Thanks for the review.

  2. Reason says:

    Cool. Been looking for something to expand the pirates/ seagoing aspect of Fall of Whitecliff if characters lean to that side of things. This will do nicely.

  3. samurguybri says:

    Nicely done, Malrex. The Best! It also sounds intriguing. The image of the exhausted seal people raiders is potent with energy and interest. Did you draw from any cultures or mythology when coming up. with them or the seahorse people?

    • Malrex says:

      Thanks! I stumbled upon an artist–Nathan Attebery who had sketched the seal people (and also the Phellinus in Scorchfire). I thought they looked cool so asked if I could use them. The main drive for using the seal people and the histrix (sea horse people) was the goal to not use sahaugin, which I feel has been overused in every sea/ocean adventure (in my opinion). I didn’t draw upon any cultures or mythology, but rather studied sea horses and elephant seals and tried to tease out special abilities from my research. I do that a lot with some of my new monsters–the nature channel can be inspiring as well.

  4. Stripe says:


    *has PTSD flashbacks to the Wavestone Keep contest*

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