Slyth Hive

By PrinceofNothing
The Merciless Merchants
Levels 14+

What once was, shall be again. The evil Pharnabazus, high priest of Shub-Niggurath, has ventured into Old Agoiah, and with the aid of evil sorcery, has re-awakened an ancient terror. The Slyth, a weapon race of the primordial Axototli civilization, has been reborn from the Wells of Lazarus at the hands of the Arch-Heretic. Reports of missing huntsmen, depopulated forests and sightings of eerie, primeval monstrosities begin to filter in from this decrepit backwater region.

This one hundred page adventure uses about fifty pages to describe a nine level dungeon with an ant/borg/Aliens vibe that is combined with “standard” D&D elements and tropes to produce a decent representation of a high-level AD&D adventure. It’s not a shitty high level adventure, and therefore worth having. Although I can’t imagine more than four groups in the history of D&D being able to play this.

High level adventures are a rare thing, and this makes me somewhat circumspect when reviewing some of the better ones … or ones that I think are better. They tend, I think, to all be puzzles of a strategic sort. The party is working against something. They have a huge amount of resources at their disposal, from spells to magic items to vast quantities of men and  materials they can bring to bear. To some  extent this is mirrored in the lower level game, where hit points and rations and spells and torches work against a wandering table. At a higher level though this can become a sort of strategic game. The story goes that the Tomb of Horrors was solved by a large number of orc minions. And, I’ve always thought that a small army of soldiers with peasant laborers with shovels could dig out many dungeons. Or, the party could flood it and work out the rest later. They are puzzles without a solution, ready for the party to engage in their fuckwittery … and deady traps for those facing them head on.

The arch-heretic Pharnabazus was seen arriving on black ships crewed by evil men and marching in to the wilderness, toward a high mountain, or, as th text tells us “Peasants fear Old Agoiah, the highest mountain of the place, and shudder beneath its brooding presence.” The Well of Lazarus awaits him deep within. (You can see here the appeal to the cultural consciousness to bring mor to the words than the actually written text. Allusions to LoTR, and other pop culture references help bring the correct vibe to the adventure for the players to relish in. I’m always excited to see things like this brining more to the written word than is actually on the page..) And yet this is not the adventure. It is only the pretext and finale, for to get there you must go through the Slyth Hive. He has used the well to awaken an ancient warrior race, held captive by an even ancienter race. Bringing them back, changing himself in the process, to eventually unleash. They are a cross between ants, The Aliens (plural) movie and the borg, adapting to the parties use of effects eventually and evolving to counter them. This is presented as a somewhat serious situation,  but not the end of the world, thankfully, as that trope is quite worn out. A toned down Death Frost Doom ending, if you will. 

The nature of the threat is brought home by the suggested start. Your group of mid-level pregens (Including The Kent, for those in the know) goes in and probably gets this asses kicked almost immediatly. Then the second squad goes in. Solomon the Magician (Human lvl 16 LN Mu) Archmage of Forces, Powers & Dominions. Sir Giselher (Human LG Paladin 14) Undefeated Paragon of Virtue (28 years old) Legendary Underworld figure. Peerless killer of giants, dragons, and men. Grandmaster f the Order of the Radiant Dawn. The Master of Summer. The Great Druid. There are no histories, the titles do everything and communicate everything you need to know about their past. A power trip to be sure, and exactly what this should be bringing.

There are nine levels here, only one of which we might call the typical dungeon map. Great caverns with some tunnels hanging off of them set up some massive set pieces, potentially, with some small exploration after. This appears a couple of times. And then a vertical map completely underwater … a sunken realm of the ancients. Another level or just rooms in solid stone, that the psionic inhabitants travel between … a key level to dealing a serious blow to the Slyth, turning off many of their defenses/gimps. Not just 100 wishes, but a site where you can help turn the tables on the larger scale. 

You’ll also find not just a nest of Aliens here, but also some potential friends. A rebel hive. A major drow patrol. Friendly cactus people. And a major druid that is being forced to do things. This isn’t a one-sided affair. Hard, to be sure, but  not just small combats. A large number of large scale potential combats but not just those. Not just traps of the usual variety, or puzzles to turn to your favor. Not just allies. This is a complex environment written in a more neutral way in which the party can turn things to their advantage if they can figure them out. All supported by some pretty decent writing that helps to bring the environment to life. The focus is on interactivity, both with the encounters and with the descriptions. Not rock star level descriptions, but very solid ones.

The editing can be sloppy at times, with keys and map symbols. This is all able to be worked out but is annoying. As is the use of roman numerals for the map keys. Blah. This is not the comprehension I was looking for. There is a FUCK TON of treasure here, enough, I suspect, to easily level. If you can get it out. That’s a lot of coin to haul out. Especially in a dungeon incursion like this one with hostels all around. The magic items are suitably good at times (a +4 spear, in particular, being exactly what I would expect for an epic item (+4) handled in a good way) and in many other places items of power are just booked. Talisman of Evil. Talisman of the Void. Bleech.) And the number of subsystems to keep track of is non-trivial. You’re going to need some stat sheets for the Slyth, at a minimum, and to have the adaptations thing handy, as well as manage the gimps/defenses/reactions. And that’s before you get to the many and varied abilities of the opposition force. There is a lot going on here and a little more in support of the beleaguered DM, during play, would be appreciated. Essentially EVERYTHING is going on, including psionics and etherealness. As one would expect from high level play.

I suspect that anyone playing this is going to get asses handed to them. There’s more to high level play than the stats on the page. The ability to use your character, outside of the box, is what is going to make a difference here. An experienced PLAYER. At high levels. And, even better, having grown in to their character through play instead of taking over one. I don’t think thats a critique of the adventure, just an observation of high levels and how people fit in to their characters over time. 

There is so much going on here that it is hard to get it all down. Nature attacks. Clones of people, controlled. The Slyth proper. Their fungus cousins. NPC’s good and evil. The underwater vertical level and disconnected rooms level. Psionics. Sunken cities of the ancients. Ancients that FEEL like ancients and their slave/warrior species that feels like one. A  lot going on, with just about everything weird from the books being fit in as well. And it all fits. And fits well. And in an epic manner. But, also, The only thing I’m morally opposed to is the Purple Worm gimp. This thing is truly epic, without having that forced appearance of being epic.

This is $15 at DriveThru. No preview? Tsk Tsk

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11 Responses to Slyth Hive

  1. chainsaw says:

    Nice work, Prince.

  2. Sevenbastard says:

    Bug people, Sounds like this dungeon was made for judicious use of Cloud Kill from my Master Wizard Orkin Mann. Cast it at the top and let it float down. Maybe a few castings of Mordenkainen’s Roach Motel and come back every few weeks to repeat.

    • Anonymous says:

      “58. Vacuum-hardened. The Slyth is immune to noxious gasses and vacuum. This includes magical gasses up to 5th level. The Slyth can operate without air for 1 hour”
      P. 70 Appendix I: List of Adaptations.

      The adventure exerts time pressure in more ways then one. Cloudkill would be an effective strategy, for a while.

    • Anonymous says:

      Could this spur the denizens to locate the source of the spell and launch a counter attack?

  3. Prince says:

    My thanks for the review. I was mildly concerned because it is remote from the usual fare. Nevertheless, you have identified many of its more appealing elements.

    As for the difficulty. I have run this one in its entirety with a group of both newcomers and elite module writers, and they managed, by playing well, learning with fanatical dedication (in case of one player) and exhibiting very intelligent tactics as well as bypassing some of the more vicious threats, to reach and even kill Pharnabazus, though not without casualties. I set out to create a module that would truly challenge very skilled players familiar with high level gameplay and I hope I have succeeded.

  4. The Ensanguinated Fangs of Voluptuous Drelzna says:

    Well done Prince!

    • Prince says:

      Thanks man! I worked hard on this and it was a fucking blast to play it. I hope others will give it a spin. Its a complex adventure but a mortal man can certainly run it. I think I will incorporate mr. Lynch’s commentary w.r.t. the useability into the deluxe KS edition, when said time has arrived.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Everyone knows that a Tyranid infestation demands total planetary Exterminatus.

  6. squeen says:

    I missed this one coming out! Very cool.

  7. Prince says:

    Preview works btw. Last update killed it.

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