Tomb of the Tin Templar

By Jospeh R. Lewis
Dungeon Age
Levels ... 2-3?

The ancient world of Harth withers beneath its dying sun… but it’s not dead yet. Face off against electric jellyfish, tinker gnomes, and the rusted corpse of the noble Sir Tristan, as well as a few other creatures that have clawed their way into this marvelous mechanical vault. Discover windup toys, clockwork companions, and baffling devices. Negotiate with the guards and intruders alike, using clever words or whatever sharp objects are close at hand!

This six page adventure presents a small tomb dungeon with ten rooms. There are some interesting encounters, although the primary writing lacks the verve of, perhaps, a more intensive effort in evocative descriptions.

This is a small tomb of a kind of mechanical/low-fantasy steampunk paladin. The timing in emphasized with gears and steam in a few places, as well as rusty wall panels and a small troop of tinker gnomes. While I usually LOATHE tinker gnomes I’m giving them a pass here since they are not high fantasy but rather more akin to gnomes working in a workshop. It’s interesting to me that this reimagining of the tinker gnome has hit. King to the reboot of the Bond franchise with Casino Royale, it’s stripped off the more egregious streampunky aspects and is only a little jarring to see. I’m not sure they completely mesh with the mechanical man motif we’ve got going on here, but, also, that may be because things are a little weak in that department. 

It just doesn’t seem to ‘hit’ as hard as previous Dungeon Age entries in that regard. I think it’s because of the writing. The descriptions here seem a bit … mechanistic, perhaps in a “insert adjective here” sort of manner. I look at a description like “Cluttered wooden tables fill the room. Four small people sit on tall stools, working diligently.” Or even a better one like “Stone stairs spiral down, and stop at a steamy abyss. Shining metal platforms float in the darkness. Tiny blue lights glimmer all around.” I’m not sure either of those, even the second one, really bring home a really great image in the DMs head. Stone Stairs. Spiral Down. Tiny blue lights. I admit that I did the same in some of my efforts, but, also, I think there’s another step here. I think it’s taking your reworked sentences and then trying to put them together in to a cohesive whole. Something like – Now that I’ve got a better description, what does this evoke and how I can further rewrite this to bring it in to something that’s alive. I’m not telling anyone how to do things, I’m just trying to describe how I think that descriptions are close to being pretty good but just seem to be lacking that extra little reimagining that cements them. 

And that, I think, is part of what makes the mechanistic nature of the tomb so … disconnected? It just doesn’t seem to come together in any way that would lead you in to a consistent theming, in all but a paper way. Some of this may, also, be contributed to by the lack of an introduction. The intro is literally “This is a (very) small templar tomb full of treasure and danger, easily run as a one-shot or dropped into a larger campaign setting.” I think, perhaps, an additional sentence or two of lore would have helped quite a bit to set the stage and frame the content that was to come. Without that we’re relying on the weight of the descriptions to carry the load by themselves, which is possible in some cases but not overly successful here.

There are, however, some decent little encounters and vignettes. The opening to the dungeon is a cave mouth with a huge bronze gear set in to the floor with three smaller silver spheres set in to it. Solving that puzzle causes it to open up, revealing a spiral staircase going down. I think that certainly qualifies as a great appeal to a trope that brings the game to life and creates moments of awe and wonder. 

For a small dungeon, there are a couple of other nice room challenges also. That steaming abyss with its floating silver platforms … there’s water underwear and you jump from platform to platform. There are glowing blue jellyfish in the air and water, as well as a sapphire on each floating platform. Removing the jewel means the platform falls. That should be fun, both in the initial challenge and in figuring out how to collect the jewels. Those sorts of “Free form” challenges are by far my favorite. A puzzle without a solution. Left to the party to come up with a plan. Which will no doubt go wrong. THAT is one of the hearts of a good D&D game.

The jellyfish, also, is kind of fun. Slow. Numerous. Put them in a jar to act as a torch for a few hours! That’s a nice little addition! And, on a critical hit, you get shocked and your hair turns white, with a DEX loss. Nice way to push a real world effect in to the realm of fantasy. Small changes, not the end of the word changes, but a fun way to engage in play. I’m not saying every monster has to have a critical hit impact, but it was cute to see here. 

Treasure is probably light for an OSE game. There’s also a nice little “Templar Sword” that can absorb or reflect lightning damage. That’s fun … and has no plusses. No more description than that, which I enjoy. I’m looking for, overall, inspiration and not a mechanistic heavy magic item. 

This is an ok little dungeon. I’m not mad at it. It suffers, as to most small dungeons, from their lack of depth, there’s just no room to allow the environment o breathe. Maybe a nice little sub-level for an existing dungeon? I’m gonna regret this one, even though I have some reservations.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1.

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53 Responses to Tomb of the Tin Templar

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dungeon Age seems great, but they usually don’t have enough treasure, which is a huge turn-off. If I can’t trust the treasure is appropriate I have to go through and regenerate all of it.

    Treasure is not “put what you feel like” in OSR systems!

  2. The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

    Another tiny dungeon. Barf!

    Does this thing include three versions? One for Cairn, one for OSE, and one for 5E with each version designed for and tailored to that particular ruleset?

    • Joseph Lewis says:

      Nope. I wrote one version for Cairn, and then I added two appendices with the stat blocks for 5E and OSE. Sorry if this free product makes you barf.

      • Anon says:

        Nothing’s really free though, right? There’s still opportunity cost – the time investment to read it, figure out if it’s worth running and if so figure what needs changing. It’s good tenfootpole offers some help sorting through the hundreds if not thousands of free and PWYW modules.

        • Joseph Lewis says:

          The opportunity cost! Oh gosh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize someone might have to spend five minutes reading a 2-page adventure that I spent several hours writing, formating, statting, illustrating, and publishing for free. I apologize for the inconvenience I have caused you by making game content available online. Thank you for correcting me.

          • Anon says:

            Thanks for the overreaction Joe. I hadn’t even say anything bad the module, just disagreed with the idea that because something’s “free” that it can’t be disliked. The module concept seemed interesting, but after your bad response, it’s an easy pass. There’s plenty of other “free” stuff.

          • Brazen Head says:

            Stop being such an entitled ass-hat, anon.

        • Anonymous says:

          It took you longer to read Bryce’s review than it would have to read the adventure bro.

          • Brazen Head says:

            Joseph, sorry for the assholes here. Even if this isn’t my cup of tea, I appreciate the effort you put into it and that it’s free. Thank you.

        • JustBork says:

          I feel like if you’re the type of person to genuinely give a shit about “the opportunity cost of time” then there’s literally no amount of quality that could make a 6-room OSR dungeon worth reading. What an insanely obnoxious way to live your life.

        • Anonymous says:

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        • Anonymous says:

          “Nothing’s really free though, right?”

          My god, I think that’s the most annoying ACKSHUALLY-style sentence I’ve read on the internet in months.

        • Malrex says:

          Wow….people bitch if adventures are too expensive and now bitch if its free, although hardly any have ever put in the work to publish something and have little idea how much effort and time it takes. Opportunity costs?! I suppose you will want a shiny trophy if you had to use up your valuable opportunity cost to read something that someone put out for free? The entitlement is astounding. Joseph should of just put a cost for the adventure–the ‘opportunity costs’ for reading ‘free’ bullshit comments.

        • Reviewing Anon's Review says:

          It’s as free as it can be, dude. Chill. Are you gonna start back charging for your clearly invaluable time whenever you aren’t sufficiently entertained? Hope you are living every second to its optimized fullest.

      • Anonymous says:

        Just statblocks…so you don’t update treasure amounts when converting between 5e and OSE?

        • Joseph Lewis says:

          This is not a conversion, nor a multiple-versions product. As stated in page 1, this adventure was written for Cairn, with 5E and OSE stats also provided at the end.

          • Anonymous says:

            Next time just don’t put in the extra work providing other system’s stats so nobody can complain about something freely given.

            Some people really are porridge too hot, porridge to cold, nothing in between. I hope someone is available to tuck them in each night.

      • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

        Joseph Lewis said, “Nope. I wrote one version for Cairn, and then I added two appendices with the stat blocks for 5E and OSE. Sorry if this free product makes you barf.”

        Sorry for expecting more out of this than what was delivered. You’ve done better stuff than this. Next time please don’t call it an adventure for a particular system without putting in the work to do an actual conversion. Stat blocks are not enough.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dungeon Age is good even when we’re looking at an adventure that maybe isn’t top of the pile. Few publishers have received this much attention from Bryce and come out still standing.

  4. Stripe says:

    Hey, I’ve played this one! A one-shot pick-up game on the OSR Pick-Up Games Discord server ( Just one other player and I; he was a thief and I was a fighter. We didn’t know anything going into it other than that these were going to be problems mainly solved with our wits as players rather than by tossing dice at it—and that makes for the best one-shots. We had a great time!

  5. Joseph (not R. Lewis) says:

    Bryce, I understand that spelling errors aren’t of concern in your posts, but misspelling of the author’s name makes it difficult to search your site for works by the same author. You might want to fix that here and on Imperial Vault 19. Thanks.

  6. Gus L says:

    I read through this, and agree with Bryce, it’s a nice little dungeon. I read it as a reference to Sabbath’s Iron Man and a good variation on ASE’s magnet trap as well, both good.

    Designed as a trap dungeon I suspect, it manages some decent puzzles with very terse keys, which isn’t easy. The keys may be minimalist/dry for my taste, with some lost opportunity for description and environmental story telling. The gist is there though with a bit more then standard fantasy cliche that one could pick up and what information there is provided environmentally.

    It works and it’s something one could easily run.

    The only significant issue I think is that the dungeon itself may contain too much combat for its size, with three repeated mechanical gnome walls that always attack and the Tin Templar himself also on kill mode. It’s got three more encounters that might not lead to combat, but are framed to (wolves, gnome guards, gnome loafer) and one monster trap (jellyfish) for a total of eight combat encounters in a fairly small space. Likewise the lack of random encounters is not for me – send the guards (and tomb guards are a nice inclusion) on patrol or something. It’s a lot of fighting though, especially for a puzzle/trap dungeon and while the monsters make sense mostly, and at least the OSE stats suggest it would be quite brutal for a 1st level one shot party.

    Could use more treasure as well. Still I’m not sad I downloaded it and spent 20 minutes reading it and typing this up. I may actually have to read more Dungeon Age adventures.

    • Joseph Lewis says:

      Thanks Gus!
      Yeah, as a Cairn adventure, it will definitely look light on treasure to an OSE player. But I think the only guaranteed combat is the Templar, everyone else can be avoided or talked to.
      Thanks again!

  7. Prince says:

    Putting gameable stuff out for free is the lifeblood of the hobby and just good business, giving people an opportunity to check out your work. Always good.

    Lewis has a fertile imagination and I have certainly liked some of his adventures in the past. I think he is good and his move to the OSR is beneficial. That said, system-cross compatibility is something of a myth even at lower levels because very often the fundamental assumptions are so different. Gold for XP, what spells are available, how surprise works etc. Sooner or later a lot of these situations are going to come up, and what particular system you interpret them through can radically change the meaning of an encounter.

    • Anonymous says:

      All good points but, on the other hand, systems that deviate from the B/X framework generally have guides for converting OSR modules embedded in their rules. So, designers need not totally redesign their adventures for adjacent systems because those adjacent systems should have already laid out the conversion process for their GMs.

      • Gnarley Bones says:

        Mostly true but -and I am familiar with very little clone-wise outside of B/X and OSE (which is just B/X with cleaner presentation)- there do seem to be some substantive rule changes which an author needs to be mindful of. If memory serves, there were a couple entries this year with what were supposed to be “big ticket item” undead encounters but, under B/X rules, they were either automatic turns for the PC levels indicated or all-but-automatic turns for those levels.

        Having said that, any DM can just swap out for a tougher undead baddie, but the I think the issue is the danger of publishing for multiple systems without familiarity of the ins-and-outs of the multiple systems.

    • Prince says:

      They do often have ‘rules’ but this usually only covers the conversion itself; Change Value A to Value B etc. It doesn’t really capture the way the gameplay is altered, fundamentally, and that is the thing you have to adjust for. There might be a really good conversion out there that I am missing of course.

      My go too for subtle changes influencing the context of the adventure would be something like converting B7 Rahasia from B/X to AD&D and suddenly, all the elven warriors are immune to charm and sleep spells, making the process of capturing them alive far more onerous.

  8. Joseph Lewis says:

    I appreciate all the discussion here. One final thought: I am not a publishing house, I am just a guy who writes game stuff in his free time for fun. Sometimes I try very hard to make very good things. But sometimes I just want to fart out a fun little thing because it was fun to write, and fun for my players, and I thought it would be fun for you.

    I was not expecting Bryce to review this (or any of the other “tiny tombs” I am making). I was not expecting anyone to care at all, quite frankly. I was just trying to spread a little fun!

    • DP says:

      You’ve got some real gall to publish something that doesn’t meet literally every single subjective playstyle and individual preference! How dare you not be perfect!

    • Joe says:

      Thanks for sharing these little dungeons with us! I enjoyed hearing more about your work on the Between Two Cairns podcast.

      • Joseph Lewis says:

        You’re super welcome! And yeah, I have had a lot of fun on the podcast circuit, I hope they have me back!

        • Anonymous says:

          That is a good idea. You could ask them what Melan did to be considered problematic and a bigot, since they mentioned that but have refused to elaborate.

          • Mister Booze says:

            deadnaming Jennell Jaquays

          • Anonymous says:

            Then why not state that in the podcast. Oh, what’s that? Because destroying someone’s reputation based on a single instance (that also did not occur FWIW) is illegal? Well why didn’t you say so before?

            You idiots can’t even keep your own lies straight.

        • Lofty Heretic says:

          “deadname”. LOLOLOLOL

    • Anonymous says:

      Joseph, disappointed to see you stick your fingers in your ears and ignore feedback here. I guess you’ve had enough success you think you don’t need it now.

      • Joseph Lewis says:

        Oh gosh. A lot to unpack here. Okay. What feedback am I ignoring? Which anonymous strangers on the internet should I be obeying, the ones who like my work or the ones who don’t?

        Because there are an awful lot of kind words in this review and in these comments from people who have read my stuff or played with me. And I didn’t ask any of them to do that. Especially for this 2-page blip of a tomb.

        Also, what the heck is “success”? I write game stuff because it is fun for me. I am always (pleasantly) surprised when anyone bothers to read or review or play my stuff. I don’t expect any of that. There are way more talented folks out there to read and play.

        I’m just a random guy who likes writing and drawing and playing games with fun people. I’m just having fun doing game stuff. You know, because they’re games. For fun.

        I make stuff that is fun for me. If it’s fun for other people too, then that’s great. And if not, then… who cares? There’s a million other games out there!

        • Lonely Penguin says:

          Well said, Joseph.

        • Anonymous says:

          you’re no longer trying to improve, got it.

          • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

            Don’t you think saying he doesn’t want to improve is unfair?

            Lewis has done good stuff in the past. I complained about yet another tiny dungeon because I am sick of them and drive-thru is FLOODED with these minuscule adventures. We hardly need any more of these. However, given his track record, I was expecting more and didn’t get that this time. However, claiming that he’s unwilling to improve is pretty much you talking out of your ass

          • Joseph Lewis says:

            LOL! “Improve”? What does that even mean??? No, seriously. Explain to me what you actually mean. Explain how I should be improving.

            I’ll wait.

          • Reason says:

            he patiently explained more than once that this free mini dungeon was just a change of pace palate cleanser project- for fun.

            And it was still very well received. And his other stuff is mint. He literally said his focus is his major pieces and hey, this was fun and take it or leave it. But he _knows_ how to write a good one. I’ve played them.

            No sign he’s “not willing to improve” as a chef on his friday night popcorn.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Reason, Vecna:
    “I make stuff that is fun for me. If it’s fun for other people too, then that’s great. And if not, then… who cares?” — Joseph R. Lewis

    literally means he doesn’t care about our feedback anymore

    • Gnarley Bones says:

      Reviews are for potential purchasers. They’re not lessons for the Author and there’s no obligation for an author to accept them as such., S/he can take a review with a grain of salt, an entire salt mine or not at all.

    • A Different Anonymous Asshat says:

      Anonymous, all you have to do is give just one example of how he could improve: that’s what we call “constructive criticism,” like what I’m giving you right now, and what you’re providing none of.

      Sorry that you’re such an entitled, incorrigible whiner who lacks the self-awareness that you’re the pot calling the kettle black. What I wrote just here is an example of unhelpful internet toxicity which I hold up as a mirror for you.

      • Anonymous says:

        First comment on the review!!!

      • Anon says:

        It’s free, no criticism, constructive or not, is allowed.

      • MagicJohnson says:

        Everyone is acting like a bunch of freaks. This is not an NSR space. Show some decorum.

        So: Free products are held to a lower standard. That is fair. It does not place them beyond criticism but it should be acknowledged that the standard is lower.

        Now: Criticism. It is written for Cairn/OSE/5e. However: The treasure, and probably the balancing, has not been adjusted for all that. The complaint is, just putting stats in there for different systems, does not mean the adventure is fully compatible, because several other assumptions have not been taken into account. A major one is treasure.

        Does Lewis ‘owe’ us anything? No, certainly not for audience feedback. But if you want to make a buck you have to at least pretend to give a shit about what the audience thinks. In this case it seems an open and shut case, compatibility is claimed, but the legwork has not been done.

        The appropriate response is either: ‘Fuck, and then a quick conversion note’, or ‘Fuck, and then remove compatibility’ or ‘Go to hell, I don’t care about the quality’ and then no action.

        That’s it.

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