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Welcome to the PLEASUREDOME
By M. Greis
In the flooded temple is hidden a great treasure, and the adventures are in race to get there first, but the ancient temple is the home of Death’s Messenger and several cults each with their own agenda. Will the adventurers survive or be dragged off to the lands of the dead?
This is a seventeen page adventure in a three level abandoned temple with about 25 rooms. There are multiple factions, puzzle-like things, weird monsters, an evocative environment, a moderately interesting map and MOSTLY terse text, at least for the DM notes. This is a good adventure. As I told The Pretty Girl yesterday: if all adventures were at least this good then I probably wouldn’t be reviewing adventures.
There’s this old almost forgotten temple in a canyon. Think of a slot canyon, like in Zion, or Petra. At the end of it is a temple, carved in to the soft rock. There’s a small stream running in the narrow canyons, and it flows in through a large crack, flooding the lower level to two feet. Inside are kobolds, at deaths door, victims of plague, they come here to die as a part of their death rituals. There are lizardmen, fishing. There are bugbear teens, undergoing their adulthood rites. None are hostile. The kobolds want to be left in peace to die. Filled with puss-filled bubos, they represent more of a trap (the plague) that is solved by roleplaying, sicne they are too weak to fight. The bugbears assume other people in the temple are undergoing their adulthood rites also. They tell ghost stories and boast by their campfire. The lixardmen would really like the other two groups gone, and will pay 1sp a head for kobolds. Then, in to this mix come some Dragon cultists looking for the PRETEXT. Again, not necessarily hostile .. but perhaps the parties pretext is to find the object first? IN which case it might be the party instigating.
Multiple factions are supplemented by a map that really allows for more complex explorations. There are, I think, like six staircases in the place, in addition to an open three-level area with balconies around it. This allows for stealth and a hunted/hunter thing to go on with any of the factions or the cult, once the party turns hostile. I think I counted four or five ways to get in to the temple besides the front door: a hole in the roof, the stream crack, a couple of windows … really nice sandbox design that allows for the exploratory and strategic play styles.
The faction monsters all allow for roleplay … that can then potentially end in combat, usually with the party instigating for some reason. In addition they all have a little detail, tersely communicated, and then some extra bits which are GREAT. It’s not just kobolds. They are dying/near death. And not just near death but from from plague. And not just plague but with bubos full of pus. Likewise the bugbears. Who are are on a adulthood rite. Who have ritually painted faces described. Who tell ghost stories at night around their fire. It’s just an extra sentence but it add SO much to the adventure. It’s what I’m referring to when I say things lie “plant an evocative seed in the DM’s head.” That’s the sort of content I want to pay for. Not reams and reams of text. Not railroady or dictatorial. One extra sentence that brings the adventure alive.
Puzzles, roleplaying, tactical options via the map, a timeline/order of battle for the cult that enters the temple. It’s all great and it’s clear it was written by someone who UNDERSTANDS how D&D works. This is further cemented by notes. XP for Gold notes. XP for rooms explored, and how it can push the party deeper in to a dungeon. The guy gets it.
Monsters are either book, such as the kobolds, lizardmen, bugbears, or new ones with the new ones being mostly of the tentacle-monster variety. As I noted earlier, the humanoids have something about them to bring them to life, while the new ones have great little combat powers that can really help mae combat evocative without being a drag. This is generally supplemented by some rooms have terrain effects; things under the water, etc, to spice up combat. 4e did this a lot but it felt forced, like a wargame. This does it in such a way that it feels natural. The new magic items are great and have a ”effects front” style. What does it do, then some brief mechanics. A Frogs Breath vial, that when uncorked has a greenish mist that flows out and can ID magic items … but then you need to recapture the mist. Great! A little twist to make things fresh and fun again … with just a hint of folklore.
This is a danish translation and it shows sometimes. A few of the puzzles are not formatted in the best way and you feel like you have to fight a text a bit in those more complex areas in order to figure out what is going on. There is some awkwardness in wording in a few other places, but it doesn’t distract enough to matter and overall it’s a testament to the translator. I might note, as well, that the word choice in places relies on conclusions. A smell is “foul”. I get what they are going for, but, that’s a conclusion. Describe the thing and then let the party make the determination that its foul. The readaloud is best when it’s not describing room dimensions but being evocative, and the DM text is thankfully short in most places. The introduction text is long, describing the factions, etc, but, read once, it does a great job of cementing the flavor in to your head, painting a picture so you grok it and need never look at it again. Which is exactly what the hell that shit should do. The boat captain mentioned in the “journey to the temple” section could have used a one or two word personality, as well as what happens to him/the boat when the cultists show up. But that’s really nitpicky of me.
As I look through my notes it seems like I made several notations on each page about little things the designer did right. If I were doing a second pass on this I might clean up the readaloud by making it shorter and a little more evocative and cleaning up the language and formatting in the more complex puzzle rooms. It’s system neutral, with no monster stats, which is LAME. Just stick in some LabLord stats for christs sake. If the designer had done that then this would be a GREAT adventure with almost zero prep. Read it once in 15 minutes and run it. As it is now you gotta state everything.
This is $2 on DriveThru and I think that’s a bargain for the adventure you are getting. The preview is six pages long, about a third of the adventure. It will show you those designer notes on xp for hold, some decent hooks (standard stuff, but well supported for the DM without being too verbose), faction information on page three (listed as page four) and in the last two pages a good sample of the adventure text. I really like what you are getting here: a classic exploratory adventure with some great roleplay and simple timeline elements to spice things up, with evocative descriptions.
One for me, too, please.
Morten Greis Petersen
Thank you for the review.
I am the author of this adventure, and I am glad, that you like it (though I need to go through the text at least one more time, but English is merely my second language).
With reviews like this, I know what to aim for and will strive to do so. Once more, thank you.