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3 Posts

C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Going somewhere different rss

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Merric Blackman
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Ramping up my reviewing.
Happily playing games for many, many years.
C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is the first module of the "C" or "Competition" series of modules. It was originally used (as Lost Tamoachan) in the 1979 Origins tournament, and this module is the first to give a scoring system within its pages. Most of the previous modules released by TSR had been tournament adventures, but this one is specifically able to be used as a tournament adventure by the wider D&D population.

The adventure is presented with a gatefold cover with the map of the shrine on the interior, a 32-page booklet with the adventure, and a 8-page illustration booklet. Illustrations are provided by Erol Otus, Jeff Dee, Gergory K Fleming, David S Laforce and David C Sutherland III - and a couple of uncredited piece by Darlene Pekul. There isn't that much illustration in the 32-page booklet, with most of it appearing in the illustration booklet.

The original tournament play of the adventure had the player characters fall into the lowest level of the shrine (a ziggurat) whilst fleeing from pursuers. With the entrance behind collapsed and the air bad and poisonous, the three characters - a half-elf magic-user 5/thief 7, a human fighter 6, and a human cleric 7 - need to get out of the shrine as quickly as possible. Indeed, they have a 2-hour time-limit (in real time). Given the pace of D&D adventures today, it seems scarcely credible that a party could escape the shrine in that short time. I'm not sure how many actually made it out!

I have a particular problem in reviewing The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan in that I've never actually played or run it, so I don't have play experience to back up my feelings about the module. And my feelings aren't good: the module really leaves me cold, which is no small part due to the Mayan and Aztec/Toltec mythology it uses. As I was growing up, I became familiar with Egyptian, Norse, Greek, Celtic, Chinese and Australian mythology. Later on, I broadened my knowledge a little further: not much, but a little. And the mythology of this adventure is so foreign to me, that it makes it quite unsettling.

It is notable that this adventure is one of the first to use actual boxed text for the DM to read out to the players. The descriptions of each room are extensive. The amount of boxed text may be excessive due to the time it will take to read out; however, as some vital clues are given in the text, it'll be necessary to convey the information to the players. There's a lot of attention to detail and flavour, and the challenges of the adventure are varied, challenging and quite deadly. It isn't an adventure for the faint-hearted!

It's rather notable that the character sheets for pregenerated characters have Myrrha the Disgraced (cleric) able to speak Suloise and Old Oeridian. These are languages of the Greyhawk campaign setting (first released in 1980), so it seems that the authors were paying quite a bit of attention to Gygax's setting. The character backgrounds also make particular use of Greyhawk.

With 54 encounter areas over 21 pages, there's quite a bit of incident in the adventure. Whether you're fighting Aztec vampire bats or running away from a big rolling ball, or exploring a chamber with a model of the ancient Olman city in it, The Hidden Shrine of Tamaochan shows all the hallmarks of being well-researched and lovingly crafted. The subject matter might not appeal to me as much as, say, Pharaoh, but it's well done nonetheless.

There's a lot to like about The Hidden Shrine of Tamaochan, and it is rightfully considered a classic D&D adventure. One day, I might even get to run it; it does look like it would be an interesting (if deadly) experience.
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Andrew Young
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And if you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.
I remember this one and having a great time with it. We were young though and simply pleased by any new module that arrived.

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Shine is the first appearance of one of my favorite monsters, the Gibbering Mouther. Its pic in the module gives no idea of its scale (gee, I wonder why its room is completely stripped bare of anything besides stone?).

I was actually pretty surprised when, in the D&D miniatures line, I found it to be a normal sized creature![/center]
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