Thursday, February 29, 2024

Adventure Site Contest: Review #10 Legacy of the Black Mark

Legacy of the Black Mark

By: DangerIsReal (

Ruleset: Swords and Wizardry

Recommended Levels: 4 to 6 characters of levels 2-3

The Gist: Deep in the mountains a lost entrance is found to its underworld, drawing treasure seekers who've not returned.  Ircana the Spider Sorceress is rumored buried within, but her degenerate morlock followers still roam this area.  Want to try your hand?

The adventure starts off with a good rumor table, which is always better than a bunch of hooks.  Since other treasure seekers already found out about it, the rumors (which are mostly true) are reasonable for stuff they'd talk about over drinks before setting out, if they'd done some due diligence first. If your players aren't interested in the rumors, no agency is lost.  Rumors for campaigns, hooks for one-shots.

You get a paragraph of general information regarding structure, decoration, condition, and climate up front, and a random encounter table with a handful of traditional monsters (with some cosmetic differences - the zombies are headless, etc.).  There isn't a morlock monster in AD&D; I looked through the two S&W versions I have and didn't see it there, but the monster is a humanoid archetype in its own right so DMs should have no issue with running it I don't think. 

Everything is clear and easy to read; the room numbers always showing inside a circle makes them pop and its easy to track back to your spot on the page when flipping back and forth to the map.

Then entry then describes the tomb/lair itself, leaving the in-between to the GM - which doesn't bother me a bit.  The in-between is what will vary from world to world anyway, and I'd rather get maximum word count on the location.  The entry down allows starting out near the middle of the map instead of on an edge - nice touch.

 Interesting stuff is available right off the get go: in the entry room there's a concealed alcove with some potion bottles; room 2 isn't necessarily the first path which will be chosen but its at least 50/50 and it presents a lot of interaction right off the gate. Players will get engaged quickly.  Players willing to play ball with evil can gain an attribute point and jump locations on the map (and back again) but the merely curious likely get nothing but pain.  It's possible to find and get what you came for almost immediately - which I really like as it keeps players guessing instead of presuming "goal" and "end" are always synonymous  But if you didn't play with evil prior to, you could become a pawn of evil during the encounter.  Enjoyable design.

Among the expected tomb-type rooms, you get neat encounters interspersed.  

  • A macabre room of severed heads on hanging chains conceals three vargouilles - nasty always, but especially at lower levels.    
  • the remains of previous treasure hunters are found in areas of subtle dangers - will the impulse to loot quickly bring these upon the party?
  • The morlocks offer a choice between possible cooperation or violence for a bit more treasure.
  • Another encounter room with a crab spider - am I the only one here who's never seen this monster printed anywhere?  It must be a B/X or other clone staple.

Really good little bit, it will play well, it's got its own creepy atmosphere, and is a solid example of How to Write Small.  Nothing here feels incomplete or cramped, it's instead a bite size chunk of a campaign world players will enjoy without it taking over game play for multiple sessions.  This is in type, if not specific construction necessarily, the sort of location treasure maps should lead to and so should be frequently experienced by your players in a campaign.  The tricks and traps are great too - kudos!

Monster Roster: spiders, zombies, vargouilles, a ghost that can seize your will and bend it to her own, centipedes - very satisfying roster.

Treasure: Treasure is nice - there's some magic items here for nearly every class, with the prize likely a suit of mithril chain mail+1 sized specifically for a dwarf.  The money treasure is spread out, so feeds the greed on a regular basis, and totals up to around 11K, give or take.  Players might not find all of it.  But for a low-level party, at least some will likely level after following rumors here.

Do I think this will work: Yes.

Do I like it: Also yes, a really nice job with this one.

Nitpicks: No nitpicks.

No comments:

Post a Comment