Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Adventure Site Contest: Review #2 The Tomb of Rassanotep

By: Jeff Simpson of Buddyscott Entertainment Group (Canada)

Ruleset: Seven Voyages of Zylarthen

Recommended Levels: for character levels 2-3

The Gist: Jeff gives us a quick hook/intro that presumes the party camps at a particular oasis in the desert - which, all things considered, is very likely to occur in desert exploration so a smorgasbord of hooks isn't really necessary.  Of course someone waking up in the morning to their partially sand-buried host's skeleton pointing in a particular direction is going to check it out.  This is a product for adventurers, not weenies.  The entire tomb shouldn't take more than an hour of play (if that) however.

Exploring in the pointed direction eventually leads to a cliff face with a tomb.  This area is the equivalent of a batting cage pitch straight up the middle that's intended to make it easy for a party to get solid contact.  While we all enjoy the novel and the innovative, the dirty secret of long-playing D&D campaigns is a lot of the weekly content looks just like this.  DM burnout happens when everything needs to be a "whoa" session, and player flaking comes from people unable to enjoy simple locations like these where there's a sense of satisfaction from finding something like this non-descript tomb, checking it out, pocketing some loot, and checking the next hex.  Marriage is not like a rom-com; campaigns aren't going to be an endless succession of G3s.  They're held together by people who enjoy gathering together, and there's going to be nights where this straightforward location is all most of the group can handle because everyone is tired, but no one wants to break the rhythm of meeting, bullshitting, having a beer, and playing some D&D.   

So as to area specifics, we have ten rooms that hit all the standard desert tomb tropes.  You have:

  • the secret-in-hieroglyphics that must be sussed to open the real entrance to the tomb
  • a simple hallway trap  
  • the long-dead skeleton (inanimate) with a document having basic location info
  • one dangerous automaton
  • a throne that's unwise to sit upon
  • the gratuitous flooded chamber containing the lootable corpse of some Satipo stand-in (probably)
  • The room with long-dead skeletons (animate) standing guard and ready to attack
  • fake treasure room serving as a decoy to the real treasure room
  • The tomb of the titular character, who will rise from the grave if its rest is disturbed.
You might pish-posh or be non-plussed.  I would ask you: how many times have you been to Waffle House and how long do you think it will be until you go there again?

There's a few imaginative flourishes - the inanimate skeleton homes several normal poisonous spiders that the DM can describe as spilling out of its cranial orifices and the hieroglyphic messages likely invite speculation. 

Monster Roster: The monsters are all mentioned above, there's nothing new or novel - well except perhaps the level-draining leeches?  7VoZ apparently doesn't mess around with its leeches.  I don't have a copy of the monster roster to check and see if that's vanilla or an upgrade.

Treasure: 7VoZ is on a silver standard, so for that system 7,100 sp in sellable treasure and a +1 sword (with other powers if the GM wishes to detail same) is very acceptable for a 10-room romp.  There's also a "bejewelled scepter and crook" with the body of Rassanotep, without any values listed.  So if a DM wants to up the reward ante those two pieces can be given any value felt appropriate.

Do I think this will work:  Yes, there's nothing complicated in here to fail.  But if you're looking for "whoa"-level creativity this won't scratch your itch.  It's designed to give people a reason to sit down and JUST PLAY, nothing more or less.  For contest purposes I would say this is less on the inspirational side and more on the grounding side for DMs still getting their feet behind the screen.

Do I like it: Yes, but I'm also confident that I can amplify the very simple play loop here during a session with my own DMing pizazz.  This site isn't going to make a DM more than they are without it, it would be the other way around.


1) Room 4 describes the cat-statue guardian as falsely-gilded so as to present as valuable, but since no one here (presumably) is a descendent of the tomb occupant it also will attack as soon as its location is entered.  A delayed attack when they leave the room (possibly after being put inside a sack or pack carried by a character) would allow all the detail to work together

2) Secret doors in rooms 3 and a secret corridor in between rooms 6 and 7 aren't mentioned in the description.  This might be because of space or perhaps they were missed in quickly putting together an entry.  But these would have been areas where more tropes could be detailed that would give the location an even stronger flavor.

3) There's no random encounters in the tomb - and its small enough this probably isn't needed - but the skeletons in area 7 could stand doubling in number with some activation written in that would send half of them on patrol, so that there's at least a minor element of passive danger

4) One trap is said to slice off a finger if it is triggered, reducing a character to the lesser of 15% of their hp or 5 hp total - whichever is less. 15% seems harsh for losing a finger, although perhaps this is some form of Canadian inside joke; I've still not watched Strange Brew so anything is possible.  But I'd probably change this to whichever is more, instead.

5) Since this is carried by being entirely straightforward and faithful to the tropes, putting the main tomb/sarcophagus so close to the entrance where it's likely to be found almost immediately deflates the rest of the content.  Lean into the tropes, make it only accessible by some winding secret hallway that begins somewhere far from the entrance.

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