Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Adventure Site Contest: Review #14 The Red Tower

By: Kristóf Morandini

Ruleset: Swords and Wizardry

Recommended Levels: Suggested for 5th level players

The Gist: If you roll on the 1E DMG random encounter tables often enough, you'll pop a random encounter with a fortress, and eventually one of those will have a MU owner.  Something like this would be perfect to stash away for when that happens...if any of the idea stems inside were completed.  As it is, this work represents the type which is just incomplete enough that the DM likely saves little time making it into something ready to play, and then most people would rather spend the marginal extra time to just have something of their own make.

As it stands, you get a tower that's just survived a small assault.  The owner is missing, and his steward has decided this is likely permanent (he wasn't involved and doesn't know why), resulting in a de facto ownership transfer.  And...that's pretty much it.  To be sure you also get a pretty standard small wizard's tower in terms of layout, room types, and such, but there's nothing here to do unless you write it.

Examples of ideas or details that just stop before giving you something you can game with:

  • The tower map provides no distance scale
  • Also on the map - black blobs that aren't discussed.  From the text it can be inferred the one in the ground floor shed/weapons room is the debris detailed there, but the massive one in the upper floor gets zero treatment in the text.
  • No map is given for the basement
  • The sorcerer's disappearance
  • the empty camp of the besiegers, and what their motivation was
  • What the magical gate-field is created out of - it's not unheard of for 5th level characters to have access to magic items which could potentially nullify different types of magic, but it's just a "magic field" so if they try the DM must decide how to ref that.
  • Two secret tunnels are described, one leading into the tower from a well 200 feet away, and the other connecting the tower with a river 600 feet away - so the DM is going to need a map of the locale around the tower unless handwaiving all of this is very vague theater of the mind fashion.  Maps didn't count against the page limit, so there's no reason one couldn't have been provided.
  • A cleric is an odd steward choice, it seems like a sentence or two would be needed to address what's a very likely questioning from the players for why, especially given the absence of the sorcerer.  
  • "the sorceror's notes" are bolded in the lab entry, but nothing about what is in those notes is given.  

Monster Roster: 5th level cleric steward and a 1st level human fighter valet, a dragon newt.  More hinted at in the area around but not detailed or listed as such.

Treasure: About 1,600 gold worth of sellable treasure, a human control ring, potions of frozen concoction (S&W-specific item), growth and clairaudience.  The ring is very powerful but it's still squarely on the meagre side. I'm a bit more lenient with sites such as this because the DMG makes clear that even if a lair encounter is rolled, no treasure might be found.  So it's as common in my experience to get meagre treasure or nothing when popping a lair encounter as it is to get a nice haul, simply because the treasure type rolls all miss.

If you were going to use this in a non-random fashion, as a placed encounter location, then I'd say you really should rework the treasure (which may naturally occur as part of finishing off all of the incomplete parts).

Do I think this will work: No, what is finished and ready to use here is very mundane.  It doesn't meet the threshold for "working" as nearly anyone would interpret that phrase in a D&D context.  It could be a serviceable random encounter if it were completed and fleshed out.

Do I like it: It's too incomplete to say.  I don't like it in the form it's in.


1) Most of what would go here was discussed above, but the passage from the well is starts under the water level, but the water level is only 2 feet deep (?).  Could be a typo as it's just a strange well and strange passage if intended.

2) I'm not sure if this is a language thing, but the room listed as a "shed" is described as a bedroom - which doesn't make any sense to the typical english usage of the word "shed".

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