Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Adventure Site Contest: Review #16 The Barrow Shrine of Corruption

To the dame's question...I'll never tell. But might I have found the author's twitter alt (?)

By: Submitted anonymously (?)

Ruleset: B/X

Recommended Levels: "cautious low-level characters"

The Gist: A nice spider lair in the woods, useful and appropriate for any dark forest hex.  

The author is either down bad and working through it, or perhaps lost a bet and had to write their submission and draw the map using the illustrations of reproductive systems found in textbooks as inspiration.  But for all that, the encounter works and is something I would hold up as what you want to have in your back pocket for (in AD&D) a giant spider's lair.

It starts off with the giant mons...err, mound.  A dead raven is nailed to a door at the southern (?) edge.  The entire setup is practically begging the party to visit its magical realm, and I'm guessing t'aint a party who will refuse.  The interior description does a good job of conveying a location of some antiquity, with tree roots reaching through the earth from above to hang down over the party's field of vision.  Luckily, the monolith at the northern-most point has two big glowing eyes (gems) - they won't miss it.  It's also unfortunately one part of a double trap, like adulthood is for death, and taxes.  Since it's surrounded by the hard bits of former corpses of many types no one can say the monolith trap is of the FU type.

Trap #1 is a good-sized party of gnolls coming up from two trapdoors along opposite sides of the chamber, to cut off the party and hopefully divide them by forcing them into the trigger point for trap #1 - which is another trap door at the base of the monolith covering a deep chute.

Anyone dropping into the chute will be saved by a mass of webbing shortly before they would otherwise land in a spiked pit.  Saved, but not really, as a mated pair of giant black widow spiders live in a cave just above, so unfortunates are "saved" from the fire by landing in the frying pan.  There's not going to be a lot of time to extract anyone who's stuck from the web, and since they can't really see the spikes there's always a chance someone might toss down a torch while dealing with the gnolls above.  This will burn the webs, deposit the unfortunate in the spikes, and leave them wounded while still in danger from the spiders between them and the top.

It's really a nicely thought-out trap.  The glowing "eyes" monolith doesn't lead one's mind to thoughts of spiders, and dealing with the gnolls simultaneously impairs more deliberate rescue attempts.

Anyway, only the larger female is immediately aggressive towards chute-droppers.  If she's somehow dealt with and the cave she emerged from is explored, the smaller male hides as best he can in the dark back of the cave trying to take anyone entering by surprise.

There's good interactivity here - a cocooned bandit begs for his life, promising to lead rescuers to its lair if saved.  If the party hightails it and comes back later with spider-specific prep to clean out the area, he's a drained husk (if any spiders survive first contact).   Of course the party may also still need to deal with the gnolls, requiring accessing their hidey-hole from either above or below using the trap doors in the main chamber or coming upward from the spider cave.  Vertical connections are provided either way, and a nice side-view makes the map structure clear if less of a titter.  

None of the other rooms are especially noteworthy beyond describing the sorts of living quarters rooms necessary to support humanoid life.  The gnoll's treasure is protected by a poison trap, and given the level suggested it's likely there's only so many poison-clearing spells to go around.  I can almost hear the swearing if it's been a bad day for poison save rolls.

Monster Roster: Spiders and golls.  Short and sweet.

Treasure: There's no magic, but the trapped chest with 2,000 gp will be hard to miss.  Probably also the glowing eyes-which-are-gems can be picked up - I don't think anyone's failed to grab eye-gems since the PHB came out in '78.  They're big pieces of amber, worth another 1,000 for both, and have the neat wrinkle that prehistoric scorpions were trapped inside when the amber was made.  If I was in the party I'd probably try to tuck those away for higher levels when maybe magic can do something to make those scorps useful (they'd be very rare at least - who knows what their stats are). Rounding out the loot are six occult tablets of the demon-god the monolith is dedicated to that could bring in another 1,200, for a total haul of up to 4,200 gp.  

While this aspect isn't really played up in the adventure, a DM could run with this demon having a portfolio of corruption/disease and work it into further campaign activity if desired, as a bread crumb trail to another unholy site farther away is left by the author.

Do I think this will work:  Yes, this will be a memorable lair/hex.  All the elements help each other and put pressure on the players.

Do I like it: Yeah, I think this is a really nice entry, even if it was only typed with one hand.  Good job.

Nitpicks:  None.

No comments:

Post a Comment