Friday, March 8, 2024

Adventure Site Contest: Review #17 The Tower of the Elephant

By: J. Blasso-Gieseke of 21st Centaury Games

Ruleset: OSE

Recommended Levels: 4-6 players levels 6-8

The Gist: This is a hard one to review.  I don't really like it.  It didn't do anything wrong.  I don't think it will play well.  I don't think it will play poorly.  The writing when considered as technical writing is well-done.  It's laid out really nicely.  It's OSE personified.

You get hooks and rumors; the hooks play off the inversions.  The rumors give mostly true details about the tower and its owner.

If you know the story and rely on it, you will lose because everything in the tower is inverted.  If you figure out right away that everything in the tower is inverted you can go back to relying on the story.

You get a map that pretty much faithfully recreates the gist of the story.  Doing so doesn't elevate the product, it makes the story smaller.  You have the two courtyards with guards as described.  Once you get into the tower you have three chambers above the ground floor guardhouse/kitchen.  So essentially after dealing with the guards either through bypassing them or killing them, it's three structurally similar encounters (one foe, one element of sensory misdirection, one story inversion).  There's just not much to do, really.  It's basically a 5-room dungeon.

If you've read the story then writing a bunch of shit for this is a waste of time.  If you haven't read the story then all you really need to know is it's a tightly written 5-room dungeon without much to do except march from encounter to encounter.  (Presumably silently somehow, as the adventure has no real adjustments given if the PCs just leeroy jenkins-butcher their way up or down while making a lot of noise.)  But the three main encounters could each be interesting as presented, if no alarm were in motion.

Monster Roster: 40 3HD guards, 6 lions, a normal slave, 14th level cleric, a Malphyr (seems demon-ish), and a human polymorphed into a giant spider.

Treasure: Unlike the story you can get the heart, which is a cool 250K gp value gem.  Interesting outcomes could result, as it will be hard to sell.  You also might get a lesser amount for the gem (50K gp) depending upon what hook is used, and/or 50K gp for a kidnapped royal.  

Four carpets are mentioned worth 10K each, along with 7 huge golden goblets (10K each).  Other items such as incense are likely valuable but no specific values are given.  I doubt any group is going to get all of this, however - it's going to be a certain subset or the other.  But monetary riches are certainly ample.  

The 14th level cleric has a staff of swarming locusts.

Do I think this will work: Mechanically yes.  Player reaction will depend on their feelings about the IP and how its portrayed, as well as the repetitive structural aspects.  They have an entire party against the story antagonists instead of one Conan, granting that might still be less powerful than one Conan.

Do I like it: It would be far better to make a larger tower adventure that had stuff to do, and somehow worked in a recognizable homage, than this near-copy.  I can however appreciate that the author was very faithful to the gist of TotE and has more-than-competent technical writing chops.  I won't run this, however.

Nitpicks:  None not already discussed.

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