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Introductory OSR adventure: Twisted Lovers

ash adler

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I made a few introductory adventures to go along with my retroclone here, and I decided to start converting them into stand-alone modules in a more system-neutral format after having done some playtest runs. Here's the first one:

Twisted Lovers

Anyway, what I'm looking for here is feedback on:
  • Is the format/presentation sensible and easy to understand?
  • Is there anything that seems like it need more system-neutral presentation?
  • Is there anything that seems like it should by hyperlinked but isn't?
  • Is there anything I could do to make it easier for another GM to run?
I had a couple of reads through it, so I've hopefully caught any typos and the like, so I shouldn't need much help with that ("much" instead of "any" because something always seems to slip through :p ). On the other hand, while I'm not really expecting anyone to chip in on this, any volunteers to make the handouts not suck would be great, because I'm not good at drawing :cautious:
 

kenco

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Validated User
I made a few introductory adventures to go along with my retroclone here, and I decided to start converting them into stand-alone modules in a more system-neutral format after having done some playtest runs. Here's the first one: Twisted Lovers
Hey! This is great! Nice work, and inspiring to see. Overall I found it clean and easy enough to follow that I could certainly run it (which I cannot say about every product I see online, so kudos to you).

I’ve made a LOT of notes below, so I hope that's alright. 8)
Is the format/presentation sensible and easy to understand?
The overall structure (Introduction, Map, Key, Notes, Appendices) is clear and serves your purpose reasonably well. I will take things in the order of the document, with some more general comments at the end.

ToC
This looks a bit isolated on a page by itself. The use of subheadings in only two sections looks odd. Its important to identify e.g. where to find the creature’s stats, but this could be done more elegantly. I'm not sure they are Appendix materials, since they are really needed to play the adventure. Appendices are usually for auxiliary materials that might not be read.

Design Notes and Playtest Commentary sounds like appendix material - I wouldn't expect to read them to run the adventure. But there is a lot of good (vital?) information disguised as Design Notes that deserves visibility.

You might call it “Site Map” rather than “map”, to make it clear that that the Site Key refers to the same entity. Or maybe "Site Key" should be "Keyed Encounters", with "Wandering Monsters" under its own heading.

Introduction

I’m unclear on the overall intent of the adventure. It’s great to know that it’s “introductory”, but whom does it introduce to what? Does it introduce inexperienced players to D&D? Experienced players to a new campaign? An inexperienced GM to running D&D? A “new-school” DM to running OSR-style games? My guess is that it is meant as the first, but I’m not sure. At present the materials are unsuited to introducing a new GM to the game.

Your purpose statement at the start of design notes might be better placed in the introduction, if is a core goal.

Adventure Background

Seems fine.

GM Information

The fact that it is an “extra dimensional" prison doesn't seem to have any practical consequence whatsoever.

Your second paragraph introduces what claims to be a third purpose for the adventure (1 = “serve as an introductory adventure that can be complete in 1-2 hours”, 2 = “meant to teach players about exploring their environment and to provide consequences…", 3 = “tempt the PCs into exploring an ominous site”). I found this a bit confusing. In fairness I think 1) is the purpose, 2) is two subordinate goals, and 3) is a information about how the GM needs to make the adventure proceed - so really its a goal of the opening scenes. My concern is about how you are expressing it, rather than what you are doing here.

The rest of this paragraph, apart from the final sentence doesn't say anything that doesn't unfold naturally in the main text - so it doesn't need to be said.

Incitement

I found the section title vague - but maybe it is a standard adventure usage I am not aware of. It's jarring but not illogical to read about the posse being organised immediately after having been told (in the preceding section) that it will be organised. I assume the text here is intended for the players, whereas the earlier mention was for the GM.

The rumours are colourful and evocative (except number 4), but not much help or hindrance to the players. I expect that rumours will at least tend to be relevant to the adventure, whether accurate or inaccurate: to prompt players to do (or not do) certain things. But I can't see what the players would DO with any of the information given except that item number 4 might encourage them to explore... I guess that was the point, but the other rumours seem like padding.

Also it's not clear whether you intend the players to uncover all of the rumours automatically or e.g. roll 1d6 for which 1 they get. The former will get them 5 irrelevant ones; the latter has 1 in 6 chance of returning item number 4, which is really “go do the adventure” and turns out to be a bit false: there’s not much treasure there.


Approach to the site

The text seems to assume that the party will approach at night and return by day. I don't know why that makes sense. Unless the journey takes a day and a night. But the background said the field is only just out of sight of town. I would prefer to have the stats for wolves and townsfolk here, rather than in a separate appendix.

I’m curious about what knocked over a menhir that must have withstood many fierce storms over “countless decades". It's an interesting detail, unexplained.

A “five foot diameter tunnel” implies a circular cross section - is this intended? It's not totally obvious and specific is usually better than general. Giving the distance as a time seems odd, unless you also specify the speed of travel. Unless you don't care how far it is. In which case why make it twenty minutes? I think you have a pace in mind, but haven't specified it because it seems obvious to you.

I'm curious that you give the weight of the bar, but not the weight of the 5' x 20' stone doors. I assume they open with some effort, but without being a significant obstacle. I would probably skip the weights of both and focus on how much strength/ effort is needed to move them.

It’s slightly odd that the external security is no more than a bar. Surely it would have been prudent to at least chain the bar in place to prevent casual release of the dreaded monster? It’s even weirder when I notice that everything inside is trapped inside something else anyway, so really keeping people out would be a higher priority?


Site General Notes

I assumed that “normal doors” were made of wooden planks a few inches thick; but this is not stated and it turns out none(?) of the doors in the complex are wooden: so I don’t know what a “normal” door is. Stone pins are unusual, and I wonder what the practical consequence is meant to be.

The clue about cleanly swept floors is very nice! But the location-specific exception is much less important here than it is at the at the descriptions of those specific locations, where it needs to be highlighted. Same with ceiling heights. This kind of thing can be clearly expressed by text like “Except where specifically noted, ceilings are 20' high”; language like “normal ceilings are 20' high” is ambiguous: what is a “normal ceiling”?

Using “top” and “bottom” for map directions can be ambiguous. Compass directions, plus a compass on the map would be clearer.

You might consider the possibility that players could do something that would give them a clue to the existence of the Ooze Sentry squeezed in the cracks. They might notice that almost anywhere. There might be some specific action would trigger its manifestation, too.


Map

The map is beautiful. I am very impressed. Simple, clear, with classic, suggestive symbols well-used. It would be clearer to include each room number inside the boundary of the room it marks, rather than next to it (a bit larger and bolder would help too). I would add a compass and use compass directions in the location texts. The scale would be more obvious in a bottom corner than wedged in the side where it currently is. A less bland title than “Map” might be nice.

It would help me if you highlighted which of the columns in area 2 operate the secret panels (maybe with a counterclockwise arrow and a note in the associated text).


Site Key

Random Encounters

This possibly deserves a bigger heading, to make it stand out.

1 Ooze Sentry should only occur if the 'Squelching' has already been heard? And not if the Sentry has been destroyed. To retain tension, you might make the Sentry respawn after an hour (or a day), as it’s the only true wandering monster in the place. Also it might go dormant again after a while, if there is no-one around.

2-4 Wailing should include the text “Raha in area 5” to help the DM locate the information without having to read through the whole document to understand Raha and where the sound comes from.

5-6 Squelching should include information about randomising the location of the squelching and whether it can be located.

Include all details for the Ooze Sentry here and reference it from the encounter table.

I would re-order the table: 1-3 Wailing; 4-5 Squelching; 6 Ooze Sentry.

Actually, I’d go with something like “Roll 1d6: 1-3 Raha’s Wailing: Unless Raha has been freed, his voice sounds from area 5; 4-6 Ooze Sentry: If the Ooze Sentry is awake, it discovers the party; if not it wakes in a randomly chosen room, with a loud squelching sound audible throughout the complex”.

If you are going to refer to an entity that is described somewhere else in the text, it helps the reader if you give a reference to the place where detailed information about that entity can be found. Or hyperlink (and highlight) 'Raha' and 'Ooze Sentry'. 8)

1 Entrance

How do the characters know the figure is “casting judgement”? I love the graphic! Let it speak for itself? Or say how a character can tell.

Are the stone doors mentioned here “normal doors”? I am not sure.

2 Great Hall

I like the spiral clue and the presence of a puzzle. I’d like more detail, and more clues for the players especially as this is an “introductory” adventure. Which way do the columns/ triggers turn? What IS a “trigger section”? How deep is it? What height? How obvious? How much effort is required? How else can the secret panels be detected? How do they look? Move?

What is the significance of the “mouse hole opening”? I presume it allows oozy access. But if it matters, this detail should be included here, not in an appendix.

Again, the graphic is wonderful!

3 Well

The well is “surrounded by a 1-foot high stone wall”; it is 50' deep measured from floor level. The gelatinous cube fills it almost to the brim (by my calculations... what is your specific intent? I think you need to say exactly what the “slime level” is, because the mallet is suspended only 1 foot below ground level)

The fact that the cube is stuck in the well unable to move should be included here, not buried in the appendix. I'd rather see its stat block here too. As it is stuck, it is not going to be encountered anywhere else. At least a hyperlink, please.

I don't understand why the cube can't get out and this is never explained: it might be relevant in play. Can the cube attack PCs 5’ away once active? Or is it a sitting duck? Under what circumstances can it attack? Does that release it from the well? This is not clear even after reading the appendix.

As this is NOT a well, why have you called it one? Call it a circular hole in the floor, 5’ across?

Not sure what your assumptions on coin weights are. At the 10 coins per pound rate used in B/X a 2 stone silver mallet would be worth only 28 gp. Probably you are using 100 coins per pound, but it's not stated. A minor point. This kind of currency information might be worth putting in the GM’s introductory material - or a related section on “How to read the adventure”, perhaps with some advice on conversions.

4 Former Fane

It would be nice to know what the statue represented - the PCs might get clues from the chunks. Again I want the information here, not in an appendix. It’s hard to understand the high value of some obsidian chunks. What makes it so precious?

Is the absence of a graphic for the androgynous figure self-censorship? 8)

5 Cell

Since Raha is locked in, it is not going to be encountered anywhere else (at first). So I would put the stat block here, not in an appendix; or at least hyperlink! If it can gouge stone walls, how come it hasn't escaped over decades of imprisonment? Lack of faeces is a nice clue regarding its undead status. But it must look like a ghoul anyway. Might be a nice touch to place a large mirror somewhere in the room… 8)


6 Key Storage

I don't understand (50 GP, * stone). I guess this is a missing weight, but maybe you mean “0”. It weighs 50 coins in B/X, same as a battleaxe…

Is the hemisphere sitting open end up (like a dish) or convex side up (like a dome)? I'd like to know as it affects access to the key.

Does “taking" mean picking up? moving? leaving the room with? (if so, it's too late for the gauntlets to DO anything about it?) What about smashing? Melting? Disturbing etc.

Again, I would prefer to have the monster stats and behaviour with the text rather than in an appendix.

7 Antechamber

Which is the metal door? The pair in the North? Or the one in the South? I found this confusing at first.

Again, I suppose the corroded bottom is significant (perhaps it lets the ooze through?); but I'd like to know in the description, not in an appendix.

8 Statue Chamber

Seeing this detail here, it would be nice if the figure in Area 4 was described as four-armed.

You might as well say how far the "non-follower" is going to fall, rather than make me look it up on the map. It looks like 50' if the victim hits the North wall of the chamber. But if the door is open, the victim might fall North through area 7, either hitting the doors at the North of area 7 (80') or North of area 2, or... when does this effect end? How far down the tunnel will it throw the victim if ALL those doors are open? For how much damage, assuming the character just tumbles to a halt without definitively hitting a “bottom”? Or do they go all the way out of the tunnel and...?

This is a fun trap, if the players don't mind losing characters! It's more fun if two or three characters get caught up in a pile of flailing limbs.

It’s a key feature of the adventure and I think it would help to give some more thought to this trap, it's lethality, how the falling is intended to work and how you explain it in the text. Even the minimum 50' fall will probably kill most characters under level 4. Some mention of colliding with other characters, chances for them to leap out of the way (or “catch" the falling character) might be warranted. Is it triggered if the statue is poked with a 10' pole? A short stick? A gloved hand? I would seriously consider a trap that is simpler to explain - the permutations of falling are lots of fun, but complicated to explain; and a sudden death trap, no save is a bit rough for an “introductory” scenario (unless that is what you are trying to introduce).

It seems a bit harsh to call bits of coloured glass “gems” in the description: at a distance the PCs would see something, but might not immediately conclude they were gems. “What look like gems” would be fair for newbies.

The statue could radiate “evil magic” or some such detectable force (any halfway experienced player will suspect it...); possibly even a palpable aura of creepiness that no spell is needed to detect.

The bars blocking the wing section are not obvious on the map. Can you space them out a bit and make the dots bigger?

Why are the bars dissolved if the ooze doesn't ever go that way? I know it doesn't go that way because the dust is not swept clean except on a narrow track from the statue to the door. Actually, why doesn't the ooze ever go that way? Originally I thought the ooze must manifest from the statue, but clearly it doesn't... confused?

The dust track detail should be included in the room description.

What does it take to open the sarcophagi? How are they sealed? Why can't the 10d8 ooze woman just ooze her way out unaided? What script is the warning written in? What else does it say? What is needed for a PC to read it? What does it say about the contents? A mention that Raha can read the text might be warranted. I'd prefer the detail here than in an appendix.

What does the “sparse writing" on the other sarcophagus say? At least give the PCs a comparison.

Again, the monster stat block for Lata should be included here.

NPC Behaviour notes

The behaviour notes would fit better with the stat blocks, and located in the area descriptions where each NPC is encountered, except perhaps the ooze, which has no real home. Otherwise I have to look up three different sections to work out how to play each monster.

The general monster behaviour “hostile and will pursue” might be included in the “Site General Notes” section, recording any exceptions in the main entry for each monster. There are only 4 monsters, so its barely worth a general mention.

Will a monster pursue beyond the prison? Even if it can't survive there? How does it “die" upon leaving the zone? Spectacular fireworks? Gradual starvation? Or would Raha and others sense their peril and stop at the threshold?

Specific behaviours (Cube can't leave well, Raha wails, guardians stay in area 6) belong with the description of each monster.

Possible Consequences

This is a useful section, and I applaud. I'd like a more on where the mallet, statue fragments and egg might lead.

Detail of the mallet being recognisable as related to Flesh Twister should be at the area description where first identification efforts are likely to occur; likewise the identity of the rival statue and the “egg" (weird that an unholy artefact would have a fake gem suspended in it… give them a break!) These are not consequences, although they suggest possible consequences. Anything magical / evil should be noted where it appears in the text.

Design Notes and Playtest Commentary

This is a very interesting section to me, especially the prospect of design insights; the playtest commentary less so, as I can't quite see how to use it. Neither would be needed to run the adventure (or at least if it were strictly design notes and playtest commentary) - so it is true appendix material and belongs at the end.

I've already written about the first paragraph of this section. If the adventure is meant to be or do something, that belongs in the introduction.

There are many places where you give guidance on how to run specific rooms, which is NOT what I expect from the title of this section. In fact it almost looks like a better title would be “How to run the adventure”. If you think instructions are needed, they should be in the relevant area descriptions; if they're not needed, then... 8)

The info about the flesh twister, shapeless chaos etc. perhaps belongs in a section about “linking the adventure to your campaign”, which might be close to or combined with either the Introduction or the Consequences sections.

Approach to the site

Yep. The bar on the outside is intimidating. Perhaps the party needs a stronger motivation to go in than a vague rumour of treasure? You might offer a back-up hook, like a well-off NPC in town who is eager to get in ahead of the crowd, but afraid to go completely alone and recruits the party as guards/ allies.

Random Encounters

I don’t understand how the random encounters hint at the existence of room 3. Maybe you mean area 5? I think you should make explicit that the sound effects are traceable, so that adventurers are able to follow the noise - especially to Raha.

I am not clear on whether your notes about the starting location of the ooze sentry are intended to be a rule. If so, put it in the wandering monster section; if not, where does the ooze sentry appear? Also, I wonder why the floors would be swept clean in rooms the ooze is not going to manifest in? Let it manifest in the secret rooms. Then if the door is shut, it can just re-absorb and pop out again at the next wandering monster roll. Or put a “mouse hole” in the foot of each secret door. That makes them easier to find, so the pillar puzzle is more likely to come into play, and solves oozy movement problems.

Entrance

Notes on the glyphs, if you intend them to enter play, should be in the area description, not here.

Diamond dust seal doesn't mean anything special to me. How would a character identify it? How about a note in the area description: the diamond dust is part of a magical seal that... a) contains x, y, z; b) is broken if removed; c) can be detected by...

But even after this “seal” is broken Raha can STILL can't get past the exit? So something else remains after this seal is broken. Whatever that is it should be detectable in some way.

Great Hall

Description of how the secret door mechanism looks and works belongs in the area description. Details of what it’s meant to do from a design perspective belongs where you have it.

Think about making the secret doors easier to spot than having them “virtually melded with the walls”. The fun is in the pillar puzzle, not in missing the secret rooms. This is an introductory adventure, right?

Well

The cube's aid? What aid are you talking about? Eating poo? Ha!

The fact that the cube “looks like water” should be spelled out in the area description. It never occurred to me that it might be mistaken for water. Also the notes about safely retrieving the mallet, if you think they are needed.

Former Fane

You don't really need a picture of chunks of obsidian, so I forgive you. A verbal description of what the original statue looked like would help me to describe what the PCs can piece together.

Info about damage to the mallet and summoning wandering monsters should be in the relevant area description. I don’t know that an experienced GM needs to be told either of these things, though.

Where is the clue that the statue is so valuable? What makes it so precious? Obsidian is not that rare, is it? More clue to the value might be helpful, especially to beginning players: it looks like junk.

Cell

Description for Raha in the area description with the stat block please.

Raha confused me for a while. He is an undead that is hungry and hysterically fearful of typical undead food. I am not sure how “human” and /or sane he is, or what language he speaks or might speak. A bit more clarity on Raha's state of mind and motivation would be helpful. Then if you want to highlight different options for treating Raha you can create a section for “customising the adventure”, and include those ideas there.

Putting all of the Raha information in one place (as I did after writing this) made your intention much clearer to me. It was hard to work out with the information scattered through the document.

Antechamber

The dust needs to be mentioned in the room description; explaining the corrosion is needed too, as that will help the GM answer questions about it.

Statue Chamber

As noted, I think the trap here needs a bit more thought. But I see a lot of potential fun with the basic idea.

You might be able to find a free image of a real world sarcophagus? Some danger of cross-cultural offence, so take care.

Possible Consequences

All good. None of this need be in the body of the adventure.

Appendix

As discussed, I think the creatures are not appendix material, and the playtest notes are.

Creatures

To me, these really belong in the area descriptions, except for the ooze sentry (which probably belongs at wandering monsters).

Gauntlet Guardian

It wasn't obvious to me at first that the gauntlets would turn into the gauntlet guardians. I have no idea what this looks like. Is it a ghostly, flying warrior? Or a magical animated gauntlet?

I don't know what “blindsight" is - must be from a later edition than I know, which goes to system neutrality. Surely the OSR attitude would be that it is common sense that the gauntlets can sense their foes and GM judgement about the details?

Lata

I don't know what Lata or its attack looks like. This is your key monster, so I’d like a short sentence, as you gave for Raha.

In some editions 1/3 human movement speed might just possibly catch and eat a plate-armoured halfling. But I'm not sure.

Is its acid damage ongoing (as suggested by dissolving armour rules)? Or one off? Does this take multiple successive hits? Or one hit with an X turn delay? “Wooden armor” is unexpected to me… what about leather?

It might be simpler to call Lata “equivalent to a Black Pudding” (or ochre jelly, I get them confused) or some such, rather than list all her special abilities (but maybe there is protected language - so check your legals before doing that, I’m not up on licensing rules)

Ooze Sentry

This entry is much clearer than the preceding one as regards the acid attack. Is the preceding meant to have the same properties? Why does the other attack dissolve armour if this one doesn’t?

Moving at 1/2 human speed the ooze sentry is as fast as a plate armoured figure in early editions. Are you sure that’s what you want? No problem if it is.

Since the ooze sentry can potentially manifest in the room the PCs occupy, some description of how it does that, and how long the PCs have to react would be good.

Ooze warped victim

What do you intend by “Melee hits return 1d6 acid damage”? This could mean a number of different things, to me.

This monster’s ongoing damage plus regeneration ability (plus “returned damage”…) makes it pretty dangerous for low level characters. I guess they can always run away (except the guy who discovers the engulf attack…). It’s fun that you gave it a weakness, but a) low level characters in early editions typically don’t have a “cold” power; and b) there’s no clue that I can see that might help beginning players stumble across this idea. I’ve no problem with the concept, as long as you know this is likely to entail character death.

Raha

Again, I don’t know what Raha looks like from reading this. Apart from the AC and the nerfed paralysis effect, this looks very like a ghoul.

Is it strictly undead, and subject to the turning power of clerics? If so, which column of the turning chart do I use? It might be easier to call it a ghoul.

In many early editions, movement rates are 120’/90’/60’. So 2/3 human speed (i.e. 80’ per round) would be unusual. And in e.g. B/X & BECMI, normal combat movement is 1/3 x move rate: 1/3 x 90’ = 30’; but 1/3 x 80’ = <bad news>

Starving gelatinous cube

Just call it a gelatinous cube. Its stats are the same. Or gelatinous cylinder... 8)

“Other creatures have surprised twice as often as normal” in the Special section looks like it needs to read “It surprises opponents on a 1d6 roll of 1-4”.

The trouble with “twice the normal chance of gaining surprise” is that many GMs would think that the normal chance for a gelatinous cube to gain surprise was already 1-4 on 1d6… 8)

Townspeople

These stats would be better placed at the “Approach” section, where they crop up as wandering monsters. It might be fun if it was a BIG crowd of 50 or so mostly unarmed non-combatants.

Many old school games give non-combatants less than one full HD. Using “AC by armor” is less helpful than saying “AC unarmored” (or whatever armour you decide they will have) - otherwise you are making the DM decide that stuff. If you make a choice the DM disagrees with, she can change it on the fly; if you don’t choose you force her to do it on the fly. Same with weapons. My townsfolk look like (HP 3, AC 9, Save F0, Att. +0, D 1d4 or by weapon, ML 6, MV 40’)

Wolf


These stats would be better placed at the “Approach” section, where they crop up as wandering monsters.

I suspect a night-time encounter with 2d6 x 3 HD monsters that move 180’ per round could be very lethal for a low level party, a possible TPK in some systems. I don’t mind the idea (if that’s what you want to teach your players), although I’ve never believed that ordinary wolves deserve even the 2+2 HD they get in B/X. In any case the DM can always go easy on the party by using the wolves for fright rather than attack.
Is there anything that seems like it need more system-neutral presentation?
In the introduction you say it is “based on the advanced edition of…”. To me this says AD&D 1Ed, and is not system-neutral. But class labels like “Warrior”, “Priest” and “Wizard” (versus Fighter, Cleric and Magic-User) and the use of BHB (instead of HD/ Class-Level) point to later editions. If you intend it to be system neutral why not just say that, and indicate the range of game systems/ editions it can be used with.
Is there anything that seems like it should be hyperlinked but isn’t?
I found only a very few hyperlinks in the text, possibly because they don’t seem to be highlighted. Would you be able to highlight hyperlinks with italics or underlines (or both) to make them more obvious?
Is there anything I could do to make it easier for another GM to run?
It is likely others will differ with me on this, but I think the whole thing would be easier to use if you re-organised to put all of the materials immediately relevant to each encounter location in the entry for that location. It’s a short adventure, with fairly static monsters and little interaction between locations. I don’t want to spend a long time piecing it together before I run it.

This would mean transferring information from your NPC Behaviour Notes, Design Notes and Creatures sections to the corresponding location description. The Spell Details could stay as an appendix, as I suspect many GMs won’t need them. A summary of the back story of Raha and Lata is still needed at the GM introduction to tie the encounters in areas 5 and 8 together. The Ooze Sentry details go to the wandering monster section, with information about where and how it manifests. The wolf/ townsfolk stats go in the Approach section.

Stat blocks would benefit from being shorter. You can safely use abbreviations, provided you explain them in the introduction somewhere (and especially if you stick to well known standards). It doesn’t matter whether hit dice are e.g. 3d8 or 3d6, so you might as well call give the GM the choice. Your inline stat block might look something like Gelatinous Cube (HP 18, AC 8, Save F2, Att. +4, D 2d4 plus acid*, ML 7, MV 20’, Special - see * below). At * you would spell out the cube’s list of quirks.

I give HP rather than HD for the Cube. Why make the GM roll for HP? Also, you’ve chosen to give a base to hit bonus (BHB), so writing out “HD 4” might confuse the issue for games that use a HD-based attack matrix. This is my personal take on your system, so I suggest you look at how other published short OSR-type adventures do it, and explain up front how to read your particular stat blocks.

I don’t like the BHB approach much, but perhaps it gives you maximum cross-edition adaptability. For me, it’s a bit awkward because I use B/X where the combat charts are based on level/ HD and they already have +1 built into them: so I’d have to use the Normal Man/ <1 HD row as the baseline. Others will have different needs and you won’t satisfy everyone.

Movement rates expressed as e.g. “2/3 of human movement” are awkward, especially since this is an odd number in the edition I use.

I like the idea of a “system neutral” text, but it might be easier for most users if you pick one widely known edition and give guidance for common translation problems. If it were me, I would use OD&D-S&W, B/X-BECMI-LL or AD&D because I know them best and a lot of others know them too. But it depends exactly how neutral you want to be. Are you trying to cover later D&D editions/ modern OSR, or is this more a retro-clone project?

Following is an example of how you might bring all of the immediately useful information about Raha into one place.
______________
5 Raha's Cell: A naked man cowers wailing in a corner. He is hairless and emaciated, with milky-white skin, clawed hands and fangs. The walls are covered in scratches and gouges.

This is the ghoul of Raha (HP 9, AC 5, Save F2, Att. +2 x 3, D 1d3/1d3/1d6, ML 8, MV 30’, Special See below*). He is a crazed with hunger, but will become calm and peaceful if fed.

*Raha’s ghoul is undead and subject to clerical turning. A hit from either of his claws paralyses its victim for 1d6+2 rounds unless a saving throw is made.

Raharetains is in a pitiful state after untold decades of starvation. He retains his human personality [I assume] and is unaware of Lata’s fate (see GM Information), so he will want to find her as soon as possible. How easily he and the party can communicate is left up to the GM. Raha can read the writing on Lata’s sarcophagus in area 8. If he does, he will immediately understand her transformed state and <what will he do? you could present a couple of options: I would give only one - he might end up throwing himself into Lata’s embrace in despair>. If he is separated from the party before that happens, Raha will soon discover the sarcophagus and translate its message by himself.
______________
The above draws on your text at Site Key, NPC Behaviour Notes, Design Notes and Creature Notes. Note the location name change so that it is easier for the GM to find. It hardly needs to be said that Raha will defend himself if attacked. If it were me, I would do that by running away - but he might go into a feeding frenzy instead. 8)

For added chaos and colour you could add also an entry to the wandering monster table like:
_______
X-Y Raha’s despair: If Raha (see area 5) is already mad from learning Lata’s fate, he appears and attacks. If he is free but separated from the party and yet unaware, a scream of inhuman despair echoes from area 8 as he learns the dismal truth. If he is still calm and with the party, Raha turns on them without warning, overcome by terrible appetites. If he is still imprisoned, treat as a roll of 2-4 above.
___________
On the other hand, you might think it more fun for a GM to make this kind of stuff up for herself.

My detailed notes by location include some ease-of-use remarks, too.

A completely different approach would be to reformat the entire thing, shrink the map, drop a lot of detail and present it as a 1 page dungeon. It’s a big project, but it might be worth trying just for the learning.
I had a couple of reads through it, so I've hopefully caught any typos and the like, so I shouldn't need much help with that ("much" instead of "any" because something always seems to slip through ).
It’s unusually clean, so you have done a really good job there. Some of the expression is not as I would have it, but I only noticed two places where it really needs changing (see my detailed notes).
On the other hand, while I'm not really expecting anyone to chip in on this, any volunteers to make the handouts not suck would be great, because I'm not good at drawing
I thought your drawings were great and entirely appropriate; no doubt some would prefer more polish, but who knows about the artistic preferences and abilities of the builders?

Personally I won’t ever use the handouts as handouts. It’s not my style, and none of them contain vital clues, so they’re (welcome) colour to me. I’d be happy with in-line pictures that I could show to the players while covering up writing I didn’t want them to see. That would also space out your text a bit and make the most of your art assets. Others might prefer to keep the location descriptions compact and have easily separable handouts, so who knows? With PDFs you can do both! 8)

Overall this is a piece of work you should be proud of, and I hope you take it further. Well done.
 
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ash adler

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I’ve made a LOT of notes below, so I hope that's alright. 8)
Wow, thanks for that! I haven't had a chance to read through all of it yet, but I had a quick skim and you raised some good points.

Just to, uh, add a little substance to this post, though, a few quick notes:

Regarding the use of "introductory", I meant it as both for new players to OSR/D&D/RPGs (it was the first adventure that I ran for group of all new players at my workplace, and they had a lot of fun with it) and for a dynamic start to a campaign (or at least to a campaign arc; since nobody that I've run it for has yet thought of sealing the place up afterwards, there's always been cause for releasing the sealed monster even if it isn't the PCs who open Pandora's box). I can see how that could be said more clearly, though.

The map was just drawn up in Dungeonographer, and then I used GIMP to crop out the extra gridlines and add the scale. I prefer a clean presentation to a pretty one.

Regarding the squelching noises before the sentry encounter, that was in fact how I'd written it up initially, but in the times I've run it, I never felt like there were so many random encounters that it was necessary. It's only a 1/36 chance per turn for the sentry encounter, and the place is small enough that I don't think I've had a run that actually triggered more than 2 random encounters. The creepy atmosphere and the fact that random encounters are being checked at all has proven to be enough for PCs to not want to stick around in there :ROFLMAO:.

Regarding the notes from playtesting, I thought it might be useful to mention some of the stuff that came up in play (like players wanting to hit stuff in room 4 so often :unsure: ), and I also wanted the disclaimer that what's behind the secret doors might be on the rough side since I never got to actually see those parts in play. Also, I like it when modules talk about what it was like for them to be run (e.g. Tower of the Stargazer).

It's funny that you'd mention reducing it to a 1-page dungeon, because I have it in my mini-adventure bundle as a 1-sheet dungeon (map, encounter tables, and simple stat blocks on one page, key on the facing page), which is basically like a 1-page dungeon that doesn't try to cram the text on/around the map.

Regarding the handouts, your kind words are appreciated, but really, handout 1 looks like Knight from Dragon's Crown doing a crabwalk, handout 2 has tiny chicken legs and apparently hyperextended his left elbow, and handout 3 has his neck growing out of his right shoulder :ROFLMAO:. Handout 4 looked goofy to me, but players seemed to always think it was creepy, so I'm fine with that. And yes, you're right that they don't have any vital clues. They were just some visual aids that I'd put together to spice it up over being purely spoken descriptions. Nothing essential (in case I'm ever running it on the go without having had a chance to prep handouts), but it seemed to add to the experience in play when I used them.
 

kenco

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Regarding the use of "introductory", ... both for new players to OSR/D&D/RPGs...and for a dynamic start to a campaign
It seems suited to both of those, although possibly more details about the town might help for the first purpose?
The map was just drawn up in Dungeonographer, and then I used GIMP to crop out the extra gridlines and add the scale. I prefer a clean presentation to a pretty one.
Gotta learn how to do those things one day. I was impressed with the map, and agree with your preference.
Regarding the squelching noises before the sentry encounter, that was in fact how I'd written it up initially,.. the fact that random encounters are being checked at all has proven to be enough for PCs to not want to stick around in there :ROFLMAO:.
Makes sense. You could up the frequency, given that most of the rolls result in no danger. The other random encounter I thought of was something wandering in from outside (unless the PCs have actually locked themselves in).
Regarding the notes from playtesting, I thought it might be useful to mention some of the stuff that came up in play (like players wanting to hit stuff in room 4 so often :unsure: )
Players can be hard to understand. It might be that the other rooms all have something obvious to interact with in them. The only obvious thing in room 4 is evidence that someone else thought smashing stuff here was a good idea. How many groups?
Also, I like it when modules talk about what it was like for them to be run (e.g. Tower of the Stargazer).
Oh, I enjoyed reading them well enough; but I wouldn't want the playtest notes to get in the way of using the adventure.
It's funny that you'd mention reducing it to a 1-page dungeon, because I have it in my mini-adventure bundle as a 1-sheet dungeon (map, encounter tables, and simple stat blocks on one page, key on the facing page), which is basically like a 1-page dungeon that doesn't try to cram the text on/around the map.
That makes a lot of sense to me, and partly explains the current layout, I think.
...the handouts... seemed to add to the experience in play ....
I'm sure they added something. I like them. They have a raw vitality.
 

ash adler

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Gah, sorry, I kept having things come up when I was intending to go through your comments, so I kept putting it off until now.
ToC
This looks a bit isolated on a page by itself. The use of subheadings in only two sections looks odd.
Honestly, this was kind of an auto-pilot habit from my job, where I'll have to put a ToC even for a document with just 2 pages of content :LOL:. The file is short enough that I don't think the ToC is really needed, so I took it out.
Design Notes and Playtest Commentary sounds like appendix material - I wouldn't expect to read them to run the adventure. But there is a lot of good (vital?) information disguised as Design Notes that deserves visibility.
I added a mention in the introduction that the design notes include details of how I personally ran it. It's stuff that I considered not-critical to running the adventure; it certainly added to the experience in my games, and doing things differently could alter the feel of the whole thing, but I don't think it'd render it "wrong". That said, your point about calling it "Running the Adventure" is a sensible change.
Your purpose statement at the start of design notes might be better placed in the introduction, if is a core goal.
Agreed.
The fact that it is an “extra dimensional" prison doesn't seem to have any practical consequence whatsoever.
I mentioned that for 3 reasons:
  1. For the players who noticed that the place was too tall to be located as shallowly underground as it seems to be, it was another red flag of hidden danger.
  2. It helps to justify why the ooze sentry is unable to leave.
  3. Depending on exactly which ruleset you're using and how RAW you're running it, there may be mechanical impacts for using magic across dimensional boundaries or in another dimension.
In fairness I think 1) is the purpose, 2) is two subordinate goals, and 3) is a information about how the GM needs to make the adventure proceed - so really its a goal of the opening scenes. My concern is about how you are expressing it, rather than what you are doing here.
Yeah, that was not my clearest presentation :LOL:
Incitement

I found the section title vague - but maybe it is a standard adventure usage I am not aware of. It's jarring but not illogical to read about the posse being organised immediately after having been told (in the preceding section) that it will be organised. I assume the text here is intended for the players, whereas the earlier mention was for the GM.
I dislike the term "adventure hook", so I prefer something more dramatic for it :p. And yes, my thought was to separate what the players know (a posse will be organized at some point in the near future) from what the GM knows (the posse will act 1d4+1 days after the storm).
The rumours are colourful and evocative (except number 4), but not much help or hindrance to the players. I expect that rumours will at least tend to be relevant to the adventure, whether accurate or inaccurate: to prompt players to do (or not do) certain things. But I can't see what the players would DO with any of the information given except that item number 4 might encourage them to explore... I guess that was the point, but the other rumours seem like padding.
For the first group that I ran this for, they were from the local village, so the rumors were all various legends that they'd heard about the menhir, and hearing that it had been knocked over to reveal a tunnel underneath struck them as an opportunity to find out what its deal was (...well, that and they needed to score a quick 400 GP to pay off a debt). For the second group that I ran this for, they were supervising some construction near the area, found the entrance for themselves, and explored it without returning to town to speak with the NPC that the workers said might know more about it, which seemed to confirm my suspicion that "a menhir got knocked over and revealed a tunnel underneath it; are you bad enough PCs to explore it before the townspeople?" is enough incite for most players to want to check it out.

So, yeah, I agree that the rumors don't really give the players any prompting aside from an indirect "wanna check out this thing that's here?". In my experience, that was good enough for the group that actually heard the rumors, and the thing was interesting enough in and of itself for the other group to put aside a job they were paid to do in order to check it out. Of course, that might be in part because I've been lucky enough to run for players who don't ask for tons of motivation to go into an adventure.
Also it's not clear whether you intend the players to uncover all of the rumours automatically or e.g. roll 1d6 for which 1 they get. The former will get them 5 irrelevant ones; the latter has 1 in 6 chance of returning item number 4, which is really “go do the adventure” and turns out to be a bit false: there’s not much treasure there.
I've always run rumor tables as one per NPC questioned or one per PC asking, depending on the specific situation In this case, I'd say the players would get 1 if they just ask a single person what the deal is with this menhir people are talking about or all of them if they ask around, but I also think that's the sort of thing that a GM can decide on the spur of the moment. In any case, the fact that they're contradictory seemed to heighten the mystery for the first group, so it wasn't really a problem that none of them provide actionable information.

The text seems to assume that the party will approach at night and return by day. I don't know why that makes sense. Unless the journey takes a day and a night. But the background said the field is only just out of sight of town. I would prefer to have the stats for wolves and townsfolk here, rather than in a separate appendix.
Unclear presentation: my intention was that going by night would cause 1 encounter check on the way there OR going by day would cause 1 encounter check on the way back. I specifically wanted to avoid having an animal encounter on the way back (in case of being chased by oozes at the same time) and to avoid having an encounter with townspeople on the way there (because the PCs are probably trying to get there before anyone else can).

It's my personal preference to have all of the creature stats for an adventure on a single page. I did add hyperlinks to make it easy to bounce around in PDF form as a compromise, though.
I’m curious about what knocked over a menhir that must have withstood many fierce storms over “countless decades". It's an interesting detail, unexplained.
It's certainly possible to attribute some special significance to the storm that knocked it over. Perhaps it was an act by the Flesh Twister to prompt the Ooze Bride's release, or perhaps it was caused by a ritual invoked by others to lead them to some of the (mundane) relics within. For me, it was just natural weathering knocking it over at random, but I don't see a need to limit another GM's creativity due to my penchant for natural chaos.
A “five foot diameter tunnel” implies a circular cross section - is this intended? It's not totally obvious and specific is usually better than general. Giving the distance as a time seems odd, unless you also specify the speed of travel. Unless you don't care how far it is. In which case why make it twenty minutes? I think you have a pace in mind, but haven't specified it because it seems obvious to you.
You know, I work so much with geometry in my job that I'd thought "5-foot diameter" would make a circular cross-section obvious, but I can see how that wouldn't be the case. Good call about specifying the distance with a travel time; again, working with numbers all day and being used to converting between various frames of reference skews how I see the world :LOL:.
I'm curious that you give the weight of the bar, but not the weight of the 5' x 20' stone doors. I assume they open with some effort, but without being a significant obstacle. I would probably skip the weights of both and focus on how much strength/ effort is needed to move them.
The weight of the bar is given because it's something that could be picked up and brought along easily (also, I thought it'd be fairly trivial to figure that the doors would weigh about 1300 lbs. per inch of thickness, but as with the distance-by-travel-time above, I'm used to working with densities of common cermaics and metals :LOL:).
It’s slightly odd that the external security is no more than a bar. Surely it would have been prudent to at least chain the bar in place to prevent casual release of the dreaded monster? It’s even weirder when I notice that everything inside is trapped inside something else anyway, so really keeping people out would be a higher priority?
In my mind, the people who built it knew what was there and didn't need any further safeguards to know not to mess with it. Barring the door is a symbolic effort, something more like a "caution" sign than something that's really meant to keep the Ooze Bride within (and it was one that works without needing any common language, since as mentioned in the playtest notes, everyone picked up on it being a warning sign that the place was barred from the outside). The menhir was the only real security against unwanted intrusion, while locating the prison in an extra-dimensional space helps to thwart casual divination.
I assumed that “normal doors” were made of wooden planks a few inches thick; but this is not stated and it turns out none(?) of the doors in the complex are wooden: so I don’t know what a “normal” door is. Stone pins are unusual, and I wonder what the practical consequence is meant to be.
Good call to mention that the "normal doors" were made of stone. I also changed it to just "Unless noted otherwise, the doors are made of stone and hinged..."

The consequence of the stone pins is that oozes can't corroded them to knock down the doors.
But the location-specific exception is much less important here than it is at the at the descriptions of those specific locations, where it needs to be highlighted.
Added to the key.
Same with ceiling heights. This kind of thing can be clearly expressed by text like “Except where specifically noted, ceilings are 20' high”; language like “normal ceilings are 20' high” is ambiguous: what is a “normal ceiling”?
I think you misread something here, because the text is: "The ceilings are 20 feet high except in room 2." (and the key for room 2 opens with "The 30 ft. high ceiling is engraved with deep sigils").
Using “top” and “bottom” for map directions can be ambiguous. Compass directions, plus a compass on the map would be clearer.
If compass directions are not of actual relevance, I prefer to use page orientation. Plus, being in an extradimensional space, the prison need not be bound by normal understandings of compass directions (this could actually be a cool atmospheric touch, now that I think about it, especially if the PCs are used to relying on some magical ability to orient themselves).
You might consider the possibility that players could do something that would give them a clue to the existence of the Ooze Sentry squeezed in the cracks. They might notice that almost anywhere. There might be some specific action would trigger its manifestation, too.
That's the type of detail that I think can be improvised by the GM (and added in an explicit mention of that in the "running the adventure" section).
The map is beautiful. I am very impressed. Simple, clear, with classic, suggestive symbols well-used.
As said, I used Dungeonographer to do the mapping and GIMP to clean up the resulting *.png file. The free version of Dungeonographer is good enough for most of what I do with it (I think the only feature I use from the paid version is adding/deleting rows and columns), and it's a pretty easy software to just learn by poking around with it (this video is the closest thing to a tutorial that I had for it). GIMP is basically a free alternative to Photoshop, but it's far less intuitive. I've learned what I know about it from a lot of trial and error over many years, and I'd still say I'm a novice with it. I'm sure there are good tutorials out there for it, and the built-in help isn't bad, but I just use it for very basic stuff.
It would be clearer to include each room number inside the boundary of the room it marks, rather than next to it (a bit larger and bolder would help too). I would add a compass and use compass directions in the location texts. The scale would be more obvious in a bottom corner than wedged in the side where it currently is. A less bland title than “Map” might be nice.
Personally, I like numbers on the outside when I can get away with it so that they don't interfere with seeing what's in the room, and I dislike using compass directions in cases where they aren't actually relevant, especially if the PCs have no immediate way of telling which way is north/south/etc. Nothing wrong with your suggestions, but they

I did bold the numbers, move the scale, and change the title to "Site Map"
It would help me if you highlighted which of the columns in area 2 operate the secret panels (maybe with a counterclockwise arrow and a note in the associated text).
Curving arrows are beyond my skills, but I put a red box around them to call them out as the triggers for the secret doors.
1 Ooze Sentry should only occur if the 'Squelching' has already been heard? And not if the Sentry has been destroyed. To retain tension, you might make the Sentry respawn after an hour (or a day), as it’s the only true wandering monster in the place. Also it might go dormant again after a while, if there is no-one around.
I went the other way and added a clarification to ignore that result if the ooze sentry is slain.
2-4 Wailing should include the text “Raha in area 5” to help the DM locate the information without having to read through the whole document to understand Raha and where the sound comes from.
Added
5-6 Squelching should include information about randomising the location of the squelching and whether it can be located.
I prefer not to dictate that. It's my idea to randomize the sentry's location with a d8 if its encounter comes up, but another GM can handle it however they would want a general unguided random encounter result, and the squelching need not follow the same approach (I'd run it in whichever way would seem the most likely to unnerve the players at the time of the random encounter).
I would re-order the table: 1-3 Wailing; 4-5 Squelching; 6 Ooze Sentry.
Good idea
If you are going to refer to an entity that is described somewhere else in the text, it helps the reader if you give a reference to the place where detailed information about that entity can be found. Or hyperlink (and highlight) 'Raha' and 'Ooze Sentry'. 8)
Hyperlinks added.
1 Entrance
How do the characters know the figure is “casting judgement”? I love the graphic! Let it speak for itself? Or say how a character can tell.
I find a way to convey the judgment in describing the decorations to the players. I'm an opponent of prepared "read-aloud" text.
2 Great Hall

I like the spiral clue and the presence of a puzzle. I’d like more detail, and more clues for the players especially as this is an “introductory” adventure. Which way do the columns/ triggers turn? What IS a “trigger section”? How deep is it? What height? How obvious? How much effort is required? How else can the secret panels be detected? How do they look? Move?
Those are all reasonable questions, but they're also the types of things that I'm content to leave up to the individual GM to decide. On the scale of "provides centuries of cultural details for several groups on a large scale" like Hammers of the God to "just a map with spaces to fill in details" like large parts of the Dyson's Delves collections, I prefer adventures that lean more towards the latter.
What is the significance of the “mouse hole opening”? I presume it allows oozy access. But if it matters, this detail should be included here, not in an appendix.
That is exactly the purpose :). I think it's obvious enough that it needn't be spelled out (but then, I am the sort of person who thought the inclusion of the cheat sheet for The Grinding Gear made that module less useful). As for if it matters, only if the PCs are trying to use the doors as an obstacle to some ooze.
3 Well

The well is “surrounded by a 1-foot high stone wall”; it is 50' deep measured from floor level. The gelatinous cube fills it almost to the brim (by my calculations... what is your specific intent? I think you need to say exactly what the “slime level” is, because the mallet is suspended only 1 foot below ground level)
Whether the well is 50 feet deep from the floor (thus almost filled to the brim) or 51 feet deep from the floor (thus filled up even to the ground level) is left ambiguous. That was just an oversight, but looking at it now, I like it, for some inexplicable reason :LOL:
The fact that the cube is stuck in the well unable to move should be included here, not buried in the appendix. I'd rather see its stat block here too. As it is stuck, it is not going to be encountered anywhere else. At least a hyperlink, please.
Note added that the cube cannot climb out, and hyperlink added.
I don't understand why the cube can't get out and this is never explained: it might be relevant in play. Can the cube attack PCs 5’ away once active? Or is it a sitting duck? Under what circumstances can it attack? Does that release it from the well? This is not clear even after reading the appendix.
The cube can't climb out because it's stuck. It has no melee reach because it's starving (as mentioned in the stat block: "0-foot melee reach until fed"). If it gets fed, it can attack out of the well with normal melee reach. Otherwise, yes, it's a sitting duck.
As this is NOT a well, why have you called it one? Call it a circular hole in the floor, 5’ across?
True, it's technically more like an oubliette. "Well" was just shorter and fixed the image in my mind.
Not sure what your assumptions on coin weights are. At the 10 coins per pound rate used in B/X a 2 stone silver mallet would be worth only 28 gp. Probably you are using 100 coins per pound, but it's not stated. A minor point. This kind of currency information might be worth putting in the GM’s introductory material - or a related section on “How to read the adventure”, perhaps with some advice on conversions.
My assumption is that this can be adjusted to suit whatever the system is, because "weight as weight" or "worth as weight" are too different on a fundamental level to reconcile.
4 Former Fane

It would be nice to know what the statue represented - the PCs might get clues from the chunks. Again I want the information here, not in an appendix. It’s hard to understand the high value of some obsidian chunks. What makes it so precious?
I would see that as imposing more assumed setting information than I'm comfortable with.
Is the absence of a graphic for the androgynous figure self-censorship? 8)
Self-censorship of The Horror, perhaps :p . I did actually try to draw a mashed-up Vitruvian hermaphrodite ala Baron Asura from Mazinger Z for my players...it was awful.
5 Cell

Since Raha is locked in, it is not going to be encountered anywhere else (at first). So I would put the stat block here, not in an appendix; or at least hyperlink! If it can gouge stone walls, how come it hasn't escaped over decades of imprisonment? Lack of faeces is a nice clue regarding its undead status. But it must look like a ghoul anyway. Might be a nice touch to place a large mirror somewhere in the room… 8)
Hyperlink added. Continually wearing away at the walls is what Raha's been up to; those gouges are just as much as he's managed. He would be able to escape eventually, but it'll take a LOOOONG time. As for looking like a ghoul, yes, he does, but what that means depends on how you choose to describe such things (plus, in my typical setting, ghouls are basically lesser vampires who can look perfectly normal if satiated, but I digress).
6 Key Storage

I don't understand (50 GP, * stone). I guess this is a missing weight, but maybe you mean “0”. It weighs 50 coins in B/X, same as a battleaxe…
In the encumbrance system I use, five items of * weight total up to 1 stone. That was what I had meant by "Item weights assume 1 stone = 10 lbs. and five * items = 1 stone" in the introduction.
Is the hemisphere sitting open end up (like a dish) or convex side up (like a dome)? I'd like to know as it affects access to the key.

Does “taking" mean picking up? moving? leaving the room with? (if so, it's too late for the gauntlets to DO anything about it?) What about smashing? Melting? Disturbing etc.
As with the fluted columns, trust your gut :)
7 Antechamber

Which is the metal door? The pair in the North? Or the one in the South? I found this confusing at first.
Clarified.
8 Statue Chamber

Seeing this detail here, it would be nice if the figure in Area 4 was described as four-armed.
I made them different on purpose, actually. Depictions of the divine (or the infernal, or the demoniac, or whatever you choose to make the Flesh Twister) need not be consistent.
You might as well say how far the "non-follower" is going to fall, rather than make me look it up on the map.
Added; it's a 25 foot "fall" to the wall.
This is a fun trap, if the players don't mind losing characters! It's more fun if two or three characters get caught up in a pile of flailing limbs.
Both groups had players "fall" from it (3 characters total) with no deaths (although 1 did go unconscious, which would've been a death in a 0 = dead system). They did have some fortunate rolls, admittedly.
It’s a key feature of the adventure and I think it would help to give some more thought to this trap, it's lethality, how the falling is intended to work and how you explain it in the text. Even the minimum 50' fall will probably kill most characters under level 4. Some mention of colliding with other characters, chances for them to leap out of the way (or “catch" the falling character) might be warranted. Is it triggered if the statue is poked with a 10' pole? A short stick? A gloved hand? I would seriously consider a trap that is simpler to explain - the permutations of falling are lots of fun, but complicated to explain; and a sudden death trap, no save is a bit rough for an “introductory” scenario (unless that is what you are trying to introduce).
There is a saving throw (original text, bolding added: "the effect ends with standard falling damage on hitting the wall, saving throw to halve").

As for interacting with it through an object, that's up to the GM's judgment. For me, the effect would trigger, but it'd be possible to take precautions to mitigate/avoid the damage (e.g. tying a safety line from the PC to one of the columns or "standing" atop a ladder spanning across the columns while laying on the floor).
It seems a bit harsh to call bits of coloured glass “gems” in the description: at a distance the PCs would see something, but might not immediately conclude they were gems. “What look like gems” would be fair for newbies.
I added quotes around "gems" to make it clearer that they're being called as such as shorthand. As with the bas-relief casting judgment, I'm comfortable leaving it to the individual GM to think of how to describe that to their players.
The statue could radiate “evil magic” or some such detectable force (any halfway experienced player will suspect it...); possibly even a palpable aura of creepiness that no spell is needed to detect.
In play, everyone was creeped out by the statue and expecting some kind of trap to be protecting it as soon as it was described.
The bars blocking the wing section are not obvious on the map. Can you space them out a bit and make the dots bigger?
I agree with the criticism, but it's no easy solution for it, unfortunately. I'll try to think of how I can do something about it in the future.
Why are the bars dissolved if the ooze doesn't ever go that way? I know it doesn't go that way because the dust is not swept clean except on a narrow track from the statue to the door. Actually, why doesn't the ooze ever go that way? Originally I thought the ooze must manifest from the statue, but clearly it doesn't... confused?
The short answer for the corrosion is acidic vapor is heavier than air.

As for why the dust in rooms 7 and 8 hasn't been eaten, my idea was that the ooze sentry has an aversion to those areas programmed into its consciousness to avoid releasing the Ooze Bride on accident. It can enter them in the course of defending the prison, but it won't otherwise linger there of its own volition. I'm sure there are better explanations out there, which is why I didn't include that in the module itself.
The dust track detail should be included in the room description.
Added.
What does it take to open the sarcophagi? How are they sealed? Why can't the 10d8 ooze woman just ooze her way out unaided? What script is the warning written in? What else does it say? What is needed for a PC to read it? What does it say about the contents? A mention that Raha can read the text might be warranted. I'd prefer the detail here than in an appendix.
A sealed prison isn't much good if the prisoner can just ooze out :LOL:. To be less obtuse, the adventure as a whole is a take on the classic Pandora's Box trope; the container is sufficiently sealed to keep the evil within if left alone, but it is easily opened if disturbed.

The details of what the writing says, what language it's written in, how it can be read, etc. is up to the individual GM's judgment, based on their game system of choice and how much they want to present. I ran it without saying anything more than something like "it's covered in intricate writing on every bit of its surface", and that was enough for both groups of players to figure out that that was the sarcophagus that they probably shouldn't mess with.
What does the “sparse writing" on the other sarcophagus say? At least give the PCs a comparison.
Left to individual GM's judgment.
Again, the monster stat block for Lata should be included here.
Hyperlink added.
NPC Behaviour notes
The behaviour notes would fit better with the stat blocks, and located in the area descriptions where each NPC is encountered, except perhaps the ooze, which has no real home. Otherwise I have to look up three different sections to work out how to play each monster.
Behavior notes added to the stat blocks.
Will a monster pursue beyond the prison? Even if it can't survive there? How does it “die" upon leaving the zone? Spectacular fireworks? Gradual starvation? Or would Raha and others sense their peril and stop at the threshold?
The mobile oozes will pursue, although the sentry dies if it leaves (exactly how is left to the individual GM; I like to think it just loses cohesion and seeps into the ground). Raha is not slain by leaving, though his priority is to free Lata. I edited the text to make it clearer that only the ooze sentry dies if it leaves (well, and the gelatinous cube, I suppose, though it'd have to get taken out of the well first).
Possible Consequences
This is a useful section, and I applaud. I'd like a more on where the mallet, statue fragments and egg might lead.
They can lead wherever you want! Link them in with your gods/demons/whatever, use them as hooks for further sites related to those beings, incite the wrath of hidden cells of modern worshippers, etc. Run with whatever your heart, brain, and gut tell you should happen next.
Detail of the mallet being recognisable as related to Flesh Twister should be at the area description where first identification efforts are likely to occur; likewise the identity of the rival statue and the “egg" (weird that an unholy artefact would have a fake gem suspended in it… give them a break!) These are not consequences, although they suggest possible consequences. Anything magical / evil should be noted where it appears in the text.
I updated the section heading to "Possible Sources of Consequences" to make it more accurate. As for describing them as such in the key, there's merit to including the details there, but I'm willing to let it stay as-is since the information is all on the same page.
The info about the flesh twister, shapeless chaos etc. perhaps belongs in a section about “linking the adventure to your campaign”, which might be close to or combined with either the Introduction or the Consequences sections.
I don't think I'm really giving much info on them, to be honest :LOL:
Approach to the site

Yep. The bar on the outside is intimidating. Perhaps the party needs a stronger motivation to go in than a vague rumour of treasure? You might offer a back-up hook, like a well-off NPC in town who is eager to get in ahead of the crowd, but afraid to go completely alone and recruits the party as guards/ allies.
I don't assume that the players will go along with every adventure. If they choose to ignore something or to leave it incomplete for whatever reasons, that's their perogative.
Random Encounters
I don’t understand how the random encounters hint at the existence of room 3. Maybe you mean area 5?
Ah, nice catch. I never called that area 3 in my original notes, so I've got no clue where that cross-up came from...:unsure:
I am not clear on whether your notes about the starting location of the ooze sentry are intended to be a rule. If so, put it in the wandering monster section; if not, where does the ooze sentry appear? Also, I wonder why the floors would be swept clean in rooms the ooze is not going to manifest in? Let it manifest in the secret rooms. Then if the door is shut, it can just re-absorb and pop out again at the next wandering monster roll. Or put a “mouse hole” in the foot of each secret door. That makes them easier to find, so the pillar puzzle is more likely to come into play, and solves oozy movement problems.
I buried that in that section instead of presenting it more strongly because I never got to see how that'd work in play. Without having seen it in action, I'm hesitant to show it as anything other than a wonky little idea.
Notes on the glyphs, if you intend them to enter play, should be in the area description, not here.

Diamond dust seal doesn't mean anything special to me. How would a character identify it? How about a note in the area description: the diamond dust is part of a magical seal that... a) contains x, y, z; b) is broken if removed; c) can be detected by...

But even after this “seal” is broken Raha can STILL can't get past the exit? So something else remains after this seal is broken. Whatever that is it should be detectable in some way.
The glyphs can mean whatever you want them to mean. Calling them out as a dedication was my personal idea. The text is updated to clarify that.

Diamond dust is very glittery. There's nothing magical to it; it's just a packing material that would resist being oozed.

The seal on the exit is a matter of it being extra-dimensional.
Great Hall

Description of how the secret door mechanism looks and works belongs in the area description. Details of what it’s meant to do from a design perspective belongs where you have it.

Think about making the secret doors easier to spot than having them “virtually melded with the walls”. The fun is in the pillar puzzle, not in missing the secret rooms. This is an introductory adventure, right?
Oh, players were able to figure out that there were secret doors. They just didn't figure out how to open them.
The cube's aid? What aid are you talking about? Eating poo? Ha!
All sorts of organic waste :)
The fact that the cube “looks like water” should be spelled out in the area description. It never occurred to me that it might be mistaken for water. Also the notes about safely retrieving the mallet, if you think they are needed.
Appearance note added to the site key. As for retrieving the mallet, this is one of those open-ended puzzles which mostly relies on improvised rulings for solutions.
Former Fane

You don't really need a picture of chunks of obsidian, so I forgive you. A verbal description of what the original statue looked like would help me to describe what the PCs can piece together.
The original statue looked like whatever the GM thinks an idol of a rival being to the Flesh Twister looked like :)
Info about damage to the mallet and summoning wandering monsters should be in the relevant area description. I don’t know that an experienced GM needs to be told either of these things, though.
Those were just examples of rulings that I improvised based on player actions. They're mentioned since the actions were taken by both groups, but it's nothing that I'd want to present as a codified rule.
Where is the clue that the statue is so valuable? What makes it so precious? Obsidian is not that rare, is it? More clue to the value might be helpful, especially to beginning players: it looks like junk.
Examine the chunks, learn that the intact surfaces have masterwork-level detailing despite the damage, which PCs with relevant background knowledge could figure out meant it was very valuable before it was destroyed. Also, PCs with relevant background knowledge could recognize elements of the original form. Of course, it's good to be generous about what qualifies as "relevant background knowledge", since that leads to actual choices. Basically, do something other than hitting them.
Cell

Description for Raha in the area description with the stat block please.

Raha confused me for a while. He is an undead that is hungry and hysterically fearful of typical undead food. I am not sure how “human” and /or sane he is, or what language he speaks or might speak. A bit more clarity on Raha's state of mind and motivation would be helpful. Then if you want to highlight different options for treating Raha you can create a section for “customising the adventure”, and include those ideas there.

Putting all of the Raha information in one place (as I did after writing this) made your intention much clearer to me. It was hard to work out with the information scattered through the document.
My Raha need not be the only Raha. To me, he was a broken wretch, like an exaggerated Smeagol, but this is also tied in with my typical ghouls being intelligent people who can live in a civilized manner, as opposed to being super-zombies with paralyzing fingers. Others can run him in different ways to suit their needs.
Antechamber

The dust needs to be mentioned in the room description; explaining the corrosion is needed too, as that will help the GM answer questions about it.
Area description updated.
Statue Chamber

As noted, I think the trap here needs a bit more thought. But I see a lot of potential fun with the basic idea.

You might be able to find a free image of a real world sarcophagus? Some danger of cross-cultural offence, so take care.
I'm sure part of this is because I thought about it, but that trap is one of those things which didn't prove as problematic to run as how it seems on paper. As for sarcophagus images, I avoided using any on purpose, partly because of wanting to avoid cross-cultural offence.
Appendix

As discussed, I think the creatures are not appendix material, and the playtest notes are.
Yeah, these are updated to just be "Creatures" and "Spell Details", rather than "Appendix".
Gauntlet Guardian

It wasn't obvious to me at first that the gauntlets would turn into the gauntlet guardians. I have no idea what this looks like. Is it a ghostly, flying warrior? Or a magical animated gauntlet?
This is another one of those things that I prefer to leave open. It should look like whatever the GM thinks it should look like.
I don't know what “blindsight" is - must be from a later edition than I know, which goes to system neutrality. Surely the OSR attitude would be that it is common sense that the gauntlets can sense their foes and GM judgement about the details?
"Blindsight" is a term that came from 3rd edition, to the best of my knowledge. I've seen it enough to understand it, but something like "detects living creatures within 30 feet" would've been more neutral.
It might be simpler to call Lata “equivalent to a Black Pudding” (or ochre jelly, I get them confused) or some such, rather than list all her special abilities (but maybe there is protected language - so check your legals before doing that, I’m not up on licensing rules)
Black Pudding is what I'd based her on. It'd be simpler.
Ooze warped victim

What do you intend by “Melee hits return 1d6 acid damage”? This could mean a number of different things, to me.

This monster’s ongoing damage plus regeneration ability (plus “returned damage”…) makes it pretty dangerous for low level characters. I guess they can always run away (except the guy who discovers the engulf attack…). It’s fun that you gave it a weakness, but a) low level characters in early editions typically don’t have a “cold” power; and b) there’s no clue that I can see that might help beginning players stumble across this idea. I’ve no problem with the concept, as long as you know this is likely to entail character death.
Just curious what the different things are. My intention is that someone hitting it with a melee attack takes 1d6 acid damage.

And yes, it is dangerous. People don't invest in extra-dimensional prisons to seal away poodles.
Is it strictly undead, and subject to the turning power of clerics? If so, which column of the turning chart do I use? It might be easier to call it a ghoul.
The same approach as any ill-quantified undead: use whatever turning chart column makes sense for its HD.
Starving gelatinous cube

Just call it a gelatinous cube. Its stats are the same. Or gelatinous cylinder... 8)
Except it's a sitting duck. Because it's starving. Feeding it upgrades it to a gelatinous cube.
“Other creatures have surprised twice as often as normal” in the Special section looks like it needs to read “It surprises opponents on a 1d6 roll of 1-4”.
That depends on how you roll surprise, though. I use 3-in-10 as normal.

...will follow-up for the rest because this took far longer than I'd expected :p
 

kenco

Registered User
Validated User
Gah, sorry, I kept having things come up when I was intending to go through your comments, so I kept putting it off...
...will follow-up for the rest because this took far longer than I'd expected :p
Hey, thanks for the heroic follow-up effort! :)

I really didn't expect a point by point, but it's quite helpful to me, so... thanks!

It's interesting to me how many little details I missed/ mis-read in putting together my initial feedback, despite putting quite a bit of effort into putting it together. For example, each square = 5' and save for half makes the falling trap not nearly so nasty as my interpretation. Makes me wonder about how well I read rules in general...

I also find very interesting the difference between what I was saying I would like to know (e.g details on what Raha is, what it wants to do) as compared with what you view as a helpful level of detail. The basic theme is me asking for specifics, and you preferring to leave it to the GM.

That's completely fine, of course. I don't often use published adventures for anything more than inspiration, and don't have a strong view about what's best or what others will find useful. Most of my remarks come from a weakly defined perspective involving a) what's unambiguous; and b) what would help me pick the thing up and run it with minimal preparation.

Writing dungeon adventures is certainly a balancing act between too much and too little detail and/or definition. So thanks for your insights.
 

kenco

Registered User
Validated User
Just curious what the different things are. My intention is that someone hitting it with a melee attack takes 1d6 acid damage.
I first read it as 1) "Any melee attack you make on it inflicts 1d6 weapon damage on the creature (regardless of what weapon you use)". Then I realised I wasn't sure whether this was also meant to imply 2) "Any melee attack you make on it automatically hits for 1d6 weapon damage". Other possible interpretations were:
3) Attacker takes 1d6 damage from acid/ ooze
4) Monster heals 1d6 damage whenever hit with a melee attack
5) Attacker heals 1d6 damage from.... chaos?

It took some reflection to work out that you probably meant (3)... perhaps it is some strange wiring in my head! ;)
 
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