Updated: Feb 7, 2020
Updates: Jonbar and I have been working hard on Coppercore...it's ongoing but shaping up nicely! Our biggest project yet! I'm waiting for edits for another adventure...a precursor to City of Vermilion...and PrinceofNothing sounds like he is getting very close to finishing writing the Palace of Unquiet Repose. Good things are coming!! But, here's another review...#2/4 of what I said I would do on Dragonsfoot.
Review: The Temple of Diancecht
Authors: Lawrence R. Mead and Edward Winter
No recommended levels…5-7?
Synopsis: A long time ago, a temple dedicated to Diancecht, was flourishing with clerics known for special healing and curative powers, which were rumored to be derived from honey. However, over time, a red bird’s population grew and devoured the bees. The clerics could not stop the birds and their temple eventually became forgotten.
The party is enjoined to journey to an old temple to find out the fate of two explorers who traveled there a few months ago and complete the goals that the two explorers were set out to accomplish—which is to return with special honey and/or other clerical items they could find.
Alrighty, I feel like there are some good ideas in this adventure but they suffer from how they are delivered and I think opportunities of enhancement were missed. Let’s take a look.
The backstory doesn’t necessarily overstay its welcome but combined with the ‘no adventure hooks’, it fell flat for me. This is an adventure you pull out, look at your players and say “well, this is what we are playing tonight!” because soon you are headed off to this temple…by someone? For no reward? None of this is explained…..
I wanted to see a table of rumors and some adventure hooks. This would have allowed a DM to easily throw this adventure in anywhere. There is plenty to pull out of the backstory (some good stuff in there) to create a rumor table/hooks, but why should I have to do that? That’s the designer’s job.
The journey to the temple takes about 2 weeks. There are three wandering monster encounters presented, but it looks like they are just for outside the temple. It would have been more interesting if the monsters were doing something, rather than just stats. There is a programmed illusion—that’s different and gives a little action…but what are the 3 hill giants doing? Do they have a lair nearby? Treasure nearby?
Some more nitpicks….there is a clay golem in room #1 that doesn’t do anything, not even when struck. Not sure why it couldn’t of just been a statue. A library with a “1 in 100 chance a book is magical”…this seems a bit lazy and a cop out. Maybe a table with some random titles with 1-2 magical tomes that could be rolled on randomly or something would of jazzed up the room a little bit—or more description about how the secret door could be opened in the library. Candles when lit, the fumes give negatives in battle next time the character is doing heavy or concentrated activity—I actually like the idea of these candles, but again the delivery just feels off. What if I sit around for a year then decide to lift weights—am I affected then?
There is also a few minor ‘gotcha’ moments. A minotaur that “attacks with complete surprise every round and characters unable to react”…then it disappears into a wall. It’s part of a Maze spell, but again the delivery just falls a bit flat for me. A Knock or Chime of Opening not working at all on a door (at least perceptive characters may see runes on the door so this one isn’t as bad to me)….double strength diseases needing multiple Cure Disease spells (would the special honey cure it?). A lizardman forever poised to ambush whoever walks in the room first. Seriously…pretty minor ‘gotcha’ moments, but they were enough to spring out at me.
Some more thought could have gone in the presentation of some of the rooms. An example:
“7. Storage for grain, honey and other foods. A rat-sized hole has been chewed through the north wall. There are currently hundreds of small rats feasting here. Anyone listening at this door hears much chattering and squeaking. If a door is opened, a wave of these small rats will come leaping out; roll d4 per each round the door is open. Each exposed character will get that many rats to contend with per round! Damage taken from the rats per round equals the number of rats in hit points (one per rate) plus any armor class bonus (if negative). If the door is again shut (make an open door roll but for closing instead), the tide of rats is stemmed and only those rats which got out need be contended with. It should be assumed that each character can kill one or two rats per round by stomping or daggering.”
I admit, I do like the word ‘daggering’!
OK…this layout doesn’t help me run this room properly, which is too bad, because there is some cool stuff happening in here, but it’s out of order and a bit clunky. For example…look at the first sentence of the ‘rat-sized hole has been chewed…’—why is that sentence first? How would the players see that when they open the door?…because: “If a door is opened, a wave of these small rats will come leaping out…” That should go first….
7. Food Storage: Listening reveals chattering and squeaking. Opening the door causes hundreds of ravenous rats to leap out with flashing, sharp teeth…..” Then go into the damage/rules bit (but less clunky), then the description of the room when there is time to see what’s going on. Also, this used to be a food and honey storage area….might of been cool to have some jars of special honey in here that is part of the mission?
The writing could use some editing….and more…pizazz? Something to help out the DM and inspire them while running it. For example:
“6. Six Ogre servants (HTK 30, 26, 26, 25, 20, 17) have fixed up this room for themselves. They carry 1-10 gp each.”
This doesn’t really inspire me or help me as a DM to fire off some descriptions to help players imagine the room. How about some decorations for their room?---a hanging dead rat drapery from the storage room? Or do these ogres get along with the lizardmen? Is there some faction potential here at all?
There is also a letter found in a backpack addressed to one of the lost heroes. I personally love finding that sort of stuff, it’s more interesting than typical loot (i.e. coins)…but it needed another sentence. Is there any hints or clues or foreshadowing with it? What is the DM supposed to say when a player asks what the letter says? A tiny matter, but just feels like another missed opportunity for a little bit of fluff.
The red birds are actually a new monster—Rust Birds. They are part of the outside wandering encounters, but tying them into a rumor back in town and having a huge flock of them just staring at the party as they approach the temple with rust stains (armor) and skeletons of past clerics would have been creepy. I like the play off the Rust Monster and I always like seeing new monsters in general to keep players on their toes.
I like the whole idea of the temple with the special honey. I can imagine this place with priests tending to beehives and whatnot back in the day. If I was running it, I might have gone a step further and said part of the walls surrounding the temple were actually honeycomb and part of the operation.
The authors included a General Instructions for the Dungeon Master. The #1 paragraph is excellent and GREAT design. It summarizes the whole adventure and helps prepare the DM. That’s perfect. They also give their opinion about illusions—about how actions should be done to disbelieve an illusion rather than just saying “I disbelieve” to get the saving throw…I tend to agree with their opinion on that.
There are two set encounters outside that are a little different and weird—which is great! This enhances the variety of encounters for players.
There is a mummy that if it’s turned it actually follows and serves the cleric—whoah! That’s unexpected! I love that.
There are some empty rooms---yes, this is a good thing. It helps control pacing. You don’t want every room to be exciting otherwise players won’t appreciate those moments.
The authors give some suggestions for tactics for some of the harder monsters. I appreciate these type of suggestions because it assists me while I’m running the adventure. I can scan quickly and act accordingly.
The map is a bit simple, not too many loops, etc., but it has notes on it for the DM—room names and even monsters which can help a DM quickly remember what is happening in that particular room. It’s a good practice to do (and one I should be doing myself!).
Conclusion: I would like to see the authors take another look at this adventure and polish it. There is some unexpected surprises in it that I could see being fun to run, if smoothed over and presented better, and I think it would be worth the effort. I’d like to see the layout done a little better—mainly making it easier for the DM to scan…more bolding, indenting, bullet points, tables, and maybe bolded room titles/names. Also, making sure descriptions/actions are in order (i.e. the storage room). A few extra descriptive sentences or even a few words could have made some aspects of this adventure better and feel more alive. Also…some art, but I know that’s not important to all. Another suggestion would be a conclusion…Did anything the characters do in this adventure make an impact? Do the two heroes become allies? Will the town do something now about the deserted temple? Overall, I’m glad I read this adventure as there are some ideas that I may expand on to use at my own table.
You can pick this up for free at: https://www.dragonsfoot.org/php4/archive.php?sectioninit=AD&fileid=58&watchfile=