Tomb of the Lovelorn (2018)
M.Greis (Greis Games)
Lvls 3 – 4
Greis does it again. A massively underrated module writer. The tomb format is a popular one in D&D and as a result there are dozens upon dozens of entries. It is a rare attempt that rises above the muck of its fellows and stands head and shoulders above it. Greis delivers yet again.
The premise rises slightly above the formulaic ‘there is a Tomb here with gold in it.’ The eponymous tomb is home to two lovers. The evil wizard Aurumvorax caused the death of one, so the other committed suicide by poison. Incensed, he had them interred but ensured that they would forever be seperated in death. A grecco roman atmosphere permeates the entire tomb.
And that’s really the key to the whole 12-room thing. Atmosphere. The whole place is immersed in a seething miasma of decay and death. Charnel stench, rotting flesh and imagery of death permeate the place. The walls between the world of the living and the world of the dead are interrupted.
The darkness retreats from your light and reveals a square
stone chamber with two other exits. In the northern corner
stands to slim pillars build from bones and skulls, that seem
to have been fused together as were the clay in the hands of
the potter. The empty eye sockets and the hideous grins have
flowed into visages that seems like they are screaming with
fear. Yet the chamber is silent.
At the foot of the slims pillars are two puddles of water.
This is compounded by the trademark Greis interactive elements that make the place come alive. There’s two undead caretakers, each with terrible powers, but they are not immediately hostile. Instead they try to convince the party to donate their body to the mausoleum. The lover Phedrios endures, a hideous amalgamation of headless corpses, flowing like wax, animated by his half-sleeping spirit. Figuring out what the fuck is going on with the tomb allows one to (finally) put him to rest. There’s the spirits of long-lost servants that desire rest, the possessed masks of ancestors that require a sacrifice of blood to gain brief animation, tomb spores that are done properly (i.e. if you fail your save you don’t immediately die but you gain a hideous wasting sickness that requires treatment, something that really needs to be used more often), a glass statue that serves as a receptacle for spirits etc. This is broken up with the odd Carrion Crawler/Huge swarm of Giant Rats encounter to keep the whole from becoming monotonous.
The map is fine for its size, two-overlapping passageways with branching chambers allowing for at least semi-nonlinear exploration. The usual hooks and rumors are added, with a paragraph devoted to tying it in with the rest of the Hinterlandet adventures so far. My favorite hook is probably the ability to place Meriadme (the female lover ghost) in the place where the afterlife bleeds through in Grave of the Heartless, where she begs the players to re-unite her with her lover.
There’s effective use of format too. At the top of each room Greis lists effects, monsters or relevant light sources so the GM can glean the content of the room with a single glance after having read the adventure through. The keywords serve as primers for the room, allowing the GM to quickly recall the contents and focus his parsing of the adventure text.
There’s the trademark good unique treasure; A spear that allows you to inspire and heal entire armies, an enchanted rose-covered dagger with all manner of thematic powers, the “tears of the dead” that allow you to bypass the undead etc.
This entry is a bit stronger then Grave of the Heartless. It feels more coherent on a thematic level and the fact there is a greater purpose to the Tomb that must be discovered if the greatest treasure is to be found elevates it from its more disconnected if still very atmospheric predecessor. There’s a strong mythological feel here, far beyond the usual skellingtons, skulls and spiderwebs of the average DnD Tomb. There’s not much faction play but there’s interaction, exploration and atmosphere aplenty.
A low ****