The Search for the Temple of the Golden Spire (1980)
Barney Sloane (White Dwarf 22)
Lvl 2 – 4
A stalwart 4-pager. When entering the village of Greywood the characters see the innpost struck by the light of the moon, revealing cryptic instructions, IN RHYME. This is a good adventure, considering the length its admirable. The heroes must follow the riddle across the local region, to eventually arrive at 2 DUNGEONS. For 4 pages it’s a heroic effort, even if the font size is microscopic and the maps are one step away from postal stamps.
There’s a big hexmap with a complicated encounter table (a minimum of elaboration which is understandable for the format) but because there are roads and riddles it is likely the PCs will follow these. Indeed, there is subtle encouragement to do so, as several of the most lethal encounters (A CLOUD GIANT!) have been placed in areas where the PCs should not visit if they figured out the riddle correctly. There’s even a bit of backtracking and searching for clues so it never gets monotonous.
There’s a strong faery tale vibe to the whole. You encounter two trees, one burnt by lightning, one hale. One always tells the truth, one lies. There’s trolls under the bridge, riddles, a sword in a stone…it’s all pretty good stuff.
The village proper is kind of boring. The NPCs all use the judges guild notation of Level, class, AL, and then stats in order, then Carries: so they can be portrayed with a minimum of space but they aren’t very interesting. There is a first for DnD; the temple in the city is an actual temple to God, which is the counterpart to the Temple of the Golden horn the PCs are looking for.
The fortress proper is a ruined keep invested by kobolds and you need to get to the highest tower to view the temple as part of the riddle. I think you will end up slaughtering the little fucking kobolds. There’s a vicious edge to these bastards with their torture chambers and their feasting as they dine on elf and rooms lined with men, dwarf and elf hides. The nonlinear map, and the fact all kobolds are doing something makes the place come alive, even if the notes on any sort of organized defence could be better. Does attacking the torturer in one area alert the kobolds in the festive halls for example? There’s good use of domesticated animals, multiple chieftains and everything has that lived in feel without taking up too much space.
24. Weaselmaster’s Tower In here, in extreme squalor, dwells an old crippled chieftain -the Weaselmaster. [See (121.1 He is immensely strong, attacking with a cleaver at +3 damage. He has 12 s.p., a bracelet worth 70 g.p., and a gnome carcass on the floor.
It’s the little differentiation, tiny details that leap out that make it seem as if the place is alive and organic and not generated using pre-generated, pre-determined building blocks that you need to sustain that extra level of interest.
The Temple of the Golden Spire is again, good but nothing special. 13 rooms, hidden magic keys required to get to the throne room, familiar monsters like giant lizards, shadows, harpies or owlbears but just used effectively, and ominous magical shit that sets a tone. This time fucking around with weird objects (like a statue with 4 faces in expressions of ecstasy, pain, fear and anger) is ABSOLUTELY to the party’s detriment, and there are multiple ways to get yourself thoroughly fucked. This creates an atmosphere of subtle menace, as though the location itself resents you as intruders. The only problem here is the fight at the end, with a Wraith, that feels underwhelming, and the lack of a big pile of loot comes across as underwhelming, even if the party can carry off multiple golden pillars bedecked with demoniac imagery.
Standing here, covered by a roof, is a huge, gaunt suit of black plate mail, holdlng a double-handed mornlng star.
Two adjectives invest this single, almost clichéd sentence with a sense of disturbing menace. Sloane knows what he is doing. I’m stuck with how much credit I should give for the compression, which is astounding, and how much for the content, which is merely good. I think a lot of people could have written an adventure of similar quality, but I wonder how many could have written it in 4 pages. Use it if your adventure has a classic medieval feel.
Hive of the Hrrr’l (1980)
Daniel Collerton (White Dwarf 23)
Not really an adventure, more like an adventure location, built around a special entry for the Fiend Folio, the Flymen. The Flymen themselves are well-done, tiny hive creatures with a byzantine organization, led by five Flymages (the Master Worshipper, Master Attack, Master Defence, Master Healer and the Master Knowledge), and with various sub-breeds and castes below them. The interesting element is the different scale. The creatures have access to wands that allow them to shrink their foes to their own size, opening up all sorts of possibilities for wacky shenanigans. They are formidable too, the Flymages are about on par with high level spellcasters and the hive has access to the equivalent of 9th lvl ftr commanders, and about five hundred warriors with poisoned weapons, let alone an astonishing variety of domesticated insects, an annoyance if you are normal sized, utterly lethal if you are shrunk to their size.
What follows is an intricate, room by room, description of the tiny hive, with treasure (some of it is kept magically shrunken, and will thus be worth something if it is brought back to the normal sized world. This is not the easiest format to make it useful. There are, however, scattered in between the descriptions of rooms and treasure and defence measures, agenda’s and alliances and even personalities for ~20 NPCs. The location notes it will work much better if the PCs get embroiled in the politics of the hive and it is interesting to speculate how such a conflict would unfold. There is immense tension between the Master of Attack and the Master of Defence as they disagree on fundamental hive policy, there is constant rivalry between the five different battalions of warrior drones and unbeknownst to the Masters, eight of the Hrrr’l elite Flyguard have formed a conspiracy known as the Eight, to depose the masters and rule the hive via proxy. There’s even notes on putting severed fly-man heads on as helmets in order to pass as them for a short period of time.
I feel there’s potential here but it will take work to figure out what to do with it. Some pointers are given, but to integrate the Fly-men hive into your campaign is going to take the efforts of a savvy and talented GM. There’s rooms that prolong the shrinking effect so the fly-men can receive guests, a room with a gemstone that is worth 20.000 gp in surface world coins, with great mythril doors to indicate their wealth and vast power, but it’s a mindfuck because of their small scale. There are plenty of items that have some sort of treatment or sheath that keeps them permanently shrunk, which works on both a gameplay and a verisimilitude level.
I was reminded of the old JG supplements where locations would be described, at times, without a clear purpose in mind as it was considered the GM’s responsibility of integrating such material into the campaign. The room by room format is not the most suitable for an adventure of intrigue and a straight up assault (for which the format is ironically suited) would be suicide for low to mid-level parties.
I’d throw this at a mid-level party, maybe one that is getting too big for their britches. Trigger it as they come through a familiar village. Farmer Bob’s farm has collapsed on him! And then as they find the culprit it’s this ultra-powerful micro-civilization of civil-warring fly-men. Imagine ridiculous scenes where the PCs are rewarded with thousands of tiny gold pieces. Probably a great time.
The work is a hard sell but its useful and creative, the format is what is slowing it down.
2 thoughts on “[Review] White Dwarf 22/23; Hope springs eternal”
I like the idea of exploring an insect hive while diminuative! That’s a great change of pace. Thanks for the review and Happy New Year Prince.
Happy new year Squeen. It’s really a very good premise. It’s like when you hear its mere concept you feel as though there should be a module about that and there you go.