Alchemist’s Errand & Search for the Tri-Stone

 

Today I’m taking a look at another 2 Adventureaweek.com modules, this time at ones that continued to set the bar higher and led the way towards what can be seen in current offerings, namely

 

Alchemist’s Errand

This pdf is 41 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving 36 pages of content, so let’s check this one out, shall we?

 

This is an adventure-review and as such, the following contains SPOILERS. I encourage potential players to skip to the conclusion.

 

Still here? All right! This adventures starts off rather simple: Yuri Statel, sage of Rybalka, needs  some special kind of mushroom (perhaps for his drug cocktails?) and tasks the PCs with contacting famed devil-slayer and hermit Cual Beartooth (whom they might know from earlier adventures). The problem is – said hermit lives in the aptly-named Dark Wood, where perils abound. After being harassed by swarms of deadly creatures (like evil ravens, rats and even vampire spawn), they reach Cual, who promptly points them in the right direction. Overtly-ambitious PCs may also slay a certain Troll, who unfortunately also acts to keep the devils of Dark Wood in check – his demise will potentially have unpleasant consequences in future adventures, but that only as an additional piece of information.

 

Unfortunately for the PCs, the mushrooms have already been picked – fortunately for them, though, the perpetrator is a gnomish wizard who left a trail of crumbs leading to his ice-wall-sealed cave. Said gnome comes out at night and is willing to haggle with the PCs – for two sacks of food, craddleberries and gold. If the PCs acquiesce to the demands, he sends them off to the jagged crags, where the berries grow amidst thorns and near a tri-tongue monstrosity. Unfortunately, the gnome’s accomplice, a babau demon also tries to bully the PCs  into giving up even more of their loot/pillage/kill them.

 

Once they return to the mischievous gnome, he sends them home with shrooms – unfortunately, though, the wrong ones. On their return to the gnome, the PCs are hopefully furious, especially once they realize that gnome and babau are accomplices – seemingly caught in the act, the two retreat into the cavern and it is here that the adventure turn to the more sadistic end – the gnome and demon retreat into a gauntlet of traps, and what traps! From a fake puzzlebox to a lake of oil that is ignited, a lake of sulfuric acid-laden water, a radioactive island set up like a beacon in a small subterranean lake, to zombie pits, ratswarms etc., the PCs are in for quite a ride! If they can defeat the two villains at the end of the gauntlet, they might also finally find the rare mushrooms they sought as well as a secret treasure hoard that contains a neat magical amulet, which also gets A LOT of background story in the back – be sure to check this out. It should also be mentioned, that the final battle comes with a battle-mat-style map of the cavern with its natural rock pillars.

The adventure ends with full stats for 3.5 and PFRPG-versions of the antagonists

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any jarring glitches or the like. Layout adheres to adventureaweek.com‘s two-column standard and this one comes fully bookmarked and with herolab-files. Special mention deserve, as always in adventureaweek.com-modules, the cartography: The dungeon is actually 3 pages of maps and we get *drums* PLAYER-FRIENDLY MAPS! Yes Key-less, letter-less, but unfortunately showing the secret passage. Oh well, but that’s a step in the right direction! The battle-mat-style map for the final battle is nice and generally, while the plot per se starts like a simple fetch-quest, it turns nasty VERY quick. This feint is a neat idea to catch the PCs off guard and the dungeon is very well done. The hazards and environmental traps are clever, downright sadistic at times and make the whole experience really feel like running a deadly gauntlet. On the content-side, this is also one of adventureaweek.com’s modules that offers quite a bit bang for buck – 36 pages is perfectly fine for the price-point. That being said, I really enjoyed this module and in the end will settle for a final verdict of 4 stars.

 

 

And then there’ a module, that can be considered truly excellent:

 

The Search for the Tri-Stone

 

This adventure is 31 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 27 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

 

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion!

 

All right, still here? This one kicks off with  rather interesting quest – the PCs are called upon by a man named Sultowik with a rather delicate proposal: A local tribe of Vikmordere has contacted him to locate a certain artifact – which unfortunately lies in Klavekian territory. Not wanting to risk an uproar, the PCs have to discreetly get the Tri-Stone to prevent further tensions between ethnicities. Unfortunately, the location of said artifact is codified in a rune-stone.

Very cool idea to start with: Runic alphabets of the ancients – a sample runic alphabet based on the FuÞark is included as well as an artwork of a stick that provides the runes with their regular letter-equivalents. While not 100% accurate, the inclusion of the runes makes for an awesome idea. Even better – once the PCs have found the rune-stone (with a one-page artwork), they can use the rune stick to decipher the inscriptions. VERY cool puzzle!

 

Once the PCs have correctly deciphered the rune-stone’s message, they’re up for a short trek along some steep cliffs and then, they’ll have to climb down the cliff – hidden by illusions in the middle of the cliff’s wall lies the ancient burial ship of King Rytan. Let that sink in: The PCs will have to explore a viking burial ship (complete with a LOT of undead, traps and even, yes, zombie handmaidens!) to find the artifact. Also cool: There are traps that make sense in their placement and which can be avoided by cleverly deciphering a warning via the rune-stick. I would have loved a piece of artwork depicting the room and the runes to show to the PCs instead of one showing the undead handmaidens, though – as written, you have to make the runic inscriptions that warn them of the trap yourself.

 

Even if the PCs manage to claim the fables Tri-Stone, they will still be ambushed by a rival tribe of Vikmordere and will have quite a tough battle on their hands. Now, if the PCs have not robbed the burial ship, they are awarded (possibly also in a future adventure), but if they opt to do so, they can score the ancient king’s magical sword and shield. Full stats for the powerful artifact are included and thankfully, the thing can’t be abused by greedy PCs. Clever writing! The pdf concludes with full stats for the adversaries as well as a player-friendly map (YES!) without keys and letters you can hand out to your players. It’s not over, though: A vampiric shaman of the Vikmordere takes the Tri-Stone once the PCs have parted with it, leaving us with an exciting cliff-hanger.

 

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect – e.g. the description of the aftermath suddenly and for no explicable reason turns the text to italics. Layout adheres to adventureaweek.com’s full-color two-column standard and provides awesome maps and neat pieces of artwork, especially for the puzzle. The pdf comes with bookmarks as well as Herolab-support, but no printer-friendly version. Wow – a great puzzle, neat maps and a location that oozes iconicity and coolness. Just when I thought I knew what to expect at best from adventureaweek.com, they pull this one out of their hats. Let me spell it out for you: This is as of yet by far their best module – from the awesome puzzles (that should stupefy no player, but be fun and come with DM-aids to help stuck players) to the iconic dungeon and sense of ancientness, I can find no weakness in the narrative or the module’s overall presentation. In fact, I was positively blown away by how neat and concise the narrative is presented. In fact, apart from aforementioned “missing” artwork (one would have been useful) and the lack of a b/w-version sans background, I have nothing to complain. Due to these two minor gripes, I’ll omit my seal of approval, but I’ll nevertheless settle for a final verdict of 5 stars – especially for the fair price of $5.00, this is a good purchase indeed.

 

And that’s it for now, as always, thank you for reading my ramblings!

Endzeitgeist out. 

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About Endzeitgeist

Reviewer without a cause