EZG reviews Saturday Night Special: Ice Tower of Salka
This module is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 3 pages of advertisements, leaving us with a total of 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right! This module depicts a crawl into an uncommon locale – when the Zemeth ice-flow swallowed the tower of the notorious sorceress known as the Salka 60 years ago, her riches (and twisted experiments) were deemed lost – unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the perspective), a crack has been found that makes journeying into the tower from its top a possibility again – and exactly that is what the PCs are planning to do.
Now after the obligatory rumors, the very first room already pulls no punches – unless uttering an obscure passphrase, the PCs will be trapped by walls of force and peppered with fireballs – the Salka’s defenses are still active and in order to pass, the PCs will have to dismantle some VERY tough pillars. This module pulls no punches and doors out of phase with reality that make the demons invading from them, especially with teleport-supplemented hit and run tactics – DMs can be VERY nasty here.
Speaking of nasty: I haven’t yet mentioned the fact that the whole tower of the Salka is suffused by necromantic energy and hence, her former retainers and guests have been turned undead since the flow swallowed her tower: Undead scorpion familiars, undead green hags, retainers, ghostly butlers and maids, vampiric monks and even soulspinners . In order to prevent their allies from reviving as undead and purge the necromantic taint, the PCs will have to destroy the Salka’s enchanted chandelier.
Beyond the 3 levels of her tower, the complex also hides a dungeon-level, guarded by a pi-headed non-standard iron golem and allowing the PCs to fight 3 unique creatures of elemental air and finally hiding a hint as to what truly happened to the Salka. The pdf also contains an rather awesome new spell of the Salka’s device and two new magical items.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect: One particularly problematic one being part of the warshadow-creature – the statblock mentions 1d6 Str damage, the quality at the bottom 1d6 points of Dex-damage and the non-statblock text mentions damage and 1 point of Dex-drain – so which of the 3 is it supposed to be? Layout adheres to FGG’s 2-column b/w-standard and the artworks in b/w are ok, though the military jacket of the golem looks rather ridiculous. The maps are nice, but we don’t get player-friendly versions, which is an additional downside. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks.
Author James Carl Boney has created per se a deadly, cool locations/dungeon for the PCs to explore that should challenge even experienced groups. That being said, the lack of printer-friendly maps is a first strike against the module – and there’s a second one: This is a tower inside a huge ice-flow – so why does the module do nothing with? No claustrophobia, no tons of ice grinding the tower, no potential collapses, parts of the ceiling falling – and even if the necromantic energy suffuses the complex – why not make it rejuvenate all undead inside the complex, requiring the PCs to barricade doors etc.? There’s potential galore here that is left mostly untapped.
While the dungeon per se is great, I can’t help but feel that this could have been so much more. As written, due to the lack of player-friendly maps and said discrepancy between potential and execution, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 3 stars – a nice dungeon crawl that an experienced DM can easily expand and make it live up to its potential.