This module by Pyromaniac Press‘ Micah Watt clocks in at 44 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my review-queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.
This is a module set within the sword-coast region of the Forgotten Realms, and, as a module, the following discussion of the module will contain SPOILERS. Potential players will want to jump to the conclusion.
All right, only GMs around? Great!
Antivar Ravengard, nephew of none other than Ulver Ravengard, has gone missing on an archaeological expedition – but things are more complex than replying to the ransom demand provided by a badly mauled servant…for the poor sod is caught within the web of lady Lashpera. Once a decadent noble woman looking for immortality, she found what she was looking for with the opal of the eponymous goddess – but alas, it did not grant eternal youth, which rendered her an immensely powerful and rather insane force of destruction. Lashpera was slain, her opal cracked – but alas, Fraz Urb’Luu took notice and sent her twisted soul back. However, strangely, proximity to her erstwhile temple, the place where she was once worshiped as a living goddess, would diminish her strength, make her ever more feeble…so she had to scheme. The has manipulated Antivar into the expedition – and now is a captive of the orcs that have now taken to using her former temple as a base, slowly feeding information to the shaman. Meanwhile, a Gebbite scholar, the Archivist, observes as the Opal Avatar form of Lashpera is slowly regaining strength, as the connection is intensified by the proximity of her reborn demon form and her erstwhile, potent Opal body.
Unwilling to expose herself in her weakened state, Lashpera waits for the inevitable rescue team – and that’s where the PCs come in, as they travel from Baldur’s Gate (or another locale) towards the Wood of Sharp Teeth, where the temple lies hidden. A big plus: PCs that do their leg-work beforehand and check out folklore, religious history etc. may find out more and deduce some hints regarding the complex constellation of events that acts as a background story here. The encounters on the road provide a nice mix of mundane dressing, a bit of combat and some truly magical experiences – like quicklings trying to figure out who’s fastest. The temple itself, primary location of the adventure, is depicted in an impressive level of detail: The trollclaw orc tribe reacts organically to intrusion, with infiltration, sounding the alarm and time of day etc. being taken into account. Fallback strategies and detailed guidance make this aspect of the adventure feel rather organic and believable.
As in all Pyromaniac Press-releases, we do get a pretty thorough assortment of well-written read-aloud text – and it is in the details that this sandboxy dungeon sets itself apart: Small details like entrails used for haruspex divination helping with contact other plane and similar touches create an overall immersive experience as the PCs explore this place.
However, the module’s true challenge, as you have gleaned from the background, is more than just dealing with some orcs – in the depths of the temple, a horrid serpent awaits and an aura of calcification that suffuses the whole area makes for a nasty additional complication that may be hastened in its onset by wearing the wrong piece of magical equipment – again, it is a small touch, but it makes sense, makes the place feel organic. Furthermore, its origins can be unearthed and may make for a truly fantastic and puzzling further adventuring opportunity, but I digress. Speaking of the serpent – a side-bar explains its reactions to intrusions into its domain in a concise manner.
The potentially best outcome would probably be that the PCs manage to reassemble the sword Granfang, the blade that once destroyed the Opal, and that the deduce the strange connection of the two incarnations of Lashpera, stopping her attempt at reincarnation and besting her slowly reviving avatar form….but then again, just rescuing Antivar and his “damsel” is the task of the PCs…but what kind of hero would be content with that, when the true treasure and challenge await in the depths of the complex? The new magic items presented herein are intriguing and potent, all with their own story and flair, and the creature-selection deserves special note: Even random encounters of dryads and trolls receive some neat details regarding personality and tactics. The NPCs and monsters come with unique abilities that make combat rather interesting. (And yes, the stats of full-strength Lashpera in her fiendish form can also be found herein.)
The pdf concludes with a nice appendix depicting the religion of Geb.
Editing and formatting are very good – I did not notice any undue accumulation of glitches in either category. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard that is nice to look at; big plus: This module comes with a second, more printer-friendly version. The artwork is a blend of full-color and b/w and solid, particularly for the low asking price. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience. The cartography is full-color, but Pyromaniac Press went all out here: We get alternate versions of the maps in b/w as well; we get versions of the maps with and without grid, in both full-color and b/w AND we get extra player-friendly versions – in short: Whether you’re like me and suck at drawing maps, or if you just want to play this using VTTs. – no matter your preference, this has you covered with its massive array of high-res jpgs. BIG kudos there – this should be standard!
Micah Watt knows how to pen interesting, well-rounded adventures. His writing is detail-oriented without getting bogged in the details and I have never felt like I’d need further information when running his material; additionally, he knows how to write interesting characters – and this is no different.
Where other modules would have simple told you to “get stat XYZ”, we have immersive details that make this interesting. This module is detailed, intriguing and makes great use of FR-lore without wrecking the assumptions of the setting. Oh, and this is very inexpensive for the amount of detail it provides and the page-count, making this a module well worth getting. That being said, if you like what you’re seeing here, please check out his What Lies Beyond Reason AP and the other modules he has released under his Pyromaniac Press banner – while the AP intentionally starts slow, it is turning into a truly amazing, evocative campaign, with the third module ranking as one of my all-time favorite haunted house modules. As per the writing of this review, the kickstarter for Part II of the saga is running – and you can get the whole saga so far at a reduced price for supporting it, so please take a look!
I forgot the final verdict? This is a neat adventure with a really impressive bang-for-buck-ratio and thus gets 5 stars.
You can get this neat module here on DM’s Guild!
You can check out the KS for #2 of the epic What Lies Beyond Reason AP here!