Sunday, January 01, 2012
Fight On #1 Cover to Cover - Part 8
by Gabor Lux
The Tomb-Complex of Ymmu M'Kursa is a four-page adventure for intermediate characters. I place it at levels 4-6, and ran a 4th/5th level party with two clerics through it to test it. This adventure is taken from the author's own campaign world of Fomalhaut, and describes one of the numerous burial vaults in the undercity below a decadent city-state of the desert. I am not sure if the proper-name references in the dungeon are campaign specific, but I don't think that is important. In my OD&D campaign I dumped it as a forgotten mausoleum five miles south of Verbosh.
The dungeon suggests the standard 1-in-6 chances of random monsters, and an uninspired wondering monster table that basically reads like a list culled from the monster manual. I was a bit disappointed, although there are one or two twists in the list to liven it up a bit.
On the right side of the page is a gridless map of the dungeon. This was my first exposure to a gridless map, and at first I was not keen on it. Now, I appreciate it a lot more. The map is very like the catacomb maps of our own world, and gridless map design allows the designer to break free from the constraints of the 10' square and 90-degree turns. I found the map key to be unclear, and quite often during play read the wrong description or misplaced monsters or had to make some guesses as to what the designer intended. The map flow is fairly good, with many circular routes, sub-areas and branches.
The adventure has 15 numbered locations, with most of them having sublocations (a., b., etc.). There are chances to fight monsters in about half of the locations, numerous traps, locked doors and secret passages. The treasure is frequent, but usually cursed. This location seems to reward the nothing-nothing-motherlode type of dungeon exploration, which may cause a major re-think on parties used to the smooth experience/treasure curve used in many campaigns. Using Labyrinth Lord as a base, the entire dungeon contains approximately 9254 xp in monsters, 7100 xp in treasure, and four magic items and three cursed items. In approved old-school fashion, much of the treasure is in forms less obvious than coins and gems.
The strength of the module is the originality in description and concept of the named undead who are buried therein. These creatures truly bring the wonder and terror of crypt exploration to life, and redeem the module. There are a few specials thrown in to add a bit of variety, and a possible ally that my players used to good effect. There is one mood-setting piece of artwork which looks appropriate, but neither added nor took away from the presentation.
My first reading of the module was negative - I thought it was deadly, a bit monotonous, low in treasure, and half of that treasure was cursed. I decided though that the proof was in the pudding, and ran a party through it. Their first foray was disastrous, but then they changed their approach and spell selection, and cleared most of the tomb (they did miss one sub area). The feedback was unexpectedly positive, and they really enjoyed the riddles. They thought they were a level too low, but I am not sure I agree.
So, if you have a party that is willing to be clever instead of hack-and-slash, and likes a bit of horror and the supernatural, then send them through it - they will probably enjoy it