Role-playing reviews

Reviews related to role-playing games, with a focus on Gods & Monsters, and a bit of superhero gaming.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

The Tomb of Abysthor

Jerry Stratton, March 21, 2004

I have always purchased more gaming materials than I use. I enjoy reading them. The Necromancer Games line of “old-style” adventures has not yet failed me.

“The Tomb of Abysthor” is 94 pages of old-style goodness. Even the theme is old vs. new: the very demanding, strict gods of Justice and of Virtue have seen their worship decline in favor of the nicer, “more liberal” gods of song, craft, and commerce. Now, twenty years after their last high priest, Abysthor, disappeared, “their cavernous temples [are] falling to ruin, empty of worshipers.”

But not completely empty, of course. The catacombs and temple are rumored to contain much in the way of magic, treasure, and knowledge.

The adventure is designed for “characters of 2nd to 8th level and higher”. While characters at the high end will be challenged, characters at the low end will need to be exceedingly cautious and intelligent to survive even the first level.

The adventure has several components: riddles, combat, mystery, combat, intrigue, and, of course, combat. Some riddles are obvious riddles; others are not so obviously riddles: the players will need to stay alert to the referee’s descriptions and realize that things they see and hear in one place are clues to what they’ll see, hear, and fight in other places.

It has nice artwork that doesn’t detract from the adventure.

At least one encounter requires the use of a non-standard book, “Relics and Rituals” from Swords and Sorcery. But as far as I can tell that requirement is limited solely to that one encounter, so it should be easy enough for you to work around it and change the encounter if you don’t have that book.

The only disappointment I have is the lack of flavor text. I know that the really old-style adventures never had any, but I think that flavor text is the greatest innovation in gaming since sliced pizza and lich waffies. I can easily modify flavor text to fit the needs of the moment, but making up flavor text time after time, I personally am very prone to mistakenly reading (or missing) important pieces of the encounter description as I extract what the players see from the game master’s description.

I have not run this adventure. I have barely the time to run my own adventures, let alone someone else’s. If I had my way, I’d be gaming right now, but like the cat who became an ornithologist, if I cannot game, I can at least write about gaming.

But if I were to do run someone else’s adventures, this would be at the top of a very large stack. Their slogan is “Third edition rules, first edition feel” and it lives up to the promise. “Tomb of Abysthor” should be very easy to run in Gods & Monsters. As a general guideline, you might translate as follows:

AbysthorGods & Monsters
Spdhalf for movement
ACreduce by 10 and half for defense (round up)

The main problem with running this in Gods & Monsters (or anything other than D&D 3rd edition) is likely to be the speed at which D&D 3e characters “level up”. The tomb is a long-term adventure with plenty of opportunity to “experience” the local countryside or the strange happenings inside the tomb and temple areas. Since Gods & Monsters characters level up more slowly than D&D 3e characters, you’ll want to hold off on introducing your Gods & Monsters characters to the Tomb until they’ve reached or are on the cusp of achieving fourth level.

Necromancer Games makes very good use of the web: besides their forum (of which there is one dedicated to the Tomb) they also make downloadable supplements available for their adventures. Abysthor has only a few, but they are quite useful. The best is the eleven page PDF book of maps. It makes it every easy for you to print out extra copies of the maps and annotate them as required without hacking up your adventure book. There is also a book of rumors and a summary of the gods and demons whose worshippers and artifacts populate their dungeons.

This was an enjoyable read, and the kind of adventure that inspires me to game more often.

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