Monday, July 9, 2018

The Tomb of Abysthor - pt 1 - Overview & Wilderness

I was looking for modules to cram into the wilderness game, and wondering if they are even worth the bloody effort. 

Those old Necromancer Games adventures (and their Frog God Games updates for Pathfinder), like The Tomb of Abysthor? I talk a big game about using them. But the inferential distance is... vast, at points.

Can I tweak it just a little bit - enough that it would make sense to include, and be worth the effort?

***** WHAT DO? *****


The maps are one of this module's main strengths, the dungeon has plenty of twists and turns. Nothing to complain about here, if I had to I could just steal the maps and happily write my own dungeon.


Orcus can stay obviously. Thyr and Muir I am 50/50 on, probably replace them with something local to my game. Tsathoggua I will keep: although I have been beating the Mythos drum a lot around here, why look a gift horse in the mouth?


In the wilderness, there are no civilised humans, and NO ORCS. I will need to change the orcish priests of Orcus to another humanoid race. Have to be careful not to overshadow the 'Orcus-ness' with whatever racial traits they have going on or their place in the campaign. Think about this for next installment.


I use simplified alignment (Law and Chaos). This changes all the magical traps that would be triggered by a Lawful Good-aligned PC walking past. Most of my players are going to pick Chaotic, so if the magic traps are triggered by 'the first lawful character who walks past' this opens up the stealth option, and I like it. It also means all the saints' and heroes' graves are tough places for the PCs to hide out in, and they won't be able to use the holy relics.

This brings up another problem though:


How many glyphs of warding can one dungeon have? Did people really play like this back in the day? What a fucking grind

MOST of these will get subtracted, and the ones that remain will be made visible. And what is this shit about Disable Device DC 28, like your thief can just "oh yeah, I disabled that magic glyph. Don't ask me how." I hate that. It needs to be changed somehow.


A +1 buckler? Stroll on pal. 

Almost all of this will have to be revamped. I am giving out way fewer magic items in this game, and trying to make them more interesting. The single-use stuff like scrolls and potions can *mostly* stay, but all +x whatevers get deleted. SOME will be replaced by cool new stuff, and I'll try to tie them in to the setting, the dungeon or some aspect of the story. This is WAY more work, but there are plenty of random tables to help things along.


Epic 6 means everything has to get nerfed pretty hard. 

Dark Natasha, Balcoth, the higher priests of Orcus, Abysthor himself will all get their levels reduced. Without fussing OVERLY about balanced encounters, quite a few of the monsters will have to get swapped out or toned down. 10- or 12-HD demons need to be placed much more carefully in an E6 game, they are so much more powerful than any human can be. This will make life easier though, as lower levels means less stats!

There is a damn LICH in this dungeon. He can stay, but will be nerfed down to a lower level. An article on 'dangerous ways to get more levels in E6' will follow later: lichdom is obviously in there.


Nothing really exciting. What is it about 'the wilderness around the dungeon' that just drains the creativity of adventure writers? I haven't liked this part of any module I've ever read. 

We have:

-ruined and defaced shrines to Thyr and Muir
-a lake with some giant frogs
-a one-eyed troll
-a gnoll village
-some giant spiders
-an entrance to the underdark
-a black dragon with some orcs

-a wandering beholder (fuck!!)
-some sinkholes
-a random encounter table with all this stuff, plus stirges, acolytes of Orcus, ghouls, goblins, manticores, ettin, wyverns, etc

All pretty standard stuff, and easily replaced by the shit in your own game world.

This can all get scrapped, except the ruined temples to Thyr and Muir with all the secret treasure inside. They can come along whole cloth, I'll place them somewhere out in my campaign world and fill them with clues pointing towards the dungeon.


It seems I have my work cut out for me. The maps, monsters, story hooks, villains and encounter tables are cool, but stats will need to be severely edited, traps and treasure almost totally redone.

Next time Level 0: THE BURIAL HALLS and Level 1: THE UPPER CAVES!


Now go HAIL ORCUS while listening to this:


  1. Waiting for the next parts of the review! I'm going to play this out old school rules so i gotta rewors the same things you noticed, help eachother maybe?

    1. I'm sorry I didn't reply to this before. It's also worth mentioning you can get the Swords and Wizardry version here if you're playing old school rules: