Well, my good friend Dylan over at Digital Orc has done it again, and just in time for Hallowe'en gaming goodness.
This time 'round he gives us a little adventure titled: Tombstones of Terror: Curse of the Sin Eater.
I was an editor/proofreader on this project for Dylan. Thus, I want to make it clear: I have not received and will not receive any monetary remuneration for either my proofreading work or this review.
Now that's out of the way, let's get down to business.
We're looking at 32 pages of Labyrinth Lord goodness. (No worries to those who don't play LL; I regularly use Dylan's adventures in 3.x settings and they translate well.) As usual we have Dylan's unique artwork sprinkled throughout. I particularly like his grey-scale setting images and his critter pics. I will confess that my wife saw one image and hollered at me, "WHAT are you reading?!" I told her it was grown-up stuff for grown-ups and not to worry: the kids wouldn't see it. That didn't help my cause, of course. Once I told her it was Dylan's latest, she was mollified because she knows his work. (In hindsight she agrees that the picture wasn't all that bad; it just took her off-guard.) YMMV.
The adventure is not graphic, it's not James Raggi grown-up stuff, but it's not intended for the little ones. Definitely PG, or maybe PG-13, based on some of the thematic elements. This is not a critique or a complaint, just a warning to my more sensitive readers and the parents out there. As with most things: if you have a concern with your kids seeing something, take the time to look at it first rather than complaining later.
The premise of the adventure is intriguing: the death of a village "sin eater" causes a curse to descend and sets the stage for some interdimensional doom and destruction. In order to lift the curse on the town, the adventurers must unlock riddles on seven different tombstones, each one a magical portal to a different and unique dungeon. Each dungeon has its own creatures and settings; each dungeon has its own boss. All seven dungeons must be overcome and each of the eight bosses Dylan gives us must be conquered in order to lift the curse.
As usual, Dylan gives us some interesting souls (literally in this case) to populate his world: lost sailors, grieving bards, and lustful priests. He also gives us some familiar monsters to battle, but adds in some new ones of his own. And yes, we have another spider. A wonderfully, gruesome spider. One that makes my skin crawl, and yet I cannot wait to unleash it on my own players.
[Aside: Dylan knows I'm an arachnophobe. (I know better, but...) I swear he lays awake at night thinking up something new and creepy to do with spiders just so that I can proofread their stats and text-blocks and get the heebie-jeebies. He's even threatened that his next work will be: Boric's Basement Book of Spiders -- 20 Arresting arachnids for your old-school games! Written & Illustrated by Dylan Hartwell. I told him that I may not be able to handle the editing work on something like that. (Shudder) I wanted to tell him that I didn't think he could come up with 20 new ones, but that sounded too much like a gauntlet being thrown down so I resisted. End aside.]
Dylan also gives us seven new maps, one for each dungeon. The text accompanying each dungeon is just detailed enough for most DMs: giving enough detail for some DMs to take it as written and run with it, while leaving room for other DMs to add/subtract details of their own. I think he strikes a good balance with the detail, myself. I will say this about the details, though: Dylan likes his Easter Eggs. He sprinkles little bits of continuity from his other adventures throughout. It's a nice nod to those of us who have/enjoy the other adventures, plus it gives an opportunity to expand from a quick adventure into a campaign.
If I had one complaint, it would be this: I want just a bit more. I'd like a bit more flavor about the town, a few more NPCs and townspeople with whom to interact. I realize I can do this myself, but sometimes I'm lazy. It certainly works well without the extra flavor and NPCs. I just think it would be even better. (But then, I collect NPCs, so I suppose it's not that difficult for me to pull a few out of the file drawer.)
Really, then, my one complaint comes down to pure, unadulterated selfishness.
I'm going to give this 4 battle-axes out of 5. I'd highly recommend it to anyone; as I said above, I think it could make a nice one- or two-night adventure for a group, or it could form the basis of an entire campaign. Great content, period. Currently it's available at RPGNow in PDF format for $3.99. He's anticipating the print version to be available soon for $4.99 -- if you'd rather the print version, just keep an eye out over at his Digital Orc blog.