Sunday, May 11, 2014

Classic Review—Menagerie of the Ice Lord

(Note: Classic Reviews are old reviews I wrote before I had this blog)

Menagerie of the Ice Lord is a low level adventure for Labyrinth Lord (basically Basic and Expert D&D) from Dylan Hartwell of the Digital Orc blog. It's digest sized, about 40 pages plus the cover and the map, so about the equivalent of a 20 page module in normal format. It was $3.99 in print (now sold out apparently) but also available from RPGNow in PDF form for $2.99 I think. This is a review of the print version.

The premise is one of the classic setups of the fantasy genre - a wizard has vanished and probably died, so it's time to go and loot his tower. There's also something of a side plot about the weather, since he vanished, it's gotten worse. And as you can tell by the name of the module, he was a collector of strange animals, which of course have gotten loose.

Okay, so far, it might not sound like the most original module in the world, but it's well done. The originality comes from the new monsters it contains, around 30 of them, packed into the magician's mansion's 100 rooms. Not all of them are great, some are fairly simple variations on existing monsters, but about 10 are really neat.

For instance, one really creepy monster (which is shown on his blog) is the Chandelier Spider. It's essentially a spider that hangs from the ceiling and resembles a chandelier, so often catches people by surprise.

As mentioned, there are 100 rooms described. Some are done very simply, most are described with a sentence or two, a few get longer descriptions. There's a good number of interesting rooms, not just simply bedrom, library, etc, though it has those as well. But nothing really bizzare.


13) Ballroom: Polished hardwood floors and small stage hold dusty music instruments. A barrel beast (statblock*) is trying to eat a stuffed elk head.

* And then later there is a full monster manual type entry in the back of the module.

What's interesting is that there really isn't any traditional sort of loot. No coins, no jewels, etc. Mostly it's what the characters can scrounge up. There are three magical weapons to be had though. One is essentially a +1 scimitar of speed (only a long sword), another a +1 battle axe, and finally a battle axe that is good against black dragons, but worse than useless against everything else. Each one had a lengthy description and history.

There's also a treasure that is magical wine - it states that it gives the drinker a permanent extra 1d4 hit points. And there are 15 bottles of them. I would imagine it would be best to limit how many times a character can gain a benefit from it.

It says it's for characters levels 1-5, but that might be a bit on the high side. I ran it with 6 AD&D characters (2 2nd level Fighters, 1 3rd level Fighter/MU, 1 1st level Cleric, 1 3rd level Thief, and 1 3rd level MU) and they absolutely stomped the creatures I thought they might have trouble with. (They didn't fight the toughest creature in the module, but that was clearly one of those monsters the PCs aren't supposed to fight, but avoid.)

Then again, AD&D characters are noticeably stronger than LL ones, so I probably should have bumped them up a little. But it also could have been luck. The fighters seemed to roll high anyway and the cleric and thief low.

Bottom line, it was a fun module. Although apparently meant to be just a one shot, it does have some plot hooks to extend things further if you wish. For instance, somehow fixing the weather that has gotten worse. Unfortunately, this isn't explained all too well, it seems to imply that it's the body of the wizard causing the problem (by my reading).

There are also tie-ins to the authors other modules, which I don't have, but was going to order, except the print versions are apparently sold out, and thus only are available in PDF form, which isn't my favorite or the easy for me to use. But still, if you like PDFs, you might check them out. While it's a truly exceptional value in print form, it's still a very good deal in PDF form.


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