Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Jewel of the Lunar Rift Review — Lots of Background, Little Dungeon

Jewel of the Lunar Rift is a newly released (June 2018) low level module, the first product from Verisimilitude Society Press. Its author, Extildepo, posts on Dragonsfoot, a 1e forum. Despite this, it's for the OD&D clone Swords & Wizardry, though honestly, looking at the stats, it seems like Blueholme or another Holmes clone would be closer, as Dexterity is listed for every monster (which Holmes needs for initiative) and there's made mention of a saving throw vs. Death Ray (while S&W uses a single saving throw for every situation).

Although the PDF clocks in at a fairly impressive (for $2, at least) 34 pages, the adventure itself is only about 7 single column pages and 18 rooms. Despite the author mentioning he only wants to give enough background info to run the adventure, it doesn't actually start until page 10 since he gives a lot of background information, not just on the module, but also his house rules and background for his setting. Basically it's a more medieval feel than regular D&D, with a strong church and superstitious peasants.

By contrast, the dungeon itself is fairly straightforward, at least in terms of monsters encountered: rats, goblins, skeletons, a carrion "creeper" (aka crawler renamed for OGL reasons), a couple of ghouls, and finally a wight. The only real unusual encounters are a "cave kraken" with stats more like an octopus and a group of giant ant like beings who aren't formians but act like them.

The biggest factor is that there are a lot of goblins, 30 or so of them. While this might not pose a problem for experienced players with 1st level characters. Similarly, the final boss (as it were) is a wight, which can only be hit by magical or silver weapons. There are no magical weapons to be found in the dungeon (and really, not much treasure, period) so unless the players had the foresight to bring silver weapons (which experienced players would, but novice would not), they would be helpless against the wight.

Though with that said, of course they don't necessarily need to fight the wight. It's unclear from the introduction just what the PCs are being hired to do in the ruins (if you use the suggested background, anyway) and there's no obvious loot to keep the PCs interested in the wight room. Indeed, there's not a whole lot of treasure in the module, period, with the most valuable items being two books and realistically, players have no idea if they are valuable or not. There is supposedly a power artifact, but it doesn't seem to have any positive qualities.

Filling out the rest of the product are write-ups of session logs from his own game. Apparently it took 4 sessions over a few months to go through the 18 rooms. They seem to each have had several character deaths and in order to "beat" the dungeon, they ahd to go back to torn and get the local militia. At one point, every character seems to have been a thief, which is not optimal, even with a couple being multi-class.

The PDF follows the early 1980s TSR style both outside and in, with the very notable exception of it being only one column, not two. Interior art is old public domain stuff. The location maps are hand drawn and pretty nice, though the dungeon map lacks squares so it's hard to tell distances. The map of the larger area is evidently done in hexographer. Sadly, the PDF does not default to single page and fit to height, so you have to adjust the settings every time you open it on PC
Jewel of the Lunar Rift is one of those do-it-yourself products done with a lot of enthusiasm and love. Which is why a lot of people in the OSR write, none of us are getting rich, it's a hobby, and we want to share our work with the rest of the community and world even.

But by the same token, I think we also need to realize that talking about our game worlds (and players) can be kinda boring, that people really want adventure modules for just the adventure because likely they'll want to use the adventure in their world, not ours. Cramming 7 pages of adventure in a 30+ pages product that mostly goes on about your campaign and world is something of a captive audience. The old modules, both in Greyhawk and Known World, filled out those worlds just by mentioning details in passing, not pages and pages of background.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review! I bought this on the strength of the cover art, and was surprised to find something much less wild and more pseudo-mediaeval inside. Not to mention the surprisingly small amount of actual adventure content.