Adventures in Awesfur: "The Wizard Under the Well"
This pdf is 12 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS.
All right, still here? The PCs awake after a night in the local bar with a high tab indeed – for once a rather creative angle to get them into adventuring for the half-orcish bartender – kudos! In order to work of the damages and expenses they caused – they just have to find this guy called Tabarius – he owes the proprietor a LOT of money. Thing is, the guy’s a wizard and in his home – well, the PCs find dead bodies. The trail of blood leads to a well at the outskirts of town and stops abruptly.
It is this well that conceals this module’s dungeona nd from the start, we have an issue – there are no DCs provided to climb down the well. Is it slimy? Higher DCs? 10? 20? We don’t know. Speaking of “We don’t know” – the imprisoned Tabarius can be found with relative ease in a cell in the dungeon.
The opposition in the short dungeon mostly consists of orcs, with a direwolf and a half-orc barbarian as the two “bosses” – each encountered separately, though. The dungeon also sports a pit trap with a spider-swarm and ends when the PCs find a strange carved door in the complex that they can’t get to open. A first in a Rocks Fall-module I’ve read so far, the environment is mentioned in the half-orc-encounter, with the possibility of being thrown/knocked in.
Editing and formatting this time around is very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout is HORRIBLY ugly – for a rant of all that’s wrong with it, see my review of Dark Totem Pt. I. Cartography is basic and essentially not aesthetically pleasing, but does its job. We get neither player-friendly versions of the map, nor bookmarks, which is a no-go.
That being said, this one is better than the Dark Totem-two-parter. The angle is interesting and cool and honestly, this module could have been funny. I really enjoyed the beginning, the trail to the well…and then came the dungeon.
No rules are provided for entering its well. No justification is given why noone has noticed that there’s a friggin’ dungeon down there, even though wells are central parts of any settlement’s infrastructure. While at least some encounters marginally feature environmental effects, e.g. the spider swarm’s net has NO effect on the players -none at all.
Neither do the pieces of furniture lying around, a fire pit etc. Which is a pity, since one of the strengths of Rocks Fall’s modules are the magnified combat-maps for the respective encounters – they are not beautiful, but they feature furniture etc. – that no one ever uses in combat. Also, I don’t get how the direwolf came down the well or what exactly is the “flair” of the dungeon supposed to be: Carved walls? Caves? An artificially-designed complex? Has the wall to the well only recently broken down? How come nobody noticed this perplexingly abstract dungeon before? How did the dire wolf get down the well?
This module is designed as a short, simple sidetrek and its cool angle is neat, but the meat of the module falls apart quicker than a plate mail in the antennae of a rust monster, showing us a “dungeon” with “rooms” and “Chambers”, but not sufficient descriptions beyond that to evoke any sense of immersion. There is no reason why the orcs have not slaughtered their captive or taken heed to conceal their presence, nor is it explained how they managed to capture their captive without alerting the whole town. This module is missing about 8-10 pages of explanations, description, environmental factors to make the combats more exciting etc. – so much so, that any closer scrutiny makes the yarn of the narrative come completely apart.
While still superior to the Dark Totem-modules, “The Wizard in the Well” is still in no way a captivating read or module that any but the most inexperienced of DMs could concoct spontaneously. I have created more complex modules when mastering with an utter hangover sans any preparation at a con and while per se not bad in the classic meaning of the word, the module in the end lacks substance. And soul. The lack of environmental information and pieces of knowledge on the dungeon mean that the module comes off as sterile, with just a few hotspots to interact with beyond the limited combats and when held to the scrutiny of a game’s world’s internal logic, it break unfortunately apart even further. The basic idea could have been a fun module, but the boring, uninspired dungeon essentially snuffs out the potential the module’s premise had. For a hangover-story done right, check out the Witcher 2: Assassin of King’s videogame, it also has more hotspots to interact with than this module. My final verdict will be 1.5 stars, rounded down to 1 for the purpose of this platform.
Adventures in Awesfur: “The Wizard Under the Well” is available from: