Obsidian Eclipse I – The Well of Dead Flesh
By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Louis Porter Design is 24 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, leaving 20 pages of content.
The book kicks off with a two-page spread featuring the full view of the beautiful artwork on the front cover.
Obsidian Eclipse is the new quarterly equivalent of an adventure path for the Obsidian Twilight campaign setting, featuring gazetteer-like information on some part of the world, new creatures and a short adventure. The book is full-color and features the gorgeous layout we already know from other Obsidian Twilight publications. That being said, let’s dive in!
The pdf starts with a gazetteer-like section on the former temple-city of Abu-Krahzaan, a unique and quite iconic backdrop against which the adventure later is set. The city is carved into the side of a mountain and set on great stone blocks – quite an interesting place, I think.
After that, we are given information on the so-called maggot-kin, degenerated, scavenging halflings. Their cultural information comes with three animistic deities they worship as well as a great section on their own language, a kind of patois. This section, including sample sentences and some unique words are a great way to improve both atmosphere and the overall roleplaying-experience. I hope this treatment will be expanded upon. We also get two statblocks, one for the maggot-kin (CR 1/3) and the other for the maggot-kin ghoul (CR 1/2), including lore sections as well as the bone pipe, a new exotic weapon. Both statblocks unfortunately have an editing glitch and lack the “/” in the CR. We also get the stats for a quite disturbing new undead critter, the skin thralls. I really liked the critter, though unfortunately the “Statistics”-section of the statblock is missing, rendering it hard to use.
On the crunch side, we also get three new feats:
- I know death: Let’s you determine how long someone was dead and gather facts about a dead body.
- Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Bone Pipe): Just waht you’d expect, plus some additional information on the weapon.
- Necro-energist: A kind of chain-reaction spell-cleave that uses up two spell-slots higher than usually. This might upset your campaign-balance if you go for a setting where magical genocide is not as easy. For OT, though, I think it works.
We also get new spells:
- Heaving Grave (Clr 6, Sor/Wiz 6): Can only be cast at a place of slaughter, sends an earthquake-like temporary animating pulse through the dead, potentially collapsing structures, burying people, etc. Nice one!
- Down among the Dead (Brd/Sor/Wiz 2): Disguise as an undead.
- Corpselight (Brd/Clr/Drd/Sor/Wiz 0): Lets corpses glow in an unearthly light.
This whole gazetteer-section takes up ten pages.
Now, let’s take a look at the adventure “The Well of Dead Flesh”. Major spoilers ahead, so potential players might wish to skip to the conclusion.
Still here? Ok! The PC-sellswords are contacted by maggot-kin to investigate a disgusting place. After a short encounter with a member of the undead ruling class, the PCs journey to the “Well of Dead Flesh”, which is essentially a refuse dump for the organs and components that could not be used in any necromantic rite, thus containing huge piles and lumps of semi-animated pulpy, decomposing, organic matter. That’s where the maggot-kin dug their tunnels and that’s where you’re PCs are going. While utterly disgusting, this makes what would usually be a straight-forward dungeon crawl into something quite unique. The dungeon contains an introductory combat, 5 hazards and, of course, some non-combat encounter and the final show-down, which can potentially be quite a challenge if PCs don’t fight and act intelligently. The pdf closes with three statblocks of NPCs encountered in the adventure.
Two hearts, alas, beat within my breast, the one is foul, the other blessed… That sums up my thoughts on this first instalment of Obsidian Eclipse. On the one hand we get a beautiful layout, nice artwork and captivating prose that makes both the city as well as the adventure really stand out. On the other hand, some pieces of the artwork are recycled. While this might not seem to be a problem per se, I don’t get why the guy from the cover artwork does not show up in the adventure – a maggot-kin on the cover would have probably been a more economic choice and have provided a nice piece of artwork to show off to your players. I also would have loved to get a map of the city, as from the text it seems to be a unique and captivating place, but a picture might have helped picturing the unique architecture of the city. Furthermore, the map of the adventure section does not hold up to the beautiful standard of the layout of the rest of the pdf: It’s just a black and white drawing that even I could draw. While not absolutely necessary, a nice map, preferably without letters or a map key, which as the DM you can print and cut apart to show it to your players as they go, goes a long way to minimize preparation time. Plus: The map just felt out of place in the beautiful pdf. The spells and feats are ok, but I didn’t absolutely need them. Absalam, one of the NPCs, lacks a CMD. One of the creatures lacks a whole section of its stat-block. The vital one containing it’s skills, feats and attributes. Unfortunately there also are some rather awkward grammatical constructions here and there, which doubly stand out due to the quality of the writing. The hazards and the dungeon per se a great ideas, the city is iconic, but the brilliant writing is hampered severely by the glaring editorial mistakes. If I could rate the writing alone, I’d give this 4 or 5 stars. However, the editing mistakes are so glaring that I’d usually rate this 1 star. In the end, due to the awesome and imaginative writing I just can’t bring myself to rate this that low. I’ll thus sadly have to settle for 2 stars. If editing mistakes upset you, steer clear.
Obsidian Eclipse I – The Well of Dead Flesh is available from: