By Thilo Graf
This adventure from Frog God Games is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 27 pages of content for the excursion to the ruins of ancient Madaro-Shanti, so let’s check it out!
This being an adventure-review, it contains SPOILERS.
Potential players might want to skip to the conclusion!
All right, let’s get on with it!
So, there was this ancient, yet local civilization called Madaro-Shanti that was brought down by a great evil and betrayed by one of its vile gods. This background does not bode well, but the reason for the PCs exploring the ruins is actually quite interesting: A pioneer-town is threatened by mysterious black clouds that slowly kill off the jungle’s plants and drive away the animals and the lead points towards the jungle ruins of Madaro-Shanti. The PCs get henchmen to carry gear/mules etc. and are fitted out to explore the ruins with a generous time-limit: They have about a month to solve the mystery, enough to venture back and forth, should the need arise and it very well might. As soon as the PCs enter the clouded areas (which btw. don’t have detrimental effects on the PCs – a bit of a wasted chance there), strange things start to happen along-side the random encounters on the 3-day trip: The adventure provides several mood-setting encounters of strangely behaving animals, foreshadowing dreams and, when played right by the DM, a sense of ancient dread should continuously grow during the trip to culminate in the PC’s arrival in the old ruin-town. It should be noted that a player-friendly map of the whole region along a grided, player-friendly overview-map of the ruins is provided.
There is not much left of ancient Madaro-Shanti, though – apart from a ruined temple-complex, fort and gate-house (which are not very detailed), the palace with its well will draw the attention of the PCs and serve as the focus of much of their adventuring here – only, though, when they manage to defeat the small army of borsins (centaur-like ape-abominations) that have taken residence here and fiercely guard the ruins.
Hopefully, the PCs a smart enough to explore the well of the city, a series of 5 vertically-aligned chambers with, dare I say it? PUZZLES! Cue in “Hallelujah”-chants, finally an adventure with PUZZLES. Essentially, the well features two shafts , the fill shaft as well as the drain shaft and the central rooms. By interpreting clay-skulls (which contain the solutions and are provided as small artworks on the player handout), the PCs can avoid the deadly traps and, even better, via the correctly applied logic, determine how to operate the valves, their reward for this being that walls in the palace’s dungeon are moved and thus grant access to more treasure. Not strictly making solving the puzzles mandatory, this makes for a nice scaling of success and lets hack-happy groups ignore them. Everybody wins! If you think the mechanism is too complex, fret not, for two vertical and a top-down map are provided, illustrating the well and making it very easy to run this part. I SO hope we’ll see more puzzles like this in future adventures! A total BLAST!
After that, the PCs will hopefully start to explore the palace and boy, the two levels of the palace and 1 level dungeon beneath it offer some rather challenging encounters: The basic theme for this adventure is monkeys (seeing that a corrupted nature spirit is behind the clouds and his brethren want him cured, an interesting angle) and from ghoul monkeys to monkey-headed nagas and the aforementioned ape-centaurs, the challenging encounters herein will definitely test the mettle of your PCs, one might even say they could go bananas. *Put 2 bucks into the bad pun box*The creatures not included in the PFRPG-bestiaries of course get their own, new statblocks. Another theme of the palace and its dungeon is the wonder of ancient, magical defenses and curses in particular – whether the PCs try to carry off a valuable statue, encounter cursed thrones or stumble across the remains of a now defunct trap that lets massive rocks levitate around, the sense of wonder that should accompany such an exploration permeates every nook and cranny of the ruins, ranging from old scriptures the PCs can try to decipher over fallen kings they can question to mysterious statues of the now fallen pantheon.
Finally, whether the PCs find the hidden (cursed) minting chamber or not, the PCS will find the last survivors of Madaro-Shanti, 3 individuals not necessarily hostile and finally confront the black-pudding turned nature spirit…whom they actually don’t have to fight! In an approach all too rarely seen, the preferable solution for the problem is actually curing the spirit, making a peaceful solution of the final encounter possible. I approve and love this approach!
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice a single glitch. Layout adheres to a mostly b/w-2-column-standard with the notable exceptions of the beautiful maps. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks, thus making it easier to navigate. While the “One Night Stand”-line only promised one night of gaming, I can guarantee that the amount of content herein will keep your group occupied for longer! The awesome wonder of exploration, the creepy, small details on the way to the ruins and therein, all these components come together in one glorious, cool exploration that hearkens back to days where adventuring was about a sense of wonder. Add to that the challenging encounters, new beasts and especially the VERY cool puzzle and we get a definite recommendation for Scott Caspar’s excellent sojourn to the jungle – my final verdict will be 5 stars and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval – this will find its way into my campaign.
One Night Stands – Jungle Ruins of Madaro Shanti is available from: