Slumbering Tsar: Temple-City of Orcus, Part 3 – The Harrow Lanes
By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Frog God Games is 64 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages SRD and 1 page blank, leaving 58 pages of content for the third section of Orcus hidden citadel, so let’s check it out, shall we?
This installment of the citadel, as all the others, details a part of the finale of Slumbering Tsar, thus my review will contain massive SPOILERS. Potential players might want to jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right!
This installment details the Lap of the gigantic Orcus-statue that makes up the citadel – in concordance with the life-giving associations of the lap, it is here that once the huddled, fearful mortal servitors toiled for their undead and demonic masters.
In the artisan’s quarters, the PCs can not only enjoy a decay-riddled vista over Tsar, but here, in a once-posh restaurant, they will find wolf-spiders to fight and even a queen of the magical beasts to kill. If you’re like me and your players once stood against Miska and successfully defeated the Wolf-Spider against all odds, any encounter with these magical beasts feels like a blast from the past. From Potters, to chandlers to all the other craftsmen needed in such a huge citadel, the quarter adds a whole new, almost simulationalist perspective to the citadel and makes the dungeon feel more organic, albeit in a decaying, undead, shambling way. Special mention should be given to the Jeweler and moneylender: The first offers a valuable piece of treasure and nice information on the ultimate fate of one of the most elusive rogues in history, while the other is haunted by dread, deadly time flayers. We should also mentioned the aerial cavalry-animals, spider-eaters and their queen – dread hornet-like creatures with the ability to implant their young.
The entertainment district is overrun by megaswarms of dretches and still boosts some of the decadent pleasures once available to Orcus mortal followers – from the arena to the rather lethal sadist’s club (led by a succubus dominatrix), the PCs will have plenty of obstacles to overcome. Not the least will be the bathhouse, featuring not only a witch tree of the vilest kind, but also some elite nagas and their mortal servants. And don’t forget Lady Slaeth, the Marilith sorceress mistress of the local brothel: She can be considered the “boss” of this area and her entourage. Information on one layer of the Abyss is also provided in this section, as there is a gateway and it’s permanent.
Oh, have I mentioned the game of Kerouz, an abyssal kind of dice-game, in which the PCs can participate against a table of deadly, bored players including a rakshasa, imps, an ifrit… you get the idea. And of course, not only is the game deadly, your very soul is at stake when playing…
And never mind the deadly, abyssal minotaur cleric of Baphomet prowling the corridors…
The appendices deal with the new dretch megaswarm (including a new artwork), 4 new magic items (3 of which get awesome b/w artworks), 1 page handout and 4 pages of maps, one of which is an overview of the whole area, sans keys and thus suitable to be printed out, cut into pieces and handed to your PCs while they are exploring. I might be the minority, I’m not sure there, but I really enjoy these overview-maps.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the classic b/w-2-column standard by FGG and the b/w-artworks are stunning and mostly (when not taken from the ToH) at the top of the beauty-scale. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks.
This installment is curious in that it delivers some relief from the undead/demon-heavy installments by showcasing some depravities of the mortal and more relatable Orcus-worshippers still seep through the decay of the citadel, the PCs will be challenged by the lethal adversaries herein. Much to my enjoyment, the now derelict stores make the dungeon feel more organic, real and believable – you can almost taste the levels of decadence within these halls. On the other hand, I felt that mood-setting information, visions etc. would have gone along way to make this particular part of the dungeon even more memorable. As for its stand-alone qualities – if you’re looking for a kind of abyssal dungeon city of depravity, you might want to check this installment of Slumbering Tsar out. My final verdict for this installment will be 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 due to this nagging feeling that some of the potential of this area remains untapped – in particular, I would have liked to see a demonic drug den, more depraved remains of the practices of the servants of Orcus etc – something to emphasize this area’s blending of the urges of Eros and Thanatos in the most depraved ways possible.
Slumbering Tsar: Temple-City of Orcus, Part 3 – The Harrow Lanes is available from: