EZG reviews The Sinister Secrets of Silvermote

Hej everybody,

after all this slumming in the mean streets, I figured it would be time for one deadly dungeon-crawl for a change and TPK Games is happy to oblige:

The Sinister Secrets of Silvermote

This adventure is 67 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving a whopping 64 pages of content! Not bad at all, so let's check out the dread laboratory of Temerlyth, the Undying!

This being an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS, thus I encourage potential players to skip ahead to the conclusion.

Let's get ready for some horror-show indeed, for after an encounter with some ogres and drow in the wilderness,  even the entrance of the dungeon is not entirely simple, necessitating the solving of a riddle, which is always nice, at least for me - riddles are often painfully underrepresented in modules and are a welcome diversion from regular crawling. And what a crawl this is!

Let me preface this, by saying this crawl is HARD. Frog God Games hard, with the potential for a clever DM to make it even more challenging and I love this design philosophy. My players tend to waltz through many modules and this provides a challenge indeed. Another thing this module gets, is a sense of antiquity - Temerlyth's ancient elven architecture is mixed with goblin borrows, offering a nice mishmash of elven splendor, goblinoid decay and a mad scientist's lab. Which brings me to lichdom: Once in the day, a lich was the ultimate undead corruption: A being who sought to extend his existence at all costs - in contrast to vampires and other undead, they cannot be brought into life by accident and their willingness to sacrifice  their mortality makes them even more alien and despicable than other undead: Where we can feel pity for shadows, ghosts and wights, project fantasies and Eros on the vampire, these undead still have some relatable characteristic and be it flimsy as the hunger for life. Liches sacrifice willingly the warmth of the touch of a loved one, their sense of smell and taste and any craving but the search for ultimate power behind, making them despicable to even vampires. The ultimate darkness, the utter corruption that perpetuates this decision is something that has, at least in my opinion, often been forgotten in recent publications. Not so here.

Temerlyth's dungeon is the mirror of a disjointed, relentless and obsessive mind with a twisted sense of humor and devious traps that clearly show the amoral stance the lich takes towards mortal life: Several of his traps are actually designed to infect interlopers with lycanthropy, which will promptly be triggered by his moonlight-producing chandeliers and sow confusion and infighting in invading parties. If an approaching party manages to infiltrate the complex at all, that is. The sentinel, a wood giant skeletal champion ranger and the puzzles make already for neat glimpses of the horrors to come. The crawl itself removes mostly about finding 4 crystalline keys to lower mooncrystal bridges via pedestals to a central platform and raise Temerlyth's crowning achievement and work-in-progress, but more on that later.

The elven lich's servants and allies not only include zombie lords, constructs and ghouls (among which is a potentially recruitable ghoulish cleric, who might at least make for an interesting temporal ally), but also a variety of were-bat slaves who consider him some kind of benevolent over-seer. While I have no problems with his rather cool golems, like the bomb-throwing Aclhemy golem, I do think that the equipment of the were-bats is terrible. Perhaps this is intended to reflect Temerlyth's underlying hatred for them, but they and their dire bat allies will be squashed by your PCs. On the other hand, the zombie lord has a terribly over-powered weapon you should be aware of: A magical shovel that can bury the living with a successful attack )grappling and pinning them with +25 CMB and summon the undead. The PCs should not be able to use this item, the potential for abuse is HUGE.
If you've read Temerlyth's Infamous Adversary-pdf (which you should - his background story is explained there), you also know about his now undead family, who also serves as his minions and might go for a rather creepy holo-deck style encounter. I also particularly enjoyed the gallery of rare and very strange were-creatures and his vault, in which he bound souls of lycanthropes to now terribly cursed armors and weapons. His laboratory also bears mentioning: It's one of the locations where Temerlyth could make his final stand and his phylactery, for once, is actually CLEVERLY hidden, as befitting of a foe of Temerlyth's intellect. So, what's in it for the PCs, should they succeed? Well, it's here that the scenario is truly interesting: We get a significant slew of Temerlyth's library as items - complete with names, contained information, (very specific) skill-bonuses gained when consulting them etc. - a total of 23 grimoires are included and what can I say: I love them! I love it when publications go above and beyond and its flavorful tidbits like this that stand out and make for a much more memorable payoff than finding 100 GP worth in books.

And then, there's Temerlyth#s artifact: The Moonfire Soulstone. Once activated, it shoots searching rays of lycanthrope-searing light and continues to do so until charged. Killed targets are soultrapped and once the device is fully charged, it emits  a devastating explosion of energy at close range and purges lycanthropy from a huge radius, using the trapped souls as fuel. Pure genius! This is a tactical weapon of mass destruction and will be the reason why my players have to defeat Temerlyth: Just imagine an army of lycanthropes, poised to crush any resistance and then, the PCs hear about this benevolent sage who fights the threat - only to realize fast that salvation from the were-beast onslaught might come at the cost of their moral integrity or even their souls. Or provide for a heroic last stand where the PCs thwart a lycanthropic invasion at the cost of their immortal souls. Barring that, an activation of the weapon makes for a thrilling final confrontation with Temerlyth that surpasses even the lich's stand-alone lethality.
The pdf also contains a reference sheet for the dungeon's general properties, a page on how to read the grimoire-sections, extensive information on how to scale every encounter from CR 8 to 12, a fully hyperlinked spellbook of Temerlyth and a one-page, full color map of the complex.

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to TPK Games b/w 2-column standard and the b/w-artworks are nice, although I have seen them in other sources before. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks and, as has become the tradition with TPK Games, hyperlinks to the SRD for quick reference of any rules you might have forgotten. However, in contrast to other releases by TPK Games, some of the statblocks have not been as extensively hyperlinked as others. While each includes at least some hyperlinks, the coverage is not as universal as with their other releases. When reviewing the Tomb of Caragthax the Reaver, I complained about it being too short - the same cannot be said of Temerlyth's laboratory - we get a concisely-written dungeon full of sadistic traps, deadly lycanthropes and hungry undead. One thing you should be aware of, though, is that while all stats necessary to run this scenario are included, I do urge you to buy Temerlyth the Undying as well in order to fully understand the primary antagonist's motivations and character.
Some of the enemies herein are weaker than you would expect for their CR due to poor equipment, but the amount of treasure and the deadly challenges herein mean that your PCs won't be disappointed on the loot-side. They'll also be hard-pressed to triumph against the rather deadly challenges offered by this dungeon. While I love the library with its detailed list of tomes herein, I also consider the item gravemaker terribly over-powered. The map, while beautiful is rather cluttered and I would have LOVED a player-friendly version sans secret doors/keys/traps to cut apart and show to my players, as I hate drawing dungeon maps. In the end, the venture to Silvermote can be considered a diamond in the rough - there are minor smudges like aforementioned item and inconsistencies and essentially, you should add $1.99 for the Temerlyth-pdf to the price, but the dungeon still makes for an iconic, disturbing, deadly crawl that offers quite a bit of content for you. Weighing all the pros and cons, I still very much enjoyed the pdf and can easily change e.g. gravemaker to work only for his specific owner, thus my final verdict will be a good 4 Rudii and a hearty recommendation, especially if you're intrigued by the artifact/last stand idea I mentioned earlier.

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.

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