Thursday, June 12, 2008
The Prison of Meneptah
Author: Alphonso Warden
Contents: 32 saddle stitched black and white pages, 1 title page, 28 pages of adventure, 2 pages of OSRIC advertisements, and 1 open game license page.
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
Product Code: XRP6104
Retail Price: £7.00 or $13.00
A stand alone adventure for 4-7 characters of levels 8-10, this is an interesting offering and, compared to earlier modules in the series, very reasonably priced. The background and concept are extremely appealing and captured my interest right away, being a heady mix of extra planar travel, devastated locales, unwise ambitions and fallen deities. The introduction takes up only the first page of text and the adventure hook is a straight forward offer of a large sum of gold in exchange for the services of the player characters.
The task involves travelling through a portal to a barren world in order to ascertain the fate of a party of explorers previously sent to investigate. After the introduction, the first fourteen pages or so of the module deal with travelling through the wilderness, the various random encounters possible, a planned encounter, and three or four relatively short, but potentially deadly, adventure sites. This is followed by twelve pages dealing with the prison proper and one page detailing new monsters and items. The external and internal artwork meets the familiar old school aesthetic.
On the whole, I found the first part of the module to be more satisfying than the second part, which I thought was a bit of a disappointment. The variety of approaches and possibilities that surrounded the adventure sites, and even the random encounters, made the main dungeon seem somewhat stifling by comparison. The diverse challenges in the prison are ill served by being grouped together and tailored to specific classes, not to mention being exceedingly deadly and too often combat orientated. Furthermore, there seemed little reason for the builders of the prison to create class based challenges, rather than layered defences, which made the context of the dungeon seem an excuse for the ordeals.
I was expecting the dungeon to be more of a prison, and I was left wanting on account of that, but that was admittedly a result of my expectations. Conceptually, I found this module to be inspirational, but as a result I would want to rework much of the second half to better meet the potential that I thought it had.
Technicalities and Errors
My copy of this module had an odd ‘raindrop effect’ on the front and back covers only visible on close inspection. I do not know if this was damage sustained in transit or a printing error. However, pages twenty four and twenty six have certainly been misprinted at an angle, which was somewhat annoying, though all of the information is legible.
There are a number of errors in the text, relating both to internal consistency and technical accuracy. On page two, for instance, the Ashai are said to have been a northern people and the Muhati a southern people; however, from that point on, the opposite appears to be the case whenever it is mentioned. On page twenty one, the commander and lieutenant are described as being armed with boulders and spears respectively and then the reverse is asserted to be the case.
The notation ‘SA +X to hit’ is inconsistently used. Whilst in most instances it takes into account both strength modifiers and magic bonuses, such is not always the case. The primary examples are the dervishes on page four, entries which also take the time to note ‘SA Spells’, but not ‘SA Turn Undead’, leaving the reader in some doubt as to whether they can. Moreover, the armour class of the third dervish is in error, forgetting to take into account his dexterity. It is also noticeable that these four, and others elsewhere, are said to be armed with ‘footman’s maces’, which are designations not present in the OSRIC document. It would, perhaps, have been wiser to simply list these as ’mace’, as is done with the first assistant on page six and a practice universally applied to ‘shield’ [i.e. there are no ‘large’ or ‘small’ shields]. The DMG and MM are also occasionaly referenced, which I thought a bit risky.
Similarly, the nomads on page five are listed with an armour class that does not take into account their unusually high dexterity. Additionally, the nomad leader on page six seems as though he ought to have rolled for exceptional strength, but that could be purposeful. Another odd instance is the monster zombies on page eight, who are listed with ‘longswords’, but with damage 4-16. The terms ‘long sword’ and ‘long bow’ are also inconsistently applied, sometimes appearing as ‘longsword’ and ‘longbow’.
As with the previous modules, there are a number of textual errors here and there, but no more than one might typically expect.
On the whole, I thought this was a good module. There is plenty of adventure fodder here and, whilst stronger on concepts than content, I was pleased with it. It could probably have done with one more editorial pass with an eye for the above consistency errors before going to the printers and I think there was greater potential than was realised in the prison itself, but it is a worthy addition to the Advanced Adventures line.
Alternative Reviews: Stuart Marshall,