Thread: The Curse of the Witch Head
Saturday, 22nd September, 2007, 08:52 PM #1
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The Curse of the Witch Head
I bought a copy of Expeditious Retreat Press' Curse of the Witch Head at GenCon, and thought I'd share my thoughts in a quick review.
Major spoilers appear throughout below.
First, the stat block:
Title: The Curse of the Witch Head (XRP6103)
Line: Advanced Adventures #3
Author: James C. Boney
Adventure Details: 4-6 PCs of 6th-10th level (AD&D/OSRIC stats)
Book Details: 12 pages saddle-stitched, 4-color cover with b&w interior line art and b&w map (1/2 page)
The meat (includes spoilers):
XRP's third OSRIC adventure, and the second written by James Boney, is a quick, though deadly, romp through a one-level dungeon. The premise of the adventure is that a noble family, in ages past, repented from their evil ways and buried the evil artifact that fueled their ascent to power; it's location, lost until recently, allowed the Witch Head to fade into legend. Recently, a nefarious offshoot of the family discovered the Witch Head and seeks to blackmail his noble cousin and take over the realm. The good duke issues a call to adventurers....
The PCs will find that the dungeon that contains the Witch Head is quite deadly. Boney includes some very interesting tricks and traps, 3 new monsters, and 3 new magic items, which help make this adventure shine. The NPC foes leverage the dungeon environs to their advantage, and use sound, well-thought tactics to prepare for and react to invading PCs. The new monsters, trick room, and magic items are scattered throughout the 20 encounters and pepper the challenges with fresh blood that veteran players won't be familiar with, which is always a nice touch. The dungeon map is just a half-page in size, but packs some fun mapping into its environs none-the-less, including several secret doors (some one-way), and a large underground lake (with island).
The NPC villains are vile and worth of being put to the sword; they have sufficient personality and motivation detailed that the DM can play them as-is, change them out easily, or augment and develop them further if so desired. The new magic items are cool: dust of distortion (a distance distortion effect with combat/targeting penalties for victims), the staff of screams (stunning shriek or summon bats, which would spook PCs into thinking that the wielder is a vampire...), and the Witch Head itself (an evil relic that corrupts and drains its wielder). The trick is a room of purpose, which is a collection of trick-rooms used to channel/capture/affect those who fall prey to its powers; interestingly, the rooms generally don't kill victims, since they're designed for use by good-aligned dungeon engineers. The three new monsters are also well-done: the labyrinthine golem is a variant stone golem based on a minotaur, and dampen magical effects in a 15 foot radius (vs. having the traditional golem spell immunities); prism wards are strange crystals created as a by-product of a gate gone awry (which makes one wonder who was using a gate in the dungeon in the past...), and they amplify light x1000, to the point that standard light sears and blinds PCs; and the rancid is a new, and worthwhile addition to the cousins-of-the-clean-up-crew (like otyughs), and its tentacles pack a deadly disease that requires curing by a 14th level cleric.
The only real flaw in the adventure is that the map lacks a scale, key, or direction indicator, all of which can be worked out without too much hassle (it took a few encounter keys to figure out that the map scale must be 10' per square). That's it. While not a flaw per se, I do wish that there was a second dungeon level to delve, since the Dungeon Key takes up about 6 pages includes maps and illustrations, and G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief was 8 pages, but still managed to detail two levels. That said, the adventure doesn't feel incomplete in any way---I just wish that there was another level to inflict upon my players since I enjoyed the detailed level so much. C'est la vie---or perhaps, c'est la mort is more appropriate herein if PCs are too incautious.
Curse of the Witch Head rates 8 on 10 point scale: it's a fun, quick-to-pick-up, stand-alone adventure that you can read and DM in a single evening. It's well-worth buying, and you can find it in your local game store (since XRP is selling their Advanced Adventures OSRIC modules through distribution), or order it directly from XRP via the link above.
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