Billed as a 'mega-adventure' for four sixth-level characters (who will end up about tenth-level if they survive), this was published several years before the Ptolus: City by the Spire sourcebook came out, but was written for that setting, as it's author Monte Cook's home campaign setting anyway. There's a good summary introduction to Ptolus provided here. The underlying premise for the adventure is simple, and very appropriate to an urban setting: what happens if an ancient storehouse of evil artefacts and dangers is discovered near to a populated area? Who will try to access it, who will want it sealed up if not outright destroyed?
The adventure is both location and event based. The location is the repository of all these old evil artefacts, an underground complex in the best traditions of delving - but as well as the party, there are at least four disparate groups who are also taking an interest. The work is made up of chapters that are primarily different locations within the Banewarrens, but each has events linked to them (some in the outside world, some down there) which will take place once the party starts exploring that section. However the adventure is not linear, it's pretty much up to the party as to how they go about their exploring, so you have to use the mix of keyed encounters relating to specific locations on a map and event-based encounters that occur when and where you want to construct the overall adventure in a manner that suits your group.
The adventure starts with the party in the city. Events then happen around them, and they are soon sucked in, with a resultant job offer that provides what little background is known and sends them forth to discover more about the Banewarrens and, if possible, how to seal them up again. There's also another approach, from the local church: one of their paladins has been kidnapped and they want him found and recovered. These seem disparate at the time, but in fact both lead to the same place - so not to worry if the party is not interested in one of the jobs. There are even a few suggestions for dealing with a party disinclined to take up either opportunity. And then we're off... disappearing down a tunnel dug out from someone's wine cellar into the underground complex.
Everything is mapped out clearly, with linked descriptions and plenty of background information to help you bring it all to life. There are even a series of illustrations to show the players at certain points. It's not a continuous dungeon crawl however, at various points - or indeed whenever they want to - the party can come back out of the complex to visit the city for supplies, rest, healing, to consult with employers or to gain information... or even, I suppose, if they feel they've done enough for the day and want to go for a drink! Moreover, the plot actually requires some time spent in the city to follow up on things discovered underground, which takes this beying a pure 'dungeon-delve' although that mode of adventuring is a major part of it.
Even as a delve, this is a good one. It's a good meaningful dungeon, with everything where it is for a reason, building up to a coherent whole. Nothing is there 'just' to give the party a fight or some loot, everything furthers the plot. Likewise, the bits that take the party into the city are also fully integrated into the storyline. With a spot of planar travel thrown in, a series of actions to seal up the complex again (if that's what the party decide to do), and scope for follow-up adventures this is certainly worth a look, particularly if your group likes the more intelligent sort of dungeon delve that goes beyond killing all the monsters and stealing their stuff.
Return to The Banewarrens page.
Reviewed: 6 February 2018