Ptolus: The City by the Spire has a thriving industry going - adventurers exploring the depths below the city. Not all of them come back. You can even get 'retrieval insurance' from the Delver's Guild, to have a team sent to rescue you. This adventure is the tale of one such rescue.
The Introduction explains enough about Ptolus for this to be run as a stand-alone adventure (of course, it's much enhanced if you DO have the setting!), and it can be set anywhere suitable in your own campaign world - it is a dungeon-delve after all, so it doesn't really matter what is above-ground. For those who do possess the Ptolus sourcebook and the Book of Experimental Might (whose variant magics appear here), this work is thoroughly cross-referenced to matters referred to therein, but enough is made clear so that if you don't have them you can run the adventure anyway (and stick to standard Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 magic if you prefer).
The adventure set-up is simple. Two youngsters whose father was a noted delver have inherited his adventuring gear and a fair bit of cash on his demise - so they hired a few henchmen and set off to try delving under Ptolus for themselves, armed with a commission to capture an exotic beast for a collector and fuelled by a determination to prove themselves every bit as good delvers as was their dear old dad. They've been missing for a couple of weeks, and their mother has appealed to a family friend, a wealthy noble, for help. This noble is in search of adventurers to send to find out what happened to the youngsters. Alternatively, you can have the Delver's Guild hire the party. Either way, they'll get an advance to purchase equipment and supplies and a little research time before they are pointed at the entrance the youngsters used and sent on their way.
Interestingly, there's an option to start the adventure in media res, that is, to start with the first dungeon encounter and then backtrack to explain just why they have just had a brawl with some dragonnes underground. While it may be fun to open a game session by calling for initiative rolls, I much prefer time to progress in a normal manner (unless, of course, time-warping magic is in play). Take your pick.
Three prologue encounters are provided as the party enter the dungeon, then we get on to the encounters proper - with a note that monsters do not sit at their assigned map positions just waiting on the offchance that a party might come by, they have lives of their own to lead and it just happens that they are there when the party enters... or if the party does something really unexpected, they might not be in position and you'll have to improvise! However there are lots of hints and tips to guide you in this, indeed all aspects of running the adventure, so don't panic.
It all makes for a good delve, well-constructed with 'monsters' who have reasons for being there, loads of interesting detail, and the opportunity for a successful party to find themselves quite well looked after when they return to the surface. If they're unsuccessful, well, did THEY have retrieval insurance?
Return to Dark Tidings page.
Reviewed: 8 February 2018