Friday, May 13, 2011

Tommy's Take on Pyramid of the Dragon

I've reviewed the previous Small Niche Games adventures in the past, and found their work to generally be quite good, albeit not with any kind of intention for using them with Labyrinth Lord, their intended system. Pyramid of the Dragon is the latest of these, was released right at the end of 2010, and I am just now digging into it.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Pyramid of the Dragon has a very old school layout, and is a 37 page PDF retailing for $4.95. Small Niche Games definitely choose substance over style, with a spartan approach to visual design. Nothing bad, just nothing flashy. It is intended for 4-6 characters of 5th-7th Level, and does not profess to require any particular character types.

The author tends to make it a point to give the players freedom, be it in a sandbox format or an event format (with timed events set to go off around the PCs, depending upon their interventions). This adventure begins with the PCs witnessing a red and a black dragon doing battle (with the option of getting involved IF THEY ARE INSANE). They are soon given the opportunity to take advantage of the aftermath: picking the dead dragon's corpse clean, finding and raiding it's lair and maybe even taking out the wounded surviving dragon. If, for some reason, the PCs don't bite before then, an alternate hook is provided to draw them in, as there is a powerful artifact floating around in the aftermath of the dragon battle.

Entering the Blood Marsh, the PCs find an ancient temple that the dead dragon used as a lair the surviving dragon believes the aforementioned mystic artifact is hiding in. Interestingly, the PCs have three options for invading the temple: one of which being to strike a deal with the dragon and serving as it's agents on a raid of the temple!

Once inside the temple, we get more of a traditional dungeon crawl, and adversaries ranging from elementals to undead to scorpions. This is still only one leg of the adventure, however, providing the means to find the artifact, but not the artifact itself.

The final leg of the adventure again presents a scenario with multiple outcomes, as the PCs can  ultimately either kill the holder of the artifact or free them from its influence, building to a satisfying conclusion involving a battle against a group of the surviving dragon's followers and the opportunity to make a powerful (and not evil) ally.

There are maps where relevant, though they aren't anything fancy, and every NPC is statted out. Three new, plot relevant magic items are presented, as well as some new monsters, most notably the Froggles, a race of frogmen that serve one dragon (and are forced into helping the other).

WHAT WORKS: As with Blood Moon Rising, the author does a great job of believably putting lower level characters in a situation where they would seem to be completely out of their depth, but fit them into the situation in a completely believable way. The PCs aren't expected to kill a dragon...just whip its followers and deal with the dragon when it comes back in a few levels. As usual, there's plenty of material here for you $5.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: If you're like me and not a Labyrinth Lord guy, this one isn't as easily adaptable as the author's previous two adventures to another system. Not saying it can't be done, mind you, there's just a wider variety of monsters and such that would need to be reworked.

CONCLUSION: Small Niche Games makes the kinds of adventures I would like to play (or run) if I still played (or ran) D&D. I don't know how that stacks up with the "old school" mentality of Labyrinth Lord, but I am continually pleased with both the concepts and executions of their adventures.