Under Tenkar’s Tavern (2017)
by Thom Wilson
Published by Throwi Games
|Memories of an Exalted Cover
There are always rats under the tavern. Editions come and go, gaming philosophies rise and fall, but those little fuckers are never giving it up. If your campaign starts in a tavern, you can bet there will be rats under it somewhere. So here we have this first-level adventure, and yeah right, the rats are at it again: they have dragged off the kitchen staff, and you have to follow them down into the rat dungeon to kill them. On your way down, there are captives to rescue, enough money to get rich, and a whole lot of rats. I’m not terribly surprised if that doesn’t sound very appealing. And yet, Under Tenkar’s is an adventure that almost gets it right, and that’s a very encouraging almost.
To start with, this 12-page module actually has a good content-to-page count ratio. It starts with a mercifully short one-page introduction (this could have been two longish paragraphs, but it is good enough), and follows it with a three-level mini-dungeon, featuring 37 keyed areas spread over 9 pages. A lot of small modules have a disappointingly minute amount of content (the proverbial 16 encounters in an 18-page package seems to describe most mini-module heartbreaks), or they are so minimalistic they strip out their meaningful content along with the dross. This one is just fine (and has room left over for “GM notes” if you want to add some). There is boxed text. Boxed text is usually bad news in gaming, a common warning sign for bloat or the removal of player agency. This time, it is mercifully short, functional, and mostly well written. The module could have done without it, but that’s splitting hairs: for boxed text, this is surprisingly passable.
The dungeon itself is a fairly simple beginners’ affair, following a linear structure with the odd side-branch here and there along the way. It is not bad. The encounters are mostly conventional dungeon fare, featuring living quarters, junk, and no less than three evil shrines of increasing menace. Lots of combat along the way, and a generous supply of low-profile magic items. The individual pieces are not outstanding, but it feels like a proper descent into an underground realm of dangers and mysteries. Evil idols, an underground lake, prisoners and cultists. Make this dungeon complex three or four times as big, add distractions and sidetracks, let the players get off the beaten track, explore and get lost, and it’d be very good indeed, while remaining a classic whack-a-rat deal.
Once again, as small, rat-based modules go, this one was surprisingly good for all the the low expectations. There are a lot of things which should work against it, but in the end, it is almost surprisingly decent, and has clawed its way up into a three-star rating. We are told there may be expansions, and there completely should – this is a good launching pad for something bigger – but it has to be bigger to really realise its potential.
No playtesters were listed for this adventure.
Rating: *** / *****
|The Ratte Problem