Tower of the Moon (2019)
by David Pulver
Published by Night Owl Workshop
Towers adventures are hard to design. Limited by their shape, most are linear, small affairs that don’t really offer many exploration opportunities; the exceptions tend to experiment with fantastic architecture (The Ghost Tower of Inverness, Sision Tower), add extra areas below or near the tower (Citadel of Fire), or both (Dark Tower, which is cheating a bit). To its credit, Tower of the Moon makes good use of the simple tower format: it presents a complete, 23-area mini-dungeon in as many pages.
|Tower of the Moon|
This is a “fairy tale gothic” ghost tower, featuring a heavy werewolf theme. It describes what was the sacred place of a neutral/good-aligned goddess associated with wolves, love, dance and hunting. As the premise goes, the tower fell after Mordark, a magic-user whose very name must have evoked the denizens’ trust, betrayed the tower’s high priestess and destroyed the place with a powerful curse. Now, of course, the haunted ruin is active again, and a young local noblewoman has disappeared inside along with a company of adventurers. The tone of the adventure is more 2nd-edition era high fantasy than murderhobo stuff; at points, it is unabashed gothic romance, and it is built on assumptions which would be better fit for a heroic 2e campaign than something more mercenary. In that respect, it uses both the werewolf theme and the romance element skilfully.
Hewing closer to 2e (where gold is no longer the main source of XP), the module has little in the way of treasure: its monetary rewards are almost comically meagre, with loot like 20 lbs worth of cooking implements valued at 10 gp, two glass goblets worth 2 gp each, a well-aged bottle of white wine marked Hawkwood Estates (4 gp), or a 200 gp throne weighing 400 lbs. This is agreeable as long as you use either a gp or an XP multiplier – I would use at least ×10 here, and still drop some of the junk loot. Then there is inexcusable stuff like 3 silver pieces in a giant rat nest, or a 25 gp crescent moon amulet “in the bottom of the muck in the chamber pot beside the nest”. It is hard to think of this stuff as “treasure” in any meaningful sense.
The encounters are an even mixture of the straightforward and the fantastic. The module is at its weakest when it goes into describing “cabinet contents” barracks rooms and storerooms in too much detail – there are worse offenders, but this is an area where the module could have been easily tightened up significantly. But there are also entries which show promise; the tower features multiple well-designed, creepy lycanthrope-based traps (although also a few poison needle traps too many – don’t bring Black Leaf on this expedition), innovative curses, and some fine custom magic effects. This is where the module clearly shines, and even the treasure gets slightly better.
There are some severe organisational problems in the module text. The room entries are written in a haphazard order where trivial details are followed by way more important stuff. Right in room 2, we learn about a lot of clutter and junk in the room before learning that there is, also, a cockatrice behind a barrel. In some places, the text actually jumps back and forth, in addition to hiding the room’s most important and utterly obvious features after an in-depth description of historical books on a dusty shelf (22B). Fixing these mistakes would have been a question of basic editing.
Altogether, Tower of the Moon is a mixed bag. The beginnings of a good module are there in the text, and I think the author’s next project could be quite good if he focused on the things he does well (good high fantasy adventure, interesting magical things to mess with), and fixed some of the mistakes. There is nothing fundamentally broken in the module, and a sequel could easily focus on its present strengths without doing something significantly different.
This publication credits its playtesters fairly.
Rating: *** / *****