I am not often moved to review modules because I think there are far more well-read bloggers out there who do review things and a lot of what is published is not to my personal taste and therefore better addressed by someone else.
But every once in awhile something comes along that makes me say “Damn, I really wish I’d made that.” The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time, an adventure by James Raggi IV and published by his company Lamentations of the Flame Princess, is one of those things. I backed this in its indie-gogo campaign earlier this year and was both nervous and excited to see the payoff. It became available as a pdf this morning.
To start, you have to get the party to explore a mysterious valley. Caravans have disappeared, adventurers are missing, locals say there’s something fishy… whatever reason. And the players willingly step into the quicksand, perhaps expecting the usual wilderness hex crawl. What they get combines the weirdness of LOST with the ominous tone of 2001.
This adventure reminds me most of the painting in the cabin in Death Frost Doom. That was a set piece that defied player’s expectations of what could happen in a game. When I ran it a few summers back, the players spent a good half hour trying to figure out if it was safe to touch, was magic, an illusion or sellable. It was, for me, the highlight of the afternoon because the grizzled vets of the New York Red Box looked stumped. But that was on a small scale.
Monolith is packed with situations that defy players’ expectations but with far greater consequences. I can’t give any for-instances without spoiling, but I can tell you some of this stuff is just brutal and mind-bending and the sort of thing that, as a GM, you would WANT to see happen because it would be so damn cool to see the looks on the players faces when they happen. I don’t mean insta-death stuff. This isn’t a death trap, necessarily. And luckily, there’s enough of these crazy things where at least some of them have to happen.
This is one of those adventures that, as a GM, you want to run right away, but you have to already have a campaign going. I don’t think it makes sense as a one-shot. I think it really needs to be run in an established campaign. If you run it in the beginning of a campaign, it would be hard to top later on. If you run it as a one-shot, the life and game-altering effects of the adventure would be lost if your characters have no future.
It’s one of those adventures your players will talk about for years.