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Friday, 12 May 2017

Elven Enkindling

Crypts of Indormancy is a scenario for use with Dungeons & Dragons-style Retroclones—though it feels well-suited for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay—released following a successful Kickstarter campaign. Published by the Melsonian Arts Council, best known for The Undercroft fanzine and the scenario, Something Stinks in Stilton, this new scenario is a death trap style dungeon set against the background of an interesting culture and history. It comes as striking green hardback, sixty-six pages in length, black and white, but illustrated throughout.

It takes place on an island in a mountainous archipelago, populated by the Island People, divided into the Twelve Clans, each associated with a single animal. Once the archipelago was a colonial possession of the Elves, but over a thousand years ago, they were driven out by the Island People. The Elves remember the time and regret the loss of their Empire, whereas the folk memory of the Island People leaves them with a cultural dislike of the Elves. Recently, rumours have reached the wider world that the tomb of Thuuz, Lord Nanifier, Elven General of the Western Isle has been found. The Island People would willingly dump his corpse into the sea; the Elves might prefer to forget the ‘Recent War’ that was lost at his hands, and adventurers…? Well surely there is great plunder to be had in a millennia old Elven tomb.

So essentially, Crypts of Indormancy is played out against a background of anti-colonial and anti-imperial themes and a culture inspired by that of the Polynesians of the South Pacific. There are no rules provided in the scenario to create or play any of the Island Peoples, but there are certain rules included for playing both Elves and Island People. These enforce culture values and attitudes of both by giving the character an Experience Point award for adhering to them—even if it hinders the party as a whole. For example, Elves are encouraged not to share cultural information, whilst the Island People are awarded Experience Points for certain acts of vandalism in the tomb itself. Although these rules are optional, they are a nice touch and help bring the attitudes of both groups into play.

The tomb of Thuuz stands atop a glacier deep into the mountains, making it challenging to reach. Then there is the matter of getting in… Unfortunately, the way in which the tomb is presented, both in the text and in the maps, raise two odd issues. The first is that it is not exactly clear in the dungeon description how the player characters are expected to get into the tomb. There are two entrances, a door to the upper half and a pit to the lower half. It is inferred that the adventurers will go in via the pit, either because they set the trap off or because that is the easier route in comparison to the door. The pit then opens into an antechamber and from there into a courtyard and beyond. The text states that going in this direction—from the antechamber to the courtyard and so on—is an insult to the Island People and intended to become apparent if the tomb robbers enter via the pit and move in that direction. The problem is that the only entrance to the antechamber is the pit, so the intended insult of the tomb design cannot be apparent unless the adventurers come in through the pit. Further, the order of rooms is written and numbered in this order, with the single room on the upper half beyond the entrance door being described after the rooms of the upper level have been detailed.

The second is that not one of the locations on the adventure’s map is numbered, although every room has a number in the text. Instead, the Referee will need to match the room locations primarily by their description which match the details on the maps. The combination of these two issues is that the layout of the tomb of Thuuz is not a little confusing. Obviously, numbering the locations would have helped, as would a cross section of the tomb, but actually, just stating that the adventurers are expected to enter via the pit or that the pit opens above the antechamber would have helped to negate this confusion.

Once inside the tomb, the layout is quite simple and literally straightforward, consisting of six locations. They range from a mere two pages in length to as long as five or six pages, but all are described in some detail, whether is the number and type of playing pieces in a giant game, the decorations that festoon the tomb, the terrible Elven prose, and more. In fact, the wealth of detail here is really what the Referee is meant to get his teeth into given the paucity of NPCs present in the adventure. Apart from any hirelings the party might have hired, the Referee only has the single NPC to portray—though some might argue that tomb is a character all by itself. His presence is found throughout the tomb, but his presence will not be directly felt unless the player characters get overly curious or greedy and trigger certain circumstances. Only then will he make an appearance and that has ramifications for the Referee’s campaign.

The tomb of Thuuz does indeed contain the remains of Thuuz and he is indeed dead. Yet there is a way in which he can come back and if he does, he has an agenda all his very own—an agenda that is over a millennium old. An agenda which is going to divide any party with Elves and Island People amongst their number and likely to lead to further war and strife…

Beyond the six rooms of the tomb of Thuuz, the author offers some rough layouts for dungeons below the tomb. Some of the locations on these maps are named, but the Referee will need to develop them further himself. The bestiary includes several creatures, some more like traps, some strange probes from other universes, others memories from the past. For the most part, they are particular to the tomb of Thuuz and Crypts of Indormancy.

Physically, Crypts of Indormancy is well presented. Andrew Walter’s maps are nicely detailed—if unnumbered—and his artwork is in turns grim and weird. Barring the issue with getting into the tomb and the lack of rooms being numbered on the map, Crypts of Indormancy is also well written, with an attention to detail.

Crypts of Indormancy is a good tomb adventure rich with detail and flavour aplenty. Yet what it leaves unexplored—the colonial history, the ‘Recent War’, and the Island People—is intriguing and leaves the reader wanting more, a supplement devoted to the Island People and their archipelago perhaps? As to the Level of the adventure, it is designed for low Level player characters and will be a challenge for such characters. There treasure and experience to be had in plundering the Crypts of Indormancy, but woe betide any adventurers who get too greedy, too curious, for the world may be set afire.


The Melsonian Arts Council will have a stand at UK Games Expo, which will take place between June 2nd and June 4th, 2017 at Birmingham NEC. This is the world’s fourth largest gaming convention and the biggest in the United Kingdom.