Saturday 15 May 2021

The Temple of the Onyx Cat

The Temple of the Onyx Cat is a 0-level funnel, written by Mark Tasaka. Art is by Mark Tasaka. The publisher is Old School Adventures.

This adventure has two parts: travel and exploring the temple. The hook is that you get 250 gp if you succeed. This introduces a bit of the world, but it assumes that the PCs already want to be adventurers. I have a tendency to believe that funnels are, largely, the story of why these particular people had to become adventurers. I.e., it answers the question "Why couldn't these particular people just go back to farming and stonemasonry?"

Of course, this is (in effect) the same setup as The Portal Under the Stars, and it works. It just doesn't feel like the Hand of Fate selecting the few survivors for extraordinary things in the same way that the final encounter in Portal does - whether the PCs defeat it or just stand back as it issues forth!

The travel portion of the adventure supplies the judge with five encounters to use. These might occur on the way to the temple, or on the return journey, as the judge decides. There is no need to use them all. There is no map to indicate where each encounter would naturally occur, and, by extension, the players have no control over events here. I would strongly consider creating a hex map, placing the encounters, adding some more encounters, and then provide clues for the players about what the PCs might encounter if they choose one route over another. This has the added advantage of leaving the unused encounters intact as the PCs continue to explore the world surrounding their village.

The second section is the temple itself, which has enough things to interact with to be satisfying. The adventure again takes its lead from Portal, in that, if you run into something that might be able to speak to you, it attacks you as soon as it has delivered its pre-written lines. This is a great shame, and the discerning judge should feel free to ignore that aspect of both adventures. 

In order to run this adventure, I encourage the judge to read it thoroughly and make changes to your liking. There are problems with the language used in the read-aloud text. The first room on the temple is called the "foray" for instance (I assume that "forecourt" or something similar was intended), and "thy is used as "the". Some of the language in the descriptive text is just clunky, and will be better if you give it a good tune-up.

There is also a fairly generic vibe to the setting. I don't know where I am. On one hand, parts of the writing make it seem as though I might be in Feudal Japan. On the other hand, there are dire raccoons...and there is nothing explicitly Japanese in the set-up. This speaks to the larger issue of theme, and the judge would be well advised to decide where exactly this adventure is going to take place (within their own personal milieu) and adjust the encounters to take this into account.

The author also misses the prime opportunity to explain why the merchant (in the adventure hook) wanted the Onyx Cat in the first place. Is it magical? Is it worth considerably more than 250 gp? Is the merchant a demon, a god, or a magician in disguise? The Onyx Cat in particular was pretty well guarded, after all. It would be nice if it had echoes throughout the PCs' adventuring careers, beyond its guardian's promises of revenge.

To sum up, this is a usable adventure, fairly generic, but having potential to be crafted by the judge into something more. And it has demonic squirrels, which is a plus. It was also free, and one should not criticize things people make for love too deeply. Just be aware that this one will require a degree of effort to make it sing.

You are no Adventurer. But, the life of adventure has always appealed to you; a life on the road, seeking treasure and fortune. There has always been a deep yearning in your heart to break free from your mundane existence as a villager.

“How can I break free from this boring life that I am destined to live?” You have asked yourself a number of times.

Then, one day, the answer to your question arrives in the form of a travelling merchant to your village.

“There is a ruined temple three days travel from here,” the Merchant say, “within the temple is an artefact that I am very interested in obtaining. The object that I seek is a figurine of black onyx cat sitting on top of a turtle. Whoever shall bring me the figurine shall receive a reward of 250 gold pieces.”

The free pdf is no longer available.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.