A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement The Tomb of Abysthor

The Tomb of Abysthor by Clark Peterson and Bill Webb is a role playing game supplement published by Necromancer Games. The supplement is intended for use with Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. It is covered by the Open Game License and therefore some of it is considered to be Open Game Content. The Tomb is a dungeon, known as the Stoneheart Mountain Dungeon, set in the same world as many other Necromancer products, and was used as burial halls for the followers of two lawful good deities whose abandoned and desecrated shrines are nearby. Abysthor was the last priest, and his tomb is in the dungeon, which has since been desecrated by the followers of two evil gods, Orcus and Tsathogga (the latter a Lovecraftian god).

The Tomb of AbysthorThe supplement is available from RPGNow as a PDF for $9.99, as a print on demand softcover book for $11.95 or as both book and PDF for $12.95. The Tomb is also one of five PDF supplements in the Necromancer World Collection, which is how it was purchased. The collection is available at the regular price of $60 but was bought at the reduced price of $18. The book can also be found in printed form from sites such as Amazon. This is a 99 page PDF of which one page is the full colour front cover, one page is the front matter, one page is the Open Game License and there are two pages of adverts for other products.

The Introduction gives a history of the dungeon, a list of the various levels, details on the different factions found in the dungeon – there are two major factions, the followers of Orcus and the followers of Tsathogga, and two minor ones comprised of power individuals, a renegade drow sorcereress and an undead rune mage – and the politics that exist between them. Using the dungeon, its standard features – such as walls, doors and sarcophagi – and how the monsters and statistics are listed.

The Wilderness Areas is the area surrounding the dungeon complex itself. There is a hex map of the area with various encounters marked, some of them dangerous, and a number of wandering monsters.

Next comes the dungeon itself, which consists of the entrance area and six main levels as well as three sub-levels. Each of the levels has a map and a sidebar at the beginning listing Difficulty Level, Entrances, Exits, Wandering Monsters, Detections, Continuous Effects and Standard Features. Difficulty Level is the average experience level required by a party of six to be challenged by the level, Entrances and Exits are how to get to and from the level, Wandering Monsters are those monsters and creatures who can be found on the level, Detections is how detection spells work, Continuous Effects is any effect pervading the level and areas of it and Standard Features is how the level is constructed if not stated otherwise. The levels are dominated by different factions, with some sort-of neutral parties and with the final level being independent of any of these, but the goal of the major factions and, in theory, the adventurers.

Following the description of the dungeon is New Spells and Magic Items. There is a new cleric spell, a new cleric domain and four new magic items, three of which are minor artefacts.

The final section is the Monster Appendix. This has a new monster race, which is associated with Tsathogga, five new monsters, two of which are not actually new as they date from older D&D supplements and a new template, which is linked to one of the minor artefacts. Finally, there are collected stats on the evil priests of Orcus and Tsathogga, excluding named NPCs.

The Tomb of Abysthor in Review

The Interior of The Tomb of AbysthorThe PDF lacks bookmarks, a table of contents and an index. This makes navigation very poor; fortunately the PDF is searchable. This would not be as big a problem in a printed book, but in a PDF of this length the lack of bookmarks is quite serious. The text maintains two column format with only a couple of errors noted. There are a number of black and white illustrations which would appear appropriate to the relevant text.

The supplement was originally covered by the d20 License; there are, as a result, use of IP belonging to Wizards of the Coast such as beholders, slaad and nystul’s magic aura, which are not allowed under the OGL. Possibly these should have been removed when the d20 License was discontinued; they are, however, still present. This doesn’t affect the dungeon in any way though.

The Tomb is referenced a couple of times in Rappan Athuk Reloaded and there is a teleportal from, and to, that megadungeon, so the two campaigns can be linked. There is also apparently a connection through the Underdark, but that would probably be very difficult to use and would need fleshing out by the GameMaster. The Tomb itself is located to the northwest of the city of Bard’s Gate and the city is referenced a few times, but that city isn’t needed to play and it could be used with another, or possibly none at all, easily enough.

There are a number of mentions of a forthcoming supplement called Wrath of Orcus, which would appear to have never been created and it seems never will be. There are also frequent references to spells and items from Relics & Rituals, which was originally from Sword and Wizardry Studio, but is now from Nocturnal & Onyx Path. In fact, quite a few significant NPCs use content from this supplement, and the references always state to look in it for details, with nothing beyond the name being given. There are so many that a noticeable amount of rewriting will need doing in places if that supplement isn’t owned, which greatly decreases the utility of this one.

There are also references to material available on the Necromancer Games site; unfortunately the site no longer exists so this material cannot be obtained.

The temple of Tsathogga is called The Temple of the Frog, which seems an odd choice of for a name – even if it is appropriate for a frog-like deity worshipped by a frog-like race – because of its links to Dave Arneson‘s Blackmoor setting, especially DA2 The Temple of the Frog. However, this name choice, if the credits are read, is deliberate – the original Blackmoor supplement apparently did partly inspire this module.

The dungeon could be dropped into another setting and even the wilderness could be adapted. It may be linked to the Necromancer Games world, and Rappan Athuk, but the links are really quite minor and it could be placed elsewhere easily enough. Probably the biggest problems with the module are the poor navigation and the requirement to own Relics & Rituals in order to run it without extensive alterations. Other than that, The Tomb of Abysthor is a well constructed dungeon adventure that is, like everything from Necromancer, potentially lethal.

 

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