The whole concept of an adventure module was always a little problematic for me as GM. All of my campaigns have been largely sandbox-style with a few large scale plots woven into them, but rarely have I been able to integrate a published adventure into the narrative without some serious rework when I was GMing regularly. That doesn’t mean that the adventures weren’t well written or that they didn’t offer great illustrations, maps, and stat blocks for enemies galore – just that I found them difficult to integrate into my existing campaigns.
Fast forward to the last few years and the wider use of shorter adventures and smaller dungeon designs. Really the first time I’d even reconsidered a more “modular” approach was when Johnn Four brought up using “Five Room” dungeons in Roleplaying Tips a few years ago. This was an idea I could get behind. Easy to construct. Easy to adopt. Just easier all the way around to drop into an existing campaign. So shorter adventures started getting a bit more of my attention after that…
Now enter Small Niche Games, publisher of Atarin’s Delve by Peter C. Spahn. It’s a short adventure that involves a series of caves, an ancient race, and a cult. It’s a pretty simple dungeon crawl, but has some nice twists and turns to keep the PCs on their toes. This adventure is for Labyrinth Lord and takes place in the same world as described in SNG’s Chronicles of Amherth, but could easily be repurposed to any number of other fantasy systems and settings.
Ultimately I’ll sum up the adventure as “Indiana Jones wanna-be Atarin discovers ancient ruins in caves and sends a note for some help if things go wrong.” As you might imagine, things do go wrong. Ancient things wake up to repossess their property. Cultists try to drive Atarin out of “their” caves, only to meet their doom…
What makes Atarin’s Delve for me is the intersection of three things – ancient history coming to life, modern greed and pride, and a scientist trapped in the middle. As a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, I think he’d consider it a little light for his tastes, but would find the amount of terror acceptable – especially since the creatures can appear seemingly out of nowhere and scare the crud out of the players!
Though short, only 15 pages cover to cover, the adventure and associated details takes up most of those pages with background, a couple of monsters, NPC descriptions, and a solid dungeon crawl
that should keep players guessing. In addition, there are a couple of cool b&w pictures from artists Tony Mullins and Johnathan Bingham, and a great map of the whole cave complex from Dyson Logos.
Ultimately I think Atarin’s Delve is a perfect short adventure to keep a group of players hopping for a session (or two). And, if the Labyrinth Lord/GM decides to continue the adventure there are loose ends left to haunt the PCs for a while. There’s nothing I like more than an adventure that keeps on giving…
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