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Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Indigo Ivory Depths

Tony Dowler is best known as the cartographer who developed, How to Host A Dungeon, a toolkit that enabled the GM to create an ancient dungeon complete with history, inhabitants, denizens, treasures, and more. He also draws micro-dungeons along a series of different themes, each a quirky little affair often drawn in both two dimensions and three isomorphic dimensions. Now he an actual dungeon adventure that you purchase: The Purple Worm Graveyard.

Published through his Planet Thirteen Games, The Purple Worm Graveyard is a mini-dungeon of just fifteen locations designed for a party of first through third levels. It is written for use with Labyrinth Lord, but can just as easily be used with other “Edition Zero” fantasy RPGs. Equally, it can be dropped easily into most worlds and even added as easily to most dungeons, and presents a thoughtful challenge that should provide an evening’s worth of interesting play, either as part of a campaign or as a one-shot.

The purple worm graveyard of the title is said to lie below the barren Rockspyre Mountains. It is thought to be where the largest and most ancient of purple worms go when they approach the end of their lives. Commonly thought to be a legend, it is rumoured that the graveyard itself holds an untold treasure of purple worm ivory. Now, a sage has discovered its location and hired the adventurers to travel there, confirm its location, and explore its limits.

The purple worm graveyard actually turns out to be located beyond another underground complex, this one a temple devoted to an ancient worm god. Its influence spreads outside of the temple, such that at certain times, the players can commune with it, fall under its spell, and of course, be driven to madness. The god itself does not make an appearance in the scenario, but its presence adds a pleasing eldritch element to the proceedings.

In addition, The Purple Worm Graveyard adds a set of “Dungeon Moves” mechanics. This provides a table that the DM can roll against to gain a die modifier for a particular situation. As is traditional, the scenario adds a new monster and a new treasure or two. The monsters are variations upon creatures that we have seen before, are but feel perfectly suited to the dungeon, whilst the new treasures are thoughtful if simple little affairs.

At just twelve pages long, The Purple Worm Graveyard is a quick and easy read. In places it takes a moment to ascertain exactly what a certain rule is for or how it pertains to the adventure, but this becomes clear relatively quickly. The booklet is nicely illustrated, and the map feels pleasingly heavy. That said, the map, located on the inside of the card sleeve, could have done with more detail, but what detail there is, is excellent.

Ultimately, The Purple Worm Graveyard is an entertaining, pocket friendly dungeon. It would work well with most “Edition Zero” fantasy RPGs, but given its eldritch feel, then it would work well with Lamentations of the Flame Princess’ Weird Fantasy Role-Playing. Nicely themed, requiring just a little thought or so to overcome its challenges, The Purple Worm Graveyard is a charmingly petite adventure.