This is the set-up for OS1 The Eye of Chentoufi, an adventure compatible with Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition that is notable for several things. First and foremost, it is set in ‘Luke Gygax’s World of Okkorim’ and thus co-authored by Luke Gygax, the son of E. Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and thus the hobby itself. Second, it is the first part of a trilogy, which will continue with OS2 The Heart of Chentoufi and OS3 The Fate of Chentoufi. Third, it can be run as a tournament scenario, in just a single four-hour session, and there are notes and points awards so that the players’ progress can be tracked and scores compared at the end of the tournament. Alternatively, it can played through in two or more sessions with the addition of the scenario’s optional scenes. Fourth, it was written as a special tournament scenario for Gary Con XIII, the convention held each March in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
OS1 The Eye of Chentoufi begins en media res. The Player Characters are somewhere in the sands of the Blighted Lands as the ground drops away from them and they find themselves in a giant cavern with many creatures wanting to eat them! They have a chance to get out and then fade to black… Several options are suggested for this, but the players are encouraged to come up with their own solutions. The action switches to the port city of Chentoufi where Pelicos Red approach the heroes to help him find a missing artefact, the Occulus of Senrahbah. If they agree—and if not, then there is no adventure—their investigation leads to the city’s Grand Library where with a bribe or intimidation, they can learn that clues to the artefact’s location lies in the sewers and catacombs below both city and library. Here there is a big set-piece, a puzzle which the Player Characters (or preferably, the players) have to solve before they can move on. They face one of the factions interested in stopping the efforts of the Player Characters and doing so by any means necessary. The fight is made all the more challenging because at this point the Player Characters are weapon-less, having had to hand them over in order to enter library. Improvised weapons can be found, but the spell-casting Classes are at possible advantage here.
The second act begins with the Player Characters discovering a vault under the city and using the clues found there to identify another location in Chentoufi, a tower made of lapis lazuli! Atop the tower is another puzzle, which if solved points to the next location. This leads back under the city, but much deeper this time, encountering several ancient guardians before confronting the Guardian of the Eye and… well… Not actually locating the Occulus of Senrahbah, just more clues. Which of course, leading into OS2 The Heart of Chentoufi.
OS1 The Eye of Chentoufi has some great features. Each of its three acts starts with a summary of the plot for that act; there are suggestions as to what music to play during various scenes (with links to YouTube for the PDF version of the scenario); and the monsters are decently done, with a favourite being the Sussarate Spiders which exist on the Prime Material and Ethereal Planes which grapple their prey and drag them into the Ethereal Plane where they consume them. The two big puzzle scenes in the scenario are really particularly good and like any good tournament scenario do their very best to challenge the players as much, if not more than, the Player Characters.
However, OS1 The Eye of Chentoufi is not a great scenario for a number of reasons. The primary problem is that there is not enough context for the benefit of the players and their characters. There is no background information that is readily presentable to the players, whether on the Blighted Lands or the city of Chentoufi. So, the players will have difficulty getting a feel for the setting as a place, let alone motivation for their Player Characters. This starts with a beginning—en media res, and thus intended to be exciting—in a situation where no attention at all paid to why the Player Characters are there and what they are doing. Some of this could have been alleviated with some pre-generated Player Characters, but there are none. Which makes no sense for a tournament scenario, especially one set in a background which is not vanilla fantasy. The background to Okkorim, the Blighted Lands, and Chentoufi all have an Arabic or Middle Eastern feel, much like Al-Qadim: Land of Fate. Some of this information could have been presented in a set of pre-generated Player Characters, which could also been used to provide motivation for the players and their characters and have been used to showcase what can be played in the ‘Luke Gygax’s World of Okkorim’ and its differences between it and Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. This is a missed opportunity.
Physically, OS1 The Eye of Chentoufi is hit and miss. The artwork is excellent, as is the cartography, and on the whole, the scenario is a fine-looking book. However, the editing is inconsistent. Further, whilst some of the monsters and NPCs are given clear stats at the end of the book, not all of them are.
OS1 The Eye of Chentoufi is playable as is, but it is underdeveloped in all too many places, especially as far as the players are concerned. They will probably complete the scenario not knowing quite what their characters will have achieved as they only get part ways towards locating the Occulus of Senrahbah and feeling unrewarded for their efforts, although there are some nicely thematic magical treasures to be found. Not enough for a party of six Player Characters though. Where OS1 The Eye of Chentoufi shines is in its big set-piece puzzle encounters, but getting to them and playing them will take some development upon the part of the Dungeon Master, both in preparing pre-generated Player Characters and the background for the players and so ready them for the scenario and help bring it to life.
Luke Gygax will be at UK Games Expo
from Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th, 2023.