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RPG Superstar 2015

The Black Monastery (PFRPG)

****½ (based on 4 ratings)
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Way back in 1977, a bunch of the older kids I knew taught me how to play Dungeons and Dragons. Quickly this evolved into myself and one other guy, Scott Stabbert, being the primary DMs. Thus was born Rappan Athuk (my main campaign hub, maps originally drawn by Scott), the dungeon adventures from Demons and Devils, and many of the other adventures I have published or planned to publish over the last 12 years.

Scott’s game contained many gems. In fact, I have a 48 inch by 48 inch framed watercolor map of his world on my wall as I write this. That being said, none of his work (and all those excellent adventures I played in in high school) has ever been published. Except one.

In 1981, with some help from a few of our friends and the kindhearted folks at the local newspaper, Scott and I laid out typeset text on wax paper (in the old days, you did layout this way) on lighted boards. Then Scott spent his meager savings to print maybe 20 copies of a 100 or so page book called “The Black Monestery(sic)”. Scott never could spell worth a darn. He sold a couple copies to the local Weird Pete (called Triple Alliance), and proceeded to join the Navy and disappear for a few years. We have loosely kept in touch over the last 25 years, but have not seen each other since about 1989 or so.

A few months ago, someone on the Acaeum website was talking about this “cool old school DIY published book” his brother in law’s brother (reminded me of the Conan 2 Movie “brother’s sister’s cousin” line) had given him. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Mark Shipley’s sister had married Scott’s brother and that Mark and I lived in the same town (along with Kevin bacon I am beginning to think). I think Mark and I maybe have the only two surviving copies of the original. So we met for beers, called Scott and obtained permission to republish the work.

Mark frantically started rewriting (the spelling alone musty have taken a week!), and I started making plans on how to give this baby the love it deserved. You must understand, I played (a lot) in this dungeon (haunted house really). It has special meaning to me as one of my earliest D&D experiences. Lord Bakar Yan my 18/53 (on 3d6 mind you, the only 18 I ever had on a character!) strength 5th level fighter was the sole survivor of the encounter in the crypt, I recall running in terror from the titan in the courtyard, and the mysterious Cimota I never quite figured out until I read the book.

So here you have it. The first book I ever helped publish back in 1981. The flavor of this thing is similar to Tegel Manor, on steroids. Originally written by the guy who taught me how to run a game, and rewritten by Mark Shipley to meet today’s standards. This book will include a large fold out map of the Monastery, and will be in limited edition Smythe-bound hardcover, as well as pdf and (later) softcover versions. Only the hardcover will include the fold out map.

I spent way too much on new art (Rowena did an amazing job), and Chuck has done a fantastic job making it a truly superior product. Robert’s maps are big, detailed and highly functional, and Skeeter and Matt did a great job making sure I got the rules right. Dawn will be editing the final, as will I, to ensure its as near perfect as we can get it. Just about the whole company contributed to the success of the “boss’s pet project”.

The Classic Style
"The Black Monastery" is presented in the spirit of fun typical of the classic, “old school” gaming style. It is an adventure in the classic style because it follows the design assumptions that were common in many publications and local campaigns during the early days of Dungeons and Dragons. In the classic era, the game master was the final authority and was assumed to have complete control. Every event did not have to have a complete rationalization, formula or rules explanation. Mysterious phenomena, riddles and surprises were the norm. This module assumes that the dungeon master will take control and mold it to his campaign.

In a classic game, monsters might be stronger or weaker without having to figure out why. For unknown reasons, flinds were the only creatures capable of wielding nunchaku. Qullan would die before revealing the special techniques for sharpening their broadswords. Piercers would wait most of their lives just to drop on adventurers and spend the next month crawling back up the wall after a miss. Skeletons always did 1d6 damage no matter what weapons they wielded. Rust monsters made sense. Orcs and gnolls would live next door to each other in dungeons that were essentially monster hotels and no one worried about why. In one of the classic modules by Judges Guild a single giant rat in a group of two dozen had 26 hit points because a typist made a mistake and that was okay—one of the rats was just really big.

Classic play usually assumed that monsters and player characters would follow standard archetypes. Magic-users always had white beards and pointy hats. Barbarians always wore rags and enormous fur boots. Paladins were noble and saintly. Fighters wore plate mail. Thieves climbed walls...a lot. Clerics were vaguely like Catholic priests gone bad, and they always chanted in Latin. All dwarves acted just like Gimli. All elves acted just like Legolas. Monsters were generally cheerful about their roles, including Norse berserkers who rated their own listing in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual because they wandered around underground quite a bit, looking for player characters to fight.

In "The Black Monastery," evil priests have left behind a large number of magical items and effects. They left poems and messages for intruders. They posted guardians that parade around chanting. They spawned ghostly effects that cannot be explained. Pictures are still hanging on walls. Dishes are rattling in the kitchen. Kobolds have decided a dungeon is a good place to roast a pig. Magic globes float in the air, waiting to explode. Statues perform strange, magical acts for no particular reason. Why? Who knows? All of that is okay. Explanations of these magical and monstrous events are provided from time to time, but they don’t really matter. The point is to have fun running about looting the place and trying to survive.

The Legend of the Black Monastery
Two centuries have passed since the terrible events associated with the hideous cult known as the Black Brotherhood. Only scholars and story-tellers remember now how the kingdom was nearly laid to waste and the Black Monastery rose to grandeur and fell into haunted ruins.

The Brothers first appeared as an order of benevolent priests and humble monks in black robes who followed a creed of kindness to the poor and service to the kingdom. Their rules called for humility and self denial. Other religious orders had no quarrel with their theology or their behavior. Their ranks grew as many commoners and nobles were drawn to the order by its good reputation.

The first headquarters for the order was a campsite, located in a forest near the edge of the realm. The Brothers said that their poverty and dedication to service allowed them no resources for more grand accommodations. Members of the Black Brotherhood built chapels in caves or constructed small temples on common land near villages. They said that these rustic shrines allowed them to be near the people they served. Services held by the Brothers at these locations attracted large numbers of common people, who supported the Black Brotherhood with alms.

Within 50 years of their first appearance, the Black Brotherhood had a number of larger temples and abbeys around the kingdom. Wealthy patrons endowed them with lands and buildings in order to buy favor and further the work of the Brothers. The lands they gained were slowly expanded as the order’s influence grew. Many merchants willed part of their fortunes to the Black Brotherhood, allowing the order to expand their work even further. The Brothers became bankers, loaning money and becoming partners in trade throughout the kingdom. Within 200 years of their founding, the order was wealthy and influential, with chapters throughout the kingdom and spreading into nearby realms.

With their order well-established, the Black Brotherhood received royal permission to build a grand monastery in the hill country north of the kingdom’s center. Their abbot, a cousin of the king, asked for the royal grant of a specific hilltop called the Hill of Mornay. This hill was already crowned by ancient ruins that the monks proposed to clear away. Because it was land not wanted for agriculture, the king was happy to grant the request. He even donated money to build the monastery and encouraged others to contribute. With funds from around the realm, the Brothers completed their new monastery within a decade. It was a grand, sprawling edifice built of black stone and called the Black Monastery.

From the very beginning, there were some who said that the Black Brotherhood was not what it seemed. There were always hints of corruption and moral lapses among the Brothers, but no more than any other religious order. There were some who told stories of greed, gluttony and depravity among the monks, but these tales did not weaken the order’s reputation during their early years. All of that changed with the construction of the Black Monastery.

Within two decades of the Black Monastery’s completion, locals began to speak of troubling events there. Sometimes, Brothers made strange demands. They began to cheat farmers of their crops. They loaned money at ruinous rates, taking the property of anyone who could not pay. They pressured or even threatened wealthy patrons, extorting money in larger and larger amounts. Everywhere, the Black Brotherhood grew stronger, prouder and more aggressive. And there was more...

People began to disappear. The farmers who worked the monastery lands reported that some people who went out at night, or who went off by themselves, did not return. It started with individuals...people without influential families...but soon the terror and loss spread to even to noble households. Some said that the people who disappeared had been taken into the Black Monastery, and the place slowly gained an evil reputation. Tenant farmers began moving away from the region, seeking safety at the loss of their fields.

Slowly, even the king began to sense that the night was full of new terrors. Across the kingdom, reports began to come in telling of hauntings and the depredations of monsters. Flocks of dead birds fell from clear skies, onto villages and city streets. Fish died by thousands in their streams. Citizens reported stillborn babies and monstrous births. Crops failed. Fields were full of stunted plants. Crimes of all types grew common as incidents of madness spread everywhere. Word spread that the center of these dark portents was the Black Monastery, where many said the brothers practiced necromancy and human sacrifice. It was feared that the Black Brotherhood no longer worshipped gods of light and had turned to the service of the Dark God.

These terrors came to a head when the Black Brotherhood dared to threaten the king himself. Realizing his peril, the king moved to dispossess and disband the Black Brother hood. He ordered their shrines, abbeys and lands seized. He had Brothers arrested for real and imagined crimes. He also ordered investigations into the Black Monastery and the order’s highest ranking members.

The Black Brotherhood did not go quietly. Conflict between the order and the crown broke into violence when the Brothers incited their followers to riot across the kingdom. There were disturbances everywhere, including several attempts to assassinate the king by blades and by dark sorcery. It became clear to everyone that the Black Brotherhood was far more than just another religious order. Once knives were drawn, the conflict grew into open war between the crown and the Brothers.

The Black Brotherhood had exceeded their grasp. Their followers were crushed in the streets by mounted knights. Brothers were rounded up and arrested. Many of them were executed. Armed supporters of the Black Brotherhood, backed by arcane and divine magic, were defeated and slaughtered. The Brothers were driven back to their final hilltop fortress—the Black Monastery. They were besieged by the king’s army, trapped and waiting for the king’s forces to break in and end the war.

The final assault on the Black Monastery ended in victory and disaster. The king’s army took the hilltop, driving the last of the black-robed monks into the monastery itself. The soldiers were met by more than just men. There were monsters and fiends defending the monastery. There was a terrible slaughter on both sides. In many places the dead rose up to fight again. The battle continued from afternoon into night, lit by flames and magical energy.

The Black Monastery was never actually taken. The king’s forces drove the last of their foul enemies back inside the monastery gates. Battering rams and war machines were hauled up the hill to crush their way inside. But before the king’s men could take the final stronghold, the Black Brotherhood immolated themselves in magical fire.

Green flames roared up from the monastery, engulfing many of the king’s men as well. As survivors watched, the Black Monastery burned away, stones, gates, towers and all. There was a lurid green flare that lit the countryside. There was a scream of torment from a thousand human voices. There was a roar of falling masonry and splitting wood. Smoke and dust obscured the hilltop. The Black Monastery collapsed in upon itself and disappeared. Only ashes drifted down where the great structure had stood. All that was left of the Black Monastery was its foundations and debris-choked dungeons cut into the stones beneath. The war was over. The Black Brotherhood was destroyed.

But the Black Monastery was not gone forever. Over nearly two centuries since its destruction, the Black Monastery has returned from time to time to haunt the Hill of Mornay. Impossible as it seems, there have been at least five incidents in which witnesses have reported finding the Hill of Mornay once again crowned with black walls and slate-roofed towers. In every case, the manifestation of this revenant of the Black Monastery has been accompanied by widespread reports of madness, crime and social unrest in the kingdom. Sometimes, the monastery has appeared only for a night. The last two times, the monastery reappeared atop the hill for as long as three months...each appearance longer than the first.

There are tales of adventurers daring to enter the Black Monastery. Some went to look for treasure. Others went to battle whatever evil still lived inside. There are stories of lucky and brave explorers who have survived the horrors, returning with riches from the fabled hordes of the Black Brotherhood. It is enough to drive men mad with greed—enough to lure more each time to dare to enter the Black Monastery.

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Product Reviews (4)

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****½ (based on 4 ratings)

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Awesome old-schoolish anything-goes horror dungeon - oh, and 700 done!

*****

This pdf is 89 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 83 pages of content, so let's check this one out!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion!

All right, still here? Then let's check this one out! What is the "Black Monastery"? Mechanically, it's an old-school, sandbox style dungeon/haunted house-crawl. Where enemy placement does not have to make sense etc. - you know, primal, creepy and deadly with CRs far below and also potentially quite above the PC's capabilities. But that's not the true appeal, at least for me. What made me interested in this module is its story: While the slow ascend to wealth and power of a monastic order and its subsequent descent into evil and debauchery has been done before, the consequence of the tale is what matters: When their evil became to apparent, to blatant, the king attacked and it turned out that the Hill of Mornay, where their monastery stood, wasn't chosen by chance - enveloped in green flames, the monastery vanished before it could be taken. Ever since, when the stars are right, the complex seems to return with its riches, but only for a limited time. Like an architectonic old one, its arrival is accompanied by madness, disease, lycanthropy and similar apocalyptic events. The dark edifice to corruption has once again entered our world, from gods-beware it has been. Evil looms, madness stirs and treasure waits and the PCs will enter a place that may well take them to another plane or world. If you want to change setting, the Black Monastery is definitely an awesome way to do so. As you can probably glean from this story, inserting it into a setting is also rather simple.

Of course, an old-school module like this would not be complete without random monster tables and this is among the first things you'll get to see. More importantly, we also get a d20-table for strange noises and hauntings as well as discussions on the special magical effects in the monastery - you can't e.g. buff yourself before entering, since it exists in multiple places at once. "Multiple" is a good cue - 10 sample entrances into the compound are presented.

If the PCs e.g. enter the garden first, they'll have fun with 7 (!!!) Mohrgs and the "Gate of Fear" that provide access to the place make it immediately clear that the enemies are not playing softball - in the center of the monastery-yard is for example a huge stone golem that reacts differently depending on the moon's phase. They can also e.g. be caught by a mural, battle painted duelists. Mind you, not all adversaries are that powerful - there of course also are stranded orcs, goblins etc. and that's one of things I really like about this module: While the 1st edition feeling of the module is intact, the world/plane-switching elements to the monastery's background let these jumbled together humanoids actually make sense.

What truly makes the Black Monastery shine, though, at least for me, is its gothic convolutedness and its attention to detail: The crazed cook, and inscriptions upon inscriptions that hide hints and grant insight into the demented logic of the madmen and otherworldly forces that call this place home. Cursed nobles, mutated fighters, flesh-eating treants, ghoulish alchemists, Troblins (troll-goblin hybrids) and the unholy echoes of the brotherhood, the cimota roam these halls alongside other strange creatures - and indeed, none of the beings herein feel like filler, as they all make some kind of internal sense or feature a peculiarity in their encounter/ descriptions that in the end serves to take away any sense of familiarity and further enhance the horror of the place.

And then, there are the monastery's two towers: Kran, Dungeon master of the compound, guarded by iron golems and a greater shadow in his own right and Sacavious, mad and deranged failed lich make for two of the possible "bosses" of the module. Of course, the monastery also hides the piece of rock that transports it and in the depths of its dungeon, not only do terrible creatures roam, an evil artifact also awaits discovery. While 3 purple worms await adventurers to fill their gluttonous maws.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good: I only noticed some very minor inconsistencies with the otherwise neat maps. A pity, though, that no player-friendly maps are provided as well. Layout adheres to FGG's 2-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. Oh boy, the artworks. This pdf features some of the coolest, most disturbing, gothic-horror-style artworks I've seen in a long, long while - absolute awesomeness! With one exception: A demon's crotch is marred by a censor-bar and ruins the artwork for me. I'm an opponent of censorship in any form, so that somewhat jarred me. Oh well. The pdf comes with extensive, nested bookmarks. A quick glance at the price tag shows that this one belongs to the rather expensive category of modules and that's also the reason this review took me so long. I fought rather hard with myself whether I should give it a try.

Reviewing this module feels rather strange to me - almost as if it wants to defy being reviewed: Much like reading e.g. Poe, Howard or Lovecraft, reading this module shows you a lot of things that have, by now, become a staple of adventuring. But much like these classics, the Black Monastery has an eerie appeal of originality evoked by a combination of details, clever wordings and mysticism. Much like in the beginning, one's first campaign for example, the foes and things that happen herein defy our expectations in subtle ways that remove the players from their comfort zone and recapture the dread of not knowing what to expect from foes, how to handle situations and what might happen. By depicting this whole complex as a gothic mansion that is almost anthropomorphized by its vileness and ancient dread, its derivations from standard-expectations adding rather than detracting from the appeal of the module and its believability.

While the dungeon below the monastery can't completely hold up to the quality of the rest of the place, the love and passion that went into the crafting of this place in all its disturbing details are readily apparent- this module can easily be seen in a tradition with the two classic original Ravenloft modules and in fact make me wish Frog God Games had more of these (rather) horror-themed adventures. Mechanically, there was one thing I was missing (probably omitted due to being declared "old-school"): Haunts. Haunts rock and make places like this one even creepier. On the other hand, this module is not perfect: There are minor map inconsistencies, the dungeon doesn't live completely up to the level of awesomeness of the monastery itself and I would have loved to see some complex puzzles or more little storylines taking place in the monastery as well as more passages on the outside - perhaps a park, a glass-house, a chapel. And player-friendly maps. Seriously, these should be standard by now. That being said, my first impulse was to give this one a four stars, but frankly, it's better than that. The unity of descriptions, attention to detail and awesome artworks serve to evoke something scarcely seen in nowadays modules: Dread. If foreshadowed correctly, the players will be jumping like crazy all the time and I am absolutely positive that you'll have a great time running this. And I actually regret that this is not a 300+page monster with even larger grounds and aforementioned additions like a chapel etc. The potential is vast and I really hope to see a sequel to this one, in one form or another. Thus, in spite of the points of criticism I have, I'll settle for a final verdict of 5 stars, but no seal of approval, though I so want to award one. If you want to scare your players with a haunted house, there's no way around this one. (And if you're like me and want haunts, but Rite's #30-haunt-pdfs and cackle with glee...)

Endzeitgeist out.


Sandbox Dungeon and/or Idea Mine

****( )

The Black Monastery is an old style sandbox dungeon from Frog God Games, but you already knew that, right? What does it have to offer you?

First, there is not much story here. There is a lot of background at the beginning of the book explaining the history of Black Monastery. This is all fluff that you can use, take it or leave it. There is no plot to this adventure. There is no railroad. PC's are free to explore the dungeon at their own risk. As they explore they may or may not discover some of the history outlined at the beginning, that's up to the GM. They can get lots of satisfaction from this adventure without knowing any of the background.

Second, this adventure is highly modifiable. The author states at the outset that if you don't like the way something works, if it is too dangerous for the party, if it takes away from the fun; the GM should change it. They offer different ways to do this. Every monster is listed with average hit points and max hit points. For the (sort of) BBEG battles, they offer different ways to scale the encounter for the PC's.

Third, even if you don't want to/ have time to run the full adventure, there are TONS of ideas in this book. Every room is mostly self-contained. What happens in one room doesn't really effect what happens in the room next door. There are some awesomely creative traps in this dungeon. Some rooms do not help or harm the PC's but set a creepy tone beautifully.

One example is a room where the PC's open a door and see a person standing in the middle of the room. He turns around, cries out and dies. Upon examination, he has the body of a young man, but the head of an old man. He set off a trap that aged his head 50 years, thus killing him.

I'm planning to lift rooms like this out of this adventure and insert them into the module I am currently running.

Fourth, the artwork in the book is beautiful. It is all black and white, so you can print out or photocopy pages and mark them up with your own notes.

Why 4 stars instead of 5? There are some places where ranges are given instead of dice rolls (ex: 4-24 gp instead of 4d6 gp). I have noticed some minor spelling errors.

Overall, this is a useful module/adventure for any GM. You can drop it into any campaign and modify it to suit your needs. Send the party in to rescue a missing noblewoman. Send them in then have the Monastery move to a new plane. Send them in to kill them off and start new adventure. The possibilities are too numerous to count!


Tremble in fear - Frog God does it again

****( )

The Black Monastery really feels like the labor of love that it is. It is very clear that a lot of time and effort was put into making this a “dungeon” worth exploring.

This module could easily be dropped into almost any campaign with very little work on the part of the GM. The villains behind the monastery are generic enough to fit in almost any fantasy roleplaying world. This is not to say that they are bland. Far from it. The black monks exude a sense of palatable evil which even without the lure of treasure would be enough to motivate many parties. There is plenty of treasure to motivate the rest. Add to that the mystery about where the monastery came from (after all it is thought to have been destroyed), and you will find some motivation for almost any character. One potential negative, and it depends on your preferences as to whether it is a negative, is that there is no central plot to this adventure. It is very much an exploration for the sake of exploration module in the old school style that Frog God Games, and its predecessor Necromancer Games is famous for.

The cartography is beautiful, but unfortunately there are a couple of places where doors to rooms were simply left off of the map. The numbers for the rooms were assigned more or less in order and for the most part it is possible to easily locate any given number on the map. There are a few areas where numbers were apparently assigned later in the process and significantly away from the other numbers in sequence.

The mazelike rooms have their individual challenges, and they feel somewhat random, but there is a sense that they are unified by common theme. There are numerous traps for the unwary, and they are deadly! The suggested range for this module is 7-9, but if a party is careful and willing to run, most of it could be done by a group as low as 5. Most encounters are in the CR3-7 range, but there are some as high as 17. Once environmental hazards are taken into account there are encounters which could conceivably overwhelm a party of 10th to 12th level.

With 80 some pages dedicated to adventure text it is somewhat small for a book at this price point. Thankfully there is a lot of information packed into those pages. There are 221 rooms on the main level, and most of those have an encounter or event of some sort in them. Plus there are two smallish towers and two sub dungeons. If the authors had included the read aloud text common in most modules it would most likely have added another 20 or more pages. In other words there is a surprising amount of information packed into a small space.

Minus 1 star for cartography problems but still a lot of fun to read. 4 stars.
.


Death unto all who enter

*****

I tried not include any real spoilers in the review.

I will get the stats out of the way, what you will find:

51 stats blocks for creatures and NPCs. You will need the Pathfinder Bestiary and Bestiary II to run the module. You will not need the Tome of Horrors to run the module. I believe that if the critter came from the Tome, it was added into the module.

I found 4 spelling/editing errors and what looks to be a repeat, not sure which statement in room M129 B is correct at the end of the paragraph.

I found an error in room D2K, the Chaos Beast is listed as Bestiary, it is Bestiary II.

A new monster race - also in the Tome of Horrors - if you don't own the Tome, you are wrong. Ok, so I am a little biased. It is a great resource for any GM or player.

1 Main Monastery, which is 92 x 58 squares, or 460 ft x 290 ft or 140.2M x 88.4M
221 Areas in the main monastery - some of these rooms are empty, but some have multiple sub areas in a room.
2 Towers - these are more detailed in general than the monastery.
Tower K - 10 areas
Tower S - 9 areas
2 Dungeons - these are written at the same detail level as the main monastery.
Dungeon 1 - 2 levels and 46 areas
Dungeon 2 - 26 areas

General Impressions:

WOW, you are either going to die, be disfigured and die, grow grey hair, go deaf/blind then die, get teleported somewhere and then die, or fall down a whole, instantly age 50 years and then die. Did I mention that you might die? This is an above average difficulty dungeon crawl, ok, really above average. The designers make no bones about the fact that it is a dungeon crawl in the grandest of the 1e and I love it. Of my group of players, I think 1 will love it, 1 will like it and the other won't care for it too much. Your mileage will vary.

I really enjoyed reading through the module. Mark and Scott have done an excellent job of building tension and helping the GM re-create that tension throughout your exploration of the Monastery. The entire time I was reading the module I felt like saying Red Rum, and looking for Jack Nicholson.

There are a wide variety of encounter types, one room you might run into 5 orcs who are gambling and the next room run into a Marilith who would like nothing more than to destroy your party. Hopefully, your players are cautious and know when to advance to the rear. There is no shame in running in here, but a great many of the monsters, will run you down and kill you if you can, so be extra careful where you stick your nose.

With great risk, and there is a lot of it, comes great reward. There is not a lot of gold scattered throughout, but there are a decent amount of magical weapons, many up to +3 and some beyond. A lot of these magic items have really cool twists on them, and will help me think up new ways to torture, err entertain my players. I don't want to give any details away, I don't like spoilers.

I also really enjoyed how some of the rooms worked, the first person through, permanent 1d6 hit points added to their total, the next person, not so lucky. So if your players don't like randomness, and there is some inherent in here, then they may not like this place.

There are many great and memorable encounters and NPCs. The great monk that is not so great, the room that tells you to floss, and all I have to say is canned troll.

There is a large amount of back story, but it is not so specific that it can't be plopped down in anyone's campaign. I am currently running a Kingmaker campaign, and plan on inserting the Black Monastery at the conclusion of the Varnhold Vanishing. Some of the names will need to be changed to allow for tighter integration into my current campaign, but not difficult at all to do. This would happen in any current campaign. My only reservation is that it might kill all of my PCs, which would kind of put an end to their adventuring and building their kingdom.

There have been comments on the maps. The main monastery map is tough to read, and it would be nice to possibly get in on a 2 page spread. There are a ton of rooms packed into a single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. It does get the job done though, I just don't know how else to make it better. The print product will hopefully rectify the dense map, since it will be a large fold out type, would be nice though to get that as a PDF.

There are two towers in the monastery which are greatly detailed in comparison to the main area. The detail is warranted, since the towers are homes to some important NPCs. Much more back story and fluff for the rooms in the tower.

Overall I greatly enjoyed my read through the module, and I am very excited about unleashing my players on the place. Will saves are critical though, and for those with low will saves, you should stay away, or get a better cloak.

The Black Monastery has earned its 5 star rating, it is an outstanding module with a great 1e feel to it. Now only if I can get the writers to sign my copy that is coming in the mail!

Oh, one last thing. I want to thank Frog God for their excellent customer service. I ordered the wrong version. I don't know how to read a button on a web page, and they worked with me to get the correct version to download from their server! Thanks for the great support.

Cheers,
James



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