Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/0-
The Talisman of Gorshan is what equates to a 30 page adventure but in an online format done with HTML and lots of very nice graphics and hyper-linking to make it easy to run with just a computer, even going as so far as to provide reliable links to a dice-roller and the SRD pages for Dungeons & Dragons 3.0/3.5 and Pathfinder as well as Osric. While it strives to be an online only adventure, there are a few snags. You can’t beat the price as it is free and is especially easy on the eyes, but in the end there’s little pay off except through GM or DM depending on your game choice, intervention. While this can spur off into a whole other set of adventures I would have liked to see a little bit more closure here as a standalone but could work nicely into an ongoing campaign.
The story is pretty simple, almost a standard fetch quest attached to a dungeon crawl, especially in that you can’t stop at just one place and things get overly complicated at the places you do go. The party is enjoying themselves at an inn when a mysterious group enters, sizes them up and then proceeds to offer them a job. It seems that Gorshan, a mage of apparently some wealth, has decided that he wants to retrieve a talisman that used to be his that was taken by Orcs and has been broken into three pieces and scattered, the pieces of which there’s a map already made for the party with locations, although not exact. From there it’s up to the party to decide where to go first and last, and what they’ll check out when they get there. Travel time alone will take a group roughly two weeks game time on foot not including exploring the locations, which to be honest, aren’t very big in and of themselves.
This is a decent interim adventure for the prescribed level of eight-ten and four to five players. It’s easily a productive group’s four hour session, or a non-productive group two of those sessions. I actually rolled up four Pathfinder characters at level eight to run through this using the medium experience leveling table and the Pathfinder SRD. I went with a mostly ‘classic’ group, with two humans, a Paladin and a Cleric, a Half-Elf Sorcerer, and an Elven Rogue, so I had my basics covered at least. While I ran through the adventure one of the big snags I ran into was the inclusion of an Umber Hulk. While this wouldn’t have been a problem for a party at eighth level, the Umber Hulk is not included in the SRD as it ties into Dungeons and Dragons specifically, so no stats are available through the OGL, legally, online. A quick Google search did pull up a questionable stat block for one, but I opted instead to dig further and some very helpful people years ago recommended a Grey Render in place of the Umber Hulk, so I used that instead.
For a group of four players starting at level eight, this is guaranteed to at least give them enough experience to level them at least once if they’re thorough, so if you’re in need of a leveling adventure to boost your players a bit before throwing them into something else, this’ll do for that. I found the loot you can acquire through the adventure isn’t terribly game-breaking either and is level appropriate for the most part. You shouldn’t be cringing later from anything your players pick up here, but don’t go in blind. One of the named swords you can pick up looks pretty potent so adjusting to your group might be necessary as always.
As a GM tool, this adventure being online like this functions much the same as a bookmarked PDF would, with a nice dice roller and links to the appropriate SRD’s and stat links for the standard D20 D&D SRD included. Took me a little more work with the Pathfinder SRD, but it’s minimal, and it’s organized fairly well, almost to the point where it’s just as easy as cracking open a book. It still took me longer than cracking my books but more from familiarity than anything else. Aside from not having stats available, technically, for one of the monsters, the adventure works pretty well. It manages to provide a decent mix of monsters which isn’t something that a lot of main supplements would do instead throwing the same mobs at you time and time again. The variety is nice and breaks things up, and even within the same areas it changes them up often enough so your players hopefully won’t be making slaying songs for a particular creature. I had one Fourth Edition adventure I’d converted to Pathfinder that I’d just grabbed real quick and did a quick and dirty monster conversion by simply looking it up in the Bestiary and every fight for almost half the adventure was freaking zombies. Yeah, boring as hell for both me and the players. That was the first and only time I’d pulled a random adventure off the shelf. I’m glad to see a variety here and some new critters to slay as well including an Assassin Golem, a Dragonhawk, and the Nightmare Dragon.
Using this with a players group is going to be problematic, however. While there is a player map provided, and there are decently detailed maps of the dungeons, everything is completely accessible to anyone looking at the site, meaning there is no real surprise for the players who happen to click through the links. There aren’t any print friendly versions of any of the maps either, which means any non-tech savvy GMs are going to have to muddle through with this for their players. You can just view the images, and then print that way, but I feel the quality would suffer and defeat the whole purpose of having an adventure where you need no books. Now you could pull the images to a separate device for viewing, but again you’re running into more prep work. This isn’t a huge downside as you can work around it, but a version for the players alone without any links would have been great.
Overall it’s a standard dungeon crawl affair with some very well done maps, a good selection of bad guys to throw at your players, and in the future, an evil and corrupt mage that they can take down if you take the time to stat him out for future use. It’s good if you need some filler around levels eight to ten and for a level eight group of four will definitely earn them at least a level. While I think it has a few issues, it’s definitely worth a look as it is free, and with a few tweaks, it’s a format I think more GMs at the table with a laptop, tablet or running over the internet through a voice chat program, could embrace if handled correctly, which for the most part it is here. The artwork is fantastic, and if this were a printed adventure I’d give it a thumbs up for purchase.