Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/03/21/tabletop-review-toys-for-the-sandbox-the-dormant-volcano/
The booklet consists of a title page, a page of general setting information, a page with a top-down and side-view map of the volcano’s caldera, two pages of plot hooks, one-and-a-quarter pages of characters, and the last page has a table for rumors table on it and another table for random encounters.
The basic story goes like this: there is a long-dormant volcano, Mount Nodelith, that harbors a primitive tribe among its crags and tunnels. Also on the huge crater floor are various jungle creatures, a witch, exiled tribes-people, and a half-buried ship. Depending on which plot twists you go with, there might also be all kinds of strangeness and danger going on in the caldera as well, like bandits and a ghost dragon. The people of the tribe rely on the giant spiders that live in the crater to provide silk for their clothing, and some magical pools scattered around the bottom have interesting and unpredictable magical properties.
Wait, ghost dragon, you say? Yes, a ghost dragon. There is a myth (or is it?) told by the tribe that tells of when the volcano erupted, and it involves a ghost dragon settling in for some sleep, or tending to some offspring perhaps…
What Do I Think?
This is an interesting one, although I feel it could have used a little more polish. I like that the volcano is self-contained; as I say with just about all of these booklets, I think it’s better to be ambiguous about place, time, and other specifics. This booklet gives no map as to the exact location of the caldera, so adventurers could just stumble upon it, be guided to it by a local, or find a map or any typical route like that. If you want a more radical path, the party can arrive via the ship buried in the crater floor (you’ll have to read the module to understand how that can work). Some of the plot twists and things mentioned in the character descriptions are a little suspect for me; specifically involving Dwarves and the ghost dragon also seems a bit cataclysmic, although it could provide a fine battle or diplomatic session with the right party.
I would have liked to see more connection with all of the elements within the crater. Reading through everything you get a phrase about spiders, then about Dwarves, then a ghost dragon, then bandits and pools and flying squirrels and trolls and… it began to feel like so many things were being thrown in to this one and there were few connections or glimpses as to how it all worked to make this ecology. However, if you are a GM and you like all the ideas and can put in a little elbow grease to reconcile them and figure out how they could all work in your game, it’s great.