Secret of serpent tor is a dungeon based adventure for the Fantasy RPG “Spelldancer” by Gethsemane Games, but it could easily be converted to any % based RPG almost “On the fly”.
The adventure is based around a long forgotten cult of demon snake-people accidentally unleashed when the abandoned and ruined fort-shrine built to lock them away is plundered for stone by the local farmers.
There are two obvious hooks to bring players into the adventure – the first is the gold state that has been discovered – previously hidden (for reasons that are made clear in the GM background) under a layer of plaster – greed being a traditional RPG hook for most parties. The second relates to the farm hands who have vanished inside the caves. Intended to be set in the Empire, the motivation to help fellow imperial citizens is a strong one if the players are also playing imperial citizens – the mind set of the Empire being that they look after their own.
Regardless of how you get the PCs into the caves under serpent Tor they are in for a challenge. As is often the case with GG modules, part of the challenge comes from the environment itself, although this is less the case than with say “Sulphur pits", where the very air is toxic in places.
There are plenty of opportunities for characters to test their skills, just getting into the Tor complex itself resulted, when we played, in a complex game of cat and mouse with the patrolling Serpent-folk. Spelldancer combat being what it is (exciting and dangerous) “Getting the drop” on the enemy is hugely advantageous and as the PCs and the serpent-man patrol tried to sneak up and ambush one another it lead for a very tense and memorable opening sequence to the play session.
Once inside the caverns the tension was maintained as the serpent folk were now on their home ground and the PCs got the feeling of being stalked by a terrible foe. Don't get me wrong, this is an adventure that is not as sophisticated as “Trouble at the Troubadours rest” but as a dungeon adventure it is tonnes of fun!
Plenty of scope for expansion as well, with a “bottomless pit” that could easily lead to another level if you wished to add one, and a hook that could easily lead to many more adventures and problems long after the Serpent-men are a distant bad memory.
This leads me on to the next point and another recurring theme in GG modules – a reward that is a double edged sword. Whilst the golden statue that once sealed the cult in their subterranean prison is worth a nobles ransom, actually capitalising on it can lead to all sorts of problems. The weight alone makes it hard to move and it's value will attract every ner-do-well in the region. Set during the plains war when banditry is at it's height on the Imperial border region this is a very real problem. As the end notes point out as well, actually getting the statues value in cash will be a virtual impossibility and problems with the imperial authorities are also a real risk. When we played the adventure the party melted the damaged statue down into ingots in order to make it easier to dispose of. With all mineral rites belonging to the emperor, a party with a wagon full of unstamped gold ingots drew Imperial interest that resulted in a lot of explaining from the party and an entire sub plot sprang up around it.
Ideally the PCs should be of moderate skill level and experience, although as often happens with Spelldancer clever and thoughtful preparation can win the day. A modicum of sense and knowing when discretion is the better part of valour helps as well.
My one criticism, and it is a fairly smallone, is that compared to "Trouble at..." this is a far less sophisticated module it itself (although the aftermath can lead t all sorts of more complex fun). As a dungeon crawl though, it is nice!
All told a very fun dungeon crawl with far reaching consequences that can effect your PCs for quite some time to come. This isn't a “Fire and forget” adventure if yo use a party of characters you wish to use again.