First Impressions - The Tomb of Black Sand [minimal spoilers]

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[The text and references below are all taken from the webpage for the product and reveal very little about the heart of the scenario, so no real spoilers.]

The Tomb of Black Sand.
This is the latest book from Jacob Hurst, of Swordfish Island's fame. It was kickstarted earlier in the year but I didn't back it because I'm mostly on a break from the platform at the moment. These notes are from the PDF version rather than the print. I've no doubt that the hardcover book will look glorious and be excellent quality based on my experience of the past releases. However, nearly £50 including shipping to the UK is a bit too steep for me.

The set up is as follows:
Deep in the forest plants and animals twist and crack and seem to fill with stars before they vanish, screaming into nothing. A tomb has appeared, and lumberjacks argue about its origin over drinks at the Red Squirrel Inn. Some say it's new, like a freshly grown cancerous lump; others say the twisting earth revealed an ancient trove of bone and unimaginable treasure. No one can agree, but townsfolk have begun to go missing, riders in black have been seen on the roads, and some say the candles are singing.
There are hooks to insert this into a normal campaign and some options for running at a convention. The book is written for Fifth Edition D&D but has the feel of an AD&D era module. Target is three to four characters of fourth level.

The players stumble into the middle of a ritual as they enter the tomb, and need to be very careful how they approach things else they will very rapidly find themselves in a situation escalating out of control. It is more akin to a sandbox, like Curse of Strahd, than the carefully escalating and crafted path that is more common in Pathfinder and D&D 5e. Attacking every foe will get you killed. Clever, sneaky play may mean you live. The scenario is not built around the players; the NPCs and monsters have a purpose of their own.

Gorgeous layout.
The layout is clear and easy to parse, and the evocative black and white art takes me back to the early days of Fighting Fantasy. It is definitely focused upon making life easy for the GM to use through clear layout and focused writing. However, I'd have liked to see a map keyed with NPCs and traps in there as a fast reference. I'll just end up doing it myself.

Overall, it's a scenario that makes me want to run it, perhaps at a convention. Recommended.

Available from Swordfish Islands directly or DriveThruRPG.

1 December 2019

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