X5 - Temple of Death Notes

Background

The story from Master of the Desert Nomads continues, not particularly seemlessly in Temple of Death.

Annotations

Cover

This picture is a montage of the following elements:

I can't for the life of me work out where the statue comes from. And it seems weird that Hule, a relatively temperate land, would have Desert Nomads there. They certainly aren't mentioned (but see later ...).

Page 1

The text below the picture says:

You stand before the Great Pass, beyond which lies the land of Hule, and beyond that, the stronghold of the Master known as the Temple of Death. Can you find the heart of his stronghold and stop his vicious raids on the Republic?

I suspect that the text actually accompanies this picture. So maybe the figure (who is also the same as on the cover) is actually one of the PCs in front of a peak of the Black Mountains, ready to attempt the pass?

Actually, one thing about the art in this module is that it is consistent, having been entirely drawn by Timothy Truman. I absolutely adore his fine pencil work on this module.

Page 2

Part 1: Introduction

The picture at the bottom of this page is obviously meant to be a drawing of the dragon on page XXX. Maybe you could show this to the players after discovering the truth about the dragon.

Page 3

The First Adventure

The summary given here fits well with what the PCs learn in the previous module. Importantly, it says, "Your group is to cross the hostile desert and find the Great Pass, for somewhere beyond it lies the Temple of Death, evidently the source of the evil attackers. You are to go there and make your own decision about what to do.".

Furthermore it says, "you have journeyed to the foot of the Black Mountains. Somewhere in them lie the gates to the Great Pass! And beyond the gates lie the Temple of Death and its evil Master.". This suggests that the Part 6 of X4, "Key to the Gates of the Pass" was just a little pre-emptive. You haven't got there yet!

However, it says that if you are using this module ...

"... as the last half of the series, begin the adventure at the point where Master of the Desert Nomads ends."
Futhermore, it touches briefly on a series of clues from the previous module:
"They may or may not have information that leads them to the Great Pass. If they have information, it will be in the form of a series of signs. These signs (a snake, a fish, and a monster swallowing the sun) are not located on the map. If your players have not found these signs, place them anywhere you wish to guide the party to the entrance of the Great Pass."

Presumably these relate to the following quotes from X4:

X4, pg17: Rumour 6 - "There is some type of secret sign that will show the true path through the Great Pass."
X4, pg19: Madman - "Seek at the Swallower of the Sun and be led by a snake that does not bend."
X4, pg25: K5 "Map showing the location of the Great Pass."
X4, pg26: L4 "A geographical text, that, if studied, will reveal the location of the Great Pass and give some basic directions on how to find one's way through it."
X4, pg27: L5 "Finally, they will learn the general directions to the Great Pass and how to find the entrance to it. They will not gain any information on how to find their way through the Great Pass."
X4. pg27: N4 "1. They should watch for the sign of the fish when travelling through the Great Pass."
X4, pg28: 1.B "This tube contains a map of the Great Pass, showing the proper route to take to get through it."

I had presumed previously that there would be an actual keyed map included with X5, but there is no more detail in X5 than the paragraph quoted above. There seems to be no benefit in knowing the signs, and no disadvantage in not knowing them! All rather disappointing, really.

So I did it myself. I created a map with the abbey, and a whole load of valleys. At various junctions, I labelled each valley with different signs, and only the "correct" path having the sign mentioned in the text. Going on the incorrect paths would lead to dangers.

But then again, maybe the writer is assuming that a bit of work is necessary. He goes on to note that "(the map) also includes areas that are not described in detail in this module. You may use these areas in your campaign, describing them and placing adventures in them as you wish."

The only question I have left is why isn't the trail that a hundred thousand strong army has left behind them noticeable now, especially since they would have had to have been packed together through narrow constraints while crossing the mountains? I have to admit that when I played this through, I just didn't think of it!

There is a mention of the "Unknown Benefactor", i.e. the DM stand-in deus ex machine dude from X4, being in this module. But no, he isn't.

Page 4

Part 2: The Great Pass

It is at this point that the text in my copy of the module goes a bit weird. It immediately says "Beyond one mile from an opening, the air is stale." without any indication what is is describing. My guess that the four paragraphs from page 5 following "General Description" should actually be inserted before this paragraph. I have looked at two other PDFs of X5, and it seems that they all contain this typesetting mistake.

The text then mentions that the lead up to the Great Pass map is through a narrow canyon, the entrance to which is obscured by a Hallucinatory Terrain spell. Since it says "If the players have directions to the entrance of the Great Pass, they will reach the mouth of the canyon with no difficulty.", I assume that the final sign should be just next to the canyon.

The description of the general feel of the Great Pass is pretty nice - wide, endlessly winding, stuffy. I like the idea that after a mile, the air is so depleted of oxygen that it affects torches, and makes magical fire lethal for everyone.

Random Encounters in the Great Pass

A good selection of classic and new monster. Giant Weasels, anyone?

Page 4
Special Tunnel Encounters
A. The Children of the Caves

This is one of my favourites. There is no right way for this encounter to go, although it would be more fun the Mujiina to join the party. I did have a little fun here, when one of my players genuinely got separated from the party, and the Mujiina took the opportunity to pose as a player.

B. The Glowing Passageway

This is a nearly lethal encounter, if the players don't act fast. It would be best to allow the Intelligence and Strength return if the light is destroyed. I like the boxed text about the light, which is purely there for the DM!

... TO BE FINISHED ...