Hidden Hand of the Horla by R.J. Thompson
A 1st - 3rd level adventure for use with Gateway To Adventure and other Original Edition Fantasy Role Playing Games.
Legends tell of the Hand Mage's Tower that once stood at the edge of the realm. Within the Hand Mage experimented and hoarded his magical treasures. The tower stood for many years until one day it mysteriously vanished. Rumors spread that the mage had offended the gods and had been eradicated from existence, or else had made a pact with a demon prince and was now paying his due. Whatever the case, the tales became legend and all but the oldest elves were unsure if the tower had ever existed at all. Now the tower has reappeared where it once stood. Will you dare to enter the ancient tower in search of riches and magical secrets?
This is my first review of a product and I thought I would go with something I purchased not that long ago. This is a review of the physical product, and I am unsure if there are any changes to the PDF at the time of this article. Hidden Hand of the Horla is roughly 10 pages of dungeons (not including the outer cover map), with several appendix pages covering monsters, spells, and inspirational media to go along with the adventure. Overall, the product physically is well put together, for the cost, and I have no complaints.
As for the adventure itself, the concept is a little cliché. You are exploring an old wizard’s tower that has suddenly reappeared, but it is still executed in a quality way, with a surprise here and there. The encounters are straight forward, with Goatmen that have arrived before the party, interspersed with a few other standard encounters for the genre. One of the features that I do like is that the module lends to replay. The module provides some options as to how long the Goatmen have been in the tower, and it then changes some of the environments and what the Goatmen have with them when encountered.
Baa Ram Yue
(Art from outside source, not Module)
The main focus of the adventure ends up being the Horla. We are getting into spoilers at this point, so if you don’t want to know, skip to my final paragraph. The Horla is a demon/alien with a malevolent trickster vibe. I have played D&D for three decades and not run into a Horla, I am unsure if they are an author creation, something from myth, or something I missed from over the years. This totally invisible monster gave me a vibe of the Devas from Bird Box. They talk and try and tempt/trick adventurers. Barring that, they can possess a victim and force them towards compulsive and destructive ends. I love these types of villains, because the party cannot simply hack their way through it. The Horla also provides an opportunity to be a spy for his race, with more coming. Some possibly much more powerful than the 2 hit die variety in this adventure.
Rewards at the end include solving the mystery of why the tower disappeared and collecting the items from the previous master of the tower. These items include a book of spells that contain new spells included in this adventure. Overall, there is a good mix of risk and reward in the module. The rewards will not blow your dwarf’s kilt off, but the danger is not as extreme either. There are other various treasures throughout the tower, but you are in a race with the Goatmen to procure them.
Would I recommend this product? It depends on what you are getting the product for at this point. Do you own an entire catalog of older (A)D&D modules? Do you own all of Lamentations of the Flame Princess modules? If so, this might not be adding much to the table. For someone just getting into OSR and does not have a good introductory adventure, this is great. It reminds me of a Tower of the Stargazer, but much more survivable, and therefore, good for new players. Are you looking for a really good adventure to run in a 4 hour con slot? Then this can work perfectly. I run a local game club at the college where I work, and this is perfect for our weekly get together. My players loved it, and they are usually 5e all the way, but I am slowly showing them that there is more than one way to play D&D. You should get a copy. The PDF is only $5, which is cheaper than my morning breakfast.
Want to purchase the book? Link provided here.
For more information about Horla, see the author's website here.