Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Incandescent Grottoes Review

The Incandescent Grottoes

By Gavin Norman

 A bubbling stream cascades into a hole in the earth, leading to a series of underground watercourses and scintillating grottoes. Adventurers who delve within may discover odd mosses and fungi, a ruined temple complex, and the lair of a crystal-eating dream dragon.

                This is the next installment of adventures from Old School Essentials creator Gavin Norman. This adventure is for beginning characters of 1st – 2nd level. It is designed with challenges that are way above a 1st level character’s ability, thus the characters will have to play smart or die quickly. The format of the book seems to be standardized and resembles Halls of the Blood King. The maps are incredibly functional, and this adventure would be simple to run with little prep and straight from the book.

                There is no over-arching plot in this adventure, but a couple of key factions that have cross purposes in the dungeon. Examples of these factions are a Dream Dragon who has their lair in the Grottoes, a Necromancer looking for knowledge, and even a Cult who has run on hard times. This dungeon does not have the gonzo-like features of Halls of the Blood King, but a more classic fantasy approach with a lot of whimsy. Norman tends to write in an almost fairy-tale like manner and the creativity is abundant. It feels like a child’s storybook with meat. Just when the whimsy of the setting is taking you in, your characters catch a glance of something that is just a bit not right. They then only discover some concept, item, room, or monster that is deeply disturbing. It combines a lot of what these kind f stories are expected to be, cautionary tales. Adventurers can profit greatly from entering these halls, but the more they travel the more likely they are to die, or worse.

                This has a hugely similar feel to me as A Hole in the Oak. I would say if you liked that adventure you are almost guaranteed to enjoy this one as well. If you are a fan of Norman’s Dolmenwood setting this adventure will fit in perfectly. The art style in the book reflects the tone and nature of the adventure with a magical and fae-realm quality. The adventure itself is great for first time OSR players to give them a taste of what a classic adventure feels like, but it has all the modern sensibilities as far as layout, structure, and production value. I give this one a 5 out of 5 if you are in the market for a dark fairy-tale dungeon crawl. This would be a great product to do for a short campaign or even a convention, as long as you focused just on one aspect of the dungeon.

Click here to buy The Incandescent Grottoes

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