B4 The Lost City
B4 The Lost City Capsule Review by James Landry on 13/04/01
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
An interesting departure for early D&D modules that works well. A good example of a site-based adventure.
Product: B4 The Lost City
Author: Tom Moldvay
Line: Basic D&D
Page count: 32
Year published: 1982
Capsule Review by James Landry on 13/04/01
Genre tags: Fantasy
This is one in a series of reviews covering most of the Basic D&D sets and modules. I was digging through my old D&D materials before selling them, and decided to write reviews of them for people to know what is worthwhile and what should be avoided.
These reviews will contain spoilers, so avoid at your own risk. Of course, since these modules have been out for 17 years or so, maybe it is a little late for spoiler warnings.
The Lost City
The Lost City appeared in 1982 and was written by Tom Moldvay. It's a big departure from previous modules in the series.
This one is set in the city of Cynidicea, lost beneath the desert sands. Cynidicea was once a powerful city-state, but it built a pyramid on an ancient site, awakening Zargon, a mighty beast. The Cynidiceans were unable to defeat it, and eventually began offering it sacrifices, which eventually turned into worship. The city turned away from its old gods, became decadent, and lost themselves to drugs, wine, and insanity. Eventually, they were attacked and destroyed by barbarians, and the only survivors took refuge in the catacombs underneath the city. They remain there to this day, offering sacrifices to Zargon and indulging in mad pursuits.
The adventure introduces the factions of three lost gods and the evil priests of Zargon and expressly encourages the DM to foster character interaction with these NPCs, even providing short descriptions of what happens if the PCs attempt to join them. This is a fairly refreshing attitude in an early D&D adventure.
The adventurers find the pyramid after being lost in a sand storm in the desert and running out of water. They enter it looking for some shelter and food and the adventure begins. The players interact with the four factions and can explore the setting as little or as much as they wish. This is a site-based adventure, although a number of long-term adventure seeds are provided. There is even an entire underground city in a large cavern beneath the pyramid.
The culture of the Cynidiceans is described, and the four factions have a fair amount of time spent on them. If the PCs wish to, they can be initiated into these factions, and the initiation is described in full. Each of the factions has a chapter house in the pyramid and a main compound in the underground cavern, so these are natural resting places for the PCs.
One interesting facet of this adventure is the use of a revolving central passageway with runes denoting direction to various rooms. This has shown up in a lot of later modules, and I can't help thinking this was its first appearance.
Another interesting facet was that the entire area is not completely detailed. The last five levels of the pyramid are very sketchily detailed with monsters and treasure. Zargon himself waits at the very bottom of the pyramid to eat the PCs. The module tells the DM to find a reason for the monsters to be in that room before running it and gives a pretty good example. This is a strangely refreshing attitude for an early D&D adventure.
The underground city has a very sketchy description as well, with a map. Finally, the adventure provides 8 adventure ideas that use this setting as a backdrop.
The cover art is very good, and the interior art has the traditional D&D feel. There isn't a lot of wasted art, and it mostly portrays scenes in the adventure that would help the PCs in visualizing them.
The monsters introduced include the banshee, a detailed description of the Cynidiceans and their madness, the werefox, and the polymar (a non-magical version of the mimic).
This is a good module to pick up. The culture of the Cynidiceans is interesting, and there are a number of ways for the PCs to interact with the characters present. The pyramid does have the problem of too many monsters in illogical places, but this is partly explained by the madness of the Cynidiceans and in any case, it isn't nearly as bad as in B2. The expanse of the module is huge, and a campaign could be pretty easily developed with this material focused on returning the Cynidiceans to their past greatness. Not bad for 32 pages.