NeMoren's Vault Capsule Review by Bradford C. Walker on 30/04/01
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
The first in Fiery Dragon's Silver Medallion line is more than an adventure- it's a deluxe campaign springboard constuction kit. Check it out.
Product: NeMoren's Vault
Author: James Bell
Company/Publisher: Fiery Dragon Production
Line: Silver Medallion
Cost: $9.95 (US)
Page count: 36 pages
Year published: 2000
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Bradford C. Walker on 30/04/01
Genre tags: Fantasy
NeMoren's Vault is more than an adventure module. Within its 32 pages is a dungeon crawl with a reason for existing, a series of mysteries keyed to certain pieces of the dungeon, and a backstory that reminds me of watching one of James Burke's shows on the history of science (and how improbable the connections can be). Oh, and there's plenty of D&D goodiness to boot. Don't let the cover dissuade you; yes, it looks like something that belongs to "Dick & Jane Explore a Dungeon" but that's the only piece that better fits a children's book than an adventure module. The interior artwork is much more appropo to most gamers' sensibilities.
You shouldn't have any problem with reading this module's text. The main body is in 12 point type, with the read-aloud portions set off in unbordered grey boxes, while sidebars are in bordered grey boxes and 10 point type. The headings are in boldface and underlined, with the subheadings mearly in boldface. The text goes out to the edge of the page--no white space--and the headers/footers are all nice and pretty Celt-like knotwork sort of borders. Except for the handouts in the middle, it's all rather linear: backstory and such up front, with the rest of the module's content corresponding with where the PCs ought to be in their progress.
As I mention above there are some handouts. One of them is a blank one inch grid for use with the counters provided; this is a great way to get the benefits of miniatures without the cost in cash or time. The rest are pictures depicting key scenes or texts that the PCs may encounter. Together, this makes the module so easy for the GM to use that preparation should take no more than a thorough read-through and a trip to the photocopier combined. GMs everywhere should find this feature much to their liking.
And now, on with the adventure.
Three years ago, the last Baron NeMoren died a lonely old recluse in his manor. The PCs are the decendants of the late baron's servants, and they've come to claim their inheritance. The mayor of Weston, the nearby thorp, is the executor of the baron's estate and he's the one who gets the group together. He directs the PCs to the wall that covers the opening to the vault, and away the PCs go towards claiming their due wealth from the traps and tricks (and more) that stand in the way.
There's more to this dungeon crawl. There are puzzles here and there, in addition to the random monsters and traps, that guard the very best treasures to be had. (One of them, a magical bastard sword found in the early going, becomes more important later in this series.) There is also a side tunnel that leads to a hobgoblin lair, and another that leads to the monster that made the connection. (It's an umber hulk, called an "undrathar" in this module, and that is what's depicted on the cover.) Some rooms require the use of the new magical items in the module in order to make use of certain functions or to gain access to (or through) whatever is inside.
There is a warning, however. This module doles out plenty of magical and mundane treasure, far above the suggested levels for the PCs that this module's meant for. (That is, from 1st to 3rd.) While much of it is sealed away where it's not suppossed to be accessed at all, PCs tend to find away around such simple obstacles. Plan for one or more players to find a way around the collapsed tunnels that block access to that loot. For those treasures that are accessable by design, do take the time to read the descriptions over before the PCs get their mits on them. This will help you to account for the powers those items provide; do take the time to think of cunning uses for them.
There's more here, but to get to the end is to spoil the crux of the plot that drove the backstory and forms the climax of the adventure. The aftermath descriptions do cover all of the likely outcomes of both success and failure. Furthermore, the end also provides the password necessary to access the online-only section of material at the Fiery Dragon website. (Part of this is a sequel that covers the search for the late baron's long-lost bride.)
I can't wait to give this adventure a go when I get the chance. I do hope that you'll give this one a fair shake as well.