My reviews of old AD&D adventures have recently hit writer’s block, and that writer’s block has been caused by this adventure. Regarded as one of the classic AD&D adventures, The Ghost Tower of Inverness is a very strange module that is the second of the Competition series. In addition to the scenario, it also contained pregenerated characters and rules for scoring if you actually want to run it as a tournament. It was debuted at the Wintercon VIII in Detroit during November 1979.
Part of my dissatisfaction with the module can be linked to its artwork: from a very disappointing cover work by Jim Roslof, through some other substandard works throughout. It’s not all bad, but it’s definitely substandard even for the era.
The background for the adventure is set in the World of Greyhawk, with a substantial amount of text being given over to the legend of the Tower and for why you’re investigating it: The Seer of Urnst had urged the Duke of that land to hire (or better, geas) a group of adventurers together to recover the Soul Gem that is held at the top of the Ghost Tower. Eventually, the Duke gets together a group of criminals (err… adventurers) to do the job for him, lest they be executed otherwise. I seem to remember a similar start to the Giant series…
The adventure is full of a variety of challenges, including one of the early examples of a chess-board puzzle (where the adventurers must move across the chequered floor as if they were chess pieces, lest the monsters attack them). Despite the admonition that it isn’t a “hack’n’slay” module, there’s certainly a lot of combat to be found here – although there’s little that is “simple” combat, with the environment and creature abilities combining to provide some interesting situations.
In an interesting twist, the tower itself is ruined, but when you access the tower from the dungeon, you travel back in time to when it was still standing. If the players realise this when they climb a tower that shouldn’t be there, all the better!
The adventure itself is extremely linear: you get some choice as to which order you find the keys to the tower, but apart from that you’ll be following one encounter after another. The adventure doesn’t really make much sense and relies very much on the trope of “a mad wizard built it”, although you probably should add “paranoid” to that description. Some encounters – like the reverse gravity level or the sea of fire level – are likely to amuse the DM and challenge the players. Others are just dull.
Ultimately, the module reminds me a lot of White Plume Mountain, but where that module entertains me greatly with its format and encounters, The Ghost Tower of Inverness manages to be dark and forgettable. Despite the extensive background, it has never really impinged on my vision of Greyhawk – unlike the Giants, Slavers and even WPM! It’s a competent enough adventure, but not one I like.