Once again, we have a short, one-session adventure. This one consists of six encounters plus one optional encounter. The backstory for the adventure concerns a noble who is obsessed with finding a dragon lair – and its hoard. Preferably without a dragon attached! Along the way, he made a poor choice of allies, which leads him into the situation that he needs help entering an abandoned lair – the aid of the player characters – whilst his ex-ally runs around and causes trouble.
The structure of the adventure is linear: the group are given the mission in the first encounter, the next four encounters consist of the journey to the lair, and the final encounter has the group attacked by the noble’s erstwhile ally and his minions. It’s simple, but it’s effective.
Balance-wise, this is going to be tough for the first or second level characters it’s written for. An explosive runes trap dealing 2d10 damage could quite possibly take out an entire first-level party, and that’s not the only trap the party might face. With combats coming before and after, the DM will need to adjust things a bit if the party isn’t good at locating traps; there’s a good potential of a TPK here!
The formatting of the adventure is quite basic, with the text appearing in one column, and the maps being functional but not much else. I’d much prefer the adventure to have two columns; it’s interesting how you get used to text being broken in that matter with RPG products. (I much prefer it when reading them). There are notes for scaling the adventure from one to six players, although I’d be very wary with a solo character; the traps are almost certain to kill them!
Despite these issues, The Archaeologist provides the structure and background of a good adventure. There’s the potential for role-playing, there’s exploration and there’s combat. The background to the adventure is effective and doesn’t overdetail things; there’s enough so you understand the context of the adventure, and to inform you of details that are likely to prove useful when running the adventure. The result is quite impressive, and worth having a look at.