Rich Baker is no stranger to designing adventures –Lost Mine of Phandelver and Princes of the Apocalypse are two of his more recent works – but as one of the founders of Sasquatch Games, he’s spent a lot of time with Primeval Thule of late. And now we get to see how he writes adventures for the setting!
Secret of the Moon-Door is an adventure for four 10th-12th level characters. The adventure begins with the party investigating the kidnapping of a sage, continues as the party explores the ruins of an abandoned temple, and ends as the party explore what lies beyond the mysterious moon-door – a strange, alien moon!
The first section of the adventure is the least interesting to me: it’s a fairly standard investigation into who kidnapped Ghilean, a sage who had come into possession of the magical key required to open the Moon-Door. I don’t feel it has the nice misdirections and flourishes that distinguish Red Chains, but it does have an excellent battle with two winged apes – so that’s something.
The second section of the adventure, the exploration of the ruined temple, is quite short with only seven areas detailed. The temple is fairly basic: nice descriptions, a few monsters and a hidden treasure, but not much that you haven’t seen before.
It’s with the third section of the adventure that we get something interesting. The Moon-Door leads to an area on an alien moon in another dimension known as the Isle of Screams, and here we find an unsettling lunar jungle where moon-beasts and their quaggoth slaves have made alliance with a human wizard from Thule. The adventure does give the possibility of negotiating with the wizard, which I found interesting, although giving in to his demands is probably a bad idea. Otherwise the player will need to use guile or swordplay to rescue the sage and stop the plans of the moon-beasts.
The adventure is very well-written and edited, and has very nice art and maps. The adventure does not contain monster statistics for those found in the Primeval Thule Campaign Setting, which is irritating, but the campaign setting is good enough that you should probably get it anyway.
It’s strange, but while a superbly competent adventure, Secrets of the Moon-Door doesn’t excite me as much as the first two adventures released for Primeval Thule. I don’t think it quite manages to be distinctive enough, with most of the villains being fairly predictable in their motivations and nothing really surprising me and making me think, “that’s clever!” Of course, I’ve also read and played a lot of adventures, so it’s harder to surprise me. So you may find it more interesting that I do.
The alien moon, in particular, could be very effective with a good DM. It has some good descriptive passages, and the home of the wizard – a Thulean building that is quite out-of-place on the alien landscape – makes for a very good juxtaposition of elements. I still feel the adventure doesn’t go as far as it could in providing weird and wonderful things to encounter.
Ultimately, I think Secret of the Moon-Door is a good adventure, and one that blends the source material of Conan and Cthulhu in an effective manner. It just doesn’t quite manage to be distinctive or inventive enough for me.