OSR Adventure Review: The Mad God’s Jest

The Mad God’s Jest is an adventure by Shane Ward for four players of 6th level. It uses the Labyrinth Lord system, a retroclone of the B/X line of D&D, which makes it suitable for using with most 2E-and-earlier games. To use it with later editions would take more fiddling around with the statistics and mechanics.

The adventure begins with the party kidnapped by Captain Sherborne, a pirate captain who needs their skills to find the boots of “Sex Goddess”, for which he’ll happily pay them 500 gold pieces each. The actual adventure finds the party exploring the Caverns of the Mad God, a set of branching caverns with 21 encounter areas in all.

The adventure is extremely whimsical. The encounter names give it away: “Hot Tub Party!” “Self-Inflicted Torture Chamber”, “Snakes in a dungeon”. As I’m appreciative of whimsy, I found many of the encounters very amusing. The torture chamber has cultists who have locked themselves inside the torture devices. Another cave contains a manticore feeding cultists a strange soup, and yelling at them when they spit it out. It’s all very strange.

This does make sense given the framing device – everything is a jest of a mad god. Is it real? Possibly not – although the rewards (treasure and experience points) are real. It’s the sort of thing that you can use to properly perplex your players.

The encounters aren’t developed that much, and fleshing them out is in the hands of the DM. The dungeon is full of monsters. Many aren’t that threatening, but the cumulative effect of many encounters, especially without the ability to rest, make the adventure more dangerous than it might first appear. There are a few tricks that work very well in the context of this adventure: it’s not all hack’n’slash!

The adventure would read better with fewer apostrophes and more semicolons, but generally the writing and editing is quite good. (I’d use “PCs” rather than “PC’s”; “GPs” rather than “GP’s”.)

The map is excellent; the black-and-white artwork is likewise very good.

It’s a fun adventure and one that has enough interesting encounters to be worth investigating. The high art of adventure design? No, but it works well as a whimsical interlude.

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