Dan Dillon’s Last Gasp, written for the Southlands setting of Kobold Press, hits one of my real loves of fantasy role-playing games: adventures set in a land inspired by Ancient Egypt. Pharaoh remains my favourite adventure of all time, and Gary Gygax’s Necropolis is also a favourite. With Lasp Gasp, Dan combines the Egyptian setting with a survival story: the characters are trapped inside a deadly tomb with a limited supply of air!
This is a fine threat, but to handle this, the DM needs to track how much air is remaining. The adventure uses a simple and effective method, but it does require the DM to track time more carefully than is normal in modern adventures. Back in the old AD&D and Basic D&D days, I would have thought nothing of keeping track of how many turns (10 minute intervals) the party had been exploring, but I’ve gotten out of the habit. What I particularly like about the system presented is that it also allows fire spells and torch flames to consume the air. I don’t know how realistic that is, but it brings a real sense of tension into the game, and that I appreciate.
That the first magic item that party finds is a necklace of fireballs is nicely ironic, I thought.
The time pressure this creates means that even a labyrinth of tunnels with no monsters or traps there is dangerous: spending time navigating it brings you closer to suffocation!
The dungeon isn’t particularly large – a “mere” twelve areas – but each is well-described and the encounters are very interesting. The adventure doesn’t give you just a mummy in a sarcophagus. No, how about three mummies (once the wives of Menet-Ka) in a room where the fighting might disturb the yellow mold growing in patches around it? Yes, that’s more like it!
If you’re getting the impression that is a potentially deadly adventure, you’re quite correct. It is. However, death is unlikely to be arbitrary; the dungeon isn’t full of death traps. It does have a few intricate and fascinating traps, however. They might possibly lead to death, but the characters have a chance to escape.
There’s quite a bit of descriptive text, but unlike some adventures, where it seems the writer was just padding out the word count, the text in Last Gasp is needed to properly describe the rooms.
Monster stat-blocks are presented in the body of the adventure in a relatively compact format; it’s a variation of the format that was developed for Quests of Doom 2 and ultimately derives from the 3E format. I think it works well when the monsters are simple, but I’m not so fond of it when long parenthetical explanations of abilities are included. However, I’m partly to blame for that format, and it’s better than many others. One monster has a Stealth skill that is +5 (+7 in sand), which feels very much like a 3E/PF monster (5E design would typically give it advantage to hide in sand).
The only real issue with the adventure is a minor one: there’s a puzzle that allows you to determine the best way to progress through the tomb based on events in the life of Menet-Ka. You can solve it with ability checks, but I couldn’t see a way to determine part of the order without those checks. I prefer it when you can solve puzzles without resorting to dice! However, as the order of those two items ultimately doesn’t matter, it’s of minor consequence. (Typically, I expect a ruler to defeat their enemies before building their temple-tomb).
As you might expect from Kobold Press, the adventure is nicely laid-out, well-edited, and has fantastic art.
Ultimately, this is an excellent adventure, and one I highly recommend.