Thursday, 28 August 2014
RPGPundit Reviews: The Monolith Beyond Space and Time
This is a review of the LotFP adventure "The Monolith Beyond Space and Time", written by James Raggi, published by LotFP. It's a module about 46 pages in length, with a full-color cover feauring a weird monolith in a misty wood.
The interior has only a very few black and white illustrations, most of them creepy but nothing reaching the levels of gore or shock that some other LotFP adventures sometimes contain.
What can I say about this adventure?!
There's two things you absolutely need to know about "The Monolith Beyond Space and Time":
1) It involves a Monolith
2) Said Monolith is Beyond Space and Time
I can certainly say that Monolith is a truly excellent, though highly destructive adventure for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. Unfortunately, it was intended and presented as being for D&D.
As a D&D adventure, Monolith is yet another in a series of Raggi Party-Killers. A particularly weird one, where what will get you is not so much monsters or dastardly traps, but just weird space/time effects around the aforementioned Monolith. There's not much explanation of why you'd go after it in the first place, the promise of treasure, I suppose. There isn't very much in the way of treasure to be had, just a 99% chance of being completely doomed.
Now don't get me wrong, there's some really really creative writing going on in Monolith. The weird effects are truly weird, some of them just about qualify as 'scary', and the whole concept is brilliantly rendered. Unfortunately, this is certainly not an adventure you could run as part of an ongoing campaign (at least, not one where the idea is not to just keep going with an entirely new party). It's only not a 'nega-dungeon' by virtue of not having a dungeon (though I guess you could call the dimensional space inside the Monolith a "dungeon"). It is certainly a "nega-adventure" in that for the player characters, the best way to "win" would be not to play at all; the cost-benefit ratio is such that not into the valley of the Monolith is absolutely and by a wide-margin the best choice.
And no, that's not the case with "all adventures". Most standard D&D adventures on this side of the Tomb of Horrors are such that while there's considerable risk, there's also considerable payoff. In Monolith, there's a gigantic level of risk (and mainly from "dangers" you can't remove with a sword-blow or cast spell) and only the tiniest chance of a payoff.
So what is the adventure good for? You could certainly use it for a D&D one-shot where you didn't have to worry about un-fucked-up survivability. Note that you'd need a particular group; one that does not have a problem with really crazy surreal stuff happening.
You could also pretty much use it as-is with Call of Cthulhu; there's nothing about the Monolith's micro-setting that demands it be set in a medieval fantasy world. It would only be slightly weirder for a group of dudes from the 1920s to end up in the valley of the Monolith than for a group of guys from Greyhawk.
As far as utility for cannibalization, Monolith doesn't really have as much potential as some of the other LotFP weirdo products. I recently reviewed "The God That Crawls", and that adventure (which is pretty brutal but WAY more conventional by comparison) certainly had a number of elements that could be stripped for use in other adventures. Monolith has a couple of really frightening monsters, weird effects, and some oddball spells that might be usable, but on the whole it's not quite as practical for that purpose.
So, the good: great eerie writing. Very unique concept. More "mythos weird" than almost any CoC adventure ever written.
The Bad: as a D&D adventure, it will probably murder your entire party, and piss off all your players, unless they specifically know this is what they're getting into beforehand.
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