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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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  1. There is one feature about the thing that is pretty useful though. The thing can travel through dimensions and time. You can literally go any where with it. Having that thing be used as a transportation device while deadly can be rewarding in that it can get you to places that you normally could not. In campaigns that are low magic, but allow plane travel this could be the only method for mere mortals.

    1. Though to be fair I am adding in a reason why a party of adventurers would travel to the Monolith. Not only that, but with the knowledge of what it can do with some hint of the dangers. Kinda killing the weirdness of the place if you did that. Then again it also makes the reward better too.

  2. Raggi himself ran a group of us through this while he was finishing it up. I bought it but haven't read through to see what we missed or what changed. At the time he was intending it for all levels of PCs. We ran as 1st levels and had no fatalities or IIRC even near fatalities... though one of us did not escape. Raggi commented that higher lvl PCs created a whole lot more difficulties for themselves.
    It was great fun but like Death Frost Doom I think it would be a whole lot more fun to drop into an ongoing campaign and have to deal with the consequences.

    1. I appreciate your firsthand account. I think it's good to note that this adventure is curiously set up so that you could run it at any character level.

  3. Yeah, but the module as written assumes that the PCs have no idea about the monolith's potential ability, and no idea how to use it. So it seem to me that the odds of hitting that one single particular jackpot of the module are pretty long indeed.