The first of the Advanced Adventures line, from Expeditious Retreat Press, RPGNOW tells me that The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom was first made available on their site in 2006. So, it's been around for quite some time and if you're into OSR stuff, you probably already have a copy. But, new people are finding our corner of the gaming universe, everyday and even if you've been around for the past several years, maybe you've neglected to check this out.
If so, Fie! Fie I say! You've been depriving yourself of quite a treat.
Pod-Caverns is a dungeon adventure, three-levels large. To give you an idea of the size, there are 52 keyed areas. The main monster in the dungeon is the Sinister Shroom, of course, and if you're not familiar with these fellows, you can download a free copy of the excellent Monsters of Myth and get the skinny on Shrooms and their freaky Pod-men servants. They're evil, genius, magic-using mushroom-men. Mwa-ha-ha!
Mr. Finch has designed the dungeon to easily facilitate either a surface, or underground approach to the area. The module can be introduced in a more typical fashion, with the adventurers heading underground to check out the nefarious goings on, or the site can easily be placed as an expansion to an already existing dungeon, serving as an alternate route to, and obstacle in the way of, the surface-world. An underground river runs through the levels and will readily serve as transportation to the area, or as a means of travelling deeper underground, if the party entered the area from above.
There's some awesome adventure to be had in these three levels, with plenty of interesting places to explore, a nice mix of cool monsters, nasty traps and well-placed terrain hazards. There're also incidents of wonderful high weirdness, secrets to be discovered, odd things to play with, opportunities to make some friends and a well placed mix of level appropriate magic-items. The Shroom makes for a very cool opponent and if he manages to escape the adventurers, he has all the makings of the kind of recurring villain a DM dreams of.
The design of the various challenges delighted my DM sensibilities and I think that the module would prove fun as all hell to run or play. Adept players will find the module challenging and have ample opportunity to display their skills. Neophytes might find themselves in a little over their heads, but still, I wouldn't hesitate to throw babes into these particular woods. They'll learn a few tricks and this is the kind of adventure that is just too good for the gamer soul to miss.
The maps are nicely done, in old school standard black & white and so detailed as to help in explicating the descriptive text for some of the more involved terrain features. There is no scale given, but I'm assuming the standard 1 square = 10', though I suspect the author left this a little nebulous on purpose.
The overall atmosphere of the dungeon is pleasantly eerie, with some welcome touches of horror and that aforementioned weirdness, which Mr. Finch does so well! It evoked the kind of mood that I associate with the creepier sort of fairy-tale.
The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom hits all the right notes and plays them sweetly, indeed. Buy it! Buy it Now! Then Run It and let us know how it went!