Why Review a Free Product?
It will still cost you some time to read and some ink to print if you choose. I'd like to know if it's worth it and I thought someone else might as well. I will not hesitate to spoil the adventure (SPOILER ALERT).
This is an 18 page PDF in a two-column format with an easy to read font and a format that mimics the early TSR modules. I read it easily on my phone.
The cover and interior illustrations are exceptionally well done and very evocative of the 'good old days' of roleplaying. The adventure is given some slight backstory which is interesting enough and generic enough to fit into pretty much any campaign. You're hired to go to a deep hole filled with monsters and given a pretty sizable pile of gold up front to do so. "Promise to return with the thing that I want and you can keep all the rest!" Prices better be pretty high in this kingdom to keep players from just leaving town!
I especially like the atmosphere of the cave and some 'house-ruled' stipulation that certain dungeon-destroying spells can't be used. That this is more or less by 'GM-fiat' that any 'narrative' reason may or may not bother you. It didn't particularly bother me. The atmosphere is different and can easily be explained by a 'curse' and the spells should never have been allowed in ANY game in the first place.
The map is very well done and I appreciate it being in the easier to read black, rather that the blue typical of that error.
Of course one of the things we get to in the dungeon is a 20 foot tall animated statue in a 10' x 10' corridor. But you can't say that's not old school. You're players tolerance for those kinds of details may vary. Of course, inside the statue is a priceless gem. Why? Cause that's the way it was done in the old days. No other reason given.
The system is 'old-school-generic' which plenty of products were back in the day.
I like the fact that some valuable books are given titles which always adds to the flavor of treasure.
There is a wilderness map that is of the hex-and-symbol variety. Not pretty but functional, easy to place in a campaign and very period-appropriate (1980). For authenticity I suppose it is placed (along with the dungeon map) in what appears to be the middle of the book as if it were pull-outs.
The dungeon has several different alternative paths the players could take, so I appreciate that you have at least the choice of which direction to go in.
I like the secret doors being described by their mechanism which makes it more fun to describe.
A "safe haven" room is provided which is a thoughtful touch.
The Size (SZ) characteristic is not explained under the Introduction, but is used for many of the monsters. It's pretty easy to figure out though.
In room number #4 an item is referred to as valuable, but it's worth it not given. The text says it's too heavy to move, but that's never stopped players from trying. There is also a tapestry that has historical information on it and is probably valuable, but no value is given.
The books are given no monetary value however. The spell book found has got a lot of very high level spells in it however, including ALL 0-level spells.
At one point "the chill is noticeably different". No further details.
While the dungeon is described as a 'tomb' it is outfitted as if it were some sort of military fort. Nothing that can't be hand-waved away, but not very consistent either. Again, you can't say it’s different that the old school model.
I would have liked the doors to be marked on the map as to which ones are open and which ones are locked.
There is a very well described piece of treasure given that "compels" whoever holds it to "remove it from this place" but the details are left purposefully vague so the GM can decide it's significance. Personally I consider this lazy writing. The writer should go ahead and tell me what HE decided and if I want to change it I will. But don't just leave it 'unknown' and make me do all the work - after all, that's what I'm paying you to do! Even if I'm not really paying.... But what it does do is impressive enough as written. Though it is described as 'cursed' I can't really see much downside to keeping the thing. There is an excellent illustration of it however.
This is a bit of a "monty-haul" dungeon. The dangers seen rather low and the money found seems rather high. There are at least five 'masterwork' weapons and a 'Defender' sword. As an adventure for 4-6th level characters it seems fairly easy and they certainly won't be that when they leave! That's not to say there is no danger, but I can't see more than one player getting killed here. Curiously absent was at least a Wandering Monster table which I think could have upped the stakes in this adventure and given it much more tension than it has. Since all the monsters seem pretty much locked in their own rooms, it seems like EVERY room could be safe once it's cleared.
Should I Check Out Their Other Products?
For me personally, no. This is a pretty mediocre dungeon with nothing particularly special about it that makes me think I MUST have it in my campaign.
However, it is at least the equal of TSR/Judges Guild and better illustrated than most so if you need a generic old school dungeon that's good for a night of play or a side-trip while visiting a city or hiking in the mountains, this will definitely do the job.
Certainly better that most 'free' products.
This introductory product has definitely told me what they are going for (TSR lives) and they have done it very well.
It's just that for me personally I already have plenty of those old-timey dungeons and can't see any particular reason for more of the same.
Good but not special.
[2 of 5 Stars!]