This adventure by Keith Sloan is intended for a party of 5-8th level characters.
A well-rounded group is very much suggested, and for good reason, as the adventure is an exhilarating—and challenging—blend of traps to overcome, mysteries to unwrap, and combats against a varied range of foes to emerge victorious from. As with any good classic dungeon crawl, players should exercise caution when facing the dangers within the Shrine, but the challenges are fair.
Deep in the desert wastes crumbles an ancient ziggurat, so worn away by time that it is now little more than an oddly-shaped mound in the wastes. Local superstition has long warned of some evil within this ancient edifice, without knowing why. In fact, the ruins are inhabited by a sisterhood of medusa, served—in what is a brilliant twist—by a cult of blind female acolytes (the ‘Sightless Sisters’ of the title).
The exact reason for the PCs to explore the Desert Shrine is left to the GM, but the module does offer a number of possible hooks. The one that’s most evocative involves a desperate effort to rescue kidnapped girls before they can be initiated into the sisterhood by being blinded and rendered mute.
The Shrine consists of three levels, each one with its own theme and linked together by well-reasoned internal consistency. The top level is the shrine of the Sightless Sisters, the domain of the deadly cultists. Next, we come to the lair of the ancient medusa clan. Finally, characters delve deep into an ancient crypt where all manner of horrors lurk within the darkness.
Sloan aims to make each room interesting in some manner, and delivers in spades. In one room, characters come upon a petrified skull that, if placed upon a headless statue elsewhere in the Shrine, begins to speak—much of it gibberish, but occasionally offering oracular insight. Cool! Elsewhere, in true Gygaxian-style, we find a fountain filled with sand. No ordinary sand, if it touches flesh the victim becomes sand himself.
Beyond the adventure itself, The Desert Shrine of the Sightless Sisters concludes includes two new monsters—Greater Medusa and Medusa Mummy—seven new and interesting magic items. All are worthy additions and thematically appropriate.
Writing is clear and evocative, with a clear grasp of the rules, and editing is flawless. Maps are simple but effective, while the artwork ranges from stunning to good.
Keith Sloan’s “The Desert Shrine of the Sightless Sisters” is a masterpiece, pure and simple. It is one of the best dungeon crawls I’ve read, period, and occupies a position in the highest pinnacle of Expeditious Retreat Press’ Advanced Adventures line. Indeed, it may be the best of the bunch (which almost hurts me to say, having myself written several over the years). It’s dripping with atmosphere while stridently maintaining internal logic and consistency from beginning to end.
“The Desert Shrine” manages to deliver the goods with panache; from the temple of the Sightless Sisters to the lair of the evocative lair of the medusa to the brutal crypts of the long-dead medusa in the ziggurat’s bowels, this module delivers with all of its components.
The module is just brilliant. The flavor it oozes is fantastic, the challenges difficult but enjoyable. This is a must-own-five-stars-classic-in-the-making-gem, an adventure that will remain in the memory of your players for years to come!
[5 of 5 Stars!]