the wonder of role-playing games: reviews, solo rpgs, old-school & narrative games

21 Mar 2016

The Temple of the Squirrel God of Greed

This is a guest review by Jaye Foster. Temple of Greed (aff) is systemless dungeon by Daniel Neffling that is designed for use with OSR games. This is my first encounter with an OSR dungeon, so expect me to end up commenting a little on the genre as well.

Buried Treasure

Just a page of text is all your given as both backstory and suggested plot hooks. The temple is all that remains of a wealthy cult to a god of greed, hence why it’s filled with treasure. And that’s the hook; greed. It’s a dungeon adventure for the greedy or those in desperate need of money. There’s no more offered to help the GM entice their players into the dungeon. The god and the cult aren’t even named, indicating how dry the description is. The dungeon/temple itself is a fairly linear set of rooms filled with traps and puzzles. These are the focus of the adventure as no monsters are to be found. Which makes sense as the only things in the temple are locked doors and treasures. I would describe the traps has hardcore, in that quite a few of them are of the Save or Die variety. Those that don’t kill you outright will certainly leave a nasty and permanent mark. This is not a dungeon for players attached to characters. Particularly as the temple itself contains no contextual warnings as to their presence or any in-setting clues as to how some of the traps can be resolved. It would irk me as a GM to have to give players out-of-character information to for them to progress. Like other single themed adventures, if you’re going to insert this into a running campaign, be prepared for there to be characters with little to do. The temple of greed will engage rogues and healers but will leave combat and magic specialists with little to do. In several places, the text reminds the GM that trying to force doors by strength or spell results in unpleasant things happening to the characters. On top of this, it’s feasible that the adventure could dissolve in just one player solving everything and the others just tagging along. As a bonus, the book provides a variation on the cleric class by Edward Lockhart. Keepers of the Watching Squirrel are dedicated to the practice of greed in the service of their fluffy rodent god. They function almost entirely as a cleric but with only selfish motivations. The greed based restrictions and spells are amusing but still useful in play. The class has the potential for both comic fun and dramatic character development.

Art of Avarice

The dungeon map is by Dyson Logos so you can expect his usual level of quality. It’s a nice little isometric map and it’s pleasing to see the extra care taken to add some scenery around the entrance. For its use in Temple of Greed, I would have arranged it landscape on the page and certainly added a key. You can work out what is and what isn’t a secret door but a legend would have helped. The caption text could have been better integrated. The rest of the artwork is a mix of stock images and some linework drawn by the author. This linework has a consistent blocking style to it that conveys well what the interior of the temple looks and feels like. The stock is of various different styles but does fit well with the text it supports and isn’t used to pad the page count. I’m not sure what the cover artwork is trying to achieve. It looks reminiscent of a transport network map.

Treasure, Laid Out

I recommend printing this temple out, particularly the main map. Though each section is numbered, and this numbering used in the description, I had to flip back and forth between text and graphic repeatedly. Preventable if each section/room was repeated with the text. Once you’ve familiarised yourself this happens less, but it was an avoidable annoyance. You’re also going to want to spend time marking out a copy of the map as to where the traps and secret doors are. In several places the text is not clear where important items are located. The location of one trap in particular only becoming clear by an inference in text of what’s beyond it. Nuffling’s writing style is blunt with short sentences. He appears to dislike using adjectives to add depth to descriptions. There’s also a tendency towards rhetorical questions and exclamation marks as a way to add colour. Generally, the information present is clear and understandable, though a piece of indistinct terminology did trip me up. What, exactly, is a plate on a door? Lockhart’s writing is better, with much more flow and character to the prose.

Compound of Interest

The Temple of Greed is a utilitarian dungeon. It’s cohesive and maintains a consistent theme. As a puzzle dungeon, a campaign interstitial or as a part of a quest for cash, it works. The text would benefit from some additional description as it reads as dead and empty, like the temple itself. If you want no frills and brutal function, it’s worth looking at. I’m a bit greedier, so I would be looking for more character.

Temple of Greed (aff): PDF USD $1.70, print + pdf bundle: USD$4.47