Sunday, 14 June 2015

The Best: The Tomb of Aethering The Damned

Back in 1982/83 I purchased a whole load of Judges Guild modules, mostly (I think) for the maps (as they are often very evocative). Sadly a couple of them were - how shall I put it - sadly lacking (The Dragon Crown in particular).

One of the ones that most definitely wasn't lacking was "The Book of Treasure Maps" by Paul Jaquays. It gives five small modules, each with some sort of treasure map, ready to be dropped into an ongoing campaign.

I never ran any of them at the time, and then I moved into my MERP / Rolemaster phase, so it was twenty five (!!) years before I ran a game of D&D again. When they found a treasure map, it obviously had to be one from this old book...

Map of the Tombe Of Aethering Who Is Called Damned

Now this map has a couple of fantastic bits - the name, the "hidden entrance", the question marks for unknown areas, the fact that you have a map to the treasure but only a vague idea of the location, and the evocative "copyed from the original" and a clue that the tomb "is not yet finished" so the map is missing something.

The module gives you rumours about Aethering's Tomb which can be discovered from local NPCs or libraries, so there was plenty of fun with musty unhelpful librarians and useless extra pieces of information I invented for them. For example, if the library had no information I'd tell them instead that they found a tome on Tomb construction with valuable hints such as "always use the best quality stone" and "never trust contractors".

Finding the tomb entrance isn't easy - it has been hidden behind a river redirected to form a waterfall over the entrance - my players discovered the dry bed of the old river and investigating that lead to the waterfall and the narrow path leading behind.

The tomb contains several varied traps, the tombs of his Wife (tries to possess a PC) and Son (a mummy nailed to the wall hand and feet) both of which are my sort of disturbing, the passages have been further excavated so the secret door isn't where you expect, there's a false tomb, and the real tomb which can be found if you maintain belief that the map is correct and hence deduce a corridor has been blocked off with a secret door. Even then, you have to persevere to find the buried treasure.

I think the imagery in this module has heavily influenced me - last night the players had to rescue some prisoners so I had them suspended in cages above a pool of piranhas - it's not just a random bunch of undead, it's undead who all hated each other in life and want revenge in death. Don't you love families?

The adventure is great throughout - in particular I love the author's illustration of the mummy nailed to the wall:

Yes, that's a cursed amulet hanging round it's neck! The only changes I made in play were to beef up the monsters a little, and to turn the cursed skull with the gem inside into a skull with gems for eyes that when touched turned into an "Eyes of Fear and Flame" from the Fiend Folio.

The tomb is only 8 pages of the 52 page module - the other adventures also look good, but I've never actually DM'ed them - yet!


  1. I have this book too, and like it a lot. In a campaign I ran a few years ago I actually used two of its maps, Aethering's Tomb and Castle Clearmoon. The campaign was a megadungeon setting, and these were nice ways to get the party out into the fresh air for a bit. Actually, now that I think about it I also recycled a lot of the first map, the one with the letter from an adventurer to his brother I think? The party never had the map for that one, but I liked the little adventuring area and tacked it on to an existing mini-delve.

  2. Clearmoon is the one where the map is on a shield with a moon insignia, the map on the shield being only visible in moonlight. I'll have a look again at those two as I'm in need of a side-diversion for my players.

  3. I'm prepping this adventure right now, and I agree with you that it's well conceived, adding a layer of dysfunctional family to give life to a dungeon crawl.

    But I can't understand Area 7, a section of 20' wide hallway that's been walled off for no reason I can think of, and then given a deadly trap. Why would Aethering go to all the trouble to create a trap and then make it hard to encounter? Why would Paul Jaquays?

  4. I've just got this module off the shelf to look again at that. The map looks like #7 is walled off, but it isn't - what looks like lines are simply the start and end of the section which bursts into flame. The corridor then ends in the teleport trap. I agree the map isn't clear! My party found the secret doors and bypassed the heat trap and got teleported. I added a few extra undead to fill out the module as it was a bit sparse - I made the skull at #9 turn into an Eye of Fear and Flame when it was touched.

  5. Prepping to run this as well, and I have a few questions that I hope you guys could help me with.

    The pit trap and slide (#2): If 1-2 players fall down and it then jams shut and is unopenable, does that mean if the pit trap opens the party will necessarily be split up? If so, would you give the other players a brief opportunity to jump down too so as to avoid splitting the party?

    Crypt of Aethering's Wife (#6): I assume that if a character assumes her image, but is not possessed by her, subsequent players looking in the pool will not be affected in any way? (In other words, once the image transfers no more transferring of image or possibility of possession for any subsequent players.) Also, I don't understand the part about an additional 35% chance of possession, but then having a formula based on intelligence to determine chance of possession. Why are there two different ways provided to determine chance of possession. What am I missing?

    Mire of Flame and Fire (#7): How can a characters be "trapped" in the flame, and why is damage per round given? Wouldn't the first player get burned and then quickly retreat?

    Thanks for any help!

    1. Hi Dan,

      The following is how I played it, but you could ask the author on the Dragonsfoot forum.

      Pit & Slide - I'd allow someone to jump in as well if they said so before I finished saying "and the trap slams shut behind them". They'd be unlikely to do so as they wouldn't have time to look what's in the pit. When I ran it the party got split up.

      The Pool - As I read it, once one person has been changed then that's the end of the spell. I agree the formula bit makes little sense. I altered the encounter to be simply make a saving throw against being posessed (no image change) and took the player who failed their throw to one side and told them to pretend to be Anasia. If I recall correctly it took a while for everyone else to realise.

      The Flame - I'd expect they would take 1d6 and then retreat.

    2. Oh, and do let me know how it goes when you run it :-)

  6. Thanks Joe! I appreciate your advice!