Review: Thulian Echoes
by Ramanan Sivaranjan on September 08, 2014
Zak from D&D with Pornstars suggested another way to use [The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time] that would work quite well: “Like Tomb of Horrors, it could be considered a ‘go in, get killed, make a new PC, act with metagame knowledge, do it right this time’ situation.” To take this idea a little further, you could have characters killed during the course of the adventure simply wake up again somewhere in the valley. This would keep with the spirit of the module and makes a lot of the screw-you traps seem less harsh. — A footnote to my review of The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time
Thulian Echoes is the latest adventure Lamentations of the Flame Princess, written by Canada’s own Zzarchov Kowolski. The adventure takes place on an island, its central feature a crazy death-trap dungeon. In an attempt to make the death-trap dungeon less of a screw job, Thulian Echoes is meant to be played through twice by the same set of players. The second play through will hopefully be more successful than the first, as players will know the lay of the land.
Why would players run through the same adventure twice? The central conceit of the module is that the characters find a journal outlining the travels of a band of adventures who all (probably) died horrible deaths within the island’s dungeon thousands of years ago. Assuming players decide to investigate this mysterious dungeon they are given pre-generated characters and play through the events of the journal. It’s the D&D equivalent of a flashback in a movie, I suppose.
The dungeon itself is a weird small complex created by a wizard—of course. There are lots of moving parts and puzzles for the characters to mess around with. There are plenty of ways for player characters to die. A giant machine is central to the whole dungeon, and will likely be a source of fun, confusion, or death for the players. A passage from the main dungeon leads to an underground wilderness that the players may choose to explore as well. This portion of the dungeon is run completely abstractly: there are no maps. There is a destination the players can reach if they venture ‘downwards’, their route to this place will lead them to have several random encounters. This is a pretty simple way to do an exploration of a vast cave system. It could probably be fleshed out more if your players were into fighting Devolved Elder Things. Another passage leads to the wizard’s laboratory and sanctum, where the players may encounter the wizard himself.
Another layer of twists make the second play through hopefully as fun as the first. The present day setting will change based on what the players do during their flashback adventure. I was reminded of Chrononauts a little bit: if this happens and that happens then in the future the world is run by dinosaurs. (Well not quite, but that’s the general idea.) The adventure presents each named location as it exists in the past. This is then often followed by a section for Consequences, which lists what the things the players might trigger in the past, and Present Era, which lists what the location may look like in the present day. I’m curious how tricky all of this stuff is to keep track of during a game session. I suspect a DM would want to split up the past and present run-throughs with a short break at the very least. This is probably an adventure that works best printed out and marked up as the game progresses.
Art is by Kelvin Green, who has illustrated several LotFP modules (including his own). He has a cartoony style that is often at odds with the images being depicted. This module isn’t particularly “gross” as LotFP modules go. I enjoyed all the artwork. The cartography is by Jason Thompson, notable for doing all those cute map walkthroughs of famous D&D modules. (I actually would have loved if the official map for the module was such a walkthrough, but I suspect that wouldn’t work printed in an A5 book. Those drawings are massive.)
Thulian Echoes is good. I am a fan of the stuff Zzarchov Kowolski puts out. He’s a creative fellow, and this adventure is a good example of that. It’s available as a PDF and is well worth checking out. (If you wanted it in print you missed the boat: it was a bonus during the LotFP referee book kickstarter.) His last module for LotFP, Scenic Dunnsmouth is also excellent.