This review has spoilers.
I’m stepping away from my usual book review shtick to review something a bit different: The Tomb of Crossed Words, a Dungeons & Dragons module. This review is written for prospective Dungeon Masters (DMs).
From the independent UK publisher, Winghorn Press, this is a one-shot dungeon crawler that offers adventurers something a little different, with a focus on mental prowess rather than brute force.
Here’s the hook:
An unassuming monk is on the hunt for a party with both the strength and the smarts needed to investigate the fabled Tomb of Crossed Words–a secret shrine that was once dedicated to the study of language and writing, long since lost to shadow.Winged Horn Press: The Tomb of Crossed Words
I’ve run this module a couple times now and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. There was a good mix of puzzle and fighting options, and the way that you approach each obstacle.
For example: There is a 20 questions game at the end that one group spent 30 minutes or more on because they were so engaged with it. By contrast, the second group used the module’s built-in hint function (via scrolls of sending to a non-player character) to shortcut that puzzle.
I was particularly pleased with this campaign because, as a newish Dungeon Master (DM), I needed something not too complicated to run. The dungeon isn’t sprawling and the story is parceled out through encounters in most of the rooms. There were only a handful of instances were I felt like I needed to make edits to the module. Those places were: the Reflecting Room and the Scroll Library. I’ve included some notes in the next section for how I modified those rooms to better serve the gameplay.
Here are some specific modifications I made to the module. Maybe they will help you out as well.
In the Reflecting Room, I offer adventurers the riddle before the Water Weird arrives to fight them. This way, the players have a minute or two to consider the puzzle before being distracted by fighting. Getting a beatdown strongly detracted from their ability to consider the riddle clearly.
The Scroll Library was less straight forward to resolve. To quickly describe the puzzle: There are three Skeletal Shieldbearers blocking the path across the room to the exit on the opposite side. The Shieldbearers move into a retreating enemy’s space. The idea here is to pull the Shieldbearers out of position and exit.
First, I would have appreciated an illustration of the room setup, since it is critical to the puzzle. But more importantly, three Skeletal Shieldbearers will do solid damage against a party of level 3 adventurers, so it’s really important that your players figure out the puzzle. But I think my biggest issue with this room is deciding when the Skeletal Shieldbearers consider the adventurers hostile. The Shieldbearers will advance into the space that a hostile creature left. That’s the key part of solving the puzzle. But as I said, a battle is pretty costly. So it’s important to decide at what point your Shieldbearers will start attacking and advancing. Honestly, I still haven’t quite figured it out yet.
If you’re interested in running this module (and I recommend it), here are some tips.
- Players should not roleplay character intelligence. It’s no fun if a player says, “Well, my character is an idiot and would never get this puzzle.” This isn’t really the module for that kind of playing.
- Consider what kind of hints you would give out for key scenarios in advance. It may be hard to strike the right balance between hint and a flat out here’s what you do. Write down what hints worked after the fact, too!
- Provide the bigger riddles in writing. I DM’d this in Roll20. You could just type it into the chat, but if you want a little extra flash and panache, I used the Historic Tale Construction Kit – Bayeux to generate some cool looking text.
- You’ll need to custom create the Scroll Library room map because space is really important. Make sure you test run it a time or two before the actual game.
Where to buy it
The Tomb of Crossed Words is available to download for $2 at the DMs Guild.