Looking Over Book of Challenges: Grotto of the Shocker Lizards


It's just cover art

Premise

A clutch of shocker lizards lairs in a watery grotto.


Good

I like the boxed text including a dimension that isn’t divisible by 5. Maybe I’ve just got low standards for boxed text, but little touches like that help maintain the feeling that the game is conforming to the imagined world rather than the other way around.


Mentioning glints of gold and the end of a bow as ways of enticing players to enter the chamber is nice. Having obvious treasure out as bait wouldn’t have made much sense for animalistic beasts, while a few valuables dropped by previous victims can be a tempting lure.


“Natural” animals that react to intrusions with warning displays instead of attacking immediately are always welcome.


The statement “…near the pool, a collection of bones lies scattered (including the skeletons of little creatures the lizards have slain)…” makes me want to think about what other bones are there and why. I think the writer meant to imply they were the remains of other adventurers, but it feels like there’s so much that can be done with that thought.


Salvageable

I’m not a fan of the Balance checks for basic movement. Using them for elaborate maneuvers or the like is fine, but I prefer concepts like 5E’s difficult terrain over making a roll to walk normally.


“Natural” animals that fight to the death no matter what are a disappointment, especially since they aren’t defending any offspring. I’d give them regular morale checks.


Bad

The map markings for the cracks in the ceiling look more like uneven areas of the floor.


Telling me what tactics would be useful for the PCs seems like pointless space filler.


The scaling advice is just to add or remove lizards. Worthless.


Overall

If read generously, the boxed text paints an evocative image of a hidden underground oasis of (relatively) lush vegetation with curtains of light streaming in from above to highlight hints of lost treasure, but then the actual encounter itself does little to make that pay off. To be fair, it’s an unusual monster that can be dangerous at intended EL, and there isn’t anything bad about it. I just find that it lacks some life unless the GM goes a step further, perhaps adding more meaning to the bones near the pool, doing something more interesting with the treasure than just currency and mundane equipment, or giving special effort to roleplaying the lizards.


All in all, it’s a cool setting that can serve as an excellent landmark. The encounter is fine, too, but don’t be surprised if it ends up feeling flat.

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