Looking Over Dungeon Delve: Temple of the Zealots


It's still just cover art

Premise

Some serpent cultists are hanging out in a partially-sunken temple.


Good

While I dislike the second idea for expanding the adventure overall, having one of the cultists wear a strange amulet that can lead the party to another adventure is a nice way of integrating future adventure hooks.


Modeling a group of cultists going through training exercises by having fully-statted instructors and minion-statted students is a nice idea.


It’s nice that the details for area 2 have different versions depending on whether the lever in area 1 was thrown.


The implication that the snakes in area 2 attack for food further implies that non-combat approaches should be viable. The snakes being trained to ignore only cultists and yuan-ti suggests they would be willing to attack the crocodile, if it shows up.


Having retreat conditions for the constrictors is always welcome.


Salvageable

The temple is begging to have some history, especially when it has tapestries and glowing pillars from previous occupants.


Having a checkerboard-pattern of difficult terrain just to suit the tile art in area 1 is silly. Tacking on a low-DC check to identify that doesn’t make it any better. The proper solution is either to have a sensible layout of difficult terrain or to keep the wet and muddy floor without any mechanical impact.


The checks for hearing noise if the lever is pulled or for feeling a hot air flow in proximity to the tapestry are wasting time. Just give that information freely.


It isn’t apparent why serpent cultists would worship a faerie crocodile as an avatar of their god. It’s probably worth reskinning as a perpetually-pregnant snake wreathed in spectral wisps that snap and lash like baby snakes at anything nearby (hence the aura of difficult terrain).


Area 3 does a fair job of trying to replicate swampy terrain indoors, though the water and land are separated too regularly to really accomplish that (likely a consequence of using prepackaged tile sets). Since I don’t use tactical terrain tiles, I’d break it up more for use in actual play.


Bad

The first idea for expanding the adventure is changing it to a completely different adventure. The second idea is adding a group of rival cultists coming in from behind the party to pinch them between the two groups. I think the editor should’ve told Christ what “expanding” means.


In the case where the area 1 lever was not thrown, I don’t understand why a check would be needed to notice the sleeping constrictors in area 2.


The sidebar in area 3 is incorrect about the crocodile needing to squeeze to move on the center island.


Overall

Nothing too great, but nothing too terrible, either; this is a pretty straightforward affair, though I think it does have enough attempts at being interesting to not be obvious filler. I liked the escalating risks posed by the watery floors through each area, and if masses of weak undead raised by a necromancer are the most obvious use-case for 4E minions, masses of normal people turned into crazy cultists are a close second.


Tying in with greater context isn’t too hard (dedicate the original temple to something appropriate), nor is changing the occupants (anything appropriate that would feel fine in an amphibious environment can work). It doesn’t have to be near a swamp as the intro suggests (since the flooding could come from a combination of groundwater and poor drainage of rain), though I’d avoid putting it someplace arid unless the clash is desired.


All in all, a basic adventure that does what it needs to do without being ambitious. There’s nothing great about it, but fixing its weak spots is easy enough that it still offers a better starting point than a blank page.

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