Looking Over Dungeon Delve: The Hungering Temple
The party ventures into the Abyss to hunt down Doresain, the Ghoul King.
Getting to face a demigod is a cool premise. I’d like more context than just whipping it up out of nowhere, but as far as Giant Space Flea from Nowhere targets go, the ghoul progenitor is a fine choice.
Expanding the adventure to continue on to facing the Demon Prince of the Undead is a sensible and thoroughly awesome idea.
For all that I’m not often a fan of boxed text, the text in this adventure is among the best in the book all-around (my favorite part is the note about the characters feeling as if their teeth are being pulled from their mouths in area 2). Granted, it might be too gross for some players, but it’s easier to tone down descriptions than to invent new ones which aren’t trash.
Having the orb burst out of the golem’s torso in area 2 is a fantastic way of ambushing the party.
The orb’s combination of farsending and souleating rays can make it a legitimate threat to kill characters outright (if they can’t offset the saving throw penalty from farsending ray), albeit on a timer.
Area 2 is just full of great flavor; it’s probably my favorite area in the whole book. The door of the toothless dead is particularly awesome, and its mechanics even help to somewhat justify the skeleton that prevents ongoing damage.
As with Smoldering Flames of War, teleporting reinforcements through the braziers in area 3 is a cool idea, and the fact that extinguishing the braziers also weakens Doresain is a nice bit of design.
The balor’s, deathlords’, orb’s, golem’s, atropals’, and wraith’s auras should have flavorful descriptions when they have detectable effects.
Between the deathlords and the cloud of gaseous viscera in area 1, the party is likely to spend most of the encounter dazed. That has the potential to be a rather frustrating experience, so it’s worth taking a favorable interpretation of their actions and embellishing the descriptions somewhat more than usual to keep the players feeling engaged if they start disconnecting. The same can apply in area 2.
Doresain’s damage formulae are pretty terrible. I feel like the Ghoul King should be capable of striking harder in melee than two ghoul minions, so I’d triple the dice for his toothlust ability.
If Doresain could use the magic item he carries, he should use it.
The first two ideas for expanding the adventure are just extra encounters.
As wonderful as the idea of the cloud of gaseous viscera in area 1 is, it’s unclear where it’s supposed to be.
This adventure has a major emphasis in general on dazes, immobilizing, forced movement, and ongoing damage, with a minor emphasis on stuns. These are all capable of being more irritating than straight slugfests with difficult enemies, so the adventure may play poorly with the wrong group of players. Aside from that, though, I’m a big fan of this one. The flavor is strong from start to finish (area 2 being the high point in that regard), there is good variety in the creatures while still keeping them sensible, and while the stat block for Doresain himself is a letdown as-written, the high threat levels in areas 1 and 2 mean an easier fight in area 3 can feel triumphant rather than anticlimactic.
Given that the ultimate target here is a demigod, greater context is in ample demand and ought to be easy to provide, both on the front end and in terms of lasting consequences. Reskinning and replacing creatures is possible, but I’d be wary of doing too much of that here because the creatures and the flavor do tie together rather strongly (which helps to make up for the relatively straightforward encounter designs).
All in all, this is a strong adventure that can serve well as either the ultimate or penultimate part of a campaign, and I could imagine designing an entire adventure around area 2 by itself. The generic title belies the quality content.