B10: White Worm of Weston
This module is 49 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 44 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This being a review of an adventure, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
Still here? All right!
Nine Generations ago, Vykter West founded a place called Weston – right in the middle of nowhere, a desolate land. Nine Generations ago, the progenitor of the West family entered a deal with the lower planes and lo! and behold, the rich river Meere changed its course and Weston prospered – all for a ridiculous price. Viktor would only need to put a tiny white worm into his field? Where’s the harm in that? What goes around, comes around, though – it was the worm that changed the river’s course, grown to monstrous proportions and ever since, worm-slayer upon worm-slayer, adventuring group upon adventuring group, has fed the ravenous appetite of the worm, which return to consume the West family. Unaware of the curse their ancestor wrought, the family has lived under the shadow of the titanic beasts eventual awakening from its hibernation. Fast forward to the recent heir of the West name, one Errod West, forced to watch the worm devour his parents at a young age and subsequently driven by an obsession of slaying the beast, finally unearthed hints of Weston’s dark past. The PCs are contacted by distant relatives via a letter and made aware of the sizable bounty – 50K in gold are nothing to scoff at – a fortune even! When a man dies on the road to Weston, trying to warn them away, it will become clear that the PCs have not a mean feat ahead of them…
Weston itself, as a town, is firmly in the grip of fear and panic at the worm’s proximity and first rumors of the cursed West family surface. After visiting the mayor to confirm the bounty, the PCs may have a talk with the only known survivor among the wannabe worm-hunters – a dwarf named Hamlin Hammerhalder currently resting at the Happy Fool tavern and while he is a tough nut to crack, capable PCs may get him to talk about the dread combat that led to the death of his companions. Tracking the vast traces of the worm’s wake, the Pcs get a chance to save a dwarven couple from a bulette and rescue an adventuring group from an unpleasant fate by falling into the churning waters of the river Meere and the waiting jaws of the local crocodile and ankheg population. In far over their heads, these adventurers proceed to leave the hunt of the worm to PCs, though they may help later in the module. The Worm is CR 21, has regeneration 30, DR 15/-, SR 45 and Immunity to spells and energy types. This is a fight the PCs cannot win. If your players are stubborn and refuse to retreat, though, then you’ll still have a good recourse – as a Deus Ex Machina to prevent TPK, as a means of escape or to acknowledge that they did the impossible and damaged the beast, Errod shows up and leads them to his mansion.
There, Errod offers to resurrect the fallen via his scroll(s) of true resurrection and proceeds to prepare a meal – the PCs in the meanwhile have ample leisure time to sniff around the house and stumble over the variety of clues and from Errod’s reaction, make deductions about his conflicted personality and gathering clues that he is not telling them everything. It is notable that clue-wise and regarding descriptions, the mansion is VERY well-detailed and offers a great change of pace that can, thanks to taxidermy-trophies, be easily played up to 11 on the tension-scale if you so chose. Together, they may piece together the clues from Errod’s documents and notes, but in the night, their endeavors are put to a hard test – a hit-squad of 8 babau demons infiltrates the house and starts a fire – the PCs, rousing from their sleep, will have to contend with the deadly demons and try to save the journal from the library while the house burns down around them -heat dangers, smoke inhalation, catching fire – all covered in a delightfully suspenseful action that consumes the house in only 20 rounds – a battle against the clock and the relentless assault of the flames.
Supernatural forces are moving in and the players may wish to recover Vyktor’s journal from his body – only the crypt is also well-guarded by forces infernal -a vrock and even a glabrezu (who offers a wish if spared – but is it worth it?). Vanquishing these foes with Errod’s help, the PCs can unearth the journal, where a riddle (that should stump no one) conceals the name of the demon with whom Vyktor made the pact that resulted in the White Worm’s rampages. Armed with this name, the PCs may summon the demon, who has an offer for the worm’s end, but one that would cost the lives of Errod and all of Weston. A more likely outcome is that the PCs vanquish the demon, temporarily making the worm vulnerable – if they can manage to perform three rituals of atonement, each of which, while not cancelling, weakens the superb defenses of the worm. The rituals are no mean feat either – someone who has lost all will to fight must give away all earthly possessions until they are naked while holding a piece of the creature they seek to destroy. Hopefully the PCs managed to save that scale of the worm from the burning Weston manor… For teh second ritual, one must consume a draught of pure elven blood, essence of a fire creature and one’s own blood at the witching hour and bear the pain. The final ritual requires the tears of the cursed to be used to polish a diamond of 5K GP value or more with a brush made from halfling’s foot-hair, transforming the gem into a lump of coal. If the PCs saved the adventurers, they may now have at least a couple of the more esoteric ingredients ready.
The rituals completed, the final hunt is on – with its demonic master gone, the worm retreats to its primal shrine, leaving a wake of destruction in its wake, while fleeing from encounters that damage it too much. Catching the worm and finishing the beast, even with the help of the level 15 ranger Errod West, will require guile, luck and preparation. Thankfully, a timeline features the epic wake of the worm as well as weather etc. and should make for an interesting hunt of a prey most dangerous.
Editing and formatting are top-notch this time around – I noticed no editing glitches. Layout adheres to the status of AaW’s 2-column full-color layout of A16, i.e. we get nice boxes, separated statblock sections for 3.5 and PFRPG-stats and I have nothing to complain – tidy, functional, nice. The pdf also comes with extensive bookmarks, beautiful cartography (though only of the manor, but that in both a DM- and Player’s map version) and a gorgeous letter-hand-out.
Drawing inspiration from literature, obviously Moby Dick and folklore (The legend of the Lambton Worm), this module has an ancient, gothic sense of foreboding only scarcely seen when handling unsubtle brutes like the titular force of nature of a monster. While personally, I would have preferred the extraplanar influence to be cut/not explained and instead making the events in the mansion/crypt and origin of the worm ambiguous, that’s a personal preference and will not impede my verdict of this pdf – if you do, though, you’ll have a closer analogue to Moby Dick’s fundamental question of whether revenge against an animal is possible at all as well as a great conduct to develop Errod’s growing obsession. I maintain that the module would have been better off that way and even more unique, but that may be me. That being said, this still is nagging at an extremely high level: Author Lance Kepner has created an awesome module with a unique atmosphere, an epic objective and details that is not only smart, but also fun to read. I also urge any DMs who run this to at least read the respective synopsizes of the inspirations it is base on – they are awesome pieces of fiction and will definitely enrich your experience and that of your group while running this module.
This, if my praise was not ample clue, is one of the best modules that came out of Adventureaweek.com’s B-series so far, on par with B3 and B6 and perhaps even transcending them. A great module full of style, fluff and unique ideas, dripping a sense of wonder and occultism, this is well worth 5 stars plus seal of approval – congratulations to everyone involved.