Into the Necromancer's Lair

Since the original "Dwarf Kings Hold" was released, Mantic games has worked to have multiple games that can use their products.  On the fantasy side alone, there is Dungeon Saga, League of Infamy, Vanguard and Kings of War that are all the same scale and the same miniatures.

With Dungeon Saga it became apparent that there was market for inexpensive terrain pieces, and thus the Terrain Crate product line was created.  ( I find it funny that I remember Ronnie talking about it at Adepticon - he firmly believed there was a market, but did not expect there to be enough to justify stores carrying them.  Sure there would be one of two DM's out of a give store that would pick it up, so it was originally intended to be a direct market product.  If anyone has looked, Terrain Crate is carried ALL over - I have yet to go into a store lately that does not have some Terrain Crate product, even if they don't carry Mantic games or miniatures. )  They weren't the first to market with inexpensive plastic terrain, but that is because they kickstarted it - basically announcing their product line a year before it came out - allowing for larger companies to bring out their own versions.

A couple of years ago Mantic had the brilliant idea of repackaging the miniatures from Dungeon Saga and one of it's expansions to create the Game Master's Starter Set - terrain, 4 heroes, undead, orcs & goblins, and a Dragon!  A great way for new Game Master's to get started on their miniature and terrain collection for their games.

They then did a modern horror version, but this time they repackaged the miniatures they had created for the Hellboy board game and their second Terrain Crate kickstarter.

These must have sold well enough, and now they have a sub-line of Terrain Crate -  The Dungeon Adventures.  Beyond the terrain pieces, it is now monster and hero miniatures for use in RPGs.  And this has led to not just repackaging of existing products, but entirely new content created for this line - even to the point of a new hard plastic sprue for the Critters set.  

So now comes the next step - full adventures for the RPG market.

The first of these is "Into the Necromancer's Lair", a short 5E compatible adventure.

This is a booklet detailing the adventure, a 2 sided map laid out in a square grid, and the terrain required to play the adventure.

The booklet essentially gives the DM all the information to run this adventure - what us old timers used to call a module back in the day.  This includes adventure hooks ( back when I used to DM with my friends, and the later with my kids - it was "Ok, you are in a tavern, and someone approaches you asking for your help".  None of this going off the rails and players doing whatever they wanted.  I guess now a lot of gaming groups are a bit more "challenging" for the DM - more about individual character "motivation" and actually having to give them a reason to do something beyond "this is what I have prepared".  So it has a couple of hooks to trick motivate your players into playing the adventure.  

(By the way, is it really railroading the party if they feel like they have a choice?  "You travel down the road and come to a fork - do you go North or South?"  I doesn't matter because they are going to run into the bandit camp regardless of which fork they take.  But they had a choice!)

I have to be honest - I have only played 5th ed D&D once - a quick on-line Christmas themed session a couple of years ago for my step-grand-nephews, who had just started playing.  (Also, it turns out that I have NEVER played the even numbered editions of D&D.  I had the original white box with the tan colored pamphlets (back when Elf was a class!)  Then we expanded with the cool new hardback books for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.  My last few games with that were in college, apparently about the time 2nd edition was coming out.  I got married, had kids, and eventually started going to Origins and then Gencon (once it moved to Indianapolis) - so when they had the big push for 3rd edition I thought it would be fun to play with the kids.   We then switched to Pathfinder - but when 4th came around was about the time that they were moving out, going to college, and not really interested in doing D&D with their Dad.  I bought the 4th ed books, but eventually gave them to my daughter for her gaming group.)  

Because I don't currently play RPGs, some of this is based simply on what I had seen back in the day when I did.  

Anyway, the booklet does have all the information to run the various encounters, including stat blocks for all the monsters.  (on a side note - I'm not sure that I like all the sub-types of monsters - you don't just give them equipment they all have separate stat lines and names - so not just zombies and skeletons, you have grasping zombies, biting zombies, skeleton impalers and skeleton punishers.

The encounters are laid out on the included map, with all the terrain and monster locations specified.

The map is 2 sided with the grid clearly laid out.   Ever since 3rd edition came out with "Attacks of Opportunity" it has been critical to know EXACTLY where everyone is in relation to each other - and no easier way to do this and lay out miniatures on a map of the area, and knowing the exact measurements are often key for ranges etc.  

Back in the day we were lucky to have any miniatures, let alone actually terrain pieces.  We basically had the marching order (to see who got attacked first in the front, or the back), and then everything was run in our heads.  Eventually we had a few minis, but terrain was drawn on a dry-erase mat.

Now it is in 3D in front of you!  Sometimes it feels like combat then becomes more of a tactical skirmish game than role-playing ( move 2 squares to the left, then cast Fireball 6 squares ahead, instead of describing how your mage is running from the archers and blasting a fireball at them).  

After the map are three bags of terrain.  These are all existing models, but unless you have already been buying them a new DM probably won't have them.  And in general, experienced DM's are not running low level pre-packaged modules.

First there are the graves.

Then traps.  Traps are cool - but (to me) it kind of defeats the purpose having counters for them - because then the pesky heroes know where they are already.  

Of course even without physical places we often knew where they were.  My friend used to run a huge dungeon (no real "role playing" at this time - it was all about going in, rolling dice and killing monsters).  This had one entrance - a 100' long hallway with a T at the end, with a slit where crossbows would shoot at us.  There were doors on either side at about 60', which we would rush toward - and almost always forget about the spring loaded spiked pit at 50'.

I do remember going in with a druid who cast rock to mud on the arrow slit once, sealing it and then reversing the spell back to rock.  The next time we played, there were a bunch of gnome engineers carving it back into the rock who just let us pass 'this time'.

It was fun, but we never did get to the back end of the huge map he had.

There are also pieces from the wizards tower, including the cool portal and a summoning circle for the floor.  (I have seen the portal used many times in Kings of War as well).

Lastly are the torture chamber items - rack, sarcophagus, iron maiden, and both a dead victim and a mummy coming back to life!

The adventure looks like you can run it in one long to two short sessions, and even has hooks for the next one!

There are a couple of minor places where this fails, and it is more in the packaging than the product.  First off, the package does not describe the level of characters that this is designed for.  This is in the booklet, but should be listed on the box so the buyer can know if this fits their current players.

The other issue I have is while this is described as a "complete adventure", it is missing something that new gm's need - the monster miniatures.  I understanding that adding these would greatly increase the cost - and not everyone that wants to run this would need them.  However, the box (or at least the web site) should list the appropriate miniatures (which should just happen to be in the same display stand as this box - how convenient!) for the module.  Unfortunately it doesn't list these.  Not only that, but it surprised me that it didn't map to existing Mantic miniature sets either.

The module requires the following miniatures

  • 4 grasping zombie
  • 4 biting zombie
  • 2 deceased merchants
  • departed noble
  • crypt guardian
  • 2 skeletal torturer
  • 2 skeletal punisher
  • ghoul warden
  • Kurna Tombspine - from sarcophagus
  • Luni the Weaver - necromancer

The sets are close, but not quite.

The Evil Dead set contains the minion miniatures from the original Dungeon Saga
This set has an undead troll, skeleton archer, two skeletons, ghoul, zombie, armored zombie, wraith and dwarf revenant.

The Dungeon Dead set are models from the Hellboy Darkness Calls expansion

2 skeletons with spears
4 skeletons with hand weapons / shields
2 skeletons with hand weapons

So, my estimation is that one box of each would give you
  • 4 grasping zombie 
  • 4 biting zombie
  • 2 deceased merchants - skeletons with hand weapons
  • departed noble - skeleton with hand weapons NOT used for merchants
  • crypt guardian - dwarf revenant
  • 2 skeletal torturer - skeletons w/ spear
  • 2 skeletal punisher - skeletons w/ sword & shield
  • ghoul warden -  ghoul
  • Kurna Tombspine - mummy from sarcophagus
  • Luni the Weaver - this is a necromancer - the wraith or any unused mini
The problem is you need 8 zombies in 2 configurations.  You only have 2 zombies - and even if you substitute in the Evil Dead skeletons, you still only have 5 of the 8 you need.

So in addition you need two zombie sprues (that would give you 6 more zombies to go with the 2 in Evil Dead set).  The big difference is that these need assembly, while the Dungeon Adventure sets do not.


I would have liked to see these modules have corresponding miniature sets. They don't have to be listed on the box, but could be listed (and linked) on the web site..  Maybe that would limit the authors too much, I'm not sure.  I just wonder if that is a slightly missed opportunity.  Maybe they could set up a web bundle for this - some discount for the two sets and two sprues (which by themselves cost more than the module).  Or maybe throw in the Legendary Mortibris points figure to use for Luni the Weaver.

If you are interested if trying a Dungeon Adventure module - Mantic has a free digital one available on their site - Chamber of the Crimson Drake.  Now this is basically just the book - and it turns out it perfectly fits the miniatures and terrain in the Game Master's Starter Set

While the Kings of War RPG kickstarter died (unfortunately), at least these are a start towards that.  I'm not sure what it would take to make a Kings of War Campaign setting for 5E and use these as some of the starting points.  These are generic enough to be able to be dropped into any campaign setting however.  I think this would be fun to run (and makes me want to play D&D again a bit) - maybe these are even something Pathfinders could run at conventions (to show off both the adventures and Mantic miniatures for them).

Because it is all fun and games . . .