DMs Guild Review – A Necromancer’s Tangled Web

Clear a cave full of undead in this dungeon crawl for level 4.

This review has been sponsored by the publisher. Find more reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: S.M. Sayers

A Necromancer’s Tangled Web is a classic undead-terrorizing-a-village story that leads to a relatively brief, straightforward cave dungeon full of undead, for level 4 parties. A lot of backstory and attention is given to the titular final boss, though the story is both too big, and too underdeveloped.

The story begins at Limevale Village, a forest town so constantly besieged by undead that they began building their buildings in the treetops. At what point do you just give up and move away?

The party arrives during yet another attack of zombies and zombie wolves, but this time the townsfolk offer a quest to check up on a hunting party that has yet to return. The trail leads to a cave that serves as the primary location for this dungeon crawl adventure.

The cave is chock full of undead, though at least we’re given a nice variety: ogre zombies, owlbear zombies, wolf zombies, and a swarm of undead spiders.

The cave features an ongoing, debilitating stench, forcing everyone to make a DC 10 CON save every turn or suffer from half movement and disadvantage on attack and stealth rolls – ouch! Succeeding once renders you immune, but only for an hour, forcing some interesting limitations on resting.

The stench effect may balance out the somewhat easy battles. At level 4 the party are no pushovers, and zombies, even large ones, aren’t very powerful, with low AC and no multiattack, not to mention a lack of tactics if the DM is running them right.

The seven-room cave features exactly one easy door puzzle, two clusters of mushrooms with screeching alarms, and a captured occupant that the PCs can learn a few clues from. It’s just enough non-combat stuff to satisfy me, but it’s still a very combat-heavy dungeon.

necromancer's cave

The final boss is where things get interesting — and frustrating. Odo, a young man from the village, has a lengthy backstory involving a murdered father and abuse from other villagers, and in his escape from town he found a magic staff and an amulet containing the soul of an evil drow necromancer, who also has a lengthy backstory.

The only relevant information is that Odo is using the staff to animate zombies, but when he dies (and he’s just a Commoner), he releases the necromancer as a Wraith for the real boss fight, which could prove painful if the party lacks damage spells and/or magic weapons.

The twist is frustrating because the players don’t learn any of this backstory. There are no journal entries to find, nor any NPCs that can shed some light on the complex events that lead to Odo wanting revenge on the town. If the PCs convince Odo to stand down and return to town, the same Wraith-exploding scene happens when the leader of the town tries to kill him (the son of the man who murdered Odo’s father, some real Game of Thrones stuff here).

While I like seeing lots of extra backstory and information at the end of the adventure, the designer fails to make the players care about any of it. Either the story needed to be pared down for what amounts to a 7-page dungeon crawl, or the adventure needs to be expanded to allow for Odo’s tragic tale to be told more organically.

On the plus side, the necromancer’s cave has a very nice, full color battle map, with DM and player versions and gridded and non-gridded styles. The dungeon itself is well-designed for a linear, low-level cave, and I appreciate the variety of undead statblocks, including some new zombie variants.

Pros:

  • A large variety of undead battles within a relatively brief dungeon crawl.
  • Detailed backstories and NPC information.
  • Full color maps, including grid and non-grid, and DM and player versions.

Cons:

  • Too much story is shoved into a pseudo-appendix at the end.

The Verdict: A Necromancer’s Tangled Web features a competent undead dungeon crawl and a final boss with a potentially neat twist.

This review has been sponsored by the publisher Find more reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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