The Wizardarium of Calabraxis
Kill It With Fire (publisher)
Let me just get this out of the way. Is this the greatest module title of all time? I just love saying it.
For less than two bucks, this module is exceptional value. It will kick you in the ass and get you playing in no time flat. The general look/feel is super old school and fun - IOW it's a DCC module. The hook: two kids have gone missing. The PCs track them to a cave where surprisingly intelligent ape men have (or at least had) them both hostage. From here the characters enter a weird and wonderful system of rooms built by a long-dead crazy wizard and infested with both the wizards "pets" and creatures/beings from another age.
The module essentially runs off a keyed map. You could run this scenario with only the map and it's legend, all on one two-page spread. The rest of the module provides monster stats and fleshes out the dungeon. Prep means reading over the whole thing once or twice, which will take you about an hour.
Themes include uplifted apes, defrosted ancient aliens, a dead wizard who was into weird experiments, time travel, dungeon crawling.
The module has a few loose ends and things you will need to provide yourself, but I'll cover that below under play impressions.
Play Impressions (mild spoilers)
Overall this module ran really well. Here are some things I think would help to know/prep before hand, however.
- Statues. There is a hall of animatronic statues that players may end up kicking into action, for good or ill. It helps if you have a few pre-made, academic babble, dialogue loops so that the statues can say their piece when activated - or shout it when trying to smash the PCs to bits.
- Missing Kid. There are two missing kids. One you find pretty quickly. The other is in a spot that you could find her right off or take forever. Catching her will end the player's mission - though they may want to keep exploring. The author compares her to Newt from Aliens, which I used as a key. I added her to the encounter table for wandering monsters. That way she is sneaking around and you could find her anywhere, but probably won't find her right away.
- Ancient Aliens, etc. It is unclear where some of the wandering monsters in this scenario come from. I put in a kind of teleporter pad that only the aliens can activate and some evil looking cracks in one tunnel, to help explain how the creatures wander in. But maybe I was misreading the module and there's an explanation I missed.
- Alien Tech. Be prepared for characters to get hold of things like a "defective ray gun." Decide what it will take to operate it and whether it has charges or how it will break. Also, what happens if it backfires? The text suggests that the alien tech works to modify characters to make them more like the race that uses the tech. Think of it as an odd form of training. So you might want to prepare some thoughts on what these changes look like. I had characters make an INT check to use the device they got hold of. On a success it worked and there was a chance of a mutation. On a fail it backfired or broke.