Ghost Writer: Johnny “Danger” Morris
The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, Adventure C1 by Harold Johnson and Jeff R. Leason is designed for characters level 5-7. It is the first in a series of modules from TSR called the Competition Series. It was originally used for the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons tournament at Origins ’79. The look and feel of this module is definitely classic and you may even wonder if you have fallen prey to some of its wicked traps and dangerous rooms before. The design of the Temple draws heavily from ancient Mayan and Aztec/Toltec mythology and society.
The artwork in the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, though sparse, is highlighted with several pieces by famed artist, Erol Otus, which sets the ominous and foreign tone of the adventure. Gracing the cover, several brave adventurers fight against a large foe who seems ready to sacrifice a warrior upon an altar covered in unknown carvings. Inside the rear cover is another Otus piece depicting what is possibly an archaic calendar in front of an altar upon which sits a sacrificial knife and a cat carving. Erol Otus’ artwork is well known from many AD&D books and his style really evokes the first editioness of this classic adventure. There are also illustrations by Jeff Dee, Gregory K Fleming, David S. LaForce and David C. Sutherland III, all of which add to the classic aesthetic of this module.
As for the layout of this module, every encounter has a “box of text” that is generally read to the adventurers and then a description of possible eventualities that could occur from characters’ interaction with the encounter. This style is very user friendly and should be very easy to use for even a newer Dungeon Master. It could easily be dropped into any sandbox campaign as a standalone adventure. In the beginning it gives some background on the adventure and has some notes for the Dungeon Master as well as having some notes on Tournament play. The rear of the adventure contains new monsters (at the time) including a freakishly Erol Otus rendered Gibbering Mouther (I failed my save vs. confusion).
Many of the encounters in this adventure are traps and puzzles. An example of this is the Smoking Mirrors room. This room contains 4 mirrors and a golden pool of liquid. There is a red mirror, black mirror, white mirror and blue mirror. The red mirror will falsely predict the characters’ death, the black mirror will cause an image of an Olman in ancient Olman garb. The long dead native can answer 3 questions, however if anyone touches the mirror, all their valuable goodies will turn to lead and glass, the white mirror is actually an ochre jelly in a frame and will attack and the blue mirror will trap any who touch it in its watery surface and they will begin to drown. There are many rooms just as diabolical as this one, however I don’t want to spoil them all for your players—they’ll have to figure out what is there on their own. There is not much you can trust in an old temple…
The main map containing the 3 levels of the Temple are what I like to refer to as blue print. The upper level where you start is the very top of the buried pyramid, with an entrance that leads to the Lower Chambers with progressing difficulty as you descend into the 1st tier, 2nd tier, and then the 3rd tier which is the final level. There are many spots where a DM can add his own special touches and it can easily be modified to add any peculiarities from your campaign world. This adventure also contains a handful of handouts to show the players as they enter certain areas of the temple. With the handouts are also several pre-generated characters for the players to assume if you are going to run this adventure as a standalone.
As this module is written for the AD&D system, it could easily be converted to any number of clones and retro-clone systems, most of them probably with on-the-fly conversions. Many of the encounters are traps/puzzles which won’t even require much converting. The wandering monsters would be easy to substitute for monsters from your favorite retro-clone. Personally, I ran it with Castles and Crusades and had zero difficulty, however it’s probably a good idea to go over it beforehand just to be aware of what may need to be converted as each retro-clone is different.
Rating this adventure on a scale of 1-5 would be:
Art: 4 – Erol Otus is great but I thought there could have been more illustrations.
Room Descriptions: 5 – All greatly painted the picture of the temple well.
Puzzles/Traps: 5 – Some PC’s will certainly fall prey to a few of these nasty goodies.
Encounters: 2 – I think there could have been more planned battles.
Overall, The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is totally prepared to bring even an experienced party to its proverbial knees and still holds up 38 years later. Between very insidious traps and formidable wandering monsters, countless adventurers have lost their lives in this hidden temple.