RPG Review: The Ghost Tower of Inverness
The Ghost Tower of the title refers to the central tower of the castle of the dreaded wizard Galap-Driedel. The entire Castle Inverness was magically lifted "from the very foundations of rock upon which it rested." Within the central tower was said to be the "Soul-Gem" which "dragged the souls of men screaming from their mortal flesh and trapped them within its many facets." When one day the wizard failed to return an angry mob (presumably with pitchforks and torches) stormed the castle and tore down the central tower. Though on fog-shrouded nights the central tower can supposedly still be seen (a "ghost tower" if you will).
The default background for the adventure has the Seer of Urnst persuade his duke to employ adventurers to retrieve the Soul Gem. Obviously this is something which can easily be adapted to fit any campaign. Originally meant for tournament play, the pregenerated characters have interesting backgrounds, primarily being criminals who go on this quest in return for amnesty. Escorted to the ruins of Inverness they are given an amulet which will teleport them back once they retrieve the Soul Gem.
The first part of the adventure involves the ruins of the castle and the dungeon beneath it. There are four parts to the dungeon, all leading to a locked central chamber. Each of the parts will give them one fourth of the key to the central chamber.
The dungeon has classic D&D wandering monsters - Rust Monsters, Gelatinous Cubes, Ghouls, etc. However what makes it memorable is its numerous puzzles. There is a room where stepping on a certain part of the floor teleports a monster into the room. Another room has 16 bugbears standing in stasis, a stasis which is broken upon certain conditions. Perhaps most memorable is a chess room where the players find themselves as a chess pieces.
Upon gaining access to the central room the adventurers travel back in time to when the central tower existed, with the rest of the adventure taking place in the tower. The tower consists of chambers dedicated to the four classical elements, air, earth, fire, and water, with dangers and monsters appropriate to the elements. There are also some funky gravity shifts such that one level is upside-down in relation to the other levels. Finally our bold adventurers reach the Soul Gem and must retrieve it while avoiding getting their souls trained.
One thing worth noting is this adventure has numerous handouts providing pictures and illustrating various rooms in extra detail - not to the extreme that Expedition to Barrier Peaks would later do, but still rather useful.
While the adventure requires a lot of leaps of logic - accepting all the logic puzzles, the time travel, the bizarre environments of the tower, etc., it is in many ways a classic dungeon crawl. Designed for mid-level parties, the greatest challenge is not really the monsters but rather the dungeon itself, where sharp thinking greatly reduces the risk to the adventurers. The dangerous dungeon brings to mind the Lankhmar story "The Jewels in the Forest", originally entitled "Two Sought Adventure".
How would this work as an adventure today? Obviously it still makes a fine AD&D 1st edition adventure and no real work would be required for 2nd or original edition versions (or their clones). Similarly it would fit very well with games such as Adventurer, Conqueror, King System; Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Role Playing; and Dungeon Crawl Classics. Adapting them to later editions would certainly be doable but likely with a lot of work to properly balance the encounters.