I'm pretty well known as a guy who would like to see the old school renaissance do more than endlessly rehash Keep on the Borderlands and ape TSR's trade dress circa 1978. While I'm quite happy to use cloned rules, I'm far more reluctant to use cloned adventures, which is what I fear a great many recent old school adventures amount to. I'm not wholly opposed to clever reworkings of module staples, of course, but the operative word is "clever," which is a rarity in any age but particularly so in an age when the esthetic and creative choices of the past are treated as normative rather than merely one possible approach among many.
That's why I tend to think more highly of old school products that push the boundaries of the form a little bit. Guy Fullerton's The Fane of Poisoned Prophecies doesn't push any boundaries, but I liked it anyway. This 24-page module succeeds, in my opinion, not because it so closely mimics the look of the TSR modules of old (right down to the cover artwork by Peter Mullen, everyone's favorite Erol Otus stand-in), but because it possesses that elusive quality of "cleverness." The author takes a somewhat hackneyed premise -- investigate weird goings-on at an ancient temple -- and spins it into an imaginative site-based adventure that's easily usable in any campaign -- not high art by any means but still something well worth celebrating.
The Fane of Poisoned Prophecies takes place within a Sun Temple that houses an oracle whose prophecies are sought out near and far. When her oracular powers seemingly start to fail, providing false pronouncements to those who seek them, it arouses suspicion and the player characters set out to investigate. Once at the Sun Temple, the characters must contend with its sacred guardians, as well as otherworldly invaders who've taken over the Temple and are the cause for the oracle's feigned prophecies. In the process, they discover the true purpose of the Temple and the secret that lies hidden within its walls.
My apologies if that description is vague, as I didn't want to give away the Temple's secret, which is something I think D&D has lacked for some time and that fits in well with its pulp fantasy roots. At the same time, the secret is a mere prelude for what is to come, as this module is the first of a proposed trilogy, the second of which will likely deal with the topic in greater detail. Indeed, if there's one thing that disappointed me about The Fane of the Poisoned Prophecies, it's that its cleverest idea is mostly alluded to rather than actually presented within its pages. Yet, the idea is clever enough that it gives a wonderful ambience to the entire module that enjoyably propels it along. I can only hope that its sequel is in fact published and lives up to the expectations this module generated.
This adventure module uses the AD&D 1e rules and proudly states that fact on the cover. Why it didn't use OSRIC I cannot say. It's intended for a party of 4th-6th level characters and should definitely prove a challenge. Many of the monsters it uses are from later AD&D books, like the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II, which gives the whole thing a slightly "weird" quality vaguely reminiscent of The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, although not quite as intense, perhaps because the writing is much more workmanlike than was Gygax's. The interior artwork by Jason Braun and Andy Taylor varies in quality, with the best pieces being those of Taylor, an artist whose work has, I think, improved considerably over the last year and whose style is wholly his own rather than being imitative of any of TSR's stable from the Golden Age.
In short, The Fane of the Poisoned Prophecies is a clever module. It doesn't break new ground but it does what it sets out to do quite well, in addition to setting the scene for what I hope will be sequels that do open up some new vistas for Dungeons & Dragons. Goodness knows the old school scene could use a few more of them nowadays.
Presentation: 7 out of 10
Creativity: 8 out of 10
Utility: 7 out of 10
Buy This If: You're looking for a clever, site-based adventure for mid-level characters that uses old tropes to good effect.
Don't Buy This If: You're looking for a module that stretches the limits of what old school gaming is all about.