Call of the Werewolf


By Joseph A. Mohr
Self Published
OSRIC
Levels 4-7

Call of the Werewolf is a Free OSRIC adventure for characters of 4th to 7th level of experience. The adventurers arrive at a small village along the Blood River and discover that a Werewolf is terrorizing the locals. Brave adventurers are needed to solve the mystery of who the werewolf is and these adventurers must put a stop to this fiend once and for all.

This 43 page adventure, a light investigation and assault, details a small village and the manor home of a local lord. The village is suffering from attacks on its livestock. Clues lead back to the local lord, and werewolves. The investigation is quite simple, the text repetitive and unfocused. There’s some delight in the encounters, from mimics, to dazzling chandeliers, moving armor and paintings and the like. Those parts are charming and remind you of the reasons the classics are the classics. If you were desperate for an adventure this would be ok, and if the manor/dungeon were in Dungeon Magazine it would be Best Buy in that periodical. It’s got a decent classic vibe.

I HAVE to talk about the investigation first. I have to. It’s absurd. It’s so absurd that I luv Luv LUV it! When the players first walk up, at dusk, a few villagers are talking, having a heated discussion. They split up with one, the mayor, talking to you. Moments later there are sounds of someone being attacked by wolves. “IF the party helps then …” sez the text … but imagine for a moment if they DIDNT. They are trying to hold a conversation with a guy, who it turns out is the mahoy, while someone is being torn limb from limb by a pack of wolves just around the corner. Scream, maybe some viscera flying around the corner, all while the mayor looks on normally and tries to hold a conversation with some murder hobos … Classic D&D! A good DM troll and DM response to it. 🙂

Anyway, the entire investigation is like that. “Yes, our livestock is being attacked, No, we don’t know why/who …” with a wolf attack right next to it. Gee, think it might be wolves? “Our local lord? He lies in that big mansion over there. No, he doesn’t come out much.” Bad guy alert! Bad guy alert! The wolves all wear gold medallions with a big “M” on them … so do the local lords servants. And his name is Lord Medgar. And one of the wolves in the pack turns in to a werewolf to run away. Gee .. I wonder what is going on in this village? Now, players being players, they will miss the most obvious clues, but, geez man, this is so bad I’d play it comedically.

I already mentioned that the manor/dungeon has some classic elements. A nice mimic, a chandelier that dazzles. Animated armor. Fountains to drink from. I love that shit.

If this were well written then it would be a mildly interesting adventure with classic elements. But it’s not. It’s 43 pages of two-column for a small village, manor, and dungeon under it. That means unfocused writing.

I use that term a lot, lately anyway. I use it to describe a beginners/amateurs writing style. Someone has an idea and they put it down on paper without really understand how adventure writing should work. It could be formatting (which this adventure doesn’t have much of a problem with) or the lack of organization like summaries, overviews, and appendices, which this adventure could do better at, but isn’t terrible at, making an effort at some summaries. Frequently it comes from not understanding the purpose of the adventure and how the room keys, in particular, work toward that.

The purpose of the adventure is for the DM to run the game. It must help the DM run the game at the table. In the case of the room keys this means presenting information in such a way that it’s trivial for the DM to scan the text, describe the room, and respond as the party interacts with it. This is no trivial feat. You have to describe the room in such a way that it lodges in the DM’s head and they grok it, able to fill in details as needed. When they search the chest you need to make it easy for the DM to find that text and run the trap/treasure. Indents, bolding, bullets, italics, and a host of other techniques can be used to help with this, but evocative writing and editing can help even more. That room description has to be evocative. You get, maybe, two sentences to describe the room to the DM and lodge it in their head. “Large” and “Red” are not good descriptions, they are boring. But you can’t go on forever about the cavernous room with towering rust-colored banners. You can’t use a paragraph to describe a chest of drawers and the mundane items in it, or the mundane items in a kitchen or pantry. It’s not worth it. Focus on what makes this DIFFERENT than a normal pantry and gloss over the rest.

Here’s some text from a room:
The door to this room is unlocked. Anyone listening at the door to this room will hear nothing from inside. This room appears to be empty. It is also quite dusty and does not appear to have been cleaned in over a century. The dust here is thick. Awaiting the adventurers in this room is a particularly nasty and violent trap.

Six sentences to tell us it’s empty and dusty. In a well written room we know it’s empty. We know that you can’t hear anything because we know instantly at a glance that there is nothing to hear. We know there’s a trap because the trap is described. “Awaiting adventurers” and “nasty and violent” serve no purpose other than to clog up the room description.

In another location we’re told there’s a statue and that those statues usually have large gem eyes and ivory horns. Great! But then it says “Not this one.” Uh, so then what was the point? To bore the DM to death? It’s not a detail that’s needed and so thus it makes the DMs job harder. No, more is not better. It’s not better to have it and not need it. Put your shit in a god damn appendix if you insist.

While I’ve concentrated on room/key, I’d like to note that format is NOT appropriate for some things. The village in this adventure, for the investigation, is presented in room/key format. That’s TERRIBLE! This is a social environment, the personages are buried in their respective rooms with no reference. Their personalities and goals and what they know. You meet a guy on the street? Let me flip through the adventure and find the room key he’s in so I can figure out his personality and what he knows … is that how to run an adventure? Obviously not. A little table, with villagers names, the house they live in, and a fast personality and/or fact about them lets the DM run the adventure is a much smoother format.

This is free on DriveThru. The preview is six pages. Most of it is useless, but you do get to see the opening scene. I like the villagers discussion, even if I do think it could be written better/shorter. At least you get to see the whole gold medallion/wolf attack/werewolf thing. 🙂
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/222818/Call-of-the-Werewolf

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The Lost Colony

By Sean Liddle
Anti-Photon Publishing
System – Unknown
Level – Unknown

You and your friends are in deep trouble. Children of respected knights of the realm, you’ve been slacking away and causing trouble. Thankfully the King and his people respect your families and you haven’t been banished, or worse. Now you must travel down the southern coast to investigate a long standing rumor of a missing shipload of treasure from one hundred years past. You will visit hidden port towns, island enclaves and see sights you’d never see from your boring northern stone city. Pirates, sea monsters, a mystery to solve and wealth to retrieve for your king and country to help fund a coming war against the Drow. It’s time to search for the Lost Colony.

This 43 page adventure involves a sea voyage to various ports while looking for a lost treasure of old. It is linear and almost incoherent in its stream of consciousness style.

There are no stats. There are no credits. There is no game system mentioned. There is no introduction to speak of, other than a “this is the first in a line of adventures and we will expand some areas in others.” Everything is in a single column. A cursive font is used in places, making vast portions nearly unreadable. Other interesting font choices seem to fight the reader to be clear. All of these choices combine to make it VERY hard to read the adventure, let alone use it at the table.

The writing is mostly stream of consciousness. Linear, events, and encounters all mixed together in single paragraphs, without a traditional room/key format. It’s as if this is an outline, or you were sitting in a bar after three drinks and describing an adventure. The first 28 pages are the sea voyage and the various ports visited, rumor tables, and merchants to visit, along with a couple of encounters that the DM can use to “keep the adventurers on their toes.” Like giant Crabs coming out of the water and snagging a womans children. Multiple paragraph read-alouds, you visit three or four cities and then end up in a forest on page 28, ending on page 33 before the maps start. The main encounter, a dwarf vault, is on one page in paragraph/conversational form.

I don’t even know where to start with this. It is as incoherent as it can possible be and still be legible. This needs a formatting, bad, for readability purposes. Once that’s done then the conversational writing style could be addressed.

This is $1.75 at DriveThru. The preview is perfect, showing the first six pages. The cursive font. The long read alouds. The stream of consciousness writing on page five for the events. It’s quite representative for what you are getting. I encourage you to check it out.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/181092/Southern-Coast-Adventures-LC-1–The-Lost-Colony

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Dungeon Magazine Summary: Issues 126-150

Again, if I don’t list an issue it’s because there was nothing too notable about it.

Dungeon 128
Shut-In is a delightful little urban adventure. Guarding a little old ladies house, the thing has more atmosphere than, say, every Ravenloft adventure ever, combined. The Swan Street Slicer. Mute halfling. A town working itself in to a frenzy over the escaped murderer. A bitter old woman in a wheelchair. Good stuff. This thing would have me, as a player, bouncing up and down in my chair in anticipation.

Dungeon 129
Murder in Oakbridge is a murder mystery that, while overwrought with text, gets most of the organization right for an adventure of this type.

Dungeon 130
Within the Circle has a nice intro & wilderness section, but fails utterly in the dungeon that’s supposed to be the focus.

Dungeon 133
Ill Made Graves has a viking theme and “feels” right. Lots of callbacks to classic tropes, like chucking things in lava crows, shattered remains of a dead kings magic sword …

Dungeon 134
Home Under the Range is a farce about herding giant beetles, cattle-style, through the underdark. Linear set pieces, but short and allows for stupid plans to be designed and executed.

Dungeon 136
Both Tensions Rising and And Madness Followed have good things to reccomend them, from factions to sandbox play, but ruin it with WAY too much text. More than usual. Which is saying something.

Dungeon 139
Urban Decay has a gritty vibe going on with meat pies made of rats. It’s event/lair based but has some nice gritty urban imagery.

Dungeon 140
The Fall of Graymalkin Academy is kind of like the Battle of Hogwarts, with factions. Nice magic school vibe, but could be rewritten to provide a more evocative atmosphere.

Dungeon 142
I was fond of Masque of Dreams, a ball that gets attacked, but it needs more structure to make it worthwhile.

If you like set-pieces then Here There Be Monsters has some good classic trope ones. It’s linear as all hell, but good for that.

Dungeon 144
Lightless Depths had a great alternative underdark thing going on, but was IMPOSSIBLY long otherwise.

Dungeon 145
The Distraction wants to be a sandbox but fails in almost every way.

Dungeon 146
Escape the Meenlock Prison is only interesting in that is crosses a line, morally. You’re hired to go to a black prison and escort two prisoners to another location. Weird.

Dungeon 147
The Aundairian Job is a sandbox bank heist. It’s a little moderny for my tastes, but that can be handled with some on the fly retheming.

Dungeon 148
Automatic Hound has a nice meta thing going with villagers and roleplaying. Too long, but done right this could be a great difficult social adventure with an almost LotFP ending.

Dungeon 149
The concept in War of the Wielded is nice: it takes intelligent swords to their logical extreme. Linear, but factions of intelligent swords engaged in a centuries long war with wielders as pawns is a great idea.

Twisted Night has some good imagery and a nice horror vibe. Needs a rework to make it coherent.

Dungeon 150
Kill Bargle is a nice exploration dungeon, which makes sense because it’s essentially a dungeon taken from the early days of D&D.

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Tomb at the Dragon’s Spine


By Scott Taylor
Art of the Genre
1e/5e
Levels 1-3

While crossing the deadly ‘Dragon’s Spine’ of the island’s interior, the party encounters a darkness at the heights. Within the ancient stones the tomb of one of the last sea dwarf master masons rests. Has the corruption of the island reached the tomb? Only exploration will reveal the truth, and the treasure.

This nine page dwarf tomb has twelve rooms in simple layout. There’s some effort to create an evocative atmosphere that doesn’t quite reach my, quite high, expectations. There’s also some above average effort to have unique treasure. This could be quite a bit shorter, with good editing. It’s not a throw-away but also doesn’t really strike hot. It would probably be fine for most people, if a little staid.

I want to talk some about the atmosphere the adventure is trying to create. Here’s some intro text, describing the mountain area where the tomb resides:
“There is a presence here, not something palpable, but an ancient aftereffect that pervades the very stonework of the hills. Crumbling stairs, moss- covered arches, and cleverly disguised passes around perilous rock faces and towering waterfalls seem to greet you at every turn. One thing is clear, whoever created this pass knew the subtleties of stone and kept their secrets well.”

You can clearly see where the designer is trying to go. I’d divide the description to two parts: impressions and conclusions. The first and last sentence fall in to the conclusions while the middle falls, for the most part, in to the description category. It’s that middle section that I like the most. Adventures are, I think, more successful when they concentrate on the impressions rather than the feelings. A good impression/description will create and communicate the feeling, without having to resort to saying it outright. Those bookend sentences almost fall in to the trap of starting with “You feel …” and I think that’s weak writing. Crumbling steps, moss-covered arches, hidden passes … those help communicate the conclusions.

Another example:
“Frost holds heavy to the dark earth along the bluffs to the east. There, amid a collection of tumbledown stone, the remains of several ancient plinths stand at odd angles. Somewhere beyond, a darkness lurks in the mists that collect amongst the stone.” Again, conclusions bookend a pretty strong impression. The first and last are, perhaps, trying too hard. I love the tumbledown stone and fallen plinths.Frost and mist can work well, along with the inky black opening, but the overly poetic language gets in the way of those impressions.

One chamber has pinprick holes in the ceiling letting in light, which is great imagery, but is surrounded by the drudgery of dimensions and the mundane. “A large forge, cold from ages of disuse … again, trying too hard. The adventure is best when giving those impressions and letting the mundane fall by the wayside.

Most of the rooms fall in to a page of bolded/read-aloud and then a couple of paragraphs of DM notes. The bolded read-aloud has the filler text, as does the DM notes. It flirts in to the realm of the conversational. “The trap cannot be disarmed but can be avoided” is the sort of detail that acts as filler, mundane details not needed that hides the better DM notes and evocative text.

The encounters proper are ok. There’s a trick or two, such as a stat-raising/lowering fountain. SOME of the treasure is good, like a lantern that doesn’t go out when submerged or a jade necklace that allows dimension door once a day. Then it falls down with simple things like +1 mace or +1 chainmail.

It’s a small simple tomb that’s supposed to be evocative and communicate a scary/abandoned vibe. The extra text detracts from that, impeding scanning and making one fight for the good bits.

It’s $2 on Drive Thru. The preview is six pages and shows you almost all of the tomb text. You can see good example of the text in rooms four and five.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/216048/The-Folio-146-Tomb-at-the-Dragons-Spine-MiniAdventure-WS16

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The Temple of Drawoh Rock


By CS Barnhart
Mad Martian Games
OSR
Level 1

The Temple of Drawoh Rock is an adventure module for 1st level characters exploring the Ice Kingdoms. As warriors of Thane Ornulf the characters will sail the Atalac Sea, explore the Gate Isles, and raid the Monastery of Jove. But what starts out as a simple plan to rob some peaceful monks turns into a harrowing adventure as the adventurers cross paths with the machinations of a deadly sorcerer.

This is a sixteen page viking themed adventure about a raid on a monastery. The monastery is relatively small, at 11 rooms, but there is a sea voyage. It flirts with providing an evocative atmosphere, but ultimately fails to deliver on an evocative environment

This flirts with a viking theme. You’re all drafted to join your first raid , pretending to be a different viking group. There’s a sea voyage and then you end up at the island only to find the monastery empty, obviously having been raided recently. What follow is a slow forlorn explore with a slightly creepy vibe and a few monsters bursting out. There may be something like eleven rooms total and four or five monster encounters, mostly with ghoul-like monks.

The ship voyage has a nice wandering/events table with things like rocks with visible pearls … guarded by mermaids. Storm effects, and so on. The monastery text, while long-ish and unfocused, does present a kind of creepy ass vibe

You have to work for it though. The monastery isle is explained in the text, but a little simple overview map would have done wonders for it. There’s no shipmates presented, and only a throwaway reference, in about 3 words buried in text, of the leader of the expedition. But we do get a long paragraph describing the layout of the monastery … which is just describing what is on the map right above it. “At the far end is the alter (a) and to the north (b) and south (c) are two wings.” It goes on and on instead of concentrating on an evocative atmosphere. There’s a lot of art and large text … I’d estimate that only two or maybe three pages are the adventure proper.

This needs slightly more detail for the ship crew and leader, and a paring down of the text about the raid, the background, the boring minutia of the room descriptions. The treasure is generic. Religous artifacts, scraping away gold … there’s no specificity. I’m not looking for paragraphs, or even sentences, but SOMETHING is needed.

I’m being a little harsh on this. Most rooms are a paragraph or so, and it DOES provide a nice creepy vibe. It also feels overly sparse for the amount of text there is. One of the rooms is:

Much like the north wing, the south wing is a ten foot deep and twenty foot wide area that branches out from the nave. This area is the choir and has been built for acoustics. From this point, singing echoes throughout the nave and monastery as a whole.”

I think I’m turned off by the sparseness of the voyage/crew/island and the large amount of art … it feels like the things is SERIOUSLY padded out to make it to sixteen pages. That and the relatively abstracted treasure. But then it does things like say that if you scrape the gold off the altar then the potions and scrolls inside the temple don’t work for you … you’ve angered the god of the temple. That’s great stuff. And the bad guy sorcerer is nowhere to be seen,

This feels like a good adventure plagued by the need for a little more support in the crew and leader, and some better treasure. It also feels … incomplete. Anti-climactic, I guess. I’m not looking for a boss fight but it somehow feels unsatisfying. Maybe it’s the low treasure? I don’t know. It’s quiet, which is ok, but feels too sparse for what it is. I’m intrigued by it.

I don’t know. This review sucks.

It’s PWYW at DriveThru, currently at a suggested $1. The preview is seven pages and show you the wandering table, at the end, which I think it well done, as well as the long-ish intro. It does give a good viking vibe … but goes on and glosses over ship life too much.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/218033/Ice-Kingdoms-The-Temple-of-Drawoh-Rock

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Dungeon Magazine Summary: Issues 101-125

A reminder: if I don’t list an issue then it doesn’t have enough redeeming qualities for me to mention it. I didn’t accidentally skip them.

Dungeon 104
Dragon Hunters has some nice faction play in it and perhaps some murky morality (in a fun way, not a punitive way) that need some work to get some good use out of it. Quite above average for Dungeon.

Dungeon 105
Racing the Snake is NOT what I am looking for in an adventure, but if you want linear set pieces then you could do A LOT worse than this one.

Dungeon 112
Maure Castle, updated to the new rules. The layout is terrible and Kuntz needs an editor with a spine. It’s also classic D&D exploration, which is quite rare.

Dungeon 114
Mad God’s Key is a plot based adventure AND it doesn’t suck AND it’s in Dungeon! Very flavorful and good imagery throughout and worth digging through the text.

Dungeon 115
Raiders of the Black Ice has a great variety of encounters and good winter vibe.

Dungeon 117
Touch of the Abyss and Fallen Angel both have some high points, but both suffer one or two good ideas that are not followed through on.

Dungeon 118
Unfamiliar Ground is a linear crawl, but its has some good weird stuff and order of battle for enemies.

Dungeon 121
Fiend’s Embrace features a ruined castle in a cold swamp and is quite a bit more evocative than most Dungeon adventures.

Dungeon 122
Fiendish Footprints has some linear elements, but also has a multi-entrance dungeon and interesting scenes/encounters in that linear environment.

Dungeon 124
More Maure Castle, with the usual Kuntz faults. But the “highlight” is The Whispering Cairn, the AGe of Worms kickoff. Not a bad little dungeon, for a plot thing.

Posted in Dungeon Magazine, Reviews | 2 Comments

The Wicked Woeful Web


By Thom Wilson
ThrowiGames
Swords & Wizardry
Levels 1-2

The monks of Esherten have always used trained spiders to protect their crops from the nearby giant fly hives. That was until several days ago, when the always obedient arachnids left the small settlement and disappeared into the Woeful Forest. The giant flies, attracted to the Flame Flower nectar grown in the village, have found the crop unprotected. Monks and villagers are growing weary from their constant battle with the insects. They need help! Who can help them bring back their trained guards?

This is a seventeen page adventure fighting giant flies and spiders. There is some fine imagery in this that really sparks the imagination. Then there’s the other 99.9% of the text which is unfocused and hides the evocative bits, turning a nine room adventure in to seventeen pages.

A village grows a rare flower and nearby monks raise giant spiders to protect the crops from giant flies that like to feed on/destroy them. But the spiders have recently disappeared, migrating to a nearby forest. The primary adventure is a four room cave with a giant evil spider in it. The secondary adventure is a giant fly lair with five rooms.

There great imagery in this. Massive tiny spider migrations, as the evil spider calls them to her, ala Harry potter. You notice, by sense and/or smell something foul and ancient within a cave. Tiny spiders swarm over the remains of a fallen dear. Hundreds of deformed egg sacks hang from the ceiling and cling to the wall of a chamber. Very nice! It implants a strong mental image in your head and allows your brain to fill in the blanks, exactly the sort of evocative writing we’re looking for. But that’s generally one sentence in a column of text. Otherwise the writing is long and generally unfocused … hence the column of text per room. It’s padded out with trivia and detail that is not likely to come up in the adventure.

Then it leaves out things. Room c2 has spiders in it. The text says they will will attack. Unless they are the spiders from the monastery in which case they won’t attack. Are they spiders from the monastery? Are they mixed? No idea. And then the treasure … most of the mundane treasure is just generic coins and the magic treasure is “Dagger of Sharpness, +1 damage.” Lacking detail where it needs it and full of detail where it doesn’t.

Sometimes I find no redeeming qualities in an adventure and, after a couple from the same publisher, write them off and avoid that stuff for a couple of years. This does not fall in to that category; the imagery in this is quite good in places. What it needs is A LOT more thought on the writing, a focus on the purpose of the writing and how it relates to the room. That’s a “second draft” topic in my mind, and fixable and more easily learned than other adventure issues.

This is $1.50 on DriveThru. There’s no preview.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/221048/The-Wicked-Woeful-Web

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Nothing To See Here


By Christopher Clark
Inner City Game Design
Generic
Mid-levels

While you were away, things did not go according to plan. Someone ran up a whole bunch of debts in your name. Someone made a lot of promises and commitments on your behalf. Someone even signed you up for some sort of inn time-sharing scheme. Someone was not very nice; not nice at all. But they looked like you, sounded like you and got you into more than a lot of trouble. Perhaps you’ll show them the meaning of the word trouble, once you find them.

This 37 page adventure has three locales, two of which are likely to be visited. It is the very definition of ‘terrible generic stat’d adventure’, with all that implies, such as long ponderous text. There’s a Tunnels & Trolls kind of very simplistic thing going on where you go somewhere, like a health spa, kill “barbarians” in dressed in suits, and then move on. It’s not the humor, which I usually hate, it’s light enough here to be ignored. But the text, oh my god, the TEXT! I knew it! I know it! This is the same terrible style & formatting used in Eldritch Enterprises products! I knew I’d seen it before!

You’re in a forest and see Wanted signs with your faces on it. You’re wanted for a variety of crimes, like theft, etc. If you camp for the night you’re attacked by some barbarians. If you don’t camp and instead move on you’re attacked by the same barbarians. They are collecting on a bar tab you are accused of skipping out on. When you kill them you find a flyer that leads you to location two. This is the adventure in a nutshell. Some guys attack you, no matter what you do, with a little light farce attached, and you get a clue for the next location where the same thing happens again. Eventually you find a cave with some shape-changing fey that like to mimic people and cause trouble for them. You, of course, kill them.

Lots of read-aloud. Lots of DM text. All of the stats are in that cumbersome generic weirdo format that hasn’t been used since sue-happy T$R days. There’s no real orientation, leaving you wondering all the time what’s supposed to happening, or could happen. “Once any character announces he would like to try to catch a fish from the lake, The Count leads them there …” It’s ALL like that … you have to be INTIMATELY familiar with the byzantine structure to know where to go and what to do and what’s available.

I’ve seen a lot of bad adventures, so I’m not going to say this is the worse formatting/structure ever … but it is certainly in the same ballpark.

This is $15 on DriveThru. The preview shows you a few pages of the most comprehensible part of the adventure: the confrontation with the evil fey in their cave. It’s a paragon of virtue in layout and design compared to what’s come before.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/222335/Nothing-To-See-Here?src=newest&coverSizeTest=true&filters=45582_2110_0_0_0

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Dungeon Magazine Summary: Issues 76-100

Dungeon 76
Fruit of the Vine featured a house overrun by a vine creeper. The core of the encounters were good but WAAAYYYY too much text.

Some folks like Mertymane’s Road. I found the terrain and weather effects tedious and unfun, and others thought they were great.

Dungeon 77
Visiting Tylwyh is a low key but fanciful affair that’s quite charming. Nicely evocative descriptions … and a lot of text that is not.

Feast of Flesh has great Aliens vibe with creatures burrowing up in to a village. Needs a few events, but a decent side trek.

Dungeon 78
Peer Amid the Waters is an actually GOOD adventure, and not even by Dungeon standards! An underwater mystery that DOESN’T suck, isn’t DM torture porn, and is full of mystery and wonder!

Dungeon 79
Keep for Sale is a nice little adventure with overland and dungeon adventures, factions, and a lot to interact with. Charming with a lot of possibilities.

The Best Laid Plans, a side-trek, gets an award of special merit for being, I think, the only side trek adventure in Dungeon magazine that actually fulfills the mission of a side-trek.

Dungeon 80
Trouble with Trillochs has a lair and environment that feels more alien than most dungeon. Not great, but better than usual.

The Scar was a dungeon built in the magazines Dungeoncraft articles. Better than most, but still wordy.

Dungeon 81
A Race against Time is an urban adventure with convoluted setup that tests disbelief. But it’s full of chaos and is a little silly. A personal favorite, even if it is convoluted. Goes to show what a hypocrite I am.

Astar’s Temple is has a nice layout for exploring a dungeon room variety in the encounters.

Dungeon 82
Eye for an Eye is great photocopy/highlighter fodder, with depth not usually found in low level adventures.

Dungeon 83
Depths of Rage was a favorite from when I was young. A goblin cave with lots of the cave features and height changes, that then undergoes an earthquake when you’re inside, making it harder to get out/different challenges. Me Still Like.

Dungeon 84
The Harrowing is, I think, the first of the linear combat-fest adventures in Dungeon. So, special award for ruining D&D, Monte.

The Dyng of the Light has a great background/complications/map/variety and vampires to boot! I like this, but it seems impossible to run without a rewrite.

Armistice has the party playing peacemaker in a valley full of factions and is quite sandboxy. Needs more specifics in a couple of area, more flavor.

Dungeon 85
I go back & forth on Ever Changing Fortunes. Lots of nice bits buried in the bloat of a monster zoo dungeon.

Dungeon 87
Raider of Galath’s Roost has a great first half and then one of the worst wall of text problems I’ve ever seen in the second half.

Dungeon 88
Thirds of Purloined Vellum was a decent investigation adventure in a city with good organization and street life encounters.

Make it Big was a small side-trek where the party is blackmailed in to servitude by some hill giants. Nice premise and good details in places. Not stellar, but good by Dungeon standards.

Dungeon 90
Elfwhisperer, padded beyond belief, has good imagery and motivations while searching the woods for bandits and encountering cursed elves.

Totentanz has a nice folklore vibe and haunted forest thing going on … until it falls down by becoming a boring wizards keep.

Dungeon 94
Worms in the Exchequer is TERRIBLE … but it is complete farce. Does a good job of setting a farcical tone … and then ruins it with the adventure.

Dungeon 95
The Witch of Serpent’s Bridge is workmanlike, not being loathsome or particularly standout. It needs just a little bit more to push it in to good territory.

Dungeon 96
Pandemonium in the Veins is worth the trouble, i think, to dig through. Player driven, events, lots going on. Some gimpy shit also, but that can be worked out.

Dungeon 97
Heart of the Iron God needs more color and a mad prune down, but provides a nice environment, an assault on a moving giant iron golem, and does a lot right.

Demonblade had some good imagery in the investigation of a slaughtered village, but then sucked when it got to the meat of the adventure in part two.

Dungeon 99
Fish Story has some social elements to it, but isn’t quite a faction adventure. Finding something to like in these issues near ‘100’ has been difficult.

Posted in Dungeon Magazine, Reviews | 1 Comment

Dark Times in Brighton

By Bill Logan
DwD Studios
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 1-2

Townsfolk are disappearing from the surrounding countryside. Goblins are on the march once more. If that wasn’t enough, a terrible blighting disease has infected the waters and not even the curative magics of the Temple of the Winds can thwart it. This is indeed a very dark time for Brighton.

This 54 page adventure details a 21 room goblin lair in an old dwarven hall, along with town nearby. Nice motivations/background and DM advice lead to a journeyman effort with the encounters and the writing being LONG. Too long & focused for me.

The town patrol wandered too far and found a goblin lair. Some killed, some captured, some escaped, the survivors come back, and have brought a disease. A rescue patrol didn’t return at all. Riders have been sent out seeking help. The first group to respond were greedy and disruptable. Your party is the second. That’s the background, which is actually pretty good. It also sets up the action for an evil NPC party hanging around, their rumors, and eventually encountering them in addition to the goblin band in its hold.

The adventure has a a bit of “young adults/children” bend to it, with situations that are clear moral choices and allows kids to be the heroes they know from the tropes they’ve seen. I generally abhor the morality of adventures, but I can certainly see a place for it in adventures for certain audiences. Further, the adventure does a decent job of providing DM notes in sidebars, to explain what it’s doing things and how to modify the adventure … like making it less kid friendly. “The party might decline because the village has plague, if so you could try …” is good DM advice.

The village has some nice rumors and a number of small (VERY small) side quests, and there’s a short wandering table in the wilderness to get to the goblin lair. The rumors could be better, but they do deal with actual information in the adventure. The encounters in the lair fall in to the pretty standard territory. It’s more than “goblin guardroom with 4 goblins.” There’s an evil temple, a throne rooms, guard rooms, slave pens, torture chamber, and all that you would expect. There’s also just a LITTLE bit more. The goblin guards are bullying another goblin … whoc them helps you if you save him, telling you where some traps and treasure are. That’s a good example of both the moral bend (I’m sure the kid players would stand up to bullies) as well as providing more dynamism to the encounter and NPCs to interact with the dungeon, and this dungeon hits that multiple times. Good journeyman-level encounters.

Where it fails is in the wordsmithing. While the ideas are decent the communication style is LONG. And a little bland. The initial read-aloud is about a page long. The town building descriptions are full of trivia that clog up the descriptions without being directed toward actual play. History, descriptions, unfocused writing … they turn the town entries in to a wall of text in which nothing stands out and anything that DOES impact play is hidden. This continues in to the dungeon room descriptions, with long read-alouds that are not particularly evocative and then lots of DM text, turning each room in to almost a column of text.

Interesting, because it DOES do good things in places with formatting/style. That long intro text I mentioned? It’s followed by a couple of bullet points with the key facts for DM’s that want terse facts to run it THEIR way. PERFECT. It also does a great job of selecting a format for the monsters that makes it easy to see their stats. A little lengthy, but its clear that some attention was paid to that. The random DM advice note boxes that appear in the text are another example … someone thought about things and found a way to address it. But the MAIN text. The actual text, is unfocused and doesn’t appear to have the same attention paid to it. It’s hard to scan, it’s conversational, difficult to run at the table. You need to be able to scan the text quickly, requiring focused writing with evocative descriptions rather than trivia.

The encounters are ok, but the writing & formatting are not up to snuff. Bill’s work is not beyond hope if he improves his writing.

This is $13 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages long and is all “overview” and DM reference, not really a view in to the encounters or descriptions at all.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/95757/Dark-Times-in-Brighton

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