10’+1 – Halls of the Dwarf Lord

Another double shot this Monday morning. We’re trying to figure out how to make this work.

 

Review 1 – Bryce Lynch

By Stephen Grodzicki
$1 Adventure Frameworks
Low Fantasy Gaming
Mid/high Levels (8?)3d6 7hd cyclops, 5hd boss

This is a ten-ish page adventure with a short overland and one level dwarf hold with about fifteen rooms. It touts itself as a framework to run a sandbox, and is a freebie from a Patreon site. The adventure tries hard and does several things very well, just missing the mark in several areas. With a little more focus this could be that rarest of things: a series that is good.

Woodcutters are seeing small woodland creature skeletons walking about in a cursed wood and want you to check it out. There’s a short overland adventure with a great wandering table that gets you to a small abandoned fortress on a cliff. Inside you find some cyclops and a crazed wight.

This is a good place to talk about the wanderers, both in the dungeon and the wilderness. Everyone is DOING something, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to see this. It’s not just a garbage encounter table copied from a book, but just a little more is added. Just about one sentence more. Just one, and it adds so much. Skeletons “looking for humans to kill and return to their master for animating.” Or cyclops “returning from a raid carrying sheep and children in heavy nets, for eating.” Giants rates “biting a chunk out of a person and then fleeing in to the undergrowth.” These are great. They ARE little frameworks that can be built upon, exactly what a good published wanderer encounter should be. It turns “skeletons” in to something much more, likewise rats and cyclops. THAT’S show you write an encounter. They are dynamic, doing something. It’s not loaded up with text. There’s not much useless detail. It’s focused. It knows what it’s doing. It’s stabbing the DM with an icepick of an idea in the brain where it can flower. As soon as I read the cyclops entry I’m thinking “the cyclops are singing and joking, happy, while the sheep bleet and kids cry and scream and the cyclops smack them.” That’s what you want, JUST enough from the designer to get your brain kicked in to gear and expanding it. Evocative and terse. More IS less, it hides the evocative and forces the DM to dig for the encounter.

The dungeon, proper, is at its best when its following this formula and at its worst when it is padding things out and dwelling on trivia. “This hallway is 20 ft wide and 30 ft long. Corridors branch off to the east and west. A 10 ft wide corridor runs about 100 ft east … “ and so on. This is garbage detail. It’s trivia, duplicating what’s shown on the map and does nothing but clog things up. Likewise a room telling us that a small dias “is where dwarven guards once stood guard.” Well, are the fucking dwarves standing guard there now? No? It’s a cyclops common room? Then why the fuck are you telling me about what USED to be in this room? Look, it’s great if, as the designer, you’ve built this backstory, but you don’t need to vomit it up to the poor DM. I’m desperately scanning text trying to run the room

But, the adventure has some great things in it. Once room has a pit covered by an iron grate and a winch. Brain Eating ZOmbies are inside, moaning, climbing each other to reach through the bars, thumping their fists and biting the bars. PERFECT! You know what it adds? “Releasing the zombies could be an extraordinary bad idea for any nearby humans (or cyclops.)” GREAT! It’s a thing, it’s interactive, it’s evocative. That’s kind of fucking shit you want in your dungeon. I don’t need to know the wight uses this chamber as a holding pen. It’s obvious. I don’t need the fucking room dimensions. The entire five paragraph description should be shortened to three (one being monster stats) and it would be a lean, mean Dungeons and fucking Dragons Machine!

But, for every one of those there’s something that doesn’t quite work as well. The cyclops common room has one abused & bitter one that could be a turncoat …but that’s not really likely in a big cyclops common room, is it? The thing isn’t designed for that detail to be useful. Likewise there are two encounters outside, near the entrance to the keep, on a bridge or in a stream/ravine that feel forced. “Griffins attack when you cross the bridge” and a river monster attacks when you cross the stream. These feel less natural than either the wanderers or the creatures in the keep. More of a “now is the time when you fight a monster” than a “there is a monster living here.” There’s also a section where there’s some ancient writing. It you don’t make you check to decode it/speak the language, then you still get the gist of the message. That’s fucking bullshit. Why fucking bother rolling then? Likewise the mundane treasure is boring abstraction like “trinkets”, while the magic treasure is boring potions or full of bullshit mechanics. Fuck the “advantage in all checks to resist fatigue and may invoke a Thunderweave effect once every 1d4 days.” boring Boring BORING. “The bearer never tires in combat and, once charged with static electricity (every 1d4 days) releases (whatever the thunderweave effect is.) Magic should be wonderful, not reduced to mechanics. I touch roses.

The map has nice details on it, even if it is a bit cramped. The challenge level is all over the place, with a room full of 7HD cyclops and a boss monster that’s 5 HD, zombies, skeletons, and a 10HD river monster … I’m just guessing at level 8.

It’s a decent effort and I think the designer is close. More focus, more evocative, more creativity (no, not every fucking room needs to be a set piece) and this could be a really nice series.

This is currently free, as an example of the designers work on their Patreon page. Check out those wanderer description on page three, or the zombie room (5) on page seven. Or, the absurd amount of text for room one on page five.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/1xtqfss1mfuc5r4/%2818%29%20Halls%20of%20the%20Dwarf%20Lord%20%28Parchment%29.pdf?dl=0

Review A – The Pretty Girl

Halls of the Dwarf Lord
By Stephen Grodzicki
$1 Adventure Frameworks
Low Fantasy Gaming
Mid/high Levels (8?)3d6 7hd cyclops, 5hd boss
Total Score: 15 (out of 22)

A bread and butter campaign written in the style of a late 2.0 Forgotten Realms Module.. I hope all those references and proper nouns show up in other modules.. otherwise it’s a bit silly to behave as if ~made up person~ has significance either within the module itself or outside. If I am expected to care that the famed hammer likes to be called Sally.. I better get the chance to meet her.

 

Optimal Applications

Novice GM Good structure and low complexity for someone still developing a personal style and learning rules.
Novice Players Straight forward situations and combat

 

Rating Breakdown
GM Complexity 5
Player Amusement 2
Graphics 4
Language 2
Maps 2

What do the numbers mean?

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19 Responses to 10’+1 – Halls of the Dwarf Lord

  1. Ifryt says:

    Maybe there should be the max value added to the ratings? (5 of 6, 2 of 5 etc.) Especially because they are different for every stat.

    Putting descriptions behind a link was a good idea.

  2. Gnarley Bones says:

    Modules that don’t indicate the suggested character levels are a personal grump of mine.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Presentation wise, I’m wondering if the Pretty Girl Review should come first?
    Bryce’s review tells us everything in great detail while the pretty girl review is a short summary well suited to easy reference. In the current order the PGR feels kind of redundant, while reversed it could be like a thesis statement.

    • Fucktard's Everfull Ass says:

      I would do the opposite: make The Pretty Girl’s whole review only a link at the bottom of the main review, because she apparently still can’t be bothered to provide any real context for the ratings. As I said before, without an example, how do I know what “Player Amusement: 2 – It’s fine” means? It’s worthless, lazy garbage.

      • Female gets unearned rash of shit from male-dominated nerd niche. On some level, you know this is why you will die alone, mourned only by your dakimakura, right?

        • Fucktard's Everfull Ass says:

          Oh give it up! It’s a crap review style independent of gender, you worthless suck up. No woman’s showing up to see you in your momma’s basement just because you virtue signal some person called “The Pretty Girl” on a blog for a niche of a niche of a niche hobby. What a loser!

        • Fucktard's Everfull Ass says:

          Apparently for John Turdcoat, asking someone to justify their ratings with *actual examples from the module* (THE HORROR!!!!) is an “unearned rash of shit” and, because he thinks I’m male, the request is also motivated by sexism. This is some fucked up shit! Go back to picking cheetohs out of your fat rolls, Turdcoat. This is no place for braindead SJWs.

          • It was the dakimakura comment that cut you so deeply, wasn’t it? 😉

          • Fucktard's Everfull Ass says:

            Yes, Turdcoat! Yes! You apparently do have at least one functioning brain cell! Yell to your mommy upstairs and let her know you just might learn to wipe yourself one day!

      • Ribby says:

        Jesus dude! All you had to do was say that you weren’t a fan of her review style and explain why! The anger only detracts from your argument. I feel like Bryce is less likely to stop working with her because he wouldn’t want to feel that he was caving to your nasty comments. Your first comment was pretty harsh but not THAT bad, and John’a reply was tbf, kinda dickish, but they way you responded from there just wasn’t helping the conversation.

        I just don’t see why it’s necessary to be so unpleasant. You’re much more likely to get what you want and get people to agree with you if you’re civil with them.

    • Fucktard's Everfull Ass says:

      In fact, I can’t help but wonder: would we be bothering with these sorry reviews were they penned by Just Another Fatbeard? I suspect not. 🙁

  4. Gus L says:

    Seriously, let’s not turn this into YDIS…

  5. Another comment says:

    I think that the two review format problem here is that they’re two completely different styles and aren’t meshing. If you’re committed to making it work, what about trying to integrate them – pretty girl gives a category, rating, optimal application, and then Bryce rants or whatever with characteristic detail. Takes more work than just two separate reviews of course.

    • Fucktard's Everfull Ass says:

      Correct. One style attempts to justify/explain its opinion with examples from the module, the other does not.

  6. I am finding the two completely different review approaches useful and refreshing. Well done Bryce!

  7. Jordan says:

    I’d suggest to put the actual descritption of the score right there in the box for The Pretty Girl review. Having to go back and forth between the review and the “review standard” only to understand the review itself is not optimal.

    So, for example :

    GM Complexity : 5. GM would need to read through the campaign and expect to spend 1-2 hours preparing for each 4 hours of game play
    Player Amusement : 2. It’s fine.
    Graphics : 4. Usable during the game to share with players.
    Language : 2. Conversational but clear.
    Maps : 2. There are maps, they are legible.

    I’d also say to change the scale, which is uselessly convoluted and esoteric (for example, who would intuit that 2 for player amusement is second to the gushing praise of 5?), but that probably involve more work. If you’re willing to do it, I’d suggest a simple and intuitive 0-3 out of 3 scale, with n/a when there is nothing to grade (like no maps).

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