Tyranny of the Black Tower

By Extildepo
Verisimilitude Society Press
Levels 3-5

The village of Sacrabad is a wretched place. Dark rumors abound concerning its steward, “His Lordship” Nim Sheog, who rules the place through terror and cruelty. Merchants who have passed through Sacrabad tell tale of how chaos thrives while the good folk wallow in misery. Nim’s guard are no more than a well-paid gang of thugs, hired to enforce his relentless and often bizarre laws and what’s worse, they seem to be in league with a nearby band of goblins, The Yellow Fang, who are often left to terrorize the villagers without reprisal. It is rumored that Nim keeps the rightful and lawful lord of Sacrabad locked away in the dungeons of the keep, the ominous Black Tower. An imposing structure that once afforded the village protection, the Black Tower has become a symbol of tyranny. But there is hope on the horizon. Hope in the form of a secret society who conspire to rescue the rightful lord and overthrow Nim and his guard. Can our heroes champion the cause?

This 24 page adventure describes a small village and the wizard/manor tower of the evil rules, as well as the dungeons under it. It has some interesting ideas that could have deserved to have been developed more, like a village rebellion. Given a strong cleanup of the text you’d have a fairly standard adventure.

So, you’re standard repressed village. Corrupt guardsmen, thinly veiled alliance with the local goblins, evil wizard in a black tower on the hill overlooking town. There’s a small group of rebels in town. The party will get thrown in the dungeon under the tower on a trumped up charge, thus disposing of them, or they will push back when the guards push them, probably then making contact with the rebels. Whatever the reason, the party will end up in the dungeons (monsters) and tower (guards/wizard.)

I hate the village and I love the village all at the same time. It’s laid out in standard room/key format, which is a lousy way to describe a social setting like a village. The entries tend to the long side, making information hard to find in each. What’s worse, it’s mostly just the same old usual tropes. These things should be written to cut fast. Get in and out fast; a couple of words of description and focus on what’s relevant to the adventure rather than the trivia and mundanity. But …. It’s also got a great hand-drawn village map. It’s great for one main reason: it complements the rebellion thing that’s going on in the village. There are a couple of resistors to the mages rule and they could make contact with the party. The map perfectly compliments sneaking around at night. Fields, ravines, rises, hedgerows, tree copses … all it’s missing are some guard notations and maybe a patrol path and you’ve have a perfect map to support some great intrigue play. The text is not great in that regard; the plots could be called out more and so on. But it definitely leads to the DM imagining sneaking around the village, torchlight, and shiving guards on patrol and pulling them behind hedgerows, WW2 style.

It’s also got a pretty good emphasis on … zero-levels! The bulk of the guardsmen are zeros, with a 2nd level lieutenant or so here and there. Finally, a village in which all of the guards are not 10th levels fighters!

The tower, proper, has the upper levels that house the wizard and his troops and the lower levels that house a more typical dungeon, and in which the party might be thrown in to. There’s a wizard to free down there, who could be an ally if nursed back to health, as well as some goblins, sentenced to death, who could be allies also if you can put up with them being goblins … not outright betrayal but rather some low level stuff like stealing. It’s a decent little “wizards dungeon”, not awfully special but an effort is made with the encounters.

The writing though, is very weak. A page of background. A page of hooks (which should have been formatted better) and lots of loose text in the descriptions. “If the referee wishes …” is a good example. Why would that be put there? It’s padding. Be direct in your fucking writing, people! It comes out as conversational and indirect. It obfuscates the text and makes it hard to find the relevant bits. Non-trivial facts expressed with evocative words.

At one point dwarfs find a walkway of suspicious design … but nothing more is said of it. Uh. What? Why would you not tell us?

This needed an editor. And not one of this shitty copy editors. That crap’s mostly useless. (Except, of course, for my reviews, which desperately need one. 🙂 Someone to cut the weasel words, flag the common adjectives, and tells the writer to switch to active voice. The bons are good, if you can slog it through.

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages, most of which are useless. The last page gets closest to the real writing. Note the “hooked” section on the left. The paragraph writing could have been better organized with bullets, or some such, instead of mixing everything in to the text. The first key is not quite typical, but note the mixed location data and lack of getting to the point.

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