The Midnight Duke


RPGpundit
Precis Intermedia
Dark Albion
Mid-Level

Taking control of the Debateable Lands, the Midnight Duke and his followers spread darkness and Chaos. Whether sent to investigate claims of dark powers by the Clerical Order or ordered to stop the threat at all costs by a rival lord, the PCs are sure to meet trouble in this open-ended scenario.

Well fuck me. 0 for 2 this week.

This seventeen page “adventure” details a couple of evil NPC’s and lightly outlines a situation. In a lawless border region an evil dude has taken over while everyone else is busy in a civil war. There’s some nobleman who might hire the party to go kill the dude. The dude has three followers and a duke of hell lives in his keep. The local villagers don’t really support him, but are beaten down.

It takes Pundit seventeen pages to outline this. Lots of history and background, if you are bored and can’t sleep.

NOT.
A.
FUCKING.
ADVENTURE.

There’s a crowd that says something like “it’s art if the creator says its art,”

Maybe.

Unless I pay fucking money for it. Then I’ve been ripped off. And I’m bitter.

The gang is coming over in a few hours and you go to DriveThru to buy an adventure to run. That’s my bar. “There are some evil dudes on the border and a demon” don’t cut it.

This is $3 at DriveThru. It has a four page quick preview that shows you nothing.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/239948/RPGPundit-Presents-28-The-Midnight-Duke

Posted in Reviews | 4 Comments

Gemsting Caves


By Peter Rudin-Burgess
Azukail Games
Generic

In Gemsting Cave, characters explore a cave once haunted by Gemstings – Giant Scorpions – which have now returned after many years. The cave can be dangerous, as the Gemstings are able to climb on the walls and roof, attacking fro

This fourteen page thing is not an adventure.

The intro implies that it’s an adventure.

The rip-off at one point refers to itself as a mini-adventure.

If I search on DriveThru for “Adventures” it shows up there.

If I did REAL deep and look at the page count on the right in the product details and then go look at the preview and compare them then I can see that it’s actually a nine page map you print out and tape together. There’s one page that says “there are giant scorpions in the caves and they can walk on walls and ceilings.”

This is fucking bullshit.

These creator marketplaces are fucking rip-offs. Steam solved this problem by implementing a return policy. I now buy more from them because I have more confidence that I’m not getting ripped off. DriveThru needs a return policy.

And if you’re a creator about to whine about your already tiny profits then go fuck yourself.

This is $1 at DriveThru. Go fuck yourself.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/240006/Gemsting-Cave

Posted in Reviews, The Worst EVAR? | 13 Comments

Fishing for Gods in Strade’s Gallows


By Remley Farr
INS INK
5e
Levels 2-3

A medical shipment to the swampy town of Strade’s Gallows takes a turn for the eccentric when the party happens across enigmatic shrimp-men who begin to worship them as gods. Can the party solve the mystery of Strade’s Gallows’ ailment, or will their new disciples botch it all up?

This 55 page adventure (most of which is actual adventure and not index) details the goings-on in a small village, and a ruined fort nearby. The first chunk is very social and sandboxy, as the party explores the village and gets involved in some small intrigues. It leads to the sunken ruins of an old fort and the forces behind what’s really going on. It’s got way too much text and needs edited and formatted WAY better for comprehension. Still, it’s nice to see a 5e sandbox.

It starts with the party killing a Kua-Toa god, and its worshippers switching faith to the party. And someone in the party then slowly mutating over several days in to a new god. This is mostly farce, with the Kua-toa treated like simpletons and doesn’t really impact the adventure except as Yet Another Thing Going On.

I’m a fan of a lot going on, but the worship/mutation raises some interesting theological D&D questions that are, perhaps, best unasked. Visions of characters recruiting cults to mutate themselves come to mind. In any event, the entire worshipper thing is mostly ignored, and really could have used some more words to guide the DM … especially around the ability to control followers, etc.

The adventure has, essentially, two parts:town & dungeon. The parts in town are very social. There are several subplots going on, that could be confused for false leads. These are covered in one page each, which is GREAT presentation style. Everything on one page and easy to find. The idea being that the party nose around town, learn about the subplots and get confused in the main plot and so on. It’s all very social and I like the concept a lot.

The second part, the dungeon, is more linear. Taking place in the ruins of a sunken fort, it has little “adventure areas”, clusters of rooms, connected by a hallway from the last area and another to the new area. Not exactly sterling design but at least its not completely linear.

Both section, town and dungeon, suffer GREATLY from the editing and formatting. The writing is not particularly evocative, but the bulk of the text is irrelevant and gets in the way. Multiple paragraphs of DMs text per room make figuring out what is going on, on the fly at the table, hard to hand/scan. Better use of bolding, whitespace, and indenting would have helped a lot. Or, better yet, removing about ?’s of the words. There’s just way way way too much writing for each room. Short, punchy, let the DM fill in the rest.
There is, of course, mountains of backstory mucking things up also. In spite of a magic item called “Gerald the Hatestick”, a sentient staff, it’s mostly flavorless. I find the simpleton kua-toa thing weird also … have they full on turned in to farcical creatures in 5e?

One day the 5e designers will learn to edit and things will improve. One day. This feels like the designer got bogged down in putting things in they thought they needed instead of concentrating on what they had. “I have to have read aloud” or “i need lots of explanation/backstory.” Instead the effort should have been on flavor and the ability to scan at the table.

This is $6 at Dmsguid. The preview is four pages. In spite of that, the writing style is full of display. Just imagine all that writing for each room.
http://www.dmsguild.com/product/171229/Fishing-for-Gods-in-Strades-Gallows

Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments

Navron’s Sinister Stair


By Mark L. Chance
Spes Magna Games
S&W
Levels 2-4

Old-timers still speak of Narvon the Charmer, albeit in hushed tones, as if the long-dead cleric might hear his name as an invitation of some sort. This is, of course, absurd, but also gives eloquent testimony to how feared Narvon was in life. Long ago, Narvon established a strange cult in chambers carved within stony Stolkoya. For a time, the cult flourished, but after only a year, during a night full of strange lights and bizarre lightning, the cult came to its end. Intrepid investigators found almost all of the cult’s members atop Stolkoya, mutilated and charred. The few survivors proved irrevocably mad, gibbering about “frogs from the sky” and “wings that never flap”. As for Narvon, all that remained was his head affixed to a spike. Investigators reported that Narvon’s face in death bore an expression of purest joy. Since then, no one has dared climb Narvon’s Sinister Stair.

This sixteen page adventure details a simple three level dungeon with sixteen rooms. Long and lame read-alouds with a focus on murals and other trivia detract from interesting vignettes and monsters. There’s a clear nugget of some interesting undead & demon monsters, but the rest of the adventure is nothing special.

There’s no plot here, the adventure is presented as ‘a Dangerous Place for 2nd-4th level adventurers.’ The hooks are the usual bunch of “something weird is going on over at the old cult compound”, except there’s also a nice Son of Sam thing with a vagrant explaining the voice of the dead cult leader told him to kill.

It’s got a couple of nice things going for it. First is the whole “told me to kill” thing. The cult leader was a charming guy, so while in the dungeon any PC making a suggestion to another PC or NPC will force a save or they have to do it, ala the Suggestion spell. And if they do it on purpose then they get a little tik mark next to their name on the DM’s notes. Get enough tik marks and its saving throw time to prevent your corruption. That’s a fun little mechanic; those kind of “this IS a weird place!” things always bring a smile to me, especially when they are so clearly a Push Your Luck mechanic.

It’s also got some decent little imagery in places, especially around monsters. A semi-liquified zombie comes to mind, as well a two cultists who died terrified in each others arms … and now form a weird hybrid skeleton creature. Like the “well zombie” in Walking Dead, these bring a nice little bit of extra to the generic Skeleton and Zombie creatures. That’s probably also why I like marching skeleton guard formations so much (in general, that is.) That extra little bit sometimes extends to rooms or treasures, like a mold-choked rotted desk containing a treasure. Oh, wanna search the desk, eh? I did mention it’s mold-choked & rotting, right? Not that it’s yellow mold, or anything, but its a good example of layering of effects (to tempt and put the players in to a tense decision) and nice imagery. There are a couple of other nice features as well, such as same-level stairs.

But, the text is generally not very good. Long read-alouds full of things like “the romo is 20×30 and there are two doors” dominate the descriptions. There’s background information like what the room was once used for and how the cultists used to come in a procession. There’s conclusion words in the read-aloud like “murals show a terrifying religious process” and, in fact, a great deal of emphasis placed on mural descriptions, to little impact on the adventure proper.
IN some cases the read-aloud spoils the fun. A good back-and-forth dm-player style encourages interaction. “There are levers on te wall” invites the players to ask how many and in what position, but that tends to be spoiled by the read-aloud. “There are three levers in u-down-up formation.” LAME!

Further, some things are missing entirely. For example, once read-aloud concentrates on the mural, completing not mentioning the Manes cavorting and gibbering in the room. The cavorting and gibberring are the FIRST thing the party will notice and should take central stage, if you’re going to use read-aloud.

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is eight pages long, which shows you the first nine rooms. Room five, on the sixth page of the [review, is a good example of the read-aloud.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/239629/DP-3-Narvons-Sinister-Stair

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Twelve Days of Dadi’Van


By Thom Wilson
ThrowiGames
S&W
Levels 3-5

Dwarves from the village of Whundarn have a serious problem: they have been unable to produce female children for several years. An ancient and strange affliction has returned to the remote mining town after several dozen generations. The town’s Keeper of the Lore has recently discovered the solution to the fertility dilemma, but townsfolk are unable to obtain the necessary ingredients to make the needed elixir. They need champions to attempt the dangerous mission on their behalf, but who will answer the call in time?

This 32 page adventure describes a magical island in a state of winter. CHaracters navigate an evergreen maze and tunnels inside a mountain at its center in order to pick berries from a tree at the top. Page long room descriptions are supplemented by “kill the monster and move on” challenges. It’s also not clear to me at all that the adventure can be completed successfully due to time constraints.

The dwarves, mentioned in the intro, have found a clue in a book. They need three berries that grow on a magic island that appears in the bay once a year for twelve days before disappearing again. That’s all they know. The island appears in three days time. Once on the island the party is met by various winter-themed foes. The main features are an evergreen maze that surrounds a mountain at its center, a mountain full of tunnels/rooms that leads to the summit where the tree is found.

I got a lot of issues with this. Dude that lives on the island automatically knows when you arrive and sends his creatures after you. This is, IMO, a symptom of “D&D is combat. Every encounter should be combat.” I’m sure we’ve all encountered people who think like this. That’s not the D&D I know and love.

The characters are also gimped bu fly, hover, levitate, ad float like spells not working. Because you have to complete the adventure the way the designer wants you to, not through creativity. If you could fly then you’d just zoom to the top and get the berries, cutting out everything in between. This is a sign of a poorly written adventure. Generally, the level is too high is you’re worried about that kind of stuff; write it for a lower level party or change the adventure. Gimping the party is almost never the answer.

I think, though, the biggest issue is the difficulty. You go to the island only knowing about needing the berries. Time on the island is accelerated, meaning that one day on the island is twelve outside of it, leaving the party one day to complete the adventure … and they don’t know that. That’s bad. Without knowing that the party will fail. I mean, they will make decisions that they would NOT make if they knew the actual consequences. Oh, you camp to regain spells? Fail. Without knowing the rules they can’t make meaningful decisions and without meaningful decisions they can’t decide to push their luck and/or fun ensues.

Beyond this, they can’t just pick the berries. If they do then the berries will wither and die. They need special gloves to pick them with. But they don’t know that. And if they do get the gloves then the berries will still rot because they need a special bag to transport them in, that they don’t know about. And they can’t even get in to the mountain without a special key, that they don’t know exists. And they have a day. And the place if stuffed full of monsters. Essentially the party is going to have to COMPLETELY explore the evergreen maze and the tunnels to get everything, which means encountering nearly every creature. In S&W. In one day.

There ARE some rumors that could be learned in dwarf town, and there’s a fairy that might be friendly, in the maze, but its not certain AT ALL that these will be paths that generate the info the party needs. Certainly not the rumors.

Oh, and the dwarf village is inaccessible in winter, but the island appears in mid-winter. Then how do you get to the village to pick up the adventure? And I haven’t even touched on the page long location descriptions.

It does have a nice non-standard magic item or two, with very OD&D vibes to them. And it does have an encounter or two that are nice, like the battle scene between giant squirrels and evil trees. But that’s not enough. Not nearly enough.

This is $2.50 at DriveThru. The preview is only three pages long and shows you nothing of meaning to help you make a purchasing decision.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/239051/Twelve-Days-of-DadiVan–SW2250

Posted in Reviews | 7 Comments

Saving Sujeira’s Soul


By Ben Gibson
Coldlight Press
Pathfinder
Levels 1-3

It is the year of our Lord 1452; the world is changing. But here in Village Sujeira, time seems to have stopped. From misty sunrise to dusty sunset, the ebb and flow of life remains the same. Although the animated gossiping of the women seems a little tense today. And are there perhaps a few more dirty travelers upon their burros than normal? And here is Father Olavo…does the prelate look a bit shifty?

This 20-page adventure is a collection of sites and regions connected together though events in the background. It has a pseudo-historical Portugal setting, which is easily ignored. The church, and the threat of the inquisition, is the only real connection to the setting. It’s got some good things going on with terse wanderers and NPC’s, and presents a lot of areas with a small page count, but it also has some readability issues and the connections between areas aren’t quite as strong as previous entries by the designer.

The set up is easy: the local wise woman has gone missing and the local priest, a friend of hers, is worried because the inquisition is in the area. Unknown to all, an embittered villager has returned, having sold her soul to infernal powers for magic, and kidnapped her, intending to seal the deal for more power with no just her but the rest of villagers also. While looking for the wise woman the party stumbles upon a mercenary looking for the three parts of a holy relic. Which then intersects again with the embittered woman/missing wise woman once again.

The locations in this, the village, the local church, an old tower and the swamp (as well as an inverse of the swamp) are all covered in a two-pager format. Tersly written, the format generally works well. It’s just the information you need to run the adventure, the focus on ADVENTURE instead of boring trivia. The NPC’s descriptions are just a collection of two of three words: chatty, excitable, joyful, or sincere, fretful, cautious. It works well for communicate an NPC vibe to the DM. Likewise the wandering tables all have the creatures doing something which adds to the encounter. Great writing.

The maps can be hard to read at times; it’s the old wound of “fancy fonts”, which almost always come at the expense of readability. There’s also something weird about text fonts used, or rendering engine or something … the BOLD text seems to run in to the non-bold lessening the impact of it.

More importantly, I’ve been through the adventure a couple of times and I’m having trouble following certain parts of it. Recovering the parts of a relic, the thing the mercenary is after, gives you access to Limbo to Stop the Plot, Recover the Wise Woman, Findt the evil woman, etc. And yet … I can’t figure this part out. The NEED for the relic, or the party learning that, seems to not be called out anywhere? In other words, there’s not really any chance for the party to learn they need it. Or that there’s a bigger plot going on. I can’t find these parts of the adventure … which means that either they exist and I can’t find them (bad) or they don’t exist and/or are implied …. which is also bad. It doesn’t seem like there’s any way for the party to discern the location of the reclis, or know they need them in the first place. That would be the major adventure malfunction.

For it’s minimal nature, I like the setting and think it adds a lot. Rural portugal, poor priests, the inquisition … just those words I types adds a lot of context for the DM to orient their imaginations and add to things. Like I said, there’s not a lot of conflicting setting detail that would keep this from being a “normal” low fantasy world, beyond a church and a inquisition. Ad doesn’t every campaign need an inquisition at some point?

This is $3 on DriveThru.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/236809/Saving-Sujeiras-Soul

Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments

The Bishop’s Secret


By Mark Chance
Spes Magna Games
Swords & Wizardry
Level 4-6

Bishop Pausanias, gray haired with merry blue eyes and respectable girth, has long been one of the city’s pillars. He is famed for his charity and the holy protection he exercises over his city. So why do ghouls stalk the city at night? Why, on moonless nights, do zombies shuffle down streets, and what horror murders the faithful in their sleep? What is The Bishop’s Secret?

This eleven page adventure details a small nine romo underground tunnel complex and a bit of plot in the city above. It’s got a nice undead vibe going on, and the city intrigue is explained in just enough detail to make it work well. The writing style, though, is conversational. You’ll need a highlighter, and there’s no room in my new condo for a highlighter.

This thing is above average in a couple of areas. First, it provides some good summary information for a plot in town. The adventure is basically just a nine room dungeon, but the little bits provided before the dungeon description provide a nice little overview of ways to involve the party. A gang of thugs the bishop uses when he needs people. Corrupt priests. Dead walking in the streets. It’s just a little, but it’s enough for the DM to craft something around that’s a little more than a throw-away investigation. It’s a decent way to handle the context of the dungeon. This kind of matches my view on hooks. Either you don’t include them or you make them more than “You are caravan guards.” You don’t have to write a book, but a few specifics in order to get the DM’s imagination going seems to be the correct amount of length.

It also does a pretty good job of painting a picture of an Undead adventure. Muddy tunnels with water in them. Low. Cramped. Claw marks here and there. The smell of rot. Weird echoing sounds. It does a good job of providing some atmosphere for the DM to work with. A bowl stained by blood from gory libations. It’s decent text.

It’s also buried in a conversational writing style. “IF characters speak in this chamber” is a classic example of IF THEN writing style, a kind of indirect style that pads text out. “As with the Mausoleum of the Patriarchs, the gated area to the spiral stairs leading down to this area is kept locked.” Well, yes, I lie the idea of a locked gate in a church leading down to the crypts. But the first clause is, again, just padding. I’d have liked to see better editing and use of whitespace to separate out descriptions from mechanics.

The treasure also seems quite light for a gold=xp system. It feels more like the token “treasure parcels”of 5e than the riches of gold/xp.

This is clearly trying, but the organization of the text is far too … loose for me. You have to make an effort, find a highlighter, etc. I choose Pikachu instead.

This is $2 on DriveThru. The first few pages of the preview are good examples of what you get … and in fact the entire adventure is there in the preview. The second and third page shows you the loose information for the town data/plot that I liked so much. The fourth page onward shows you the adventure and the writing style in the rooms that I think is too loose.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/239435/DP-2-The-Bishops-Secret

Posted in Reviews | 5 Comments

Tower of the Black Sorcorers


By R. Nelson Bailey
Dungeoneers Guild Games
OSR
Level 5-8

The cabal of sorcerers has dwelled with their baleful tower for hundreds of years. Now something evil stirs in the town of Bal-Curz — strange happenings of malefic magics and persons disappearing in the night. The fearful townsfolk whisper that its source stems from the Black Tower. Possibly a few bold heroes could investigate the tower to uncover its secrets and put an end to this unseen terror?

This 27 page adventure describes a 27 room tower of evil wizards and its single dungeon underneath. The usual wizard stuff, like libraries and summoning rooms. It’s quite verbose, at about two rooms per page. It’s not worth it to dig through it all, even if it does contain some depth and freaky monsters.

This is offered as plotless, meaning it is offered as location rather than tying it to the end destination of a kidnapping plot, for example. Why the party is going in is up to the DM. There are a few ideas mentioned, most of which are the usual throwaways. A foot-race to win the hand of the lord mayors daughter, and the last temple in town are both more interesting options for getting the party involved, if the DM needs help. The few extra details present in each help elevate them above the usual “help us!” throwaways.

The original monsters, and their art, are good. A human torso with the arms and legs replaced by spider legs, but ending in uman hands … freaky deaky! And with art to match! Likewise the adventure presents a bit of an order of battle, noting responses to incursions in the tower. Other than this you’ll find the usual stuff. Cells with prisoners, summoning circles, libraries, etc.

The major, major detractor though is the length of the actual locations. These things are taking up about over half a page each, and of a smaller font at that. It has to have a seperate section, for each room, noting illumination. Then it goes in to detail about what the kitchen looks like. Then it may have a section on tactics. And then maybe there’s some backstory embedded in the location, telling us WHY. All with a penchant for overly flowery text in a conversational writing style.

This doesn’t work. I’m not going to suggest “adventure to be read not played” but it is leaning in that direction. You can’t run an adventure, at the table, trying to dig through all that text. What do the players see? Who knows … you have to dig through a half page of text to find out. “Oh, uh, wait, it turns out that there’s a guy in here and he’s attacking you.” Indeed.

We know what a kitchen looks like. A kitchen location in an adventure needs to only describe what is relevant to the adventure. If the chimney is a way in, or has a treasure hidden in it, for example. Telling us their is a carving block is worthless, unless it’s got the head wizards noggiin on it. All this extra text does is pad the word count and clog us the bowels of the text. Likewise tactics. Long tactics sections are boring and useless and generally a sign that the designer is overly invested in their creation.

And as for backstory, here’s what makes up ?’s of the entry for a cell with a bodak in it:” The bodak is the former master of the tower before Basharn rose to power. It seems that Basharn inadvertently gave the wizard the wrong information concerning a specific layer of the Abyss he intended to travel to. There the pure evil of the Abyss transformed him into a dreaded bo- dak. Basharn then summoned his former master back from the Abyss to employ him as a servant. However, the bodak remains rebellious, not yet submitting to the magic-user’s will.” What then, does this add to the adventurer that just death saved? That most certainly DOES smack of novel writing!

The tactics section for a wizards starts with “In the event of intruders in the complex …” This is a classic IF/THEN writing style. IF the party opens the door to the room THEN they see … Padding. That’s all it is. A conversational style of writing. The room IS, just say so.

This is just an overly described tower stuffed full of low-level wizards and creatures. It hints of better things with a map of underground tunnels and spider/man slaves, but can’t deliver.

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages long. The fourth page shows you some of the example plots tha DM could develop, and I suggest reading number four for an idea of what a short “summary plot idea” might look like in an adventure. Otherwise, the writing style of the locations is not really shown.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/238038/Tower-of-the-Black-Sorcerers-DUNGEON-DELVE-1

Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments

(5e) The Chapel on the Cliffs


By Joseph Crawford
Goblin Stone
5e
Level 3

It’s been fifty years since the curse struck Kennmouth. Since then, few have dared brave the dangers of the abandoned village. Even fewer came back in one piece. Kathryn Reed has her eyes set on the fishery waters of Kennmouth Bay, but she needs adventurers foolish enough to lift the dark curse. Will you be the heroes who finally rid Kennmouth of its denizens?

Hey! It doesn’t suck!

This 38 page adventure details a cursed village, empty by day and patrolled by undead at night. Sandboxy, not a railroad, and rewarding thoughtful exploration, it’s organized well and has great imagery. I am not mad as this adventure. (It also comes with a 25 page supplement that scales the adventure to various levels and has full monster stats.)

This adventure is focused. It knows what it wants to do and it’s focused on doing that and little else. The setting is a ruined village. While a village map is provided, the only structures described are those related to the adventure. You can pick up a rumor about a witch being hanged at a tree, so the tree is described. There’s a lighthouse that, if you climb, you can see a couple of new locations to go look in to. The carpenters shop has tools and supplies to fortify a house (against undead attack at night) so it get a few words.

The details provided all directly relate to how the party interacts with the world. It’s like the thing was playtested and additional detail provided based on those playtests. Hmmm, need chase rules and/or skeleton siege rules. Hmmm, players want supplies to barricade themselves. Better put some help in for the dm.

It’s got more than once path to look in to. There’s an (obvious) green glow coming from a chapel on the cliff at night. There’s rumors about a hung witch. There’s obviously some ancient barrow-mound shit going on. Not exactly false trails, since they can contribute to things going on in the village also. Clue trails that lead to other things, in other words. This thing is DESIGNED, something few adventures seem to be.

Ghost ships, erie green glows from the cliffside chapel, the entire concept of a cursed/haunted village, disturbed graves, skeletons clawing their way out, a pale thin woman trapped in a sea cave … this thing also brings the evocative. It does a great job of creative a vivid picture with only a few words.

Which is not to say this is a terse adventure. It has something else going on. The page count is a bit up there. Some of that is related to the formatting. It uses sections titles, formatting, and whitespace to good effect, but that also contributes to the length. As does the anticipation of the needs the characters might have; that DM advice takes up space. The text can get long in a few sections and a little bolding would have helped. I’m thinking of the Green Mold curse, which gets a column of text. You’ll need to dig through it to find the mechanics for when the party encounters it. The NPC’s also tend to get an opening paragraph description that’s a bit conversations. A little bolding, to call out their main traits, would have helped with scanning during play. It DOES make good use of bullet points, and in spite of my nits IS organized well.

The hook is also a little … 5e. It’s oriented around a businesswoman wanting the party to look in to things for her so she can used the cursed villages harbour. How pedestrian. There’s a lot of rumors and information to follow up on in the nearby village by the mundanity of the hook is lame. A curse/haunted village nearby, with rumors about it in town, and maybe some related small hooks (which are interconnected with the businesswoman) might have been a more natural fit. But … there is a lot of rumor and information in the nearby town and it’s done well. The italic text, used for read-aloud, in an offset color, doesn’t work well for me, i find the italics and color chosen hard to read.

This is a decent adventure that rewards some thoughtful play. Looking around. Paying attention. NOT rushing in to things. Running away. Rushing headlong will get you murderized by 120 skeletons. Nice. I approve. I could/would run this and not be mad. A few better choices in formatting and editing would have pushed this in to my Best Of category. But, it’s also easily one of the best, if not the best 5e adventure I’ve seen.

This is $5 on DriveThru, with print versions available. The preview is 13 pages, a third of the adventure. The lighthouse, rowan tree, and smithy are on the last two pages and give you a good idea of the town locations and writing style. Page 11 shows some of the helpful DM advice, in the form of simple timekeeping tasks (for sunset when the skeletons arise.)
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/216229/The-Chapel-on-the-Cliffs-5e

Posted in No Regerts, Reviews | 7 Comments

The Exfiltrators


God is dead and everything is sex.

By Lance Hawvermale
Hawvermale Paper & Pen
1e/2e
Levels 5-7

One of the doomed souls within Velgate Prison is innocent, but the only way to free him is to infiltrate the prison. And if that task isn’t difficult enough, what’s far more challenging is getting out.

This 42 page adventure is a prison break in an inescapable panopticon prison. The designer has no idea how to format an adventure. It has wall of text, mixes important data at random in to random bots of text, stacks the cards against the party, and, to top it off, the product description is inaccurate.

I once had a boss who was the most incompetent person I’d ever seen. I mean truly a fuckwit. He stayed on the job two years. The lesson learned is that you don’t have to be good at your job. You have to be good at GETTING a job. This adventure raised $2000 on kickstarter, with 100 backers. Any of you creators struggling with the quality of your product, the crippling self-doubt that comes from creating, need to learn a lesson from this product. Marketing baby, who gives a fuck about quality.

The ‘quality’ in question? It’s a mess. I don’t even know where to start. Room four of the prison describes the control room. That’s where we learn that the prison has only twelve guards. Because, obviously, if you needed that information you would not look in the “prison overview” section but rather in the control room entry. Clearly.

This club has everything. The hooks are mixed in to the long background text. Page long NPC’s.

This kind of shit happens over and over again. Worse, the descriptions for EVERYTHING are long and full of fiction writing. “This room is the prisons dark heart.” *yawn* How about justifying itself? “The door has been reinforced by strips of laminated horn so that any check to open it is at -4.” *yawn* People don’t hear the door chime/doorbell, but they always hear the door being broken down.

Speaking of … The prison is a panopticon. The party is searched and everyone disabled and scanned by magic. The ambush has illusions, a spellcaster wearing a ring of inviso, massmorph attackers, and other gimps. The walls take a 50% penalty to climb. It just goes on and on and on. You WILL play the adventure the way the designer intended! He’s going to be sure of that …

The opening ambush is three pages long. A column of tactics. Long NPC stat blocks. The entire thing feels more like a late 3.5 adventure than an OSR one. “You see what appears to be a weary traveller.” That is both a common way to write and a shitty one. Wasn’t there a good blog post about “appears” somewhere?

Finally, and just to show how petty I am, you don’t break in to free an innocent. You get captured. The entire blurb is wrong.

Abort! Danger! Abort!
This is just badly written and designed dreck. I will again use the most stinging rebuke I know of: Why would you attach your name to this?

This is $7 on DriveThru. The end of the review shows you the three page ambush and half of a LONG NPC description.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/238100/The-Exfiltrators

Posted in Reviews | 13 Comments