Strange creatures threaten the woods just east of the peaceful town of Adela. Many fear that an evil witch has loosed a great curse upon the land. Who will venture forth and find the cause of these troubles? Who will confront the Witch of the Tarriswoods?
This is a small and mostly linear adventure with some old-fashioned charm to it. The town is threatened and, after a bit of investigatory pretext, a short two encounter wilderness section gives way to a small seven room dungeon. The adventure has some problems with communicating basic information, like how many bad guys in a room, but does a decent little job of presenting the encounters as real places, rather than forced set pieces. Look, I like weird shit that talks to you and this has that.
There is a REFRESHINGLY lack of lengthy background information and then the little town is launched into. Or, rather, the NPC’s in the little town. Four or five NPC’s are presented, each with a little paragraph and then a nice little bullet list of what they know about the current troubles. I could quibble a bit about the length of the “general” text for each NPC, but recognizing that the town is a social encounter, and providing data to the DM focused around that, their personalities and what they know, helps immensely in running an adventure. I don’t really give a shit how much stew at the inn costs, I care about the innkeepers data that he’s going to relate and how to run him. This adventure recognizes that. And it manages to ALMOST fit it all onto one page … glory be, it’s almost a DM’s reference sheet!
There’s just one problem. There’s no description of what’s going on, who the baddies are, etc. “The farmers and hunters aren’t able to work the fiends!” Ok. “Traders aren’t coming because of the attacks!” Ok. Uh … Who’s attacking? What’s attacking? Description? There’s absolutely no indication ANYWHERE in the adventure of what’s attacking the folk. What are they afraid? Who’s attacking? Who knows. The witch? Skeletons? Bandits? An atrophal?
It is this kind of … casual overlooking of information that’s so frustrating in this adventure. There’s a skeleton attack in the woods, in a nice flooded graveyard. There’s no indication of how many skeletons attack. There’s an attack, later on while in the dungeon, by ‘goppers’, but, again, there’s no indication of how many attack. This might also be the case with the Animated Vine attack, which at one point is referred to as vines, plural.
And then there’s the treasure. There is, essentially, none. Maybe, 150gp in statues, 150gp in bracelets, a couple of scrolls, and a magic marble. Oh, and a 300gp emerald! That’s ain’t gonna be enough XP to level. Not even close. I see this time and again in ‘OSR’ adventures: not enough treasure. I’m usually not very hardcore about this, but, come on, it’s gold for XP people, make a toekn effort to understand the rewards for the game you’re writing for! That said … the magic marble that sings while it is rolling is cool, as is a ring that turns you into a fish. Both non-standard and both excellent items for a party to find creative uses for.
I found the encounters rather charming. From the woodcutter running out of his cabin, to skeletons with rusty scimitars arising from a flooded graveyard, to mud monsters. There’s a couple of stone blocks that talk to each other, and you, and need to be avoided lest they warn the dungeon of the approach of a klingon warrior. Likewise, some clouds rain on the party while they go up a hill. This is a WONDERFUL encounter! Just a couple of clouds, that follow the party and rain on them. This is the perfect kind of free-form setup and I love this kind of stuff. ‘Figure out a way up the hill … made harder by the obstacle.’ The dungeon has a window! And a roof! And both can be exploited! Yeah! Hurray for thinking outside the box, and providing an environment that supports that kind of play.
The entire adventure is pretty short. It’s … incomplete? in places. It has a good, if a bit bland, summary for running the NPC’s, and some refreshing encounters in the dungeon. I’d say the designer is on a good path. A little trimming, a little more life in the writing, a little less loose in the details and you’d have a little adventure that’s not too terrible.