Dungeon Magazine #108

d108The Iron Satyr
By Scott Stearns
Level 11

I have no fucking clue why this adventure exists. None. A small village has a giant statue in the middle. A local artist goes missing. One day the statue disappears, along with the head of the workmen and the local priestess. That’s it. That’s the adventure, from the parties point of view. WTF? There’s hardly any pretext at all for lifting a finger. The head of the workmen in the village is actually a disguised hobgoblin and the priestess a succubus, neither of whom give a shit about the village. The missing artists have been carving stuff in order open a portal to another plane so the hobgob can steal the statue and then animate it, on the other plane, for use in some planer war. …. And? …. Why does the party care again? The adventure gives some pretext to be in the village, but confuses that (being in the village) with a “hook.” There’s no actual motivation at all here. I guess there’s an investigation portion, if the party gives a shit, but the fruits of that investigation are worthless. “Bob wants the statue. …. Uh. Ok.” Added on top, the two villains use magical disguises, which is always a shitty thing to do in these things. And then the DM is given instruction to use fiat to let the hobgob escape from the party, on the prime plane, so he can steal the statue. He’s got ethereal jaunt AND invisibility. Uh … why, again? Oh, so you can go to the other plane and experience the linear combat shit-fest that the designer thinks is “adventure.” Monster zoo, with weirdly allied trolls and other creatures. No motivation. No goals beyond killing things and the barest pretext of “a missing guy.” I guess, the beginning is not linear? At least it’s got that going for it?

Challenge of Champions 5
By Johnathan M. Richards
Any Level

Episode 5 of the popular Champions series. The adventurers guild runs a contest, all weapons and spells are provided, which is how it gets its Any Level designation. This is essentially the same scenario as the other four, just with new encounters. Each is a little puzzly, meaning that there are obvious and non-obvious solutions that the adventure is written for. Go in the room, solve the encounter, go to the next room. I, personally, find the programmed solutions and artificial nature of these quite off putting … .but can’t deny that there’s a certain similar playstyle in “real” dungeons that appeal to me. “Hey, here’s a situation. Exploit it, ignore it, do what you will.”

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The Stealer of Children

stealerBy Peter C. Spahn
Small Niche Games
Labyrinth Lord
Level 1

Leandras Row is a peaceful farming village that lies on the border of a mystical forest known as the Tanglewood. The villagers pay homage to St. Leandra the Lady of Blossoms and the village is famous for its ripe cherry orchards and religious festivals. When an ancient evil awakens and children start to disappear, the village is thrown into an uproar. Can the PCs enter a crumbling ruin, deal with the faerie creatures of the Tanglewood, and solve the mystery in time to stop the Stealer of Children?

This 31 page sandboxy adventure pits the party against a mystery in a village: children are going missing. It has a nice folklore vibe thing going on, and really does a decent job providing both some sticky encounters and, in places, an otherworldly vibe. It’s a great starting adventure that feel DESIGNED and only has a couple of organization places it could be improved upon.

Starting in medias res, a farmer is being chased down the road by a figure in a rusted knights armor. Saving him, the party find the body to be already dead. Back at the inn, the tale gets spread and rumors abound. That night, a child goes missing.

The party is, essentially, dumped in to this chaos, with events unfolding around them and NO assumption that they will do ANYTHING. I did type “saving him” above, but that’s not assumed. If they don’t then there’s a small section about what happens. And If they don’t follow up with the missing child there’s a small section about what happens. Otherwise, there are just places to visit and people to talk to. A full three pages of people in the back of the adventure for the party to interact with. And four or five locations to investigate, from a monastery to ruins to a couple of weirdo red herrings. There’s no assumptions of party activity here, although its pretty obvious what should happen, and the various parts and locales of the adventure have good ties between them. From the standard on the knight’s armor to a weathered inlay on a old bridge, to herbs in the monastery, there are connections that players that pay attention can take advantage of.

The folklore vibe of the adventure is pretty strong without it going off the rails in to lala land. There’s a magic acorn, an evil leprechaun-like fairy that steals the life force of children but keeps them in a nice bedroom in his vile hole in the ground. Evil little “maggots” that resemble the main villain, and a climax that has the party transforming in to children, via a potion, to combat the evil fairy. This is all supplemented by an “enchanted forest” that actually FEELS a little like a enhanced forest, a very rare thing indeed. Tree paths opening up, magical feasts, werebeasts transforming next to a stream, and other weird stuff like one giant boot. I like adventures with a basis in folklore; I think they prey on that almost ancestral memory we have of such things, and the good ones leverage that to create vibe in the DM and players. A jagged shard of glass with an image trapped inside, asking for release? Sign me up! [And no, I don’t believe in ancestral memories.]

Going back to my summation of the intro encounter, you can see how a rumor table gets integrated in the adventure. What better place than inn, right after something weird happens, for rumors to fly? And so much of the adventure is STICKY. At 31 pages it is a bit heavy on text but most of the adventure is pretty sticky; the encounters, like that intro one, stay with you, ar at least the platonic version of them do and that’s enough to run them.

There are only a couple of issues I have with this one. The motivation to get involved is really one of being a goody goody. It doesn’t force that on the party but it doesn’t really provide a motivation other than that. It’s pretty clear what the adventure is, and the players WOULD be tools if they didn’t follow up, but somehow integrating another motivation (other than “your related!” or some other nonsense) would have been cream. It’s also the case that some of the information gets lost in the wordiness. A lot of the locations are quite sticky but sometimes information is lost in the text. Important information. The best example is probably the information the nuns know, which is buried in paragraphs near the bullet-point rumors table. Some bolding, or bullets, in the nun section, for example, would help the DM much more readily pick out what they need.

These relatively minor quibbles though. This is a fine example of an adventure worth having. These solid adventures can sometimes be overshadowed by the gonzo or grim-dark, but are the workmanlike backbone of good supplements. Again, my highest compliments: meets expectations.

Ps: I really like that so many things in this village are called “cherry.” Cherry stream. Cherry stream bridge. Cherry groves, Cherry ale. Cherry Blossom Festival. There’s not so much as to make it silly, but there’s enough to make it silly if you so wish … and I do! “Yessir, we use genuine cherry hay for the beds! And the sheets are 400 count cherry thread!”

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The Lair of Largash the Lurid

By Michael Mills
Canister & Grape
Levels 1-3

Largash the Lurid, scourge of the common folk and self-appointed king beneath the rocky hills, lurks deep within his lair. Who dares enter his realm to unthrone this most evil of monarchs? Can your brave party of adventurers defeat Largash the Lurid and his evil minions once and for all?

This is a twenty-one room eighteen page two-level dungeon. The first level is a former monastery taken over by humanoids while the second level are caves with random stuff in it. It’s plagued by too much read-aloud, overly detailed DM notes, and a writing styles that tells instead of whos. The catacombs have two particularly interesting encounters that, nonetheless, do not distract from the fight fight fight dungeon style.

The idea here is that the party stumbles upon a poorly worded sign advertising a “kingdom” nearby. Following up they find an old hidden monastery. This all happen in about a paragraph or two. What follows is about ten rooms on the first level populated by the usual mix of monster zoo humanoids. Some kobold entrance guards. A couple of goblin assistants, A few orc elite guards. The “king” ogre. A captured prisoner. The layout is a central corridor with a couple of rooms hanging out on either side and the “kings chambers” at the end. The second level has this similar, branching, layout, but in cave format.

The read aloud here can be extensive. Three paragraphs per room with the usual suspects being present: descriptions of how large the room is, far too specific descriptions, detail that adds nothing to the play. The read aloud for the second guard room stats there are kobolds sitting on benches, even though they may have responded to the fight in the FIRST guardroom and therefore not be present. I realize this is a bit pedantic, but it illustrates the issues with the too specific descriptions. The room dimensions are on the map. The monsters are generally dynamic. The extra words, generic and boring, add nothing to the imagination. Instead of focused feelings we get unfocused genericism. “This room evokes a sense of wonder of those who view it …” NO. No it does not. The text tells the players what they feel, which is NEVER a good thing. This is a classic example of telling instead of showing. Instead the room description should focus on evoking that sense of wonder in the players. Or, better yet, in the DM who can then transfer it to players. The adventure does this TELLING instead of SHOWING repeatedly.

The caverns underneath do have two more interesting encounters that differentiate them from the fight fight fight style of the first level. The first is a side cavern with a basilisk(!) in it. And laying in the middle of the floor is a petrified body. With a crystal amulet and a +1 sword, among other items. [Note: I usually play that they are turned to stone along with all possessions. The text implies the designer plays this different. To each his own.] This is quite interesting. The glow of the sword and/or amulet luring the party in to face the 6HD basilisk … these “temptation” encounters are classics and something I wish more adventures did. Playing the rope out and letting the party hang themselves is always fun. Likewise, later on there’s an encounter with a crystal golem of a strangely similar crystal … which should send the party once again back to the basilisk room to try their luck and get that crystal amulet … at least that’s how I would play this.

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Dungeon Magazine #107

d107Mellorn Hospitality
By Russel Brown
Level 5

Hired to escort an elf to a magic fair, the party sees their ward runn of screaming in to the forest once they are there. Asshole elves have made a pact with a night hag for protection, and eventually hire the party to “take care of some nearby grimlocks in a cave.” The core of the adventure is a short thirteen room lair complex. There’s too much straight up combat/forced situations for my taste. I wish also that the magical fair had a table for NPC’s personalities, in order to give it some life other than a paragraph of pretext. But that’s not the era we’re in. ROLL FOR INIT! The lair map has a twisty cave complex, which is unusual to see, and has a nice side passage in it with a couple of scavengers. That, in particular, is something I’d like to see more. A little area, kind of hidden, with some challenge involved, with a SECRET in it. In the deep chasm under the bridge. Up the top of the underground waterfall, and so on.

Test of the SMoking Eye
By David Noonan
Level 10

Adventure Path! And there’s not much pretext to the adventure here. Or, rather, there is A LOT of pretext to justify what is a linear “tests” adventure. Lots of “challenges” strung together. There’s a lantern which shows the way, and hidden paths, which is a nice touch, as are the CONCEPTS for the demi-plan and giant skull you sometimes adventure in. Put the execution of those areas is really just “difficult terrain” or “-2 attack rolls” kind of stuff. And it doesn’t make up for the linear combats.

Deadman’s Quest: An Adventure in Freeport
By Graeme Davis
Level 1

Technically, I think this is a Polyhedron adventure. The party is attacked by “insane pirates” and then contacted by a ghost captain, urging them to retrieve stuff from a sunken ship to put things right. They do so, only to be led to a sahuagin lair, and then to a temple in Freeport to turn over the retrieved objects. Which are then promptly stolen and require a visit to a warehouse and cult temple underneath. Massive amounts of text and read-aloud all over a shitty shitty background image to ensure it’s all quite hard to read. The initial sunken ship explore is interesting because there’s no water breathing available immediately, so it’s dive after dive, which should make things interesting, and signs of a giant shark. The party eventually find some potions in the wreck which allows further exploration and them to hit the underwater lair. From this point there’s ANOTHER blast of massive text, and the warehouse part just feels like a pretext to do something in Freeport and is not very interesting. The ghost Captain hans around a bit during parts of the adventure, which allows for some great hamming it up, which I ALWAYS approve of. I wouldn’t say this is a good adventure, but the “diving on the wreck” and “ghost captain” are highlights and nice things to steal.

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Adventure Most Fowl

fowlBy Howard Beleiff & Michael Garcia
Grey Fey
Swords & Wizardry
Level 0-1

“Curses are like chickens; they always come home to roost”, and if these chickens aren’t found soon, the Village of Kith will be doomed! On the edge of the Four Counties, in a backwater village of lost souls, there is a string of robberies that cannot be explained…Farmer Phileas Filson has lost his chickens, or rather he swears that they’ve been pilfered, along with his prize-winning hen Mabel, and no one in town will lift a finger to help.

This is a very simple plot adventure that is absolutely ruined by the amount of text provided. A seven room cave complex takes fifteen pages to describe, with the rest of the adventure 48 pages being devoted to the nearby village. Decent monsters and a couple of interesting details are high points, but they can’t make up for the HUGE amount of filler.

Farmer Ted’s chickens are missing and he’s sure goblins did it. The party tracks the goblins to their lair, a seven room cave, and kills a bunch of goblins and giant chickens. That could almost be a 1-page adventure, or maybe 1-sheet at most. The first 26 pages give endless backstory and meaningless details about the village, expanded upon ad nauseum. Highlights include a long description of the blacksmith, which has absolutely nothing unusual going on, as well as the jail, which has absolutely nothing going on. The inn has a gossip, and a page of rumors, but again it devotes a significant word count to descriptions of the mundane and ordinary. An example of a different type is the carpenter, who is secretly a wizard. There’s nothing to this. No secrets. No big plot. He’s just a woodworker who is secretly a wizard. I guess that’s a decent little bit of backstory/flavor, but not worth devoting the page count to.

That’s the primary issue with this adventure. The word count, which turns in to page count, doesn’t actually enhance the play of the game. That’s the problem with backstory and “mundane” descriptions. History is generally not relevant. It CAN be. It can also be provided in such a way that it doesn’t get in the way. For example, there’s pages here related to ancient history. You can just yank them out and ignore the entire thing without impacting the adventure. But when it’s mixed in to a room key then you’re making it harder for the DM to actually run the game. The DM must wade through the irrelevant backstory, history, and detail in order to get what they need to run the room. This extends even to a pit trap, which takes a page to describe. Here’s a standout sentence, prime for a removal during an edit: “If the characters open a door (or both), they see the following:” What’s the point of that? It’s filler.

Complicating that, in this adventure, is the read aloud. It’s long, lengthy, and is NO way set apart from the DM text. Imagine, if you will, that the first paragraph, above, was all read aloud and the text below it was not. There’s nothing to distinguish or offset or lead the eye. And the read aloud DOES tend to be lengthy also … while adding little to nothing to an evocative environment.

There’s a plot here, and because of that the combat feels like plot combat. It doesn’t feel like you encounter a room with giant chickens and some goblins. It feels like “here a combat room for you to encounter.” That feels out of place in an OSR adventure, especially a Swords & Wizardry one. But then again maybe that’s me bringing my own prejudices to the thing. Forced combat situations in OSR stuff feels wrong. Maybe it’s the writing style here. idk

There is a detail or two that stand out. One cave room is two levels, with wooden boards running as a ramp between the two, and goblin babies sleeping under them so as to not get trampled. That’s good. Of course, they are not there during the read aloud, instead hiding behind a rock. Bad detail, because it’s not used, but a good idea. Likewise a couple of the NPC’s have a detail or two to them that is interesting. Hidden in a page long description. A store owner with lots of mistresses. A happy farmer whose daughters were all fathered by a Satyr. Nice. The goblins are “new type”, with weirdness to them, like feathers and causing gibbering tongues. The chickens are giant and can blink. Both of these are great details.

I’m convinced that this could be edited WAY back, to just two pages, with reference sheets for the NPC’s and descriptions that focus on the interesting, unique, and evocative. THAT would be interesting, and worth the same amount as this thing cost at Drivethru.

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The Horrendous Heap of Sixteen Cities

hheapBy Dylan Hartwell
Self Published
Labyrinth Lord

Extending above a haze of reeking steam rise sixteen peaks of garbage magically transported from sixteen different cities. It spreads, like an ever-growing fungus, across the landscape, encompassing and corrupting nearly fifty square miles. Hideous flies, crows, and vultures circle the piles, perpetually avoiding garbage falling from magical portals thousands of feet in the air. Giant rats, skunks, maggots, and other manner of repugnant beasts scuttle about the surface, surviving off the offal. Underneath, giant worms crawl through the debris. Periodic explosions reform the horizon. Some cultures call it “Sheoal”, others “Kol Katta”. All, however, use the common vernacular “The Heap”. And everywhere its name is synonymous with “Hell”.

This is another difficult to review adventure, mostly because I don’t think it’s an adventure. I’ve been accused before of having too strict a taxonomy and, no doubt, will be again. Rather than an adventure I’d describe this as a fluff book for a region, along with some adventure ideas. In this respect you could think of it more like one of the old MERP regional booklets, a lightweight version of one, anyway. It’s not that I don’t like fluff books, or think that there’s a place for them. I do like them and some are valuable. But, as inspiration pieces, I find them hard to review. Who can tell what will inspire one person vs another? This is why I concentrate on the adventure side of the spectrum. I also believe quite a bit in expectations and getting what you think you are getting. If I buy a low-prep adventure and get a fluff/region book then I could be quite disappointed, regardless of the quality of the book.

The Heap is twenty eight pages long and while described as a sandbox. It’s not, in the way I know the term to be used. It is a region book, describing a certain regional location, a garbage heap that grows magically and is inhabited by a variety of monsters and loose factions. There’s a loose overview map of the region, as well as a couple of locations: cultist tunnels/HQ and a mad wizards tower. Wandering monster & treasure tables, Many new garbage-themed monsters, and a page of adventure ideas round things out.

You could think of this place as a little like The Zone, from the STALKER video games. There’s a loose trader town full of people who make their livings off of the garbage heap. The people in the town set out and scavenge the heap to collect things to sell. There are also a group of people who wander around collecting the stuff in the heap ‘to collect’ and hate the people who sell stuff. There are also lepers wandering about, as well as a group of clerics who run a separate leper colony. Then there is a group of cultists who worship the giant worms who tunnel through the garbage. Finally there’s the mad wizard who wanders about doing mad wizard things, like kidnapping people and so on. That’s a decent mix of factions and several key individuals are outlined with a sentence or two to their goals and motivations.

And that’s about it. A couple of tables for rumors and traps, and a few pages on monsters. On the plus side there’s a VERY nice reference table for the monsters one will find the heap. It reminds me of the table in the Ready Ref sheets, which I LUVED. Another reference sheet of the NPC’s detailed, would have need a nice addition as well.

The single page of adventure ideas are not terrible and they DO start your mind spinning. One of the better ones is a cultist who has lost his cult book. The penalty is sacrifice, so he hires the party to find it, with vials of wormblood in return. IE: Selling cult secrets to protest his hide. That could be a great idea, with the horrid cultist, I’m imagining kind of like a leper, in dilapidated market town, visiting the cult HQ, selling vile stuff as a reward …

But it’s all just the barest outline of supporting material. The town, Sellerton, gets the following description: “A small town of several hundred inhabitants composed of Sellers and their families. Billig visits once a month. Four human fighters patrol the perimeter each night.” A little light, IMO, for one of the major locations. Again, this isn’t a hex crawl, but a fluff book, and it’s a little light on fluff and a little heavy on stats. Or, maybe, in in comparison of the content there’s more in the way of stats than fluff, or so it feels like.

This is the barest outline of a region. There’s just enough here to get things going, but I think it’s a little light on the supporting flavor.

I suck at reviewing non-adventures.

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Dungeon Magazine #106

Tammeraut’s Fate
By Greg A. Vaughan
Level 6

A harpy attack leads the party to a lonely monastery on an island which is strangely deserted. A few lingering monsters roam about, as well as some hidden monks, before the undead attack again at dark. The party can shut down a maw of evil, nearby, to stop future attacks. This looks straight from the 2e era of Dungeon with long read alouds and longer room descriptions with lots of “supposeds to be” and past happenings. The party has to find the survivors to know the undead are attacking again, the core of the adventure being the prep for the night attack … which is sorely, almost nonexistent, provided support for. If the adventure is supposed to be preping and defending an attack then you would expect some support for that beyond a couple of sentences on which way the undead attack from. This thing fails to provide support for the very purpose it defines … and then loads on the massive extra and extraneous text to boot.

The Black Egg
By Steven Montano
Level 12

WTF is it with the Tiamat/half-dragon obsession? This nothing piece of garbage is just a series of forced fights, in eight rooms, with some half-dragon cult members. Oh, and your ally betrays you, of course. There’s nothing going on here other than rolling nice.

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Midnight Oliviah

midolivBy Llord Metcalf, Ian Graham, Christopher Thompson
Fail Quad Games
Level 3-4

Oliviah the local tavern and inn owner has some of the best private auctions in the realms. The mystical armor of Ivan Goramavich has come into her possession and will be auctioned to the highest bidder. It is an item of legend wrapped in mystery. She needs a little security for this one and the security team might have more on their hands than they bargained for!

An “investigation” and then mostly linear crypt crawl define the twenty-one pages of verbose text. It introduces a difficult decision at the end and has a monster or two that is new. It takes a leisurely approach to getting to its destination and could use more focus. It does provide a creepy moment or two in the crypt at the end.

During a rare items auction up comes a set of armor that makes the wearer immune to magic. After the auction it turns out that one part is missing, rendering the armor useless. Having been hired to provide security, the party investigates the bidders and the bar where the auction was held. This leads to a local magic-user who lives in an old shine of the dead a couple of days away. A short little mausoleum crawl later, the baddies soliloquy reveals a vision: if the auctions winners get their on it then they will kill every magic user and cleric in a bloody pogrom. Thus ends the adventure, with the cliffhanger question of: return the armor, fail the mission by not returning it, or do something else.

The investigation portion of the adventure is the first eight or so pages. Two paragraph read-alouds and long passages about what happens are the hallmarks here. A short outline and some bullet points, or some such, would have gone a long way to eliminate the conversational style and make the information a lot easier to locate during play. This would have also freed some space for inclusion of some more NPC’s to mix in, as well as a few descriptions of items also for sale at the auction, something that’s just abstracted in the current text.

There’s a genuine creepy thing going on during the travel to the wizards shrine. Undead rise up out of the ground and wordlessly trail behind the party. When the group gets to a certain size they attack. This is an interesting and evocative sort of thing to include in the adventure and should result in several decent encounters. Three decent sentences can a lot to an adventure to where several paragraphs, or pages, do not.

The ossuary is nine rooms that are in a mostly linear layout. Rooms get about a column of descriptive text each, maybe a bit less in some cases, which is far too long for what is actually going on in the room. In spite of this there are flashes of great content in places. “4 bone creeps slowly scrape and drag their way around [the catacombs]…, and a room with skeletons hung on the walls that predict “terrible personal things”, like “dying of plague at a young age” or “losing a spouse.” This is a good example of the abstract being the enemy of the specific. This room goes on for half a page, but could be edited down quite a bit AND expanded with SPECIFIC saying of the skeletons. A read-aloud sentence or ten about the mustard pus running from their eyes as buboes fill their groins and they die screaming in agony, alone, in the dark. That would have been a good read-aloud. Instead we get the abstract stuff about plague and spouse and so on.

The ending is just a wizard summoning a demon for the party to fight, and then surrendering so he can leave the party with the moral quandary about whether to finish their mission or not and bring back the missing bit of armor. I’ve run in to a couple of these “what happens after the adventure” lately that have had this theme of No Good Answers. I like the complexity of these because they act as springboards to more complications for the party. Not obstacles. Not roadblocks. But more going on in the campaign world to add more color. That’s a good thing.

It could be a lot shorter. It could have more treasure (it’s a bit light in that department for AD&D gold=xp) and more evocative writing for the rooms that do exist, as well as better organization of the investigation. Such is life.

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One Waiting, One Prisoner, One Sacrificed

By Tim Shorts
GM Games

It begins with three children missing after a Summer Solstice celebration. The party explores Denizon’s Folly, a tower that was abandon and unfinished. The second leg of the adventure leads the party into the fey realms of Osmolt Village where magic and space are unhinged and the inhabitants are terrified, but keep a horrible secret. The finale finds the party seiging the Tower of Blaspheemus that sits on the cliffside on the Sea of Mist. This is a real fairy tale where never once are the words ‘and they live happily ever after’ spoken.

You are on notice: I luv folklore and fey.

This adventure is three patreon rewards published together. The first two parts are more conceptual than adventure while the third is a mostly linear tower adventure. It has some decent fey imagery in places but is SIGNIFICANTLY more bare bones than I expected. Expectations kill.

The first section covers the disappearance of the children. It’s two pages long with three sentences of background that says the kids have disappeared, there are ruins nearby, and there are rumors of fey in the area. What follows is the description of four ruined buildings, each described with a couple of paragraphs, that make up the “ruins nearby” complex. A house, gutted with flame, leaving a blackened frame and fireplace, with a bowl of perfectly preserved ripened apples on an untouched table … that’s pretty good imagery and is exactly what I’m going after when I say I’m looking for something terse by evocative. There’s another point, later in the third adventure, that has mist rolling out from under a towers front door, down a cliff, and in to a misty sea. Both of those paint an excellent picture and the adventure would be better if provided more of that type of imagery. As it is it’s a little sparse for my tastes.

The second section deals with what happens when you eat the apples and step in to a faerie circle. It’s a small faerie village, unrecognizable as such because their houses are all hidden behind “find secret door” checks/integrated in to nature. This section basically has a table for you to generate a fey type, what they know, and their reaction. There’s a nice dead treant section, acting as a prison for one of the three missing kids. The idea appears to be that you wander about, talking to fey, and their leader, and find the kid in the treant, and get enough information to find the evil fey tower. It’s more than a little … generic? The abstraction of the fey, their personalities, motivations, and so on is, I think, my major problem here. By abstracting that in to a three column table It has become, well, abstract. Instead I would have preferred some details for the fey, and personalities, and maybe some interaction between them. This is a pretty big missed opportunity.

Finally comes the tower where the evil fey, and children, are kept. While it’s presented as an abstract concept, with gravity on whatever wall you choose to walk on, and rooms full of junk, and other bizarro stuff (which does, in fact, invoke fey imagery) it turns out it’s just pretty much a linear series of rooms, connected by a single hallway.

The creatures and treasure all all completely OD&D, when they are listed. Unique items, unique monsters, all with a decidedly interesting aspect to them and certainly on-generic in any way. A bow made from the bones of a displacer beast. You can imagine it phasing around as the party hold it … or a monster that eats memories and experiences. You could probably go through the entire adventure and only have two encounters, and not even that many if you’re super duper smart, so, while the tower IS linear, it’s not exactly forced combat after forced combat.

The ending is decent and does a good job conveying the fear of the fey. The two surviving children, one 20 years, physically but not mentally, older than she should be, are ostracized within a week, the thinking being they are cursed by the fey. Beaten and in worse shape than they were in the fey realm. (Well, except for the “eventually to be eaten” part.) The party, in rescuing the children, have not actually improved their lot much. Very nice touch and keeps in the theming of the fey.

The first two sections of the adventure are a little too sparse. A couple of sentences about the villagers, in the first section, would have done wonders, as would a few fey actually detailed in the section section. And I still don’t know what level the thing is for. Five, maybe? Anyway, by providing a little more details on the villagers and fey (the social parts of an adventure set the scene!) and working a little more on the imagery then this could be a pretty decent adventure.

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Dungeon Magazine #105

I wish I could scan the maps for these two adventures. They are literally lines that run in to rooms. I’m not even sure why maps were included.

Racing the Snake
By John Simcoe
Level 6

This is a linear 16 encounter chase adventure. The party is being voluntarily used as bait to distract an assassin. They have 16 pre-programmed encounters. The assassin has a 38 to spot a disguised character impersonating the real mark … which is the whole point of the adventure. Because of this one of the party members basically gets to sit the adventure out, doing nothing but pretending to be a helpless girl the entire time. Imagine 16 combat encounters and your only action is “I cower” during the interminably long 3e combats.

I’m really questioning my review standards here. The encounters are not terrible (in a set-piecey sort of way), have some variety, and have some supporting information. In particular, each tells you how long it took to get to it from the last one, at various speeds. I wish more adventures, especially wilderness ones, did something similar. Even with the charts on my (homemade) screen I tend to have trouble with that. If the encounters appeared in an exploration dungeon (and were trimmed quite a bit) and tweaked a little to be more neutral/obstacle based …

That’s a lot. And it’s not what is in this adventure. This is linear. And it makes one party member essentially sit out the entire adventure. Dark days ahead. Dark days.

The Stink
By Monte Lin
Level 4

Please. I’m begging you. Send a search party in for me. Rescue me. Give me a purpose.

This is a linear crawl in a … sewer! Yes, that’s right, it’s a linear sewer crawl, that most exciting of all adventure types. Actually, I’m being unfair. You can select the right or left hand linear room set to go down. Well, before they merge into one and then it’s REALLY linear. 35 linear encounters, diverging by about six if you select right vs left. The sad part is that this had a decent little overview. One part of the city is walled off, The Stink, and all of the filth is dumped there. That could be a cool little Escape From New York type thing. Breaking in. Dealing with the various factions inside. All of that weirdness that could result from the premise. But you get none of that. The Stink is not really detailed AT ALL. It’s just a linear sewer adventure, with evil locath at the end. There’s a decent wandering encounter, with a desperate escaped criminal who takes a hostage, but that’s it. And even that is oriented more towards combat.

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