The Curse of Cragbridge

ccbr
By Paul Wolfe
Mystic Bull Games
S&W
Levels 1-3

Prison of Spirits Betrayed! For five hundred years, Cragbridge has stood abandoned and cursed. Within lurk the haunts and spirits of those that served Lord and Lady Etheril. Some of these ghosts inhabit the forms of strange insectile humanoids while others guard tombs deep beneath the shattered bridge tower Recently, the good knight Sir Dougal Skavok disappeared in the ruin, and when a search party returned, they twoo were missing a few members. But they carried strange treasures found there: coins marked with a double-headed raven, gemstones of great value and other ornate and gilded items.They also spoke of the evils that lurked there, cursed forever by the vengeful Lady Etheril.

This is a interesting dungeoncrawl, with S&W, LabLord, and DCC versions available. An accursed gatehouse sits on the top edge of a river canyon. Inside are three upper levels in a tower and three dungeon levels, with about fifty rooms laid out over forty pages in a large font single column format. The S&W & DCC “original content” vibe is strong with this one, with all new monsters and almost all new magic items and some nicely homebrewed weirdness going on inside. The … gentle originality and weirdness? Of the dungeon reminds me of my favorite adventure of all time. Make no mistake though, this is a TOUGH dungeon for adventurers.

The backstory is about half a page and contains both the known/rumored history as well as the DM notes on what the truth is. Given the large font and single column layout this is about the right length. Not too long, a little bit to work with to feed the party data, and then it moves on. A brief area overview follows along with monster descriptions and the like, and then the keyed entries start. This amounts to a short and focused intro, conveying the information the DM needs in a way that supports their use of it during play. Rumors of former parties, pointers to who they were, just enough to poke the DM in the right direction and let them fill in the rest. A perfect outline … even if it is in paragraph form!

The rooms are pretty minimal, the way rooms should be. “The rotting corpse of a man clad in chain armor lies in the corner.” Doors are flimsy and rotten or strong and ironbound. Rooms are packed to the ceiling with swollen rotten barrels barely containing the organic slurry within. A pipe is clogged with rotting food, wood, and corpses. A room is crowded with lichen and creatures crouch in dank rooms. There are things to look at. There are things to fuck with. There is the 2+2 history of the place to put together and alters to defile or clean. This is the strength of the adventure. The rooms descriptions are generally no longer than they need to be. The rooms are generally active places, described in ways that are evocative and terse. They have things in them that the party can interact with (if only to investigate or loot.) It’s not quite a home run but it is very very good, in a journeyman sort of way. The rooms don’t feel like set pieces but they do feel interesting and even the empty ones, with one line descriptions, make you want to know more and poke about.

The monsters here are wonderful. They fully embrace a non-standard vibe and fit in well with the “cursed keep” vibe thing that the adventure has going on. Weird mutant hybrids, with larval form that crawl back to respawn anew once you kill them … along with weird little humanoid creatures that skitter about. The crawl on ceilings and walls, squeeze through cracks. There’s just enough horror in them to impart that part of the cursed history. No giant rats or stirge in this adventure, and I love the air of mystery and excitement and anticipation that brings to the players.

It does a great job also in providing monster drawings and maps at the end of the adventure. Printing these out and using them, either the maps for the DM or the creature illustrations to show the players, is a great thing for the adventure to provide the DM. It shows an understanding of how the product will be used in actual play and how to support the DM in that. It’s a nice touch.

I have a couple of criticisms. I’m not sure how valid they are. They FEEL like problems, but I think i’m also being a bit nitpicky here.

The map feels a little small … or maybe constrained is the word? It feels tight for the quantity of monsters present. I’m generalizing, but the levels FEEL like they all have one large room with other rooms hanging off of it. Thus the point of tactics is to always retreat backwards the way you came. The only real third dimension present is the collapsed roof of the tower and, maybe, secret doors in the floors. I appreciate both of those but they do tend to reinforce the constraining view of the dungeon. That’s not always bad, but I’m unsure how it works with the large number of monsters, some of which are quite tough, with the flimsy S&W Level 1 characters.

The treasure feels a little light, also, especially at the upper levels. Those have been explored and thus there’s a reason … but sometimes a party can lose heart if not given the occasional cookie. I was more than a little surprised that the big upper level boss monster, at 6HD with some killer attacks, only had 800gp. (Plus, some eggs, so there’s some fudge factor in those.)

The large font and single column layout also makes things feels a bit … hard to use? Actually, let me back that up. The weirdness in the format was in the wandering monster section. The table have seven entries and awkwardly takes up about a third of the page. Then the monster entries from the table are listed. In essence, all of the monsters from the adventure are placed in the middle of the adventure. This seems really weird and I suspect is a main during play. Moving them to the rear (easier to find) would help with this. Other than this one slight formatting/layout issue, the larger single column format isn’t really a hinderance at all. It certainly makes the product longer, from a page count standpoint, but it’s also pretty easy to find things.

Let’s be clear: I really like adventure this and I’m keeping it. I WANT it to be as good as my favorite adventure. It might be. Something is keeping me from saying it is. I think maybe what’s keeping me from doing so is personal taste. I’m a bit more inclined to fanciful folklore and this leans more towards a tragic event and curse. This is a very strong adventure though and I would not hesitate to recommend it.

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The Horror at Hill Stead

Destination Unknown – Life is so strange

By RC Pinnell
Mavfire Games
OD&D
Levels 4-8

This is an homage to G1, but this time with ogres and a hardcore devotion to the original 3 book version of D&D. No retroclones here! “It is assumed you have it or will very quickly obtain it.” This is an assault on an ogre fort that looks a lot like the steading in G1, but a bit smaller. It get inspiration from some of the encounters as well, from the feast to the infamous watchtower room 1. The writing style is remarkably close and at times you could be forgiven to think you were actually reading G1. Very close … but not the same. This has a more conversational style and more direct statements to the DM. I wonder sometimes about these sorts of products. Is it actually an art project, or something like required homework? Taking G1 writing something so close to it, but for OD&D … why? “Because I want to” is a perfectly valid answer … but still leaves the question in a state that makes me uneasy. If the goal was to produce a work that could be mistaken for having been produced in 1975 by TSR then it succeeds greatly … but that would then put it solidly in the Art Project category, like Habitation of the Stone Giant Lord.

I mentioned a more conversational style and a devotion to OD&D. A lot of that is front loaded. The entire adventure is about ten pages long with the fort having about 35 rooms and the last page being devoted to the wilderness map and pregens. That leaves almost four pages of lead in. This is predominantly wilderness information and wandering monster tables, along with lengthy … commentary? I want to say advice, but it’s so generic that it’s more like someone who REALLY loves OD&D commenting on specific aspects of the game.

“Lastly, it is not cheating, nor coddling the characters, to provide them–even at these levels– with some minor magical assistance. One potion of healing per character, supplied by the local temple, or a minor scroll of magic (containing a Magic Missile Spell) from a local NPC — perhaps for a share of the booty recovered by the group–would be within reason, and might contribute to the interaction between the the characters and the residents of the town in which you plan to begin the adventure.”

The cadence there, the style, is unmistakingly in the voice of G1. And takes forever to get to the point. There’s quite a bit more of even more general advice: characters with low ability scores tend to die in dungeon. Games die from a bad streak of luck. It’s not quite “let me tell you about my campaign” but more “let me tell you about generic truths from RPG’s.” Combine this with some notes about where to find things in the books (Greyhawk, no stats for dire wolves appear, You may Use Supplement 1 for STR and DEX bonuses. Feel free to not roll for wandering monsters if that is your wish) and you get some lengthy commentary gumming up the works. The whole” find a resting cave” thing from G1 is present, as well as the advice on the difficulty of burning down the fort. The wanderers are just beasts and too much time/space seems to be given over to the wilderness sections for what is presented. IE: “wander through the woods and through the hills.” Is about the extent of it.

The main encounters section is pretty directly inspired by G1. A feast hall with lots of folks in it. A watchtower with someone asleep. Dire wolves. Matron cooks. Visitors present (hill giants and a stone giant.) There are little tweaks here and there. A second floor to the feast hall balcony. A doggy door in the kitchen for the wolves. No lothario but the chutzpah kids are present.

Like G1 there is a verbose tersity, if that sort of thing is possible. The creative content is nice, from a mundane monster fort sort of viewpoint, but then it tarries. “A small hidden door in the back of the north shelf (see map) allows passage to a secret hallway beyond. It’s more focused than most modern adventures, avoiding for the most part lengthy mundane descriptions that add little … but then it adds the commentary of description of where the secret door is (It’s on the map.) Or what to roll to find a secret door. (Repeating what’s in the rules for such.) In the end it manages six of seven encounters per page.

The treasure here is generic and mostly uninteresting, as it was in G1. The exception are (mostly) the cursed magic items. Not just a Ring of Delusion but one that makes you think CP is SP and SP is GP. That’s quite nice, as are the variety of cursed swords. The rest is almost abstracted: a gem worth 1000gp. Three jewelry worth 500gp each. The treasure was not one of G1’s strong points.

I’m at a loss where this fits. G1 for people who want a thoroughly researched/converted/inspired version to run with OD&D? There are some bits of background, quite brief, about a ruined and desolated village and it’s downfall that are quite nice: evocative and terse, but otherwise there’s not much new to point to here.

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Dungeon Magazine #77

d77
This issue isn’t too bad. Except for the feature.

Visiting Tylwyth
By Scott Walley
AD&D
Level 1

Following a trail in a forest to find a missing elf. I’d call this charming and playful, if conversational and an abundance of text. It pays special attention to gnomes and their ability to speak with burrowing creatures. It’s quite specific in it’s detail of certain object, which adds a lot to the adventure. It pays too much attention to mechanics and uses several sentences where one would do, which clogs it all up with text. Creepy carving in the forest, a nicely described elf tree home (maybe the best I’ve seen), and some kobolds round out an encounter with a misanthrope. This is pretty low key but fanciful, which is how I like my folklorish adventures at first level. A powerful earthen odor with dangling roots draping an entrance? Nice! A great selection of reward items also, from folding boats to expanding 10’ poles, to oversized pipes.

A Feast of Flesh
By Peter R. Hopkins
AD&D
Level 3-5

“Buggems! No!” BUGGEMS! NO!”

A side-trek in a small village that is being surrounded/infested with giant burrowing beetles. This has a nice Tremors vibe going on with decent atmosphere that reminds me a lot of the scenes where they are trapped in a building, but this time it’s the entire village. Four pages and PACKED with more content than usual for a side-trek. The burrows/warren under the village are repetitive and don’t live up to the content in the village. Replacing it with one of those freaky “Living Plaque” adventures from Psychedelic Fantasies would be pretty cool. Very nice little map of the village and the warrens underneath. This could use a few events to liven things up in the village

Wind Chill
By Kevin Carter
AD&D
Levels 4-6

This five page adventure is not a side-trek, but has significantly less content than the Tremors sidetrek in this issue. While camping in the snow, they party is tormented by a windigo. The abandoned campsite they discover is detailed at length, as are the four time-based events that follow. It’s all the wendigo screwing with the party. I suppose it’s meant to build tension, and I think it would do so pretty well. It is, essentially, an at length description of “surviving the night” while camped, something parties do often. “A half-hour of deathly silence settles on to the forest after the last bone falls.” That’s pretty good. The read aloud (the previous was a DM note) isn’t quite that good, but isn’t bad at all. The all too frequent “ruined by too much DM text” is rampant here, and detracts from the usefulness.

Ex Keraptis Cum Amore
By Andy Miller
AD&D
Levels 8-12

This is another White Plume Mountain, complete with some pictures to show players. . Enchantments have been placed on the dungeon that thwart any spell that transports something from one place to another, and any spell used in any way has a 25% chance of fizzling out. Joy. I’m not a fan of these; there ought to be a warning label so you know you are about to buy one. It’s serviceable for what it does, accomplishing the room-after-room challenge that these things must deliver, supported by some of the player handouts. Two paragraph read-alouds required to fortell the doom and puzzle to the players, followed by two columns of text per room to describe the DM notes and advice. How it’s actually possible to run something like this (specifically, digging through 2 columns of DM text) is beyond me.

Stage Fright
By Oliver Garbsch
AD&D
Levels 1-3

Side-trek. A page of backstory. A read aloud monologue more than a column long. A baby slaad rips out of the chest of an actor on stage and runs into the basement. Kill it before it becomes a young slaad. The Tremors adventure could be better, but compared to the usual side-trek dreck, like this thing, it’s magnificent.

To Walk Beneath the Waves
By W. Jason Peck
AD&D
Levels 3-5

“The First Councilor is direct.” Quotes the adventure. Unlike the adventure proper, which takes forever to go nowhere. Just a few combats in this overly long adventure under the sea to find some underwater raiders. It wants to provide a magical and wondrous adventure in a strange and alien world under the sea. All it actually does is provide boring combat after combat. As with all crappy underwater adventures, it provides the party with gear to survive. Notably though, the designer references the dilemma directly in the second paragraph of the adventure: “they should possess very few if any magical items that help them deal with the undersea element. [items are provided] and by limiting the amount of such magic the DM enhances the sense of mystery and wonder inherent to this environment.” True. But the environment presented isn’t magical and wonderous, it’s boring and dull. And giving the party items deadens their own buy into the adventure. “Hey go do this mission in the magma! Don’t worry, here’s a 200 billion dollars worth of solid diamond stuff to survive it!”

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KS1 – Tower of Skulls

ts
By Dave Olson
Cut to the Chase Games
Swords & Wizardry/Pathfinder/5E/Savage
Levels 10-12

Death and darkness has risen from churned black soil! A festering evil returns to the land, spreading a palpable fear to all in its area. A brave band of heroes are needed to seek out the site and cleanse it once and for all. But be wary! Brave heroes have fallen victim to the traps and dangers contained within the legendary … TOWER OF SKULLS!

This adventure is a series of linear set-piece encounters in a tower housing an imprisoned demon lord. Book magic items, gimping the cleric, long room descriptions (remember, they are all set pieces!).

Oh god I loathe shit like this. I was looking forward to seeing a high level swords & wizardry adventure. A feeling of dread came over me when I read the last sentence of the background: “So he has turned his former power base into a death trap for the unwary, cackling away at the mortals who blunder in to find naught but their doom.“ I know what that means. It’s the code words that mean stupid set piece challenges in a Tomb of Horrors like environment. All I see is a lack of imagination, or, maybe, extremely constrained imagination. The ability to write a set pieces is, I guess, some kind of talent, but the inability to link them together in anything other than a linear adventure is a significant gap. I always feel ripped off in cases like this and I’ve struggled greatly to make sense of those feelings. This doesn’t fit any definition of what a S&W adventures is, for me. Sure, it’s stat’d that way, but is that enough? I’m guessing that the answer is that it’s just a BAD Swords & Wizardry adventure, and it’s unfair of me to call it not even a S&W adventure. But it is SO bad, misunderstanding what the the system is and about, that it makes me want to place product like this in another category altogether. “New! Call of Cthulhu adventure!” Maybe it is stat’d that way, but if it’s nothing more than 12 combats,all in a row, with nothing in between, between the characters and CoC monsters? I’d say the designer just doesn’t get what CoC is.

Demon lord chuck challenges Orcus, loses, gets imprisoned in this tower which Orcus chucks in to the Prime Material plane. He’s converted it into some deathtrap “challenge” dungeon and now it appears during the full moon at random places. There’s actually a couple of nice things in the introduction. Separate sections for Sage information and Legend Lore are nice; these should be standard operating procedures for any high level S&W character: getting a leg up any way they can before they actually get near the dungeon. Likewise there’s a section on portents of doom that precede the towers arrival. Birds flees the tower area 6-7 days in advance of its appearance, and great squirming masses of earthworms appear. There’s a few other examples of things like this, including a skull that burns with black flames and has eyes that light up in the direction of the tower. Very nice little additions to get the party moving in the right direction and add a touch of dread and fun to the adventure. That’s great content.

I won’t be saying anything nice again.

The tower has undead in it. Level 10-12 clerics laugh at undead, so turn undead doesn’t work in the tower. I’m not cool with this. I don’t like it when the players powers are gimped arbitrarily by the DM. The cleric worked hard to get to level ten. Stripping them of their turn powers removes a significant ability. The wizard can’t cast spells and the fighter can’t swing a weapon? That’s not something anyone would do, would they? And yet adventure after adventure does this to the cleric. It’s like there’s some sort of mental block when it comes to undead. The designer wants to put in undead. The cleric is a problem. The solution is to gimp the cleric. A better designer would turn to other solutions. Like not including undead. Or putting in more powerful undead. Or increasing their number.

On a somewhat related note: the goal is to reach the top levels wherein resides whatever the players are looking for in the tower. You can’t leave the tower except through the top floor or through a special room on each level that takes 50% of your magic items and teleports you d% miles away. And you can’t rest in the tower, except for the one hour in those special portal rooms. It’s clearly written to gimp the players and control resting, forcing them to confront set piece after set piece in an artificial way. Short rest. I don’t think I recall that mechanic in S&W … hmmm, 5e perhaps? Let’s be clear, even if I were reviewing a 5e adventure I’d hate this thing, it’s just a poor adventure overall and the imperfect conversion just shows the lack of experience with S&W. Also, if I were playing this, I’d go to the roof and use any of a variety of wizard spells to drop in through the roof. Just saying.

Having put this off as much as possible, I must now address the 51 set piece encounters. 51-5 that is, recall there’s one “Room of Respite” on each level. Enter room. See something. Take an action. Monster shows up. Defeating monster allows an exit to show up. Go to next room. Repeat. The door opens when the monster appears. The door open when the monster is killed. The door opens when you remove all the candles. The door open when you burn up an item. The door opens when you answer a riddle. The door opens when the trap triggers. You get the idea. You encounter the room and then you are allowed to go to the next one. The set pieces are not the set pieces of an Indiana Jones film. Grand environments with lots going on that the party can use for creative purposes. That’s not this. These are extremely constrained environments, the only features present are the pits and traps the monsters pull you into. These are the worst sorts of encounters in any D&D game. A forced combat, the deck stacked unnaturally in the favor the DM. Roll the dice. Depend on luck. Go to the next one. The dreariness of round after round of mini’s combat. From this standpoint even the Battle Interactive at DDXP offers more interesting environments to adventure in. A not insignificant effort is made to describe each environment a bit. A titanic mushroom. An obsidian step pyramid. Great cages. Hanging vines. But each one feels like those final rooms in the demonweb in Q1. The purpose of the room is to have a fight. The purpose of the read-aloud is to describe the set pieces. And then there’s a column of text after that to go into detail on the description and monster tactics and so on. Described as a tower, it’s actually a ring of rooms with an additional room in the middle. One entry door and one exit door, and sometimes a third to the central room. This repeats level after levels, for all four of the “challenge” levels.

The reward for all of this … +2 longsword. +2 ring of protection. And so on. And so forth. Wand of fear. Ring mail +3. Book item after book item. No imagination and no creativity in in the description. Just the name “Ring Mail +3.” The fabulous treasure room in which all of those “leaving the tower” magic items were teleported to? Totally abstracted, just like in Hoard of the Dragon Queen. “Piles of glittering coin and gemstones.” And “There should be enough to tempt the most equipped adventurer.” That’s it. Nothing more. That’s the extent of the creativity you paid for. S&W is a gold for xp system, iirc. But that’s all abstracted here. There’s little understanding of the game. It’s not5e. It’s not Pathfinder. It’s not Savage Worlds, with their combat based advancement for plot point based advancement.

I’m very disappointed in this. $6 at DriveThru … I’m really on the edge of giving this one of my coveted “Worst Adventures of All Time” checkboxes.

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The Inadvertent Wizard

inadwiz
By Richard Kropp
Basic D&D, OSRIC, LL, etc
Self Published
Levels 4-5

A relaxing evening at the Virulent Flask leads to your next adventure when the locals take up a collection to hire some heroes. It seems an ugly beast with odd magical powers has been harassing travelers and they want the nuisance stopped.

This adventure revolves around a troll, his pet gar, and some accidental magic. It has a village, a small set-piece, and then a small cave complex. It seems to have a weird mix of village, set-piece, dungeon encounters that leaves me feeling it places emphasis in unusual areas of the adventure. It also has a strangely detached voice in the read aloud, and is need of some interesting content/language, especially in the dungeon. All is not lost though, the village life section is rather solid, and the thing is generally organized quite well. However, creativity always trumps organization.

Two pages of backstory tell us about the trolls history and justify the presence of the gar as his pet as well as his ability to cast magic. I’m not sure I’m down with that. It’s certainly not needed. There’s no real reason to need the backstory. I’ve lightened my position on this recently, as well as, maybe, my position on shitty fiction in adventures. (And to be clear: all fiction in adventures is shitty.) There is no fiction in this, but the backstory remains. My wife noted to me the lengthy backstories that plague adventures are only really a problem when they get in the way of the adventure. As long as we don’t HAVE to read the 12 page backstory in order to run the adventure then it doesn’t impact the my ability to run it, and some people find it interesting and get inspiration from it. In this limited case I can agree with her. As long as I don’t have to read your backstory then it’s cool from now on. Which reminds me, I need to change my review standards. But, still, in this one the backstory seems to exist to justify the troll being able to do what he can do. And that tweaks me the wrong way. The reason, for the DM, is always “Because D&D”, and nothing else is needed for the DM. For the players, no explanation is ever necessary, mystery should be part & parcel. Ok, I’ve now beaten to death, out of proportion, an innocent little backstory. Joy.

The hook is about a page long. While at a tavern the barkeep comes around, taking up a collection to hire someone to solve some disappearances. Two others in the bar take him up on it, and spook the PC’s horses for good measure, just to be sure they are the only ones able to proceed. I like a good rival mercenary company, livens things up. It takes about a page to go over this hook, which seems long to me. There’s far too much “if they do x then Y happens” type of stuff. A brief list of the facts and other salient points would have been much better. It’s this sort of thing that will happen over and over again in this adventure: some nice little setup and too many words that add little to the first bit of awesome.

The read-aloud in this adventure has a strange voice. “An overly concerned citizen grebs ones of the PC’s and demands to know if they are going to do something about ‘the beast’.” See, it’s all written in this strangely distance voice that makes little sense in read-aloud. I’ve noticed this in a few adventures recently. The read-aloud is summary information, and non-specific. It’s a weird trend and it dies. Here’s another example. “A nervous citizen walking by.” It’s almost as if these were the designers notes and they meant to fill them in more later. The adventure also has one of the generic rumor tables that I dislike. I like my rumors to come with a voice, but these are the usual boring fact based things. “The beast is a large fish, 20’ long, with a long snout and razor-sharp teeth.” Fact based. Voice based would have this in the voice of a fisherman, telling about how it bit clean through his boat like it was butter.

What’s a little frustrating is that some of the encounters in town are genuinely interesting. The overly concerned citizen is a great idea, it’s just implemented poorly. Likewise armed woodcutters, the BBQ stirge on a stick at the bar, the woodcutters union, the slick used-rowboat salesman, and the asshat in the trading post. The town wanderers and sites are all pretty good actually, with a nice originality to them. They do tend to run to the long/wordy side of things, but, again, creativity trumps. The trading post guy has lost 14 consecutive elections for mayor? NICE!

The wandering monster encounters are plagued with the same weirdly distant read-aloud, and don’t really have much going for them. River pirates on pole barges and grumpy fishermen are nice, but don’t really have the flavor of the town encounters and the rest of the encounters don’t even have that going for them. “A PC has leaned over their boat too far to look at a cute baby crab playing with a fallen leaf n the water surface – and has fallen in.” Again, weird. Nice little detail, I like it, but weirdly worded/perspective in the read-aloud.

The twelve or so dungeon encounters are accompanied by a few wandering monsters descriptions. Both have the same sort of problem: all of that originality from the village is gone. In it’s place is just mande encounters with mundane text to go with it.

2. Underground beach
“This cavern floor consist of a mix of sand and dried mud, creating a sort of underground beach.” There is a sloping tunnel rising up into area #4.

It’s nicely terse, but not really interesting and doesn’t really add anything to the adventure at all. The read aloud tries in place, with sunlight shining through a small hole in the ceiling to a stairs out made of cave formation, to little bits like paint on the floor (marking safe spots!) and other little clues. It’s all got a little bit of a generic feel though. I’m not even sure I can explain why. Perhaps the descriptions are trying to be evocative but need some work? And then DM advice following that adds a little too much detail? “The hole in the ceiling is their exit to go hunting outside.” That sacks of explaining and not of “detail that makes the adventure more fun.” Another example would be of the monsters actual lair room.

This musty cavern contains a bed of animal furs and a couple of short stalagmites against an outcropping along the eastern cavern wall.

It’s clearly trying to give some details (and is nicely terse!) but it’s not really that interesting or evocative.

The treasure is done B1 style, with a list the DM can then insert into each room as they see fit. The non-magical treasure tries a bit to add something. A copper bracelet with a jadestone, or a small music box with coins in it. Those could use a bit more specificity in them, but again an effort was clearly made. With one exception, the magic items are a disappoint, being only book items. +1 sword, +2 shield and the like. The single exception is a helmet the troll is wearing that lets it cast 1st level spells from scrolls. Again, no real description of it but he additional bit, beyond read languages, that allows you to cast a 1st level spell from a scroll is a nice little bit of bump that I can see causing covetous feelings in the party … and still not really unbalance things at all.

I picked this up at DriveThru

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DDAL4-1 Suits of the Mists.

ddal41
Welcome to The Sunday Suck! This occasional feature will review D&D Adventurers League scenarios. I promise to rename the series as soon as WOTC publishes a decent AL adventure. And if that takes too long I may lower my standard to “something that doesn’t suck.” Or “something that doesn’t completely suck.”

As you can see, I have hoped for the series.

By Shawn Merwin
WOTC
5E
Levels 1-2

Strange things are afoot in the Moonsea. The factions have called all those willing and able to investigate strange occurrences in the region surrounding Phlan. Dark whispers and unseen terrors lurk in the misty shadows between this world and someplace much more sinister. Unveil the horrors before it is too late! Part one of Misty Fortunes and Absent Hearts.

Five one to two hours that dump the party into Ravenloft at the end. Boring, mechanical, and suffering from the pedantic Adventurers League Overhead tax. Only an adventure if you consider five combats, one in each mini-”adventure” to be an adventure. It’s not. It’s an encounter. And a boring one at that.

Oh god. Six pages of logistics data before the adventure background. The general usefulness of data is suspect … at best. It’s all very simple advice like “read the adventure first” or the minutia of adventurers league mechanics. The seven pages of boilerplate will, I’m sure, show up in every AL adventure this season. Or past seasons. It makes reference to your faction raising you and so on … ignoring the fact that the party is dumped into Ravenloft and no faction support is available. (Ok, I’m supposing this is the case in future adventures. I could be wrong. But I’d guess not.) I wish they would yank all this shit and just put it in the DM’s guide for AL or maybe just cram it into a DM season guide. It just clogs up the thing and takes away from the better bits that are mixed in, the localization bits. There is an overview of the Ravenloft, and the highlight is one of the better parts of the CoS adventure: the cosmetic spell mods. Skeletal phantom steeds, alarm spells with piercing scream, and so on. The other really nice bit of this is in the spellcasting services. Mixed into the pedantic minutia is something interesting: Jeny Greenteeth is the only one available to cast spells for the party “back in town.” She’s a hag you meet. In any event, the adventure notes “This will no doubt lead to some uncomfortable situations and unforeseen consequences.” And Fun! Don’t forget fun! How bad you want that Remove Curse bucko?! Bwa hahahahaha! I love it. This entire thing needs more color and flavor like that and less generalisms.

The major flaw with the adventure is that it’s boring. It’s a boring adventure and it’s written in a boring fashion. There’s no joie de vivre in the thing. And I don’t mean Ravenloft Dread. I mean it’s all generically mechanical. The hook/backstory is two pages long and devoid of life. Nothing specific, just generalities. All abstracted. You get to an inn, the folks are upset. There are four DM bullet points about some stuff the romani, err, sorry, Gur, stole. Asking around gets the DM to give the players a handout. It has generic information about the four “normal” encounters. “A man in his 30’s named Bob was seen in the vicinity of the stables.” Can you see the abstraction here? No color. Just summary information. Pick something off of the list and your journey and follow up will be abstracted also. Until you reach the read-aloud, which triggers the encounter. The ability to role play or be creative is severely constrained here. There’s just very little to work with, either from an environmental standpoint or a “something other than a combat” standpoint.

The two most interesting of the five scenarios are the ones that break away. One is a meeting with the hag. The PC garbage that surrounds her is lame (“What to do if the party objects til killing an elk on moral grounds”) IE: the writer goes FAR out of his way to introduce an evil NPC and then back off to list multiple reason why to not kill her and to convince the party not to kill her. In this case the designer does a poor job of communicating danger to the level1/level2 party. Making her an old woman in a floral dress is fun with a stained him is fun … but it should have been accomplished while simultaneously communicating the danger she poses to the party if they fuck with her. IE: just go on the evil NPC’s fetch quest. (Which is a stupid “hunt” for elk, by which I mean a couple of lame paragraphs on running a combat with elk.) The other interesting scenario is in a fortress filled with evil humanoids. But they are all inside/asleep/down below and what you want is in the relatively unguarded courtyard. Drawbridge, an implied 2 levels (the fortress walls), a cart, rubble, trees, a cage. Making a goofy plan and watching it fall apart is a classic part of D&D and this encounter does that.

The encounters are better when they are more than just a forced combat and offer the party an environment they can breathe in and stretch themselves. And the text is at its best being it’s giving out those nice little flavorful tidbits. “Hush now dearie or I’ll carve out your eyes.” MOAR! More of that! Less pedantic DM advice. Less trying to give advice on every action the party could take. The railroads are lame as well. If the party manages to pick a fight and actually kill the hag then their victory will be taken away from them as she comes back. (At least that’s what’s implied.) That kind of shit needs to fucking stop. If they kill her then she’s dead. And no, they don’t get a replacement for her. No rez for you, you killed the spellcaster dipshits.

The maps are lame. And only the fortress one offers anything useful to the DM. The cave map may be the worst. Literally a small loop on a full page to represent the cave. Wow. That adds so much to the adventure! Each adventure also gets about a three page prologue, with a page of “story awards” and a page of monsters and then the lame ass map.

I heard a rumor that the designers of these AL adventures are now paid, and the speculation was that the quality would be higher. I don’t know what they were like before, but this one stinks. The designer needs to cut words and focus on specific bursts of flavor. “SHOW, don’t tell.” Is common advice … but this seems to reverse that with an almost unerring compulsion to “TELL not show.” Whoever oversaw this (the editors?) needed to go to town with “prune this” and “condense this” comments.

This is $3 at The DM’s Guild. I’d recommend you not buy it, but if you want to play AL then you have to.

Finally, to be petty, the “Suits” thing is never explained. Each adventure is themed for one of the five suits in the Ravenloft tarot, and has a brief section on it, but there’s no explanation of how it all ties together.

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Dungeon Magazine #76

d76
Guess who doesn’t like enforced morality and railroads! That’s right! Me! I usually try to separate bad ideas and/or bad work from the people who created them. A person isn’t bad, they just did something ill-advised. I’m also a hypocrite.

It occurs to me that much was lost in OD&D between the resource-management of the early game and the plot from the later games. The “Detect Being Fucked With by the DM” spells made sense when you couldn’t refresh any spell at any time, didn’t have your books with you, couldn’t learn any spell at will, and had to manage your wizard slots more. As those limitations were houseruled away, or officially ruled away, the “Detect DM Bullshit” spells became adventure breakers when the entire adventure revolved around them. WOTC should have removed them from the modern era game, or at least publish “genre packs” of appropriateness.

The House on the Edge of Midnight
By Raymond E. Dyer
Ravenloft
Levels 4-6

The party washes ashore on a misty isle (Ravenloft!) and sees a mansion on the island. (I burn it down.) They are greeted by a distracted doctor. (I stab him in the face.) who offers you each a room for the night. (Uh, fuck you. No. We all sleep in the same room. Also, I kill the doctor.) Weird things happen. (Uh, I burned the house down, remember? I do it again.) Turns out the doctor is evil and salvaging body parts to repair his maimed daughter in the basement. Oh, and he killed the rest of the family and burned them in the wood stove that won’t open up and always billows out extremely stinky smoke. This is an event based adventure that is, essentially, a railroad from start to finish. You can’t open the stove until X happens. One must happen before two can happen. The doctor appears with the thing you need at a certain time. He regens completely until his appointed time to die. I get the tone the adventure is going after but it’s so ham-handed that it’s hard to see past that.

A Day at the Market
By Kevin Carter
AD&D
Levels 2-4

A side-trek. A grey ooze in the sewers eats a wand of wonder and summons a rhino before it wanders into the crowded marketplace. I like chaos. I wish there was more examples of chaos in the marketplace from the rhino and the ooze. There aren’t really any.

Mertymane’s Road
By Jason Poole, Craig Zipse
AD&D
Levels 5-7

This is a little wilderness jaunt through some snowy mountains and then an assault on an abandoned dwarf hall occupied by evil giants, humanoids, and humans from a neighboring kingdom. As usual, a big effect is made of the environment impacts of the snow & cold. I loathe these DM torture porn things. I’d rather the environment was used to make things awesome rather than to pedantically punish the players. The wilderness encounters are an ok ambush or to, and a nicely little “weird place” to rest at, along with slushmen (mudmen) who attack from residual magical runoff ponds. These are a very nice little place with the kind of mythic feel that I think we all yearn for from an ancient dwarf hall. The dwarf hall, proper, is small and cramped and feels like it’s just combat after combat.

Crusader
By Peter Lloyd-Lee
AD&D
Levels 3-6

Fuck. You. Peter. An old man has a heart attack in the street and if the party doesn’t respond then the adventure is over and DM forces an alignment check? You sound like a real fun guy to game with. He spends a long paragraph on punishing the party and then goes on to say that if the party do a RES on him he automatically fails it. Railroad much? Please forgive us lowly players of D&D who thought our characters had some semblance of free will. Please, Peter, allow us to play the game exactly the way you insist it played! There’s a dickish paladin involved, who can’t be bothered to walk across town to pick up his holy avenger. This then has the party going into the wizards home. IE: this is a puzzle adventure in a wizards house to complete a fetch quest. The reward is to get arrested by the town for entering the wizards home without permission. It’s just a wizards tower with a couple of puzzle rooms.

Earth Tones
By Craig Shackleton
AD&D
Levels 7-9

This is a combination of an event based adventure and a dungeon to explore, centered around an abandoned dwarf hold and the burrowing monsters attacking a nearby town. It is organized quite well: there’s a description of the key people in town and what they know/how they react, a list of events that can take place, and then a location list. The locations are very briefly described, except for the main abandoned dwarven hold. In short: it’s organized exactly the way it needs to be to support the type of play it wants to be … a quite rare event in the annals of adventure writing. The events are a bit … railroady. Nondetection spells and amulets to justify the choices made in the design, and it’s not until the sixth or eighth event that from free will emerges. Forced combat abound, with a lot of the events being “these things burrow up from underground and attack.” The NPC descriptions are about the right length for a DM to use, maybe just being a sentence or two longer than need be. The event text are a little longer still, but still probably manageable. The dwarf stronghold tends to the “at least two paragraphs per room” standard, which is overkill. I don’t know, hordes of invisible enemies (duergar) are always kind of a turnoff for me, although I do the visuals of duergar appearing as they fall from the ceiling and enlarging at the same time. The full-length paragraph monster stats as also a turnoff for me. All of the “interesting” bits seem to be set-piece combats … which I don’t find interesting when they make up the preponderance of encounters. “If the players are having an easy time ofit then make a third purple worm come up from underground.” Ug.

Fruit of the Vine
By Charles C. Reed
AD&D
Levels 2-4

This interesting little adventure takes place, mostly, in a little house with a mutant yellow vine creeper in it. Each room seems to have some little bit of interest in it, which is quite unusual for these sorts of things. The map is nicely three dimensional, at least more than others, and even has a old ladder outside for people to take advantage of. An open courtyard inside the building, a creeper vine under a table … Just a little bit of special in each room. It’s fairly short, at only six pages, and at least three of those is a bloated backstory and hook. If you could edit the hell out of ALL the extraneous text then you could get this down to 2 or three pages, easily, and have nice little compact adventure in a house in town with more than a little in it to interest a party of adventurers. An inkwell made out of a griffon hoof? Sign me up! I’m hesitant, but would say this is worth looking up even in it’s present condition.

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Redmark Adventures Module 01: Varria

varria
By Damien Goldwarg, Paul Oklesh, Nathan Planke, Stan Shinn
Rogue Comet
D&D 5E
Levels 5-10

I’m terrible at reviewing products that are not adventures. This is not an adventure so I’m going to be terrible at reviewing it. It’s a DM’s toolkit for a campaign. Imagine one of the old Gazetteers or one of the older MERP region modules, but in both cases cut out the minutia that tended to clog up both products. Replace the minutia with content directly aimed at running/supporting a campaign, including lots of short little adventure ideas and ten or so two page-ish adventures and a lot of other supporting data. It’s a kind of campaign construction toolkit in a box/40 pages. I find the idea intriguing and I believe it mostly succeeds at what it is trying to do. I’m just not sure I have any room in my DM’ing life for a product like this.

I’m going to resort to describing the toolkit presented, something I am typically loathe to do. There’s a small background section that attempts to explain what’s going on in the region, to communicate the flavor. It alludes to court intrigue and collective power that is generally not referenced again. What follows that is a brief paragraph or so on several hexes/regions on the map, each with a little intrigue or rumor. Rumors of lost dwarven riches in the mountains, an industrial hellhole dwarf town., anti-human elves in the forest, and so on. The main city is then detailed in ten paragraphs, each one describing one region of the city, and each one having one concrete fact associate with it. A barkeep, the hotel owner, the old docks/criminal district, the site of an orc massacre, and so on. Just enough to make the locale non-generic.

There are then three brief “bullet point” campaigns presented. In about one column of text a potential campaign is outlined at a very high level via some bullet points. The Elven Supremacist campaign is probably the strongest idea. The second, related to cultists, being rife with stupid Forgotten Realms like names. “R’dag Kalendon, Agh Tahnu,” … uh, what? People named? Titles? Place names? Still, it’s not a nice virgin sacrifice/slavers thing going on. The third is a nice idea but goes nowhere, and has as its central theme a volcano beginning to erupt. Whereas the previous campaigns have action-oriented bullet points (They try to assassinate someone. They try to sacrifice someone. They try to kidnap someone.) this one is written very passively. There’s an earthquake and you befriend a young virgin. The cultists want to do a virgin sacrifice, while slavers sell them some. An earthquake and cultists recruit more converts. A lake becomes acidic and people who fall in get chemical burns. The town water supply becomes contaminated and the townspeople want to sacrifice more virgins. I just don’t see the adventure in this. Or maybe its a problem with the implied morality for slavery/sacrifice=wrong, but the slums and other stuff earlier are ok to tolerate? IE: the implied morality required to hook is in opposition to the implied immorality earlier in the adventure. Also, it IS written much more passively, almost like the characters are watching a movie. If I were running this I’d probably run all three campaign bullet points at the same time, with the village hooks and other adventures sprinkled in. More Chaos is Better Chaos. 🙂

After this come twenty towns/villages, each in a paragraph, to sprinkle into the game, each with its own adventure hook, and then a selection of random names to use and a selection of magic items to sprinkle in. The magic items are generally quite good. “A bleached skull etched deeply with symbols of infernal necromancy” or a smokey grey-metal hammer, light as a feather but hard as stone. Or a bronzed book of empty yellowing pages. Great imagery in those, and in the other 20 odd ones as well. (The mundane treasure table is also nicely descriptive.) I might quibble with the fact that most of the magic items are just tied to a spell. The book allows commune. The hammer allows knock. The skull allows ghost jar. (All at some interval.) I get that it’s an easy way to handle the mechanics. I hate mechanics. I guess the pedantic crowd would go nuts or something if you just said it allows you to create and send out an eyeball to see through once a day. I don’t know, appeals to standardized mechanics kill the excitement and enthusiasm I feel inside. It’s just me, and I’m just being an ass here.

There’s also a section of one-time random events, by terrain type. These amount to little adventure hooks, ala Wilderlands, and I like the idea a lot. In practice I’m not sure it’s tuned to the adventure. There are four such encounters for grasslands. There’s a lot of grassland and forest on the map. There are 4 such encounters for those two hex types combined. There’s one hex of marsh and no jungle, that I can tell, and there are four such encounters for marsh also. Good idea but a little short on implementation I’d say.

The ten or so adventures are in the style of Rogue Comets 1-sheet adventures. IE: one page, front and back, a little map, a notes section that isn’t needed since it’s being printed (and thus you can take notes anywhere) or used on screen (in which case you can’t write notes), a visuals sections that is useless and shouldn’t be there, a 5E stats section that feels not usefull and extraneous, and a small series of keyed encounters. “The floor of this area is greased with the fat and blood of untold beasts.” NICE! An “off” fountain with a rusty valve that rains down filth in a 40’ radius if opened. NICE! In general the encounter descriptions are just about the right length to support play.

I might quibble with a point or two. In the third adventure the DM is advised to give the annoying fey, which the party is chasing, a “plot shield” if the PC’s attempt to hinder him or harm him as he flees the area. FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU AND DIE YOU PIECE OF SHIT! FUCK YOU AND YOUR PLOT SHIELD! YOU ARE EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG WITH D&D! How about instead I just pull out my phone and fuck around on it and you, the DM, fuck off, since I’m not being allowed to play D&D anymore? How about that. Eh? Oh, hey, btw, did you know I’m in anger management classes now? Squeeze right thumb and breathe deeply.

Anyway … the adventures are a mixed bag, with a couple of them being linked together. Taste-wise, the ones that skew towards the mundane and weird are better than the elements with fucking tinker gnomes and “the girl wears a trap harness that mimics spell effects” bullshit. I understand those are elements of personal taste, and they do tend to be surrounded by some nice “tainted chaos villager type stuff. The included bestiary at the end will be loved and treasured by the pedantic “it can switch between these effects as a free action” and make me second-guess my support for the indiegogo campaign. Tough position to be in. Include content that appeals to gamers that prefer the pedantic mechanical details or write to appeal to those who enjoy a loose style. I don’t envy the authors.

It claims to be a campaign toolkit, and not a campaign. And it IS a campaign toolkit. You’re going to have to sit down for 30 minutes to sketch out this evenings game. Cutting some of the dross (three maps per map! One mini DM map, one large DM map, one unkeyed player map!) and instead perhaps expanding certain things. If the villages were a ½ page or a ? page, with some expansion on the adventure and maybe some villagers/quirks/etc that would go a long way and add … 3-5 pages? The same with the three campaigns. Expansion to half a page or a page would do wonders and maybe get them to the point where the booklet could be a TIGHT little zero-prep campaign. Some of the themes are a little inconsistent as well, and maybe they needed to bullet points those themes? Slum elves might be one. Elf discontent is mentioned once, and slums are mentioned explicitly once. An opportunity lost for the theming of the entire game?

The concept here is really nice. The execution of the concept they are focused on is spot on. It does exactly what it needs to do to be a non-generic campaign toolkit, and is organized VERY well. In fact, I think I’ve seldom seen something with a vision that achieves it so well. I just wish the vision was a tad different …. 🙂

Given that Rogue Comet is charging $5 for a 1-sheet adventure, including ten of them is a $50 value in this $15 adventure. Available at Tabletop Library.

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The Amulet of Shinkara

shinkara
By Stan Shinn
Rogue Comet
D&D 5e
Levels 1-3, 4-6

Before you spiral stairs, descend into a cobwebbed and vermin-filled grotto: the perilous lair of the orcs. The raiders of the Orc Lord Sharg have long menaced the local shires of Tenamen, but their thievery has now gone too far. Sharg’s Orcs recently stole the glowing green Amulet Of Shinkara whose unique healing properties alone can restore the ailing Lady Alana of Tenamen. You are oath bound to retrieve the amulet to save the princess. The 1,000 gold piece reward for the amulet’s retrieval certainly bolsters your willingness to descend into the skull-littered chambers below! Can you survive the unknown perils below and find the stolen amulet in time?

This is a decent adventure. I’m going to nitpick it to death because of the chosen “1-sheet” format. If I paid $5 for it (and I did) I wouldn’t feel cheated. Oh course, if it were better then I’d look FORWARD to running it …. 🙂 I stumbled upon these while giving some indiegogo money for a cut down/basic set of the 5e rules. If I was going to buy the rules I decided I might as well get a preview of the writing style.

This is a 1-sheet adventure, front & back, which details an orc cave and has a couple of extra columns of text to provide some context and pretext for going adventuring in them. These sorts of limited page count adventures give me fits in reviewing. I feel like I pick them apart on details … but they, by their choice of formats, invite this, I think. Which isn’t a criticism at all for their chosen format. I think that the 1-page and/or 1-sheet adventure has a lot of merit. It requires a focus to pull it off and that focus should, I hope, reflect further when the designers move into longer products. With only a page you have to choose your words for maximum impact and I’m ALL about maximum impact. I also feel like I end up writing reviews that are much longer than the adventure. To his credit Stan has crammed A LOT into this. It’s got multiple possible “plotlines”, is statted for two different levels of adventurers, contains reference data, and includes some intrigue and/or factions in the dungeon. It’s also one of the most OSR-like adventures I’ve seen for 5e, not that I’ve seen a lot.

Let the nitpicking begin!

There’s a little section of boxed text to start the adventure off, followed by a short couple of paragraphs of player background. These both seem to do the same thing in the adventure. There’s enough information in the read-aloud to either use it verbatim to start the party in front of the dungeon stairs, or to use the information in it to expand it a bit in a hook you can roleplay. The players information section, which is about 1/18th of the entire text, is mostly … oh I don’t know. Irrelevant? Adds little? There are a couple of nice bits in it about multiple bands of mercenaries being sent out and rumors in a little village that could be worked into more by the DM (that’s a good thing.) The most lengthy section of it through, the background of the lady’s illness and/or reason you need to go looking, don’t really add much interesting to the adventure. The “multiple groups of mercenaries” lets you add some more factions and kind of “gold rush of killers” aspect to the adventure. The rumors in the village let you add a kind of village on the edge of ruin aspect to the adventure. But the background on the illness and the “the orcs stole it” don’t really add much in the way of content you can expand upon.

SImilarly the DM’s background. It’s a mix of text, tables, information that’s useful and information that’s not. A small random monster table has JUST enough extra data. “Treacherous rivals seeking amulet” is enough to run a decent wandering encounter. There’s a small section of rumors and a small section on generating a random storyline. Both are related, so the rumors may be true or false depending on which plotline and/or complications you roll/choose. And “plot” is a strong word here. It’s really just some extra stuff like “who actually has the amulet” and who ordered the theft, if anyone, and or is the amulet a fake. As always, I would probably choose ALL of the complications and run them at the same time. Chaos is a good thing, after all, it’s all just a pretext for having fun. I’d say it’s all targeted at making the adventure LARGER. What happens after the adventure, what does the amulet actually do, and so on. I appreciate it. The section rubbed me the wrong way at first and it was overly something quite minor. The first sentence of the section says that the party can dispatch a messenger boy to tell your employer of your finding about the caves, before you enter. It’s like, two sentences long. And I wanted to hate everything in this section because of it. SHould that one paragraph be stricken I’d say the entire section does a wonderful job of expanding the adventure context while retaining focus. I don’t know, sometimes I can be an ass.

There’s a couple of sections that follow that add little to the adventure. “Visuals” says “The GM may want to prepare a map of the lair.” Well, yes, and I may want to buy chips & soda also. It’s really just filler text. The next section is on 5e stats and I really have a hard time understanding why it’s in the adventure. Basically, it says “go look in the SRD for the stats” for each and every entry, and lists the CR & XP. Everyone in awhile there’s a note to the effect of “Shagrat: treat as ogre for stats.” Decent, but probably doesn’t need to consume as much space in the adventure as it does and could be included in the room stats.

The descriptions are generally pretty good. “Lit poorly by greasy cancels burning in upturned skulls of humans, elves, and sheep.” That’s pretty nice! Orcs gambling for shanks of mutton and babies playing with human bones and slugs is a nice touch also. The room descriptions are at their best when they are proving that degree of interesting “quick hit” detail or when they are detailings factions, etc, like the blinded orc in love with a beautiful nymph. They are at their worst when the provide mundane detail or history, or things that can’t easily be introduced into play. “A cave descends from the valley above and into the lair.” Or “The orcs usually let garbage fall where it may, but when they must they force (blind orc) to shovel it into the refuse pit. There’s also a nice bit where the shamen torturer kills people through torture and then brings them back to life to torture them some more. That would be excellent if it could be worked into the adventure in a better way. As written the two shepherd prisoners who relate it just give the party extra moral authority for their slaughter. Maybe a bit about the ors claiming to be misunderstood or something, until the secret gets out? I guess if the party come in by bluffing their way and get a tour it might happen, or the blind orc could grump a bit, but those seem like a stretch. Maybe you MEET the orc shoveling the filth, with his sewn shut eyes.

The map is fine and complex enough for an adventure of this size. The treasure, except for the titular amulet, is not that interesting and is disappointedly abstract “3 pieces of jewelry worth 150gp.” Compare that to the full suits of armor with Wolf Head helmets from the Death House portion of Curse of Strahd. Which would you rather have?

I wish the adventure text was more like the good examples I cited, all slugs and human hands baby toys and greasy cabled in sheep and human skulls. If there was one bit of criticism or advice I had it would be something related to that, more focus in that area. I don’t have a problem paying $5 for a good sheet of paper, I think the issue comes in when folks don’t understand what they are getting for their money, when they are gambling. Somehow gambling $5 on a 20 or 30 page adventure seems ok but not on a 1-sheet adventure, I suspect. As it is this is kind of borderline in my … tastes? I like the basis of the experiment, in 1 sheet, I like the background/DM sections, I like parts of the rooms. I just wish the treasure was more interesting and, in particular, the room descriptions/encounters were more consistent in providing that “quick hit” gameable flavor that I’m always looking for.

I got this for $5 at tabletop library

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Dungeon Magazine #75

d75
Non-Prophet Organization
By Charles C. Reed
AD&D
Levels 4-7

A decent enough little adventure marred by the organization. A village has portents of doom. Some believe and some don’t. A little investigation and/or a timeline can lead to some caves and the hags behind it all. It’s all described in number/dungeon format and that’s too bad. Instead of including all of the information about the people in the description for the locale it should have been broken out to a short description of the “mundane” village locations and another section on the people, personalities, and politics of the situation. There’s an element of the hags using Wands of Frost and plotting in a, what I consider, an un-hag-like manner. Once again, just do the effect, you don’t need a justification from the book. Still, minor points. Some note taking would shorten this to a page or so and make a decent little adventure.

The Amulet and the Underdark
By WDB Kenower
AD&D
Levels 5-7

The party is hired to find an amulet. Bandits stole it and sold it to someone who sold it to someone (evil dwarf stronghold!) in the underdark. “The party should not be allowed to kill the bandits if they are of good alignment, after they question them.” Uh huh. It’s also not clear at all how the party is supposed to find out where the amulet actually is in the dwarf town,and the underdark portion is really just glossed over without much detail except for a wandering table. This adventure is super-long for no real reason.

The Forgotten Man
By Steve Devaney
AD&D
Levels 6-8

Meh. A story of redemption. You meet a dude in a village who has lost his memory. There’s a big build up with someone coming to find him and a stupid stupid play (plays and carnivals, I just don’t get the fascination with them in adventures.) Dude learns he’s The Evil One and goes back to his castle with his lich pal. Lich pal and his 100 jerlamaine torment the party on and off as they explore. Meet the evil dude again and hope to turn him back again to good. As a story of redemption is sucks. As a dungeon is sucks and is boring & lifeless. As a DM aid it does not help run the adventure in any way other than “here’s a whole lot of words to look at.” IE: it sucks. The set up is fine, if very long and transparent. The entire middle is lame and the end/dungeon is just not interesting.

Into the Nest of Vipers
By Matthew G. Adkins
AD&D
Levels 1-3

Oh, I don’t know. Six pages of hook/backstory is a bit much. The 10th level druid who cares a little but not enough to do anything, and the bulk of the dungeon adventure in a “dead magic” zone, along with the length but boring description, make one hard to find something good to say. Six page hook to go find a ranger, find the ranger dead with a note referring to the druid. Druid sends you to dungeon in a dead magic zone where you fight a bunch of bandits. This should be one page, at most, instead of the 16-18 pages it is. There’s just nothing interesting in those pages of detail.

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