Jungle Tomb of the Mummy Bride

By Levi Combs
Planet X Games
5e
Levels 5-7

Tales of the cursed pyramid and the sleeping tomb of the Mummy Bride have long been a traveler’s tale, passed along by wayward explorers and greedy plunderers alike. Deep within the verdant jungles of the south, amidst a Green Hell of impenetrable jungle, savage cannibals and ancient myth, lies the shattered remnants of a once-powerful civilization and the terrible gods who ruled over them. Rumors swirl of untold riches and un-plundered magic for those brave (or foolish!) enough to claim it. Will your players survive… and what will be left of them?

This 87 page adventure presents a three level jungle temple dungeon with about thirty rooms in about nineteen pages. Full of fun tropes, and leaning hard toward combat and looooong encounters.

To understand this adventure you need to understand Cannibalvision. This is the vibe, presented in a page description up front, of B movie exploitation tropes. Perhaps most readily accessible by that opening scene in the first Indiana Jones. The temple. The natives. The snake in the cockpit. “Nudity that would make a 1980’s National Geographic blush”, we are told. Or “When describing the jungle and its “lost in time” inhabitants, remember that everything in this ancient world is bigger than it should be and that goes double for the freakiness factor. Mosquitoes the size of a puppy or ridiculous swarms of giant leeches should be the norm.” There are some hits and misses in this advice. I get the vibe that the designer is trying for though, and it comes through pretty well, in total. You just have to overlook the hamfisted account of the quaint natives. And you, gentle reader, don’t go pulling your fucking holier than thou shit; you can get a vibe across without resorting to the worst of caricatures. That’s the job of the designer. 

The maps here are a bit simplistic. Just a some simple hallway lines ending in rooms without much complexity. The first level has about two thirds of the rooms with the other two being essentially perfunctory maps or just a couple of numbered encounters. A standard temple layout. Which does tend to be some of the worst dungeon map design. They tend to the simplistic.

The adventure does have some great vignettes though, referencing back to the tropes that we’re all familiar with, and done/written in an evocative manner. At one point you encounter a corpse/mummy. It is mumbling something … but can’t talk because its lips are sewn shut. Cutting them free causes him to continually mutter a slight prayer/saying. That great! It’s great imagery and somewhat scar, giving that push your luck mechanism that should always be a part of a dungeon. And the adventure does this sort of thing over and over again. Even better, there’s some design behind this. Pushing your luck here, by cutting open the mouth to hear the chant, allows you to use the prayer in another room to help bypass the danger there. That is EXACTLY what should happen. Or, in another case, a room full of statues, arms crossed in front of their chests. Triggering them causes their hands to uncover the chests, revealing holes, in which crawling hands flood out. Scarabs anyone? That’s a clear appeal to a trope and some great imagery as well.

And in many other ways the adventure falls down. Wanderers are perfunctory, with such descriptions as this one for a giant spider “ This variety of spider does not spin webs, but is very adept at jumping.” Sure. Bt also there’s no real energy to this, or the others. And while the adventure is magnificent in its specificity in some places, it also engages in the abstraction that frustrating to see “The ancient civilization that once prospered here was not completely eradicated. A savage, cannibalistic tribe of hunters remain nearby, offering up forbidden and bloody tribute to the evil gods within and echoing the decadent, terrible habits of their ancestors.” a tribe. An ancient civilization. Name names man! Give me some bloody tribute! Get in there and revel in it! And you don’t even have to use more words, just different words. The Jaffa hate the Shol’va! And it’s full of minor annoyances, such as presenting us with a step pyramid … without any indication of what you find when you climb the steps (the entrance is at the base.) I can’t imagine the playtest groups never climbed to the top.

But, the main crime here is one of verbosity. The entries are long. Three, or four to a page. A simple spear trap takes four paragraphs to describe. Four! Paragraph after paragraph of words for rooms. And much of it padded out with useless words or phrases or some backstory, and usually all of the above. Rooms APPEAR to be things. “Crouching about, gnawing on split, cracked bones and scuttling around on the floor looking for ragged scraps of flesh are 2d6 ghouls” is a great description of ghoul behaviour. But the description after it is backstory and the one before, of the room proper, full of abstractions and history. It makes it a serious pain to dig through.

I believe this, while for 5e, has its roots in DCC. And it shows. A good DCC adventure thrives on experiences and that is what this has. It’s just a chore to work with and frustrating in its inconsistencies.

This is $12 at DriveThru. The preview is ten pages. You get to see the first two rooms, which is good, and the abstracted nature of the wanderers and rumours, as well as the Cannibalvision advice.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/259238/jungle-tomb-of-the-mummy-bride?1892600

Posted in 5e, Reviews | 9 Comments

The Grey Citadel

By Nathan Douglas Paul
Frog God Games
S&W
Levels 4-5

In the city of Dun Eamon, demons roam the streets, criminals rule the night and an important local power figure has gone missing. Can your heroes unravel the clues that lead through every social element of the city–from the heights of the Grey Citadel to far below its streets and even into the hearts of its inhabitants? Or are some mysteries better left unsolved?

This one hundred page slop of garbage from the Frogs presents a four level dungeon in about forty pages with … sixty(?) rooms, as well as a short investigation, all in an overly described town/city. It’s a wordy wall of text that focuses on combat. 

Ohs Nos! A wizzo is missing! Looks like there’s a succubus hiding in the caves under the city. And a gang of thieves being controlled by her. And a anti-paladin kinda under her control. And a rival adventuring party. And chickula is a succubus so she’s got some simps. 

[I diverge: Looking at the succubus from a more nuanced perspective, there is an opportunity here for something more interesting. Thralls being played as yes men, eager to please, wanting to get laid, etc. I’m sure we’ve all met the type, either online or that dude you knew who is not around anymore cause he’s up some chicks ass. This could be mined for some really good play. It’s not gonna get anywhere near that here, but, it further solidifies my idea of a monster manual based on that kind of description, the themes of the monster and how to represent it. And no culture warring you fuckwits; I’m talking about the dudes without boundaries exhibiting unhealthy behaviors.] 

Have no fear, as soon as you step foot out of your inn you are summoned by the Lord Soliloquy, who gives you a column long read-aloud monologue describing several small things going on in the city and asking you to investigate. You wander around a massively over described city and have some timed events until you find your way in to the sewers, err, I mean caverns under the city. On level four you find Lilith and stab her. It? Whatever. 

I don’t know what to say here. It’s peak Frogs. Long read-aloud. You can drive to detroit and back before the DM finishes the read-alouds. You know all of those morons who bitch about the players being on their phones? It’s of shit like this. I’m not sitting through a fifteen minutes read-aloud. You get a couple of sentences. That’s it. 

Almost a page of text to describe the sawmill. Which has one dirty old man in it. Fuck me man, that’s a shot paragraph at best. And everything in this is like that. You get word after word and sentence after sentence of description about shit. “the corner of the area opposite the entrance are two bodies (an Ebon Union cutpurse who failed to make it back home safely one night, and a beggar who refused to inform for the Ebon Union” That’s one long section in the middle of a HUGLY long description describing a room. And then, of course, we get a detailed description of everything they carried, including the lint in their pockets. Look man, I appreciate some whimsy in shit like this, something to keep the mood a little light or add some mystery. But I don’t need a fucking victorian laundry list of the rotation of the bedlinens. For the last 23 years.

There’s little in the way of actual useful formatting to break up the text and make it usable. There are PAGES full of condensed stat blocks, for S&W, that take up, I don’t know, a fifth of a page for a stat block. In S&W? Uh huh. It’s all in a small font, in that fucked up font they use. It is Wall of text, absolutely it is.

I wonder, did anyone ever try to run this fucking adventure? Anyone at the Frogs I mean. From this booklet. Not the designer, they are too familiar with the adventure. But some rando. Did anyone ever try? Did they tell anyone that this entire thing is useless POS? It’s hard to read, hard to run, and, I think, not the most fulfilling. Unless you like hacks.

Rooms in the dungeon have names like “JUST A FUN GUY” I’m not an asshat. I enjoy some levity also. But, also, you’ve given up any opportunity to bring more context to the rooms you’re describing. To start things off with a framing that will cement everything that follows, leveraging it in to something else Instead, though, we get equipment porn. And tactics porn. Cause that’s all D&D is. Stabbing. Instead of evocative descriptions and interactivity we instead get “You are

free to come up with colorful curses such as “can eat only insects” or “can speak only in single syllables”. You fucking enjoy that. Enjoy the slop being shoveled down your throat without any thought as to what an adventure actually is and how it achieves it.

It seems clear to me that this is a conversion of a Pathfinder adventure. That’s the vibe. I don’t give a fuck how you play D&D. You wanna play Pathfinder, that’s fine. But I give a great many fucks about my basic D&D game. And this shit ain’t it. In any measure of an adventure.

This is $19 at DriveThru. Nineteen fucking dollars. For a PDF. Which might be ok, but its from the Frogs so you know your gonna get ripped off. They got the cover right, at least. The preview is six pages, the first six, showing you just a couple of overview pages. So, not really useful.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/335344/the-grey-citadel-sw?1892600

Posted in Reviews, ribbet, ribbet | 10 Comments

Night Land

By Vasili Kaliman
Singing Flame
OSE
Levels 2-3

Night Land is a realm where the sun has extinguished and its ashes lay strewn across a landscape. One after one, the stars in the universe are entering their ultimate stages of life, and existence is evaporating into memory. Night Land may take place far in the future, or even in the past. It is a dream-like realm existing without plot, which referees can weave to their will.

This 48 page digest pointcrawl uses about eighteen pages to describe about seventeen points in a trippy land. It is a pointless endeavor, with no meaning behind it. To it. Just someone with some ability to invent and describe weirdness, but absolutely no understanding of how to use it or what to do with it.

For those of you hoping for some WIlliam Hope Hodgeson, as I was, you shall not find it here. The sun has gone out here, as have most of the stars, and things are a little trippy, but otherwise there is no similarity beyond the name. It is not even to be found in the long list of Inspirations up front. Awake in the Night no more …

Ok, so, you’re awake in the Night Lands. No sun. Just a pale moon (whatever …) and most of the stars have gone out. You’ve been transported there, all Porky in Wakyland with dipping water birds and other weirdness. Then Dungeonmaster shows up to explain to the party what is going on. Errr, sorry, I mean Inspiratus the Gatekeeper, who crawls out of a pit, explains shit, and then jumps in a different pit. Bottomless, presumably. We’re not off to a great start here. And I’m serious about the Porky thing. Watch the toon but turn the sky greenish black.

I sound like an asshat here, but I’m sorely disappointed. With factions like Sunmourners, the Necro Divas and the Void Engineers you’ve got some great imagery just from the names. (Evidently, Mage the Ascension factions/houses make great factions …) The Sunmourners riding around on swine. The Necro DIvas have a ladder to heaven made out of blond human hair. How the fuck yuo make this shit up? Drugs man, lots of drugs. 

The druge continue through to the descriptions. “Within a clearing, an ASH GOLEM sits feasting on LACERATED HUMANS. Geothermal features such as geysers and hot MUD POOLS are nearby. Other ASH GOLEMS are soaking in one of the pools, chanting tender MELODIES to one another. Numerous SUN SPRITES are fluttering above them, enthralled” or “Only Necro Divas can perform magic here. Divine or arcane words spoken by other casters fall to the ground as vapor, hardening in forms reflecting the meaning. These solid forms can be taken out of the hamlet, after which the spell regresses back into an ethereal substance and activates as normal.” That’s some weird ass shit and some weird ass descriptions. Flash of radiant color sparkle within, great bubbles rise to the surface of things. The designer has a penchant for writing a terse little description and coming up with some bizarre ass shit. 

And then not knowing fuck all about what to do with it.

This comes in many different forms. Let us start with the very nature of a pointcrawl. If you try to stray from the path then the DM is told “The ashes might become too thick to wade through; terrifying beasts might be heard ahead to discourage them; they might reach an escarpment too steep to scale” IE: “I didn’t care to figure this out, just hand wave it.” Or, perhaps, the weird ass use of bolding. You can see it up above, in that ash golem description. MELODIES is bolded. Are they monsters? No. Something with more detail below this description? No. And the fucking thing does this all over the place. There’s one more sentence to that description. It ends with “a convergence point for UNEXPLAINED aerial wonders”   I’m pretty certain this refers to the table, taking up the rest of the page, of “Occurrences in the sky.” Since there’s nothing else I guess this is the same as UNEXPLAINED. What, exactly, was the point of this? And I’m not harping on a misused word, this shit happens all over the place.

Not to mention the misuse of randomness. Everything is a fucking table in this. Yeah, it’s great that the wanderers are doing something ala the wonder of Dave Bowman, but beyond that EVERYTHING that can happen is a table. Why? Why make the encounter at a location random? Will you be revisiting that location time and again and need something new to happen? No? Then why? Why not, instead, take one of those fucking ideas and expand on the six words you used to instead to provide a fully formed encounter. I find this so frustrating; the mediocre, or worse, encounters here are sometimes full of good ideas. But they have no room to breathe. And it all stems from this complete lack of understanding of randomness and the role it plays. If you want an encounter then write a fucking encounter. Why fuck around with making the Tome of Adventure Design instead look like Wackyland? Just write a fucking encounter man. Instead we get little fragments, not formed at all. 

But the major sin is the lack of cohesion. This is, I think, best exemplified by the point The Fog. “Nestled within a valley is a region thickly shrouded in BLUE FOG.While most travelers pass through without incident, many go missing each year, VANISHING without a trace. They emerge several days, months, or years later — without aging — and with no sense that time has elapsed.” You get a little table for people emerging from the fog, or for you entering the fog. That’s it. It’s just pomo, weird for the sake of being weird. It lacks any connection to anything. And, I would assert, almost every encounter in this pointcrawl follows in this fashion, even those among the factions. Nothing matters.

THings end with a visit to a garden party out of Alice and The Hatter, with a figure that has blackmail material on several notable figures. None to be found in this adventure. And never to be visited again. Just like the holy travelers who have found a new form of transportation … with no other words than those being written about it. 

There’s nothing here. It’s an empty void with a patina of colour. 

This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is a one page DMS page. That’s worse than fucking useless as fucking preview.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/364204/night-land?1892600

Posted in Reviews | 11 Comments

Slyth Hive

By PrinceofNothing
The Merciless Merchants
1e
Levels 14+

What once was, shall be again. The evil Pharnabazus, high priest of Shub-Niggurath, has ventured into Old Agoiah, and with the aid of evil sorcery, has re-awakened an ancient terror. The Slyth, a weapon race of the primordial Axototli civilization, has been reborn from the Wells of Lazarus at the hands of the Arch-Heretic. Reports of missing huntsmen, depopulated forests and sightings of eerie, primeval monstrosities begin to filter in from this decrepit backwater region.

This one hundred page adventure uses about fifty pages to describe a nine level dungeon with an ant/borg/Aliens vibe that is combined with “standard” D&D elements and tropes to produce a decent representation of a high-level AD&D adventure. It’s not a shitty high level adventure, and therefore worth having. Although I can’t imagine more than four groups in the history of D&D being able to play this.

High level adventures are a rare thing, and this makes me somewhat circumspect when reviewing some of the better ones … or ones that I think are better. They tend, I think, to all be puzzles of a strategic sort. The party is working against something. They have a huge amount of resources at their disposal, from spells to magic items to vast quantities of men and  materials they can bring to bear. To some  extent this is mirrored in the lower level game, where hit points and rations and spells and torches work against a wandering table. At a higher level though this can become a sort of strategic game. The story goes that the Tomb of Horrors was solved by a large number of orc minions. And, I’ve always thought that a small army of soldiers with peasant laborers with shovels could dig out many dungeons. Or, the party could flood it and work out the rest later. They are puzzles without a solution, ready for the party to engage in their fuckwittery … and deady traps for those facing them head on.

The arch-heretic Pharnabazus was seen arriving on black ships crewed by evil men and marching in to the wilderness, toward a high mountain, or, as th text tells us “Peasants fear Old Agoiah, the highest mountain of the place, and shudder beneath its brooding presence.” The Well of Lazarus awaits him deep within. (You can see here the appeal to the cultural consciousness to bring mor to the words than the actually written text. Allusions to LoTR, and other pop culture references help bring the correct vibe to the adventure for the players to relish in. I’m always excited to see things like this brining more to the written word than is actually on the page..) And yet this is not the adventure. It is only the pretext and finale, for to get there you must go through the Slyth Hive. He has used the well to awaken an ancient warrior race, held captive by an even ancienter race. Bringing them back, changing himself in the process, to eventually unleash. They are a cross between ants, The Aliens (plural) movie and the borg, adapting to the parties use of effects eventually and evolving to counter them. This is presented as a somewhat serious situation,  but not the end of the world, thankfully, as that trope is quite worn out. A toned down Death Frost Doom ending, if you will. 

The nature of the threat is brought home by the suggested start. Your group of mid-level pregens (Including The Kent, for those in the know) goes in and probably gets this asses kicked almost immediatly. Then the second squad goes in. Solomon the Magician (Human lvl 16 LN Mu) Archmage of Forces, Powers & Dominions. Sir Giselher (Human LG Paladin 14) Undefeated Paragon of Virtue (28 years old) Legendary Underworld figure. Peerless killer of giants, dragons, and men. Grandmaster f the Order of the Radiant Dawn. The Master of Summer. The Great Druid. There are no histories, the titles do everything and communicate everything you need to know about their past. A power trip to be sure, and exactly what this should be bringing.

There are nine levels here, only one of which we might call the typical dungeon map. Great caverns with some tunnels hanging off of them set up some massive set pieces, potentially, with some small exploration after. This appears a couple of times. And then a vertical map completely underwater … a sunken realm of the ancients. Another level or just rooms in solid stone, that the psionic inhabitants travel between … a key level to dealing a serious blow to the Slyth, turning off many of their defenses/gimps. Not just 100 wishes, but a site where you can help turn the tables on the larger scale. 

You’ll also find not just a nest of Aliens here, but also some potential friends. A rebel hive. A major drow patrol. Friendly cactus people. And a major druid that is being forced to do things. This isn’t a one-sided affair. Hard, to be sure, but  not just small combats. A large number of large scale potential combats but not just those. Not just traps of the usual variety, or puzzles to turn to your favor. Not just allies. This is a complex environment written in a more neutral way in which the party can turn things to their advantage if they can figure them out. All supported by some pretty decent writing that helps to bring the environment to life. The focus is on interactivity, both with the encounters and with the descriptions. Not rock star level descriptions, but very solid ones.

The editing can be sloppy at times, with keys and map symbols. This is all able to be worked out but is annoying. As is the use of roman numerals for the map keys. Blah. This is not the comprehension I was looking for. There is a FUCK TON of treasure here, enough, I suspect, to easily level. If you can get it out. That’s a lot of coin to haul out. Especially in a dungeon incursion like this one with hostels all around. The magic items are suitably good at times (a +4 spear, in particular, being exactly what I would expect for an epic item (+4) handled in a good way) and in many other places items of power are just booked. Talisman of Evil. Talisman of the Void. Bleech.) And the number of subsystems to keep track of is non-trivial. You’re going to need some stat sheets for the Slyth, at a minimum, and to have the adaptations thing handy, as well as manage the gimps/defenses/reactions. And that’s before you get to the many and varied abilities of the opposition force. There is a lot going on here and a little more in support of the beleaguered DM, during play, would be appreciated. Essentially EVERYTHING is going on, including psionics and etherealness. As one would expect from high level play.

I suspect that anyone playing this is going to get asses handed to them. There’s more to high level play than the stats on the page. The ability to use your character, outside of the box, is what is going to make a difference here. An experienced PLAYER. At high levels. And, even better, having grown in to their character through play instead of taking over one. I don’t think thats a critique of the adventure, just an observation of high levels and how people fit in to their characters over time. 

There is so much going on here that it is hard to get it all down. Nature attacks. Clones of people, controlled. The Slyth proper. Their fungus cousins. NPC’s good and evil. The underwater vertical level and disconnected rooms level. Psionics. Sunken cities of the ancients. Ancients that FEEL like ancients and their slave/warrior species that feels like one. A  lot going on, with just about everything weird from the books being fit in as well. And it all fits. And fits well. And in an epic manner. But, also, The only thing I’m morally opposed to is the Purple Worm gimp. This thing is truly epic, without having that forced appearance of being epic.

This is $15 at DriveThru. No preview? Tsk Tsk

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/458449/slyth-hive?1892600

Posted in Level 12, Reviews, The Best | 11 Comments

The Valley of Flowers

Jedediah Berry, Andrew McAlpine
Phantom Mill Games
OSE

Wildendrem! Where quests unfurl like the petals of the blood-red poppy. Where monsters haunt the edges of the world—and the edges of the world draw ever nearer. Aerthur the Hornèd King is gone, but his shining vision lives on, borne by countless knights over a land in the grips of a sorcerous delirium. The sun has gone strange, and the roads are beset by phantoms and brigands. The once united provinces grow ever more isolated, ever more themselves Now the valiant and the foolhardy alike seek glory in regions riddled with sinister enchantments. Oaths sworn, oaths broken, treasures claimed and lost and claimed again— and so the whirligig of the seasons unveils its perilous mysteries. Wildendrem! Your golden age is ended. New adventures unfold in the light of a ragged sun.

This 150 page supplement is a campaign guide, regional supplement, and dungeons combining to form a slightly offbeat mythic environment for gaming. An idiosyncratic vibe with a MONSTROUS number of things going on, and a tone that is magnificent.

The very first table in the book, in the cover, is “What is the sun doing today” that you roll on each morning. “7 Maintaining a low, indecipherable chant.” This sets the tone for all that is come. A tone that is very hard to describe. It’s not like you can compare it to things well, such as “LotR except Sauron won” or something like that. A mashup of the Wizard of Oz, Arthurian myths, the movie Wizards … I don’t know what else? Maybe we start at the Arthurian thing, full on Pendragon mode. But, also, lets push things, in every direction, until we get to a place where knights could maybe joust on giant bees and, while it would be unusual, you also wouldn’t totally freak out. (Also, The bees are quite bureaucratic here, with lots of rules set down by Her Highness, and its likely you might get in trouble at some point.) The church is a little askew. The Faerie court could show up and it would not be all that out of place. The nobility is pushed to foppish excesses. In fact, everything is just pushed a little more. Not hyper-realism, but just a bit beyond that. Maybe the world of Quixote? It’s everything the default LotFP setting is, but, turned on its head and instead of being all evil and hopeless instead the sun is shining and everyone is optimistic. Not really, but let’s go with that as I continue to struggle with communicating the vibe.

“Aerthur is missing, and the sun has gone strange and monstrous. The steward Unther, a hollow suit of armor, makes oracular proclamations, mystifying the old king’s ministers. An intoxicating strangeness ripples over the land as knights of myriad orders, in the grips of  lunatic passions, undertake quests of dubious provenance. Meanwhile, the people of Wildendrem stray from the faith, seeking the forbidden mysteries of old.” That’s not a bad overview. Whimsical … but with a flavour of deadly that leans for to the frequency of the typical D&D world … and occasionally slips in to LotFP territory. Gone Fishin’ would not be out of place here. 

There is a writing and creativity here, creativity aligned with tone, that just fits perfectly. “Dark and musty, unfinished stone walls, creaking iron steps.[]. Roseate light spills through the cracks of the marble door at the bottom.” Now That’s a fucking description. And it’s just a fucking spiral staircase. Some throwaway place. Or, let’s talk about The Prayer Beast, found in the Graveyard of Idols in the Tower of the First Heresy, a place the Holy Church keeps things hidden: “A 10’ tall humanoid that crawls on knees and forearms. It is headless and blind, and covered with dozens of hands and mouths. Its hands make occult gestures while the mouths whisper prayers to different gods; sometimes one will shout an expression of futility and despair (“nothing triumphs over all, no one hears your prayers, we are alone, the sky is empty, empty”). The beast is confused, erratic, and in constant pain” Now that’s a fucking monsters description. It focuses on play, not some ecology bullshit. This is what the party will EXPERIENCE.

We’re getting, maybe, six distinct regions in the land, Each with nine or so different places of note. These are described in a short little paragraph, a couple of sentences, with three keywords for notable NPC’s (which I love, in theory, and wish were a little more thought out, in practice, in places in this) and a little section after that, again just a couple of sentences, for some quest ideas/things to do at this place/people. In addition we’re getting about five dungeons and maybe, of, ten r so other places that are more described than a single entry but less than a full blown dungeon. 

One notable place is an old monk abbey, recently abandoned. The monks having committed a drunken murder and summoned a drunken god … who is evolving in to a five-fold facet of themselves. With some knights present also who have sworn to drink all of thor special liquor known to exist in the land. A site/quest/adventure that could end with The Great Sobering or with The Forever Feast. 

There’s a strong social element to most of what goes on in these locations. It’s not your typical hack dungeon, although there are still things about to stab. I don’t know, a comparison to Castle Amber? That Abbey, for example as three or four pages (digest pages. SIGH) of factions, people, dunkkard rules and so on, before we reach the keys, 21 or so rooms. “ Five umbral imps (p. 32) put the finishing touches on a large, sumptuous meal .” in the kitchen, so, we stabbing or sucking up?

“Cardinals and archmystagogues may usually be recognized by their enormous, swollen head”. Literally, in this case.

A magnificent little regional setting. Strong on vibe, consistent, deadly, whimsical, or, perhaps, farcical? It’s not in any way silly. I would have no problem at all running something here. One of the more decent things since Scourge of the Demon Wolf. (Yes, I know the scope is different)

This is $15 at DriveThru. The preview is fourteen pages. It’s a good preview, showing a fine selection of things, focusing on some of the regional locations and few of the more in-depth location pages. And the art matches the vibe perfectly. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/458107/the-valley-of-flowers?1892600

Posted in Reviews, The Best | 4 Comments

Constant Downpour – Remastered

By Marco Serrano
Self Published
Mothership

In Constant Downpour, players are Space Military soldiers who have just been dispatched to Venus in response to a distress call. SD-021, a sun dome located deep in the Venusian jungle, is under attack and requesting immediate backup. Most soldiers deployed there become insane from the constant downpour, lack of sleep, and hallucinations caused by the atmosphere. Others die at the hands of Venusian soldiers, fall victim to lethal traps, or the horrors of the planet itself.

Fuck You, gentle readers. I like SciFi. It just sucks much more than the OSR and I don’t know how to run it. But, sometimes …

This 104 page adventure presents a little jungle hex crawl in the rain after you crash land on a planet. Decent atmosphere, and a lot of subsystems, that end up at about forty digest pages to describe about seventeen hexes. I’m not sure I can support the randomness, as presented, but I must say the entire thing is one of the better scifi adventures.

You’re a group of mercs on a rocketship going to a mining dome on Venus-3. Oh no! Your ship has crashed! And you ejected! But you landed safe! On a planet covered by water at least half an inch deep and thick thick jungle, with no sunlight and CONSTANT downpour. (Yeah! I worked in the title!) Oh, and, I guess your comms devices don’t work. Time to head out in the direction you think the dome is, I guess, braving the wildlife, the plants, the rivers, the jungle, the hostile natives, and the psychological wear from the rain. 

Unless you dawdle. Then some dudes show up. Dudes who were on a different rocketship that crash awhile back. You see, they think that the merc company, the ones you’re under contract for, crash some ships on purpose. To get rid of the crews that they don’t like.So, add, maybe, some crazed mercs to the list of things to deal with as well as maybe the mercenary company proper. Maybe? Along the way back to the mining dome you might encounter some bunkers, in a couple of hexes, or maybe a dome or two … destroyed by the natives. All in addition to everything else.

And I don’t know what to think about all of this. There are A LOT of subsystems here. Stress builds up, and the party can have nightmares that can do weird things. Or you can have a collective dream in a bunker that reduces stress. And there are a lot of native berries and frigs with weirdo powers. And when you enter a hex, or move through it, you encounter not just what’s in the hex, if it’s one of the seventeen special hexes, but you also roll on the random hex encounter table for something. There is a tremendous amount to keep track of here, both in terms of bookkeeping and in terms of tables to roll on during play.

And I’m generally not sure what to make of it. One the one hand I can see how everything kind of works together; you’ve got this Heart of Darkness thing going on, or, maybe Apocalypse Now, and I’m totally digging it. And the systems generally make sense. You don’t need the frog table till you got a frog and you don’t need to pull the old River Crossing rules and subsystems until you cross a river. I think it all kind of works together well, although I do think you’re gonna have to read and reread things and pull out some tables to organize better and have at hand and ready, as well as rolling some encounters and things ahead of time. 

And I find a decent amount of that annoying. Especially for the fixed encounter hexes. I would have much more liked to have seen less randomness in these and more things that fit in well with the main hex theme. 

But, man, some of the encounters are just dynamite. A collection of rocketship nosecones,making their own rocket, a monument constructed by the natives. That’s some freaky ass shit! Or a cliff, with hundreds of dead people in spacesuits, just like yours, at the bottom of it. With warnings of what happens to your kind here. And a HUGE native, pensive, who will fight no more forever, with some hints and wisdom. Some of this shit is absolutely terrifying! If I’m playing this I am, 100 percent certain, shitting myself during those two encounters. Really big venus flytrap? No problemo. Obscure references to my inevitable fate presented in a very visceral way? Game over man! Game over!

Oh, oh, did I mention the Deja Vu and Details to Repeat rules? It’s tips and a table for the DM so they can sprinkle in some phrases and shit in their hex descriptions … knowing that players pick up on this shit and will think they are traveling in circles. That’s how you fuck with the players man, none of this cheap ass gimping or teleporter shit, but by using them against themselves. Remember Brycies boardgame 102 advice: You are never playing a game, you’re always playing another person. 

The thing is also a shitshow, in places. Editing and descriptions, while great in some places, do seem to fall down in others. We get references, in one place, to a hidden recorder … and nothing else. No information on whats on it. It feels like something is missing. And in other places it feels like the formatting, used in other places pretty effectively, just disappears. (and, a weary criticism by now, this should have been letter sized pages and not digest. I know, we all like to masturbate over zones, but paper size works better for something running longer and more complex, generally) And the map, well, I could be perhaps convinced otherwise, but it seems like it’s a little sparse. I’m down with the preplanned hex descriptions, they do a great job of building tension with that sort of evocative writing that I love to praise and find on such an uncommon basis. But, also, I suspect there’s a lot more randomness in encounters, during play, then there is stumbling over the preplanned ones. There are map fragments, and the like, to be found, that might ameliorate this issue, but it just feels like you need a little more to get people moving towards the “points of light” so to speak … even if they are not light … 😉 And when some of that does exist it is buried IN the hex in question, far too often anyway. “The reflective peak sticks high above the jungle line and can be seen from up to 4 hexes away” one hex tells us. 

And I’m not entirely sure of the venusians. They might be a little common on the tables for my liking. Or, perhaps, a little more advice on running them, as hit and run tactics or something. This is clearly an adventure that plays on the players vibes, and advice, about the venusians, etc, on amping that up and meshing with it could have been a better use of space than some of the information presented. 

When you enter a hex with one particular shattered dome: “Dominated by a massive clearing and rolling fog. Shapes and figures are undistinguishable besides the waving grass and reeds. Tangle grass (2m tall) wraps together for seconds before whipping apart, flinging water. Heavy granite-colored reeds poke out above the grass, intermittently bopping to the ground.” And then as you enter it: “The heavy door is slightly ajar, letting through the smell of fresh bread and rich spices. Four steps in, the illusion fades. The air is stale, chilly, and scentless. There is no sun in the center of the massive dome structure. The ceiling is black and bashed holes let the rain in. “ A build up of tension, you think you are safe now. And then you realize you are not. That’s some good shit.

This is $18 at DriveThru. The preview is nine pages. A better preview, perhaps showing some hexes, should be in order at this pricepoint.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/441688/constant-downpour-remastered?1892600

Posted in Reviews, SciFi, The Best | 3 Comments

Carcassay – Titan Rat City

By Joseph R. Lewis
Dungeon Age Adventures
OSR
Low-Mid

The ancient world of Harth withers beneath its dying sun…but it’s not dead yet. Welcome to the strange and dangerous city of Carcassay, huddled below the skeleton of a titan rat, sprawling above the ruins of countless dead civilizations. This is where folk come to find wealth, power, revenge, secrets, oblivion… and everything in between.

This 120 page supplement details the shops and people in a city built around a GIANT rat skeleton, as well as three “dungeons” under it. It’s full of quirky people and treasure and the like. It’s also almost certainly not an adventure, in spite of the three dungeons.

So, weirdo city. Kind of? We’ll get to that statement later. This presents a city with a few quarters, the lands outside of it in the immediate vicinity, some sewers, and a few dungeon/underground areas. Let’s call it eight or so places in the city and another twenty or so outside, with as many underground again, roughly. This is presented in the typical Dungeon Age format of triple column with underlines, bolds, and section call outs, which all works very well for a terse format that is easy to reference during play. I can’t say enough good things about it; Lewis knows his format and knows how to use it. We’re getting about three shops/buildings a page, using this format, with a few exceptions for some of the more weird ones … which generally means the more faction-oriented of the sites.Cross-references are pretty good here, with decent references to other sites to help a DM out during play.

Lewis has a knack for terse and evocative writing. A pawn show is described as “A small shop crowded with dusty shelves laden with old assorted wares. A large woman reclines in the corner, petting an old hound.” A hound that barks out but has not much bite. And a woman that is described as “Large, bob, monocle. Slow, deliberate, precise. Wants to get away from this city. Fears religion.” That’s great! We get a little physical and a little mannerism, along with some goals and fears of hers to help the DM add some additional colour to the running her. The descriptions, especially of the people, are totally oriented to helping the DM riff on them during play. You can really get in to them and run them in an ad hoc manner, filling in things as you need to, with guidance from the designer, as you deal with the parties machinations. I can’t say enough about it. Another example could be Miss Ophelia: “Miss Ophelia (20),

amateur rat-catcher. Small, babyface. Awkward, shy. Loves animals. Loves killing animals. She’s complicated. Paid by the shop owners to keep the street clean of vermin.” Loves animals, loves killing animals … she’s complicated. GREAT! I don’t know how the fuck dude comes up with this shit but its very high fucking quality and occasional GOLD, like Miss Ohpelia. 

And it gies on like this, entry after entry, with most also having some small task that the party could accomplish. Some entries refer to others, with things like “sure would be nice if someone burnet down his new rivals inn … “ or some such. People wanting things and, in some way, having something to bargain with that DOESN’T feel just like a job board with posted rewards in the town square. Hows about a flash of 6000 year old absinthee or a Ossuary of 4d6 tiny skilver 

So far I have described the thing as buildings, individual things that you could putt out for your own cities, or perhaps in pairs the like in some cases. A few of them are weird enough, or idiosyncratic enough to this setting, that it’s going to be hard to pull out. But that’s general not the case.

The city, proper, though … well, we need a little more, I think.

It does feel more like the individual buildings are disconnected. The overarching themes, and even major factions don’t really come through very well. There is a VERY short section in front of each city section, a short paragraph, describing it roughy, n terms of sights and smells and so on. But, also, there’s no real VIBE of major factions at play, or themes, or so on. Sure, you’ve got the Corpse Lords in one section, but, also, they feel more than a little static. In fact, it pretty much ALL feels static. Like, hey, here’s something you could do with this business/person that I just described. Does that make sense? It’a a list of businesses with things that could happen to that business (which is great) but it lacks the feel of a larger scope than perhaps an individual business. Even the ones which cross business boundaries, like burn down Franks inn, are little more than that statement. But the overall VIBE of the city just isn’t there. The scope, of the interactivity, feels small.And this would extend to the dungeon areas. They don’t really feel connected, the rooms in each I mean, to each other. Here’s some rooms and here’s some dudes in those rooms and oh yeah they want the thing that those dudes in room 23 have. The sense of viscerallity of people wants and fears doesn’t really come through on these things. 

“Blackest Heart (appears to be a preserved human heart, the bearer can sense the emotions of any creature they can see).” Oh man, that’s a good fucking item … and this thing is thick with them!

So, not an adventure, even, I would assert, in spite of the three dungeons included. And not really a city, in the sense of machinations held together by people. It is a lot more individual building based, or even group based,without those crossing in others. Perfect for stealing from though. I love the place! The density of city places to steal from is VERY high.

This is $10 at DriveThru.The preview is nineteen pages. More than enough to get a sense of the place. CHeck out actual page ten from the preview for the “overview” of each city quarter. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/464124/carcassay-titan-rat-city?1892600

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Sepulcher of the Sorceress-Queen

By Michael Stone & Alexander Macris
Autarch
ACKS
Levels 7-9

Over a thousand years ago, the Zaharan Sorcerer-Queen Semiramis reigned over a court notorious for its decadent arts and lavish opulence. The hidebound nobles of Zahar were troubled by the ascendance of the kingdom’s first female monarch. Semiramis was beset by over one hundred suitors, each one demanding that she marry him so that the kingdom might have a king. Many of these suitors were powerful spellcasters who wove enchantments upon her, but to no avail: The Sorceress-Queen wore the Ring of the Queen’s Heart, a legendary magic item gifted to her by the goddess Nasga that made her immune to her suitor’s charms. As beautiful and cruel as her goddess, Semiramis instead seduced her perfidious suitors into swearing eternal love to her – then had them slain. The Sorceress-Queen mummified and interred all one hundred suitors in her own majestic sepulcher, where they would serve her as loyally in death as they ought to have in life. Since then, the sepulcher of the sorceress-queen has lain hidden and undisturbed, its undead inhabitants slumbering in torpor until the prophesied time of the Awakening. But now a reckless warband of lizardmen has broken open the ancient tomb and disturbed evils not seen in centuries…

This 58 page adventure uses 34 pages to present a tomb, in the process of waking up, with about 67 rooms. This is, I think, the poster child for Decently-interesting-but-never-gonna-use-it cause-its-a-pain-in-the-ass. I am genuinely interested in knowing if anyone has run it COMPLETELY and how you handled it, both generally and specifically in terms or prep and game-play delays. As far as level 7-9 dungeon crawls, though, nice!

So, I’m paging through this for the first time. Title page padding, backer padding, blah blah blah, intro padding, long backstory padding, some rumor stuff, some pretext travel to the site stuff, blah blah blah, padding and nonsense. Then BLAMO! The map page hits you in the face. Lots of features on it. A note for dark alters, braziers, monoliths, sarcophaguses, walls that you can kool-aid-man through. And, a notation of “water/blood.” Heh. Nice. We’ve got some red bubbles noting undead monsters that can react to sound, lots of room features, lots of features. Sweet little map the likes of which you don’t usually see … and wish you did. 

The environment is nontrivial. There are, I think, nearly five pages of subsystems for the dungeon before we get to the room keys. Dark Alters – Destroy them and reduce the queens regen/magic resistance. But, also, summon a shadow each time. Weak walls to bust through. The impact of the sounds the party makes, including busting down doors and destroy alters and casting spells, and how that could awaken and/or summon monsters from nearby (up tp 150’ feet away … which is then suggested to be The Nearest Occupied Room within range, for simplicity purposes) And, then, how to put those creatures on the wanderers table. There are lizardmen in the tomb also, making an incursion, and they get reinforcements. And, also, they make attempts to clear dungeon rooms each day, with their own rolls and impacts on the dungeon. There are Doors, secret doors, sealed doors and blocked doors, all with different rules. And more. That’s a lot to keep track of. Enabling a rich and deep play experience, to be sure. 

The rooms are … deep. We get a read-aloud section to start with, generally. I’m not thrilled about them. Not quite the evocative writing style I prefer. More fact based.And this includes over-revealing in the read-aloud “the doors, which carry a relief depicting a stormy night on the sea,” and so on in the read-aloud. I think an over-reveal in the read-aloud is detrimental to the game. It sets expectations around what the DM will reveal to you and how and when you ask questions of the DM, beyond simply the Q/A cycle being the core loop of the game. And, sometimes they feel random. A room smelling of moldy paper, in the read-aloud?! Let’s investigate! There’s no reason for it, or any hint of paper in the room. 

I suspect the read-aloud is this way because there is no traditional DM text, or, at least, not generalized DM text. Each entry will have a section(s), if appropriate, called [Monster] or [Lore] or [Trap] or [Loot] or [Noise] or [Trick]. And in that section the treasure, or trap, or effect will be described. At length. You’re not getting away with less than a paragraph for each, sometimes more. It is not infrequent for a room to be a page long. Now, this is levels 7-9. There should be some shit going down in some of these rooms, involved shit. I’m not sure though that the selected format is really paying off for rooms this complex. There is very little formatting beyond these section headings; it turns back to paragraph form with a monster named bolded. It’s fucking DENSE man. And frankly the monsters are not done very well. “5 wights.” Well fuck me, that’s great. All undead look the same unless we personalize them … and, one section of those five pages of intro to the dungeon rules was about interacting with intelligent undead. GENERIC intelligent undead, it would seem. 

We’ve talked about some interactivity already. The doors. The sound situation. The alter thing, and other general dungeon features. As well as the lizardmen and them being potential allies. And maybe saying hello to some confused undead. And then there is specific room interactivity, IE: the keys stuff. Beyond looking at frescoes and traps we get … well, not much. Fighting dudes and looting and avoiding traps. It’s all pretty straightforward. There ARE some traps that may be a little more interactive than usual. Let’s say a pool  and if you add a drop of your blood then the monster doesn’t attack you. Or, wearing some holy garb form the tomb will give you bonuses on rolls or help avoid traps. Beyond that, man, there’s really not a whole lot. A stalactite next to a bridge being a roper? Ok. I guess.

So, great map, good concept, lots of always on things to do. But the creatures turn generic, and I think the room descriptions are uninspiring. I really want there to be more to this than there is. But, also, it’s a fucking tomb. As a tomb it’s great, because tomb adventures generally suck ass. And it does pull off a 7-9 adventure. It’s just a little … I don’t know, uninteresting? Both in the descriptions and the encounters? I need a little more in my life. 

This is $7.50 at DriveThru. The preview is ten pages. You can see the map and a few of the always on features, but none of the rooms. I would have preferred a room page be shown also.

https://preview.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/317788/sepulcher-of-the-sorceress-queen?1892600

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The Greydeep Marches

By Peter Schweighofer
Griffon Publishing Studio
Generic/Universal

Three hundred years ago adventurers from the Vilburg Kingdom forayed into the untamed border region and quickly drove away isolated, unorganized bands of humanoids. Many settled here under the watchful eye of the Sentinel Knights and have prospered in their enterprises. But dark powers left from a wicked empire 2,000 years earlier still lurk in dark forests, forlorn ruins, and subterranean labyrinths…and a growing threat in the Ostmaur Peaks to the east threatens to overrun the apparent peace and prosperity in the Greydeep Marches.

This 34 page regional guide has three adventures in it. It’s quite wordy, full of things that don’t matter, and has nothing interesting in it. I don’t understand what the value here is.

This is a regional setting. That can mean one of two things: either it’s a fluff piece with some mini-adventures or it’s a sandboxy area. I tend to avoid fluff and love sandboxy things, which leaves me in a pickle when it comes to those that pop up in my potential review list. This one turned out to be of the mostly fluff variety.

And what fluff it is! Oh, no, I mean, not in a good way. It’s long and boring and drawn out. What, a page I think, on the Hammer & Tun, a tavern. A page that regals the mighty oak beams and jovial atmosphere … without actually saying anything of use to run the adventure or, I would assert, even creating an evocative environment. WHich is interesting. It’s clear that the designer is trying to invoke an evocative atmosphere in the inn, but it’s so generic and so long-winded that I just didn’t care. It was completely ineffective in what it was trying to do. And this happens time and time again in the fluff portions of the adventure, the descriptions of the regions, the places and the people. It’s long-winded and boring, even through its clearly trying to evoke imagery. But, man, it’s all the same shit, time and time again in these things. It’s generic fantasy land with generic fantasy taverns. We’ve got monsters with an evil forced behind them making incursions from the mountains. Duke McDickhead is collecting artifacts and some Sentinel Knights run around bumbling. These are the divergences from typical fantasy world. And this is what twenty pages of overwrought text tells us … the description of the typical fantasy place without those brain spikes that make them memorable. 

This is supplemented by a wandering table that is mostly nonsense. A dude sitting in a tree warns you about the forest. Great. Bob is in the woods taking a leak. This doesn’t fulfill the purpose of a wandering table. The purpose of a wandering table is to make the party GO FORWARD and take Foy. Cause if you don’t then something is coming out to get you. So move your fucking asses. 

And this lack of understanding extends to many other places. There are three mini adventures in the supplement, and in one the reward you are offered from the villager is determined by rolling a d6. This is not the point of randomness in an adventure. Rather than a table, the space could have been used to really work that portion and come up with a couple of sentences to really bring it alive for the DM, and thus the party.

The adventures are unremarkable little things, with two being small six room complexes and one being just slightly longer. Inside you’re mostly going to find hacking. I must say, though, that there are times in which the writing really does get better. “Water drips down the moist walls of this dank cave into a small pool, eventually running out the cave entrance into the puddle beyond” That’s not too shabby. I like it, for evoking the imagery that a designer should be trying to imbue in to a place.  It’s terse, and really gives you a sense of the place. Now, I can quibble that the pool of water being outside the cave, really should have come before, but the overall effect is still there. Likewise there’s a monster description that goes “Something lurking in the far shadows breathes heavily, then emits a growling croak. A large toad – three feet tall with green on top and a speckled red underbelly” Lurking. Heavy breathing. Growling croak. Green and speckled. Not the greatest of all time but certainly far far better than is usually seen. 

And then we get a long backstory for a common pig that is the inciting event for the adventure. ARGGGGGG!!!!!!!!

The region setting is unremarkable and the mini dungeons not great. 

This is $7 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages. You should be able to get the gist of whats going on, in tone, with it, in the region.


https://preview.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/242741/the-greydeep-marches?1892600

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Heart of the Sunken Lands

By Rudy Kraft
Midkemia Press
Generic/Universal

About six hundred and fifty years ago, invaders from the Empire of Tsuranuanni, on the planet Kelewan, used powerful magic to open a “rift” through space and time to Midkemia. The invaders were repulsed but only after a long, hard and bloody nine-year struggle (the First Rift War). One of the more significant disruptions of that war was the wholesale retreat of the Moredhel, called the Brotherhood of the Dark Path, from their long time homelands in the Grey Towers mountains and the great forest called The Green Heart, as they were driven before the invading Tsurani. Almost all the surviving Moredhel fled to the Northlands, to join with their brethren in safety behind the great mountain ranges to the north of the Kingdom.

This 182 page adventure, originally published in 1983, contains the rules for resource extraction from a jungle-like area known as The Sunken Lands. If you want a resource extraction game, and over a hundred pages of movement and encounter tables then this one is for you!

This is an adventure from 1983 that has been retyped for 2023. You’ve got this giant giant GIANT sunken area of land, the titular Sunken Lands, filled with a jungle, swamps, and a mountain range. A kind of Lost Valley without the dinosaurs. There’s a hex map of the valley that spans a couple of pages. (This is one of the very few (only?) parts that does not seem to have been updated, but rather scanned in from the original product. This was a massive mistake as the entire thing is blurry. You COULD run from it, but also you’re going to be bitching the entire time.) And then there’s the random encounter table. This is similar to the one in the back of the 1e DMG: percentages rolled on a terrain type. The encounters are things like “animal” or “”insects” or “humans” or “gems/minerals” or “water feature.” Then you roll on a subtable, or three to determine the nature of the water feature, the gems, or the animal type. Something like “crocodiles” or “insects” or something like that. And then the descriptions have the monster status and maybe a description/ecology. As per the early days, you’ll be doing the rest yourself.

Let us examine, if you will, a big hexcrawl map with terrain on it. Just like WIlderlands. With a random encounter table but WITHOUT the special hex descriptions. Take that …  and where does the interactivity come from? I don’t really think there is any in that  very basic model of terrain type and random encounter table. Widerlands, and most hex crawls, resolve this by having those special hex  descriptions … what most people would imagine a hex crawl is. This, though, posits another type of play: Resource Extraction.

Some of the encounter types on the encounter table are with trees or gems. And by trees lets think Ebony or other tree types. Wander in to the woods looking for Ebony trees and diamonds in those Arkansas mud fields. When you find them, harvest them and bring them back for ca$h. That is, I’m about 98% sure, the core loop of this adventure. But how to do you know where the uranium is? You can hire some guides/experts who have skills in geology, botany, and so on, and, working with the random tables, they get a percentage, when you find a potential resource hex, to say “hey, we should dig here.” Without those experts the chances are MUCH slimmer that you stumble upon a diamond on the surface, for example. So, we’re in a loop to dig up shit from the ground and find ebony trees and the like. (Not exactly what you can harvest, but close enough for this review without going in to the entire regional backstory.)

There are to locations in the region that are special, two different religious cults. One of them is a safe haven in the wilderness … with a secret. The other gives off hippy commune vibes (I think so anyway, it’s darker in the text) except they have headless slaves and worship a god that lives in a pit in the center of the village. Mostly chill, if you can get past the bizarro shit they do. Which the party will not be able to. Which is fortunate because the “dungeon” under their village (the only dungeon in the adventure) has the largest quantity of static wealth in the adventure. Like, you meet from very friendly people who turn out to be cannibals, but it’s all chill … unless you’re a redhead. You’re not a redhead are you?

So we’ve got a resource extraction scenario. But the supporting material for that is a bit week. Mining timelines, logistics, moving gear and resources. And, more importantly, the complications. If you look beyond the simple “wanderers” for any hex you’ve got to have more. You need rivals and other things going on that will add some spice to the game. There’s an attempt here to do that. We’ve a couple of rival “houses” that extract gems, for one, and wood, for another. (There are also a variety of interesting NPC”s for the party to hire, but we’re not looking at that.) What we need, here, are for those houses to meddle. For the supply base at the edge of the Sunken lands to have some intrigue. For some events and perhaps rough timelines present to help the DM initiate complications for the party to overcome. 

Otherwise we’ve got a simple extraction game with some tables for finding it and little for extraction. And it’s all regulated by a three page bullet list of things to roll for and check for for each day and hex that the party travel/explore/etc. That’s quite the system, even if you do roll a lot in advance.

This reminds me of … oh, what’s the board game … Magic Realm? A complex seriee of tables and rules for exploring and playing D&D by yourself, straight out of the 70’s. The time before computers. Magic Realm was really a computer RPG in boardgame form, much like many of the wargames in that time would have benefited from being computer games, due to their intense rules and tables and flows to follow. As a simulation of some exploration focused on resource extraction it would work better that way.

This is interesting in that it’s an early hex crawl that doesn’t have the features of a hex crawl and that it focuses on another element: people  looking to exploit natural resources. But, other than that it’s hard to look at it as a playable game, in the same way that a traditional hex crawl moves forward and drives gameplay. In spite of this the exploitation minigame and the hex movement elements are interesting on their own, as systems to steal from for a hex inspired game.

Oh, and the magic has a certain early T&T charm. “A scroll which contains a spell that will render the person invisible” and or a leather satchel with a wide mouth that you can store 10,000 coins in but will weigh only as much as one. Nice job there.

This is $6 at DriveThru. There i no preview 🙁


https://preview.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/464567/heart-of-the-sunken-lands?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 4 Comments