The Lair of the Lamb

By Arnold Kemp
Goblin Punch
GLOG
Level 0

This 54 page adventure is both an introduction to the GLOG rules as well as a zero level funnel with two levels and about fifty-ish rooms. It’s quite interactive and does a good job with creature and item descriptions, less so with evocative room descriptions. They are easy to use and scan, after a fashion. I’d pick this to run over a lot of other adventures.

The intro pages to this, the first fifteen or so pages, are used to describe the basic GLOG rules. It’s clearly B/X derived, with lower stats and a few other things borrowed from other systems. More important;y to it’s B/X heritage is the philosophy of adventure. There’s a nice little section, one for the DM and one for the players, which serves as a pretty good overview of the B/X mindset. Rulings, not rules, run away, use cunning, don’t fight fair, etc. Good enough that you could use both the DM and the player sections as handouts to give a great overview of how the game is played, philosophically. So, basic understanding of D&D? Check!

The maps have a couple of loops in them, good since there are enemies to avoid, including the titular “Lamb.” The lamb resembles a gigantic hairless obese cow. It’s head resembles a bloody horse skull with sunken eyes and a black tongue. It drags its belly as it walks. When wounded or scared it calls out “Father! Father!” in increasingly loud tones. That’s a mother fucking monster description right there! It is going to SCARE THE LIVING SHIT out of the players, which is what monsters should do. Further, the description inspires the DM. It places a nugget of flavour directly in to the central cortex. How can you NOT be excited about running something like that? My mind LEAPS to the possibilities of how to use it … which is exactly what a good description should do. Oh, and if not utterly destroyed then three little lambs wait until it’s quiet and then chew their way out of otis belly. Bad. Ass. Father Bastoval shows up in the dungeon a couple of hours after the Lamb is killed, looking for the killers. If he kills a PC he gains a level and then the DM is instructed to forever more introduce him further as “Bastoval, Slayer of X”. Goovy!

There are a handful of ghouls in the dungeon, which may talk, cooperate, or actually help the party, if the party help them. Japer – Theater & politics. Lutz – Cooking, butchery, & lewd jokes. And so they go. Just a short personality each. This is SPOT ON. No paragraphs and paragraphs of backstory. Just what you need to run the adventure. Short. Sweet. Evocative. Something y ou can work with. As 0’s, you’re trapped in the dungeon, escaped sacrifices to the lamb, and you can free your other three PC’s. There’s a hole in the walls that leads to the city, fist-sized, and a dude on the other side who will extort you and buy things to you, to pass in to you. Again, short & sweet personality and directly to the point of enabling adventure. The adventure does this over and over and over again. Direct, short, quick hits that provide meaningful play opportunities.

Interactivity is HIGH. Just about every room has something to play with, use, reuse or something. Things to collect. Classic statue puzzles. Pools of water. Creatures and NPC’s to talk to and bargain with. There are some giant rolly polly bugs at one point. You can use them to bowl a specific obstacle over that will fuck you up otherwise. Rooms are linked with info in one room related to another room, and you can return to rooms a few times. Cross-references to this are almost always present, allowing the DM to quickly reference what they need. The room text says things like “You can smell vinegar coming from the west” and “you can see faint light from the east”, handling the dungeon environment well. Characters motivations are present. Beyond getting out, you need to find supplies, including water … water which is most notable present in a pool .. that the Lamb hangs out in. You start with a -4, due to dehydration, so you’re motivated to Wacky Scheme the Lamb to get that water … it’s good. 

Room descriptions are easy to use. Good use of Bolding, highlighting, boxed offset, bullet points and whitespace to separate and draw attention to various subject headings. The longest/most complex rooms may be about 3/4 of a column but they are quite easy to scan thanks to the format.

What I am not overly enamored with are the actual evocative nature of the room descriptions. Unlike the creatures the rooms are more than a little fact based. “A stone trough half-full of vinegar. Investigating the reeking liquid reveals an empty wine bottle. Another stone trough that stinks of stale milk. It is empty.” From a usability standpoint this is great. From an ITEM description it is pretty good. From a holistic room standpoint, not so much. It is describing the objects rather than the room. This gives me the impression that only the objects matter (and, to be fair, they do from an interactivity standpoint) but it gives the impression that the immersion, the room proper, is not so important.One sentence, at the beginning of each room, describing the room proper, would have sufficed and I think developed the entire thing much better.

Still, great adventure. Loads of magnificent individual elements. I’d run it. 

This is free at the Goblin Punch blog. 

http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2020/04/lair-of-lamb.html

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews, The Best | 1 Comment

Caverns of Slime

By Alex Schroeder
Self Published
OSR
High Levels

Level 13 of the Fight On! Megadungeon.

This 35 page single-column “adventure” describes a cavern. Full of slime. Kind of? It has fourteen of so large areas, each with a situation going on. 

Lomax: Can you describe its form?

Lena: No

Lomax: Was it carbon based?

Lena: I don’t know.

Lomax: Did it communicate with you?

Lena: It reacted to me.

Lomax: You really have no idea what it was?

You and me both lady. You and me both.

The orc tribe in this rides around on flying sharks. No, it’s not gonzo. Stay with me.

The caverns of slime is really one BIG cavern, with the River Styx flowing around it in a circle. There are some sub-areas hanging off of it. There are no maps, per se, except for the one large area map showing the various major locations and their relation to each other. Weirdly, that kind of works. 

It’s also not as slime heavy as you might think, given the title. Or maybe it is? Anyway, there are slimes down here. The orcs throw bottles of it. There’s an ooze lord. But there’s also more of a toilet/sewage theme, so you get both the literal slime and the figurative slime. Nicely done! 

But those are just rando facts. The major thing to be aware of with this adventure is that it’s really a list of ideas that the DM needs to work in to a whole, more so than other adventures. This is, I think, somewhat related to Alex’s philosophy of how to make high level adventures work. It IS an adventure, I think. Maybe it is ACTUALLY a high level adventure? I mean, one that actually works? And this is what you have to do to do that? 

Anyway, you get a list of locations. Each location gets a short little description, a few sentences, and then some themes for that location to emphasize while the DM is making up places and describing things. Then there’s a list of things that can happen. Encounters. Maybe six to  location, with some locations having more like “pre-revolution” and “post-revolution.” A description of who lives there and their goals. Some of them want to use you. Some of them want to be used by you. There might be some supporting information, like, “Here’s a list of demon names to get you started if you need some for rando demons in this location.” And then it’s on the next place.

What you do NOT get is a keyed encounter map. Or descriptions of travel times. Or anything like that. This is all for the DM to make up, riffing off of the information in the adventure and what the party does. Situations.

And situations there are! You need to navigate down some falls, stuffed full of fungus, and an exiled fungus lord. There’s a city full of spiders. Civilized. But Hungry. They have “barbarian” spiders outside of the city. It’s likely that the city will attacked by an army of ghouls. Who you gonna help? Anyone? It’s good to have friends …

There’s the orcs riding flying sharks. I swear to you it fits. It’s not just stuffed full of gonzo shit. If you can accept a city of intelligent spiders then can you accept a ghoul army? And orcs on flying sharks? There are ships plying the River Styx. There’s a trapped ooze lord. A dam, that you need to destroy, probably, to get out of the level. Refugees that fell down toilets and ended up here. A beholder wizard. A mind flayer on a spaceship. Things, obviously, related to other levels. Drugs to do, rituals to learn. A prison of DIs, full of demons and people in cages, and LOTS of them are willing to trade things with you … for a price. 

The areas are evocative. The scenes and encounters imaginative. You can, possibly, take and/or trade with a LOT of the people down here. This is an adventure of making allies and getting what you want. 

It’s also riding the line as to what an adventure IS. I’m going to give it a bit of a pass here, in that regard, but also mention two things. First, logically, there’s probably a tonal shift in this area. That can’t be helped, I think, in a collaborative project like The Darkness Beath. I’m thinking specifically of the fungus lord and spider city, and maybe other areas, before the party learn they are trapped and/or REALLY need to make allies. Maybe that’s ok, though, since they are high level. I might have made a note in the first or second area, though, to hint out what was going on to get them going in that direction. Second, The format, being non-traditional, I think could deserve a few words on philosophy/how to run it. This may be how Alex runs things, and I’m sure there are others that can wing it, but a few words on that would help, I think, train a new generation on how to run it this way. Which, hopefully, leads to more adventures of this type. IE: high level that don’t immediately SUCK ASS because they are just emulating level 1 dungeons except with more HD for the monsters. 

This is free at Alex’s website. I would encourage you, therefore, to go download it and take a look at it. The first few areas, anyway. Then maybe ready the design notes I’m going to link to. As an example of how to write a high level adventure I think it has some interesting things to say, with examples presented in the Caverns of Slime. You could, salso, mine the fuck out of this and create about a hundred adventures from whats withing it, if you expanded on them in a “traditional” manner, stealing ideas and riffing off of them. 

https://alexschroeder.ch/pdfs/Caverns%20of%20Slime.pdf

And, a philosophy/design notes post:

https://alexschroeder.ch/wiki/2012-02-09_How_To_Write_A_Module

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews, The Best | 5 Comments

(5e) Children of Dust adventure review

By George Sutherland Howard
Pond Strider Games
5e
Levels 3-4

A village gripped by terror. A mother consumed by grief. A leader struggling to find answers. A deadly threat, waiting in the blasted hellscapes of the Badlands. […] Set in a brutal, sun-scorched wasteland, Children of Dust tells a tale of trust, powerlessness, love, grief, and selfishness. It asks how far a parent can be driven to save their children, how harsh a leader can be before they become a tyrant, and what difference separates love and insanity – if there is even a difference in the first place.

This 48 page suck-fest wants to be Dark Sun sooooo bad. It follows the standard adventure plot adventure template. Do not be fooled, as I was, by the enchanting cover. Nothing is inside but the usual overwritten text wrapped around a boring adventure.

This is set in DeadWorld. Defiler magic, ruined world, low water, deadly. Clearly an attempt at a Dark Sun setting. That’s ok, I like post-apoc. I just don’t like BAD post-apoc.

This adventure follows the standard template. You arrive in a village. You are treated like shit. You get to know the village. You are treated like shit. Something bad happens in the night. You are treated like shit and forced to look in to it. It’s a red herring. That night n the village something happens. You can’t stop the village. You go solve the villagers problem, ending in a confrontation with the bad guy. There must be an online generator that turns this crap out.

The safest thing to do, the safest thing to ALWAYS do, is just burn the place down and kill everyone. That’s always the answer. Weird house? Burn it. Mists? You’re in Ravenloft, time to burn .There’s a reason adventurers do this shit, because the DM treats them like shit. SOmetimes because the adventure treats them like shit.

You know the drill, arriving at the village forces the party to eat shit. Then you wander around getting to know people while the DM digs through their column-long backstories looking for pertinent information hidden in the overwritten NPC descriptions. It’s like people have never used an adventure before. I suspect it’s actually because they know their open adventures too well and don’t understand how hard it is for someone coming in fresh to run a column-long NPC. Whatever. 

Then something happens in the night, kids abducted. The usual. Characters beaten and arrested, forced to eat shit in order to play D&D tonight. Want to play D&D? Time to just accept you’ll have to eat mouths of shit in order to play. Ok, so, beaten arrested, forced to look in to the kid abductions. You get to wander in the desert, earning “tracking points”, one a day, maybe two, until you get six. While the DM wades through the column long wandering monster encounters. 

Yeah! You found the lizard men kidnappers! Except, they didn’t do it. At least there’s a diplomatic option offered. Back in town, that night, there are more abductions. The bad guy shows up and gets away. Of course. Because there has to be a climax in the next scene on a cliffside. Oh, before the climax you go look for an old woman in the village you was the first to lose her child.  Maybe you overstep and find her diary (arg! Diaries! When I become king of the world my only act will banning diaries from adventures. SHOW don’t TELL!) Blah blah, lost her kid, blah blah, sacrificing kids to bring hers back. Fight her on the cliffside if you don’t make your DC25 skill check.

Interspersed is long sections of read-aloud, in italics of course, because italics os easy to read. 

The usual adventure template. The usual treating of the party like shit. (And none of that “it fits the game world” bullshit either. Just burn the fucking place down, loot them, and move on with a better adventure.) 

Columns and columns of words. Every action and motivation explained multiple times. Everything covered. It’s fucking impossible to find what you need while running this at the table. 

This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview is sixteen pages. That’s enough to get a sense of what the writing is like. Once you skip past the overview, campaign world stuff you get to see the arrival in the village and the first night abduction. The entire adventure is written in this style. But more so.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/219783/Children-of-Dust?1892600

Posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 4 Comments

The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem

By Clint Krause
Red Moon Medicine Show
LotFP
Levels 1-2

This 31 page adventure uses about  twelves pages to describe around fifty locations in a manor and its grounds. The writing is tight and usually evocative, with some care paid to actually being usable by the DM. It is also a little slow and lacks some interactivity and, i might, motivation. It reminds me of Tower of the Stargazer.

There’s this class of adventure, I usually think of them as Lamentations adventures, in which there’s a recently abandoned X that the party goes to check out/loot before anyone else does. “No ones seen old man Roy in a week, he must be dead, let’s loot his place!” As a fan of urban adventures I’m generally on board with this sort of thing. This adventure has touches of that. A manor home, and grounds, the home of a slightly senile old woman, and a rumor table and backstory relating her dismissing her servants and dismissing them. Maybe a country estate, since the grounds are quite large.

 Usability here is high. The maps, there are eight or nine, are refreshingly clear but still have lots of details on them. It’s easy to tell which witch is which and make out doors and the extra detail on the maps makes does a lot to help fill in the details of the rooms and orent the DM. There are multiple levels in some areas, balconies, dumbwaiters, and windows to the outside THAT CAN ACTUALLY BE BROKEN! Imagine, a real environment to explore!

Beyond this though the writing style of the rooms is direct. There is no conversation tone. There is non padding with “this was once” or backstory embedded in to the rooms. The entries tend to be short, or at least the individual sections of rooms, with bolded headings indicating where to look for additional data on special items in the room to explore. Important and obvious things tend to come first in the description, helping the DM run the room well as they quickly scan the rest of the description.  It’s really not fucking around here at all and I struggle to recall another adventure in which the writing was as tight as this one, devoid of useless word padding.Usability is further enhanced by a one page monster summary sheet, especially useful for the wandering monsters.

The writing tends to be evocative as well, for the most part. Balconies overlook, doors in floral patterns, pantries invaded by rats, rifled kitchens, gilded harps. It’s using a terse writing style but it’s punctuating it with adjectives and adverbs other than “large” and “black”m along with room titles to help orient the DM immediately to what sort of room it is. Room one is titled The Foyer:

The front door of the manor is carved with a complex floral pattern. It is slightly ajar. Inside the foyer are four marble statues of female forms with scarves loosely draped over their bodies.Near the door there are two candelabras,each of which holds three dusty, half melted candles. In the center is a grand staircase that leads to the second floor.A second-floor balcony can be seen overlooking the room from above.

It’s direct. The front door is first. Floral patterns. Slightly ajar. Statues with scarves draped over them. Dusty half-melted candles in a candelabra. This isn’t a masterclass in writing, but its far far better, both in being direct, lacking weasel padding, and sticking in some evocative imagery, than the vast majority of whats being produced in adventures. It’s a little scene, in a few words. I would, generally, wish for things to be just a bit ore evocative, but for the most part this thing is on the correct track.

Interactivity is … somewhat lacking. This is slow, much in the same way/vibe that Tower of the Stargazer is slow. There IS interactivity, statues to mess with, sleeps to have, and so on. But there’s also more combat than interactivity … and there’s not an awful lot of combat either. It’s a slow, tension suspenseful thing, but it feels like the tension is somehow being mismanaged. As if there’s not enough release, or not enough things to play with and investigate. For each statue that does something (attacks, spins, etc)  there are maybe four or so that do nothing. (Not to give the impression that the adventure is nothing but statues, but there are a lot of them in it,) It feels, I don’t know, a little mundane? Slow? You need some, for horror and tension and suspense, but the balance just feels off.

Combine this with a kind of lack of motivation for the adventure. I’m gonna get shit for this, but there’s nuance to what I’m about to say. A site-based adventure needs something going on, especially at this length. There’s no other team coming in to loot. There’s no ghost in charge of the place. There’s no pressure, other than the wanderers. I think, maybe, the open environment of a manor home and grounds, combined with only wanderers as pressure, seems to dissipate some of the tension. 

As a slower, dread and anticipation thing this works ok, and the descriptions are above average, as is the usability. I may elevate this to The Best upon further reflection.

 This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is the first six pages, which, unfortunately, doesn’t show you any of the rooms. That’s disappointing, as is the lack of a level range on the store page.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/152829/The-Stygian-Garden-of-Abelia-Prem?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, No Regerts, Reviews | 8 Comments

The Hasting’s Party

By James A Youhas
Just One More Fix LLC
OSR
Level ?

The Hasting’s Party is a celebration of triumph against the elements and of survival in one of the most inhospitable places for mankind to live. It is a moment to remember the community and sacrifice it takes to survive in a harsh world, but is there something more sinister beneath the surface?

This 22 page sandbox adventure “details” a small winter mountain village and the feast they have every month .. as well as the cave of a witch. The basic architecture of the adventure is good, but it fails on almost all of the details.

First, let’s cover what I mean by it has a good basic architecture. I’m stating this in relation to a sandbox adventure … which I wish more adventures of this type would choose to be. More than a specific plot, and specific encounters, it is presenting a situation that the party finds itself in. Iedally the adventure then provides the DM the resources they need to handle the situation in response to the parties interactions with its various elements. In support of this there might be a little background information on whats going on, the location/village, etc, the people in it and what they think/generally react, an event timetable, the lair of the bad guy, and then some support tables, like what are the names of the people for that random house you just busted in on, and so on. You’re giving the DM the tools they need to react and go with the flow, riffing off of what the party does. This adventure understands that basic format required of a sandbox adventure and lays out the parts of it well. There’s a short little background, describing whats going on, and a little section on themes that I found nice. Essentially, four bullet points with instructions to “pull the adventure back to these elements/insert these elements in situations.” Hey, that’s great! Being so important to the adventure, I would have located those themes on the DM reference sheet included, so they were always at hand, but, hey, how many times do you see an adventure explicitly tell you “try to make your riffing related to one of these elements” in an adventure? Never? Once? Yeah, I’ll take it.

It is unfortunate the, that the specifics of most of the sections are not handled well by the adventure.

Let’s start with the village. It’s a fucking die drop. Do the die drop to make the village map and then use the map to help define the relationships between the various families in the village. Why do this? This is a finite location. It’s not like you’re making an “empty house generator” or planetary design generator. It’s one specific location, whats the purpose of a die drop table? Extra work for me? No thank you. If you insist, because of “replayability” then stick the same thing in the appendix and give me the specifics of a situation in the adventure. The singular can be concrete, it doesn’t need a random generator. 

The witches cave is a one pager art piece, with nice detail, and a two or three sentences describing each room. Most of which, skinning, butchery, rendering, are pretty gruesome. And, beyond that, pretty boring. There’s not really much to investigate. A random table determines if there’s someone in the room, an escaped child or a monster. And there’s no real treasure to speak of. AT ALL. I mean, NOTHING. The The family relationships are likewise empty (because of that die drop shit) and the wandering in the wilderness and exposure are generic and flavourless. It’s just all lacking the details to bring it to life. There’s a little time-table table (ug, because of the die drop) but it’s really just “how many days until the next feast!” There’s no real events in the village, or things to do or things that happen, or drama, except for It’s Feast Day! And once that happens then its pretty obviously killing time. 

As a result we get a very flavourful set up, with a mountain spirit, a pact, an interesting, if familiar, thing going on … and then almost nothing specific to support it with. At best, you get “this family is suspicious and this one is not.” and little else. Hooks are generic and forgettable “looking for someone” stuff, although, there’s nothing wrong with a “you come across a mountain village in your travels” inserted in to an ongoing campaign. 

There is, obviously, a lack of level ranges given by the adventure, . There are a lot of 3HD monsters though, A LOT, so, maybe 6-7, given that the main baddie is a 10d12 HP monster?

You know, there is something else I like. It has a consequences section. Again, mostly abstracted and of little use, but there is one part. The witch is a spirit of winter, and will be reborn with the next winter. That’s nice, but better, the characters will, anytime they are in the winter wilderness, get a shiver up their spine. “The quiet moments of a cold and frozen death are where [the witch] lives” Nice!

So, decent gameplan but poorly executed.

This is $5 at DriveThru. There is no preview. Naughty Naughty! Put us in a preview and a level range, so we can figure out if we want to buy it?

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/311280/The-Hastings-Party?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | Leave a comment

Lost Temple of Ibholtheg D&D Adventure Review

By “Weird Dave” Coulson
Cut to the Chase games
DCC
Level 3

Far to the south, on the borders of the Great Jungle, brave caravans of merchants, traders, and settlers have begun to colonize the frontier. For several years now they’ve cut into the harsh wilderness, but stand on the brink of destruction from unknown, terrible forces. Just as rumors of a lost temple have surfaced, those same forces seem to be on the move.

This 34 page adventure describes a seventeen page temple in the jungle. Long read-aloud, longer DM text and boring environments make this the usual sort of thing to be avoided. Oh, also, versions exist for 5e, pathfinder, DCC, S&W, and SnW, whatever that is. So, you know, it HAS to be good!

You go to this frontier trading post in Darkest Africa, err, I mean a jungle place, and get hired by one of three companies making the same offer: go talk to to some friendly dark-skinned natives, orcs in this case, and find some lost temple. You walk through the jungle for twenty ot so days, having some boring rando encounters, have a fest day celebration with the friendly native orcs, and go to the temple where you get bored before it collapses. 

There’s only about ten pages of content in this, and that includes the friendly orc tribe stuff, the rest being appendices and the long, and boring, lead in and wandering monsters. All three groups that can hire you are essentially the same, with just some window dressing changes: dwarves, or humans, or … Then you get the walk through the jungle with your half-native guide. The guide is, at least, handled well. He’s got a little personality and he’s got some things he can relate to you if you talk to him on the journey, and they are easy to find and scan quickly.

This is in contract to most of the other writing in the adventure which is the usual terrible stuff, with a sentence or two of description being a brief highlight here or there. DM text is LONG. I mean, a column or more of DM text for rooms. The usual stuff, relating history and past purposes of the room, a conversational style, explaining why, all things that get in the way of finding the information the DM needs.

Not that you actually need much. I am not kidding when I saw that just about every encounter ends with words “They attack” and/or “They attack immediately”, or some derivation thereof. And the one that don’t end that way STILL have creatures that attack immediately. This is little more than a hack of an adventure. Go in a room, trigger the Doom monsters teleporting in, and then kill them. Except, of course, this is DCC so fighters have Epic Deeds. Except the rooms are generally boring with few features for the fighter to riff off of. LAME! These are the risks of a conversion adventure. 

Read aloud is, of course, long, because why would it be otherwise. There is an occasional bright spot in the writing of the Read Aloud. If those sections were isolated and the rest of the RA ignored then the RA would be much better. It over describes, ofton, telling the players immediately what they see instead of leaving details for the players to follow up with. The walls should be described as having murals, leaving the party to follow up by asking what the murals are. Otherwise you kill the interactivity, the back and forth between the DM and the player, and there is no greater sin in an RPG. 

Let’s see, in the friendly orc village they have a feast and go through the motions of some ceremonies. If the party doesn’t follow suit then they roll or get a faux pas point. Also, they get to roll some completely random faux pas checks during the evening. Fail three times, as a group, in total, and you get kicked out of the village without finding the next clue to the temple. There’s no guidance on where the take the adventure from here. Bad. Failed checks can cause complications, but they should not gate an adventure. Gating is generally bad in a published adventure. Make like tougher. Give the party boons for making rolls, but “No more adventure” is not the right way to go.

The read-aloud can be good at times. Here’s the description of a well: “A muted muttering

punctuated by an occasional scream drifts lazily up from the depths of the well, which appears to hold only inky blackness to an unknown depth.” That’s pretty good. I can take exception with over-sharing that comes before and after this, but the evocative part is down tight. 

The interactivity in this needs to be stronger. Much stronger. More than just They Attack for creatures. Things the party does causing attacks, pushing your luck, and other mechanisms. The text needs to be GREATLY shortened, both the read-aloud and ESPECIALLY the DM text. The hooks/job offers in the beginning are nigh unrunnable because of length. 

This isn’t as bad as I thought it was going be, having seen the systems it was available for, but that’s mostly because of the creative writing elements. The rest of this is just a hack, and I’ll go play Gloomhaven if I want to play tactical mini’s combat.

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview doesn’t work. 🙁

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/200454/TG1-Lost-Temple-of-Ibholtheg-DCC

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 11 Comments

The Secret of Lupo Grace D&D adventure review

By Tony A Thompson
Outpost Owlbear
Swords & Wizardy
Levels 2-3

The small village of Lupo Grace is is in the northern wilderness of the Mosswater region near the Bloodberry Forest. The occupants of Lupo Grace are foresters and hunters who sell their products to other larger towns across the region. Recently the village has not sent any representatives to the various markets though to peddle their products. You and your group are sent to check on the welfare of the village and its occupants.

This five page “adventure” has two combats, unrelated to each other. 

Because I’m an idiot, that’s why. Because I believe. I have hope. I know that good things can come in small packages. I know that we have a wealth of good adventures today compared to the early days of the hobby. I know they exist and I want to believe that every single adventure I review is one of them. Seriously. My crushed expectations? Not fake. How else could I keep this up if it were any other feeling? 

You’re going to a village to see why they’ve not traded in awhile. You see a wagon, hit by bandits. Driver obviously dead. Four bandits interrogating a woman. They tell you to back off. She runs behind the wagon, the bandits engage you. Then she runs out and stabs someone in the party, laughs maniacally, turns invisible, and runs away. This initial encounter is totally unrelated to anything else in the “adventure.” Just some bandits, who have evidently set up an ambush, and their leader can somehow turn invisible. The wagon has a locked box with some documents in it related to the village. The adventure says they may help once you get to the village, but that it literally all it says about them and they are never mentioned again.

The village has an absence of men and teen boys. They are all working out in the woods, cutting lumber, you’re told. You are encouraged to stay the night and go the next morning to see them, if you want to. It’s assumed you do; there’s no advice otherwise. Someone screams while you’re in the tavern. Outside two werewolves and five villagers threaten a boy, and they attack you. This is the end of the adventure. Turns out some werewolves moved in nearby and they are threatening the villagers if they don’t cooperate. That’s not covered though.

Werewolves are 4HD? Hit only by silver and magic? With five charmed villager allies? For a part of level 2’s? Uh huh. 

What’s the point of this? 

Why stop at what is essentially just an opening encounter? It’s just a hook. There’s nothing more. There could have been some bandit shit, aligned villagers, scared, rebel villagers, the werewolves in the forest. A mini-dungeon. Real lumberjacks. Maybe some a witch, I don’t know. But instead, it’s just two unrelated combat encounters. 

You’ve got a lot of choices with your D&D. Why would you ever take a chance with anything someone has not reviewed, when things like this lurk around every corner, ready to surprise you? Well, I guess, it’s not a surprise anymore. It’s expected.

This is Free at DriveThru. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/307867/The-Secret-of-Lupo-Grace?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 8 Comments

Incursion from Outer Space

By Metal Turtle Games
Self-published
Generic
Level ... 2?

What would happen if inhabitants of the stars visited a fantasy world ?

This 24 page digest-sized adventure has a few pointcrawl locations in the wilderness and a four-level pointcrawl dungeon with about 24 rooms. It’s fairly plain, in spite of it’s gonzo nature, with little in the way of evocative descriptions. Interactivity is lightly implied, but in the abstract. There’s just not much to this, in spite of the length. Also, it’s more “weird cultist” than alien, but absolutely has tech and aliens in it.

Villagers hear sounds in the woods and see weird figures in the fog and call in the party. There are four pointcrawl locations, once of which is the four level cultist dungeon, and another location which isn’t on the pointcrawl map. Basically, an alien shuttle has crashed and some cultists, in the dungeon, have captured a few of them. The village, Cowshire, has five locations, each with a single sentence description. “Market: a regular market with a huge choice of beef street food.” Cowshire, The Laughing Cow tavern, a wide variety of beef-based street food? I can get in to that. It’s the consistency of the theming that inspires the DM to push things in their own game and dig in to it. I might wish for some off the wall examples, especially in a gonzo/alien adventure, but, the designer is certainly on the right track with theming, at least in the village. 

There’s a vampire hunter in the tavern. He’s convinced he saw vampires the night the sounds were in the woods. He tries to convince the party to buy garlic to protect themselves. That’s the extent of his description. Maybe a a bit lack lacking again, but the core of a good encounter is there and I’ll take that over too little or too much. Further, it ties in to the first couple of encounters in the dungeon proper.

The wilderness pointcrawl is really just three locations, and maybe a fourth, the shuttle. The shuttle isn’t on the map but the crash can be seen from another location. What’s weird here is that the descriptions seem out of order. I’ve seen this in a couple of other products, only a handful though, and it’s weird everytime I see it. What if you put the main encounter first, the dungeon with its four levels and its twenty rooms, and then listed the other wilderness encounters, each of which took, like, half a page? That’s what this does, putting the main dungeon first after the village and then following up with the minor locations. And then the shuttle appears BEFORE the location where you can see the shuttle. It’s out of order, and weird. I don’t know if this is just convention, staring me in the face, or of there are actual usability issues in this. But it’s weird, in any event.

There’s no stats, and no real treasure to speak of. Well, there is, but it’s mostly text descriptions. “These are very valuable books” and things like that. A blaster pistol. An alien multitool without a description beyond “useful to the party.” And a giant statue worth 1,000,000,000gp if you can get it out of the dungeon. And eyes worth 5000gp each. And that’s not on the lowest level. It’s weird. Stats are “as bandits (b44)” I assume that’s the basic book? Which one? I don’t know. And that’s the GOOD stats. There are a couple of new creatures that don’t even get that treatment. It’s listed as 1e/Basic, etc, but there’s not really anything here to tie it to any system other than that confusing “B44” thing. 

Encounter descriptions are very basic setups with not much more. There tends to be something interesting going on in most rooms, but the descriptive manner is somehow a major turn off. I can’t quite put my finger on it. The second room has a group of vampires living in it, not evil, they steal cows to drink their blood and will talk to the party. Another rooms description though is ”In the middle of the room, there’s an area of the ground with a lighter tone. This part of the ground is actually a trapdoor covered in stone, hiding a pit full of deadly spikes (save against breath or die).” it’s very basic. Very matter of fact. Mechanically based, with little attention paid to the descriptive or evocative elements of an encounter. Thus there’s a nugget of goodness in many rooms, but not much to inspire the DM to run it well. “This old library has miraculously survived many catastrophes and the passage of time, at least for the shelves and a few books.” Well, ok. At least it’s not overwritten? But those descriptions could be massaged in to something more evocative, I guess is my criticism. “This room is full of tentacles, some passing by, others looking for an unknowing prey to catch and strangle.” Ok…. well … what does that mean? I mean, nice, I guess, but … I’m just, I’m not sure what to do with it. I guess i could do anything with it, is my point, and I think a good description needs just a little more grounding. “12 orcs” is too open-ended as a description. “Rowdily dicing”, when added on, gies me something to work with. The descriptions in this seem closer to the “12 orcs” side of the house. Not exactly minimal, or maybe they are? But not concrete in the way I’m looking for in an adventure. Something to wrap my mind around during play, to kickstart the imagination and then take it and riff off of it for the current circumstances.

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages. You get to see the entirety of the village of Cowshire, and the first nine rooms of the dungeon. This should be more than enough to give you an idea if the style is something you’ll be in to.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/311571/Incursion-from-Outer-Space?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 2 Comments

The Diluvian Disaster

By Mike Myler
Legendary Games
5e
level 8

Up from the Depths! Dark and disturbing dreams of the deep wash over Marriwell harbor, and the townsfolk wonder if that nightmare of a vast wave was terrifyingly real. For the heroes, something has changed as their bodies now crave the salt and the brine, with their skin slowly sloughing away to reveal gills and scales. The scummiest seaside wharves hold secrets long hidden, and a voyage into the deep must brave savage storms to reach a sunken city where maelstroms above and below the surface hide a fleshwarping tide of mutation and madness that threatens surface dwellers and merfolk alike. What strange magics are bubbling up from the ocean floor in The Diluvian Disaster?

This 32 page adventure describes a thirty room underwater dungeon. There are two encounter types: set piece monsters and room with a DC skill check or take damage. It reminds me of a 3e adventure. It is boring. 

Ok, so, an illusion tidal wave washes over the party, and the party only, and now they can breathe underwater and have to be immersed in salt water for ten minutes before they can take a long rest. Three random buildings in town have some sort of information that says there is an underwater city off the coast. I guess the party should go there? It’s the usual underwater problem: how do you keep the party alive? In this case, you turn them in to fish people and tell them they have to go underwater to stay alive. Ta da! They can now breathe water, and nary a level 1 adventuring party being gifted 2 billion go in underwater breathing magic items to be found! It’s all just a pretext, I know, I know. But when the pretext is this blatant, with so little effort behind it … whatever, I guess.

Three locations in town. A tavern, a merchant, and a sea temple outside of town. Who the fuck knows who you find your way to each of thr three. There are no real hints, or guidance, just three isolated places. Fine, ok, I can work them in, i guess, but it IS traditional to provide the DM just a few threads to hold an adventure together, even in the bullshit “investigation” portion before the combat starts.

Underwater adventure! Yeah! Except it’s not. It’s dungeon, essentially, but filled with water. No real 3d element. You face two kinds of rooms. First, monsters attack. Standard stuff. Second, make a DC check. In the most monotone voice you can manage I want you to say “The room is full of corrupted coral. Make a DC 15 Strength(Athletics) check to avoid taking 4d4 damage.” That’s about half the rooms, right there. Serious. Gee, that’s fun. Wonder. Whimsy. Exploration. Discovery. Or, just make another fucking DC check.

Speaking of … DC checks abound! For the most trivial things! Make a DC8 check to figure out you’re covered with seawater. Make a DC check to see who falls asleep first. Make a DC check to see who wakes up first. Make a DC check to see that the people don’t notice you freaking out about the tidal wave. Fucking garbage. Useless rolls. Rolling dice for the same of rolling dice. And in some cases, at the cost of horror. It would be great to add the horror-ish elements of the seawater and people not noticing the tidal wave … great horror elements there. Hope someone sees that so it can happen! Why the fuck would you hide this behind a DC check? Just make the fucking thing happen to build tension at the table!

Unlike, of course, the skeleton attack. “If the party is having an easy time so far, then 8 skeletons in this room attack,” ARRRGGGGGG!!!!!! What the fuck is the point of it all? Read-aloud in red italics, because THATS easy to read in long chunks … Read-aloud that over-shares details of the room, destroying the interactivity between player and DM that is the heart of RPG’s. A lack of section headings in places, causing text to run in to each other. Meaningless detail. Boring encounters. One room tells you that in the final room you get to roll a DC 15 check if you’ve been in this room. Why the fuck would you put that in this room and not the final room, where ts actually fucking relevent? . 

Yeah, the adventure is comprehensible. If you can make it past the red italics rea-daloud, that assumes you go counter-clockwise around the circular dungeon hallway (why would you assume that and write it that way? Was is that important?!) You can figure out what is going on. Because it’s just a boring fucking combat and then a boring fucking DC check. There is no wonder of being under the sea. There is no interactivity. I missed the Necromancer era, but is touting people from Necromancer as being involved. Is this what Necromancer was?

B O R I N G

This is $7 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. You get to see the ? of the tavern description on the last page, as well as all of the “make a pointless DC check” stuff for th tidal wave illusion. Useless fucking preview, showing nothing of what you’ll actuall be buying.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/311270/The-Diluvian-Disaster?1892600

Posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 8 Comments

The Tomb of Raven Darkmore

By Joseph Mohr
Old School Role Playing
OSRIC
Levels 9-12

Raven Darkmore is the legendary Grandfathr of Assassins. He has ruled the night for the last forty years. Now he has been laid to rest. The location of his tomb has been a mystery until recently. A pair of thieves have found the location. Unfortunately, one of them died, trying to explore the tomb. His partner decided that he needed a little help. He has contacted the party offering to lead them to the tomb for a share in the treasure. But not everything is as it appears. The thief leading the party to this tomb is not trustworthy. And the tomb is not as empty as it might seem.

This 27 page adventure describes a small 23 room tomb dungeon with a “central star” layout. It stuffed full of high level baddies, all living in harmony, waiting to kill the party. And is in single-column format. And is dull.

Do you think your life has meaning? Let us assume you were locked up, today, in solitary confinement for the rest of your life, with little to no agency in your life from now on. Let us contrast that to the life you have now, or, perhaps, what you imagine to be #BestLife. Is one more meaningful than another? Can the choices and outcomes of either life be declared to be meaningful … because there can be no meaning, making everything, essentially, the same, and the struggle against the absurd what brings value? But, what if there is no struggle? What if you are not aware of it? Sometimes, reality has a way of slapping you around and challenging those beliefs of your. Reality, in this case, in the form of The Tomb of Raven Darkmore.

Blah blah blah. Grandmaster of Assassins dead, buried in a tomb, thief dude finds it and recruits to you help him loot it. He will, of course, betray you and, of course, the GM isn’t actually dead but is hanging out inside with all of his assassin buddies. As in, there are ten 10’ squares with ten high-leve dudes in the room, about half assassins. If you follow the DM advice then they just backstab instead of doing their assassinate strike. Oh, and then there’s the ghost that hangs out in the tomb. And the two bad-ass vampires running around. And the mummy lord priest. And the Death Knight. All in a small tomb complex laid out like a central star. No one really cares that you’re there, or hunts you down, or really cares that anyone else is there either. They just hang out in their little rooms, waiting for someone to come visit so they can attack. 

This is the problem with tomb adventures. This is the problem with ihg level adventures. A static environment with unintelligent undead for low level adventurers is not the same as a high-level adventure with intelligent (super intelligent) undead. If this were a low level adventures, returned, then it would just have the “I am a boring tomb adventure” problem to solve. But, as a high level adventure, is has to solve all of the high level adventure problems also, and it just doesn’t try at all. They are all just there, waiting. 

And I didn’t even mention the two assassin patrols or the black pudding or the hang of displacer beasts wandering around. There are, of course, a lot of traps. 

It’s all in single column. It’s gots continuity errors. The ghost loves his wife, but I guess he never leaves his own tomb to go find her missing bones? Plus, her tomb is LITERALLY on the other end of the room, an open room. And her locket is in her crypt. But he’s never gone over there to find it? And then, when her bones DO show up, later in the adventure in another room, they are labeled as HIS bones, not hers. It’s like no one tried.

A chapel to a forgotten god. A tomb with an alter to the same god. That’s the detail you get. Nothing special. All abstracted. Everything boring and generic, when it exists at all. The descriptions are all facts and mechanics. Both doors are locked with extremely complicated locks (-50% to picking.) Of course. “The coffins of the king and queen lie side by side in death. Dominik and Eliza were king and queen of a minor kingdom that once existed in this area. They died nearly 400 years ago during a war that engulfed this region.” That’s your room description. Enjoy. Abstracted detail. Non-existent detail. This is like a randomly generated dungeon. Just roll on the DMG chart and put the monsters in and slap a trap down in each room.

This is not D&D. Oh, I know, one true-way-ism and all that fuckery. Why bother writing an adventure when you could just randomly roll on tables to produce the same thing? 

The highlight of the adventure is Ghosty McGhostface, who will help you, maybe, in the final fight, maybe, if you find his wife’s bones. Maybes. There are essentially no room descriptions. Maybe one room has “murals of his best assassinations.” Everything else is backstory and trivia, when it has descriptions at all. 

Love bland descriptions with an emphasis on mechanics? Do I have an adventure for you!

And, of course, there’s no level range given on the cover. Or in the product description. Why bother? Three stars on DriveThru. Ouch!

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $3. The preview is six pages. For that, you get to see the level range, on the title page, as well as two pages of wandering monsters in the wilderness. Bad preview. Previews need to show you something of the meat of the encounters, what you will actually be buying. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/310981/The-Tomb-of-Raven-Darkmore?1892600

Posted in Reviews | 17 Comments