Demon Driven to the Maw

Emergency Thursday Post!
Emergency Thursday Post!

By Brad Kerr 
Swordlords Publishing
Cairn

SOMETHING IS WEIRD ABOUT THIS PARTY IN 16TH CENTURY SCOTLAND. A famous thief stole a magical jewel and hid inside a castle where a party is taking place. Enter the party, find the jewel, escape with your life.

FUCK! 

YES!

This sixteen page adventure details a nice party in a manor with about seventeen rooms … before things go to hell. It is everything an adventure like this (social/investigation) should be. Brad Kerr knows how to add flavour to a bit of scenery without bogging you down in useless crap. I want to have millions and millions of this adventures babies. I repeat …

FUCK!

YES!

Our pretext for this evenings adventure is “The thief Jougal stole the famed Sky Marble from the king’s bedside. It’s the talk of the town. A drunkard at the tavern swears he saw Jougal headed towards Firnhirst castle in Edburg, a forlorn neighboring hamlet. Following the drunkard’s tip, you find a full blown party at Firnhirst Castle. Two smiling servants hold the door and beckon you to enter…” Not bad, eh? Short. Its the talk of the town. A drunkard tells you. A full blown party. You could either use that text as read-aloud or roleplay it out; there’s enough there to get the gist of what’s going and add enough, as a DM, to fit it in to the game smoothly. My only complaint is the last line. Yes, that’s my only complaint IN THE ENTIRE ADVENTURE. As read-aloud that telegraphs to me, the player, to be on guard for More Than Meets The Eye. As the DM, it very successfully communicates the vibe of the adventure, but, perhaps, could inspire a bit more subtly. It’s almost a perfect set up.

So, fellow asshats on this journey we call life, SPOILERS. Yes, that’s right, I’m announcing spoilers. Don’t read further. I mean go right ahead and buy the thing so you can run it. You bought it? Ok, let’s talk …

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG! Cool, right? Ok, so, the local Baobhan Sith (deer-hooved vampires, with a delightful little art piece successfully conveying their nature. FUCK! Where’s my GURPS Vampires book when I need it?!) have come up from hell to throw a party for the Devil. And he’s shown up! Let’s see, they mostly look female, their skin is removable, sometimes swap identities for their own fun, and like to seduce weak-willed mortals and then slice their chests open to feed on their blood! (So, an older folklore vampire, not a D&D vampire.) And that’s what’s going on tonight. They’ve taken over the manor and are throwing a party for the local villagers. Shortly after the party arrive the doors get chained shut (windows are arrow slit windows, this being a former ‘working’ manor) At some point (in 4d4+1 turns) they are going to set the place on fire to burn it down and start their black mass feast. Inside is the thief, along with a host of locals and mostly disguised hell folks. Search around for the thief, talk to some folks, get creeped out by things, and then ABSOLUTE CHAOS starts. This is what SHOULD happen in an adventure like this. Oh, and as the vampire/sith are running around, after the fires have started, they are killing people, etc … they are yelling “Hail Satan!” Because everyone reading this INSTANTLY recognizes that is EXACTLY what SHOULD happen in this situation. I can’t think of anything else in life, ever, feeling more right than that. 

Excellent use of bullets points to highlight important information, but not an overuse of them. SOmethinglike “During the fire phase these things will happen” or some such. Offset boxes are used, along with selective building, to highlight important bits of reference data. NPC’s are generally found on one page. Maybe two sentences each, a general one and a “Wants.” Lum, a giant from the underworld, sad that her date ditched her. Wants a good time, a hot meal, and basic human kindness. Noice! I can run Lum. It’s quick, terse, and choked FULL of relatable human behaviour that I know how to run and is ACTIONABLE during the game. Hele, the Morning Star. Literally Satan. Doesn’t care about all this blood and sacrifice stuff as much as everything thinks he does, bu, a party’s a party. Fuck Yes! 

Supplementing this are a table full of random villagers at the party, along with another with some of their small talk, as well as a small table for the vampire sith. Both of these are ACTIONABLE. Their tables are focused on their interactions. It is GAMEABLE DATA. 

Likewise the locations in the manor. They are all handled on, like three pages. Because the designer recognizes that this is NOT an exploratory adventure. What happens in THIS adventure is the party wanders around from room to room interacting with people, mostly.  The descriptions are generally focused on that. Again, generally interactive, with an NPC or something interesting, like a locked door (which no doubt the party will fixate on) or some such. 

There are little mechanics for redcaps, an increasing number over time, following you … waiting until their are enough of them to overpower you. Sweet! And a great table on “What atrocity is happening in this room?” after the fire/black mass/slaughter begins.  What happens when you go to hell? The adventure gives you advice! 

EVERYTHING here is SPOT on. It is exactly the correct amount of information. It is EXACTLY flavourful enough. It is formatted perfectly to do what it needs to do. It’s not following rules, for formatting, but flowing naturally, relying on evocative tersity to convey what it needs to.

You can run this. You instinctively know HOW to run this. The adventure supports you in running it. It is full of GLEE, or, perhaps, POTENTIAL glee. 

It is all I have ever wanted in a D&D game. WHich means it is all I have ever wanted in life.

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview shows the entire thing. Because Brad is a classy guy. Try page 6, the NPC’s for a great example of flavour, tersity, and gameability. Absolute wonder in sixteen digest pages.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/372360/Demon-Driven-to-the-Maw?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, God Effort, Millions and Millions of its Babies, Reviews, The Best | 12 Comments

The Deadly Mine of Pantanga

By Tim Shorts
GM Games
OSE
Levels “I won’t bother with how many and what levels the party should be.”

I call this a found adventure. There are no hooks and motivations. The party is traveling and they find a cave. Adventurers love caves. Can you ever recall a time when an adventuring party didn’t enter a cave? I’ve decorated the cave with bones. They love that. Wish the party good luck, then smile.

This sixteen page digest adventure uses around nine pages to describe eleven rooms. It’s small, low on treasure, and feels more disconnected that I think it should. While the writing, and encounters, are decent, it feels a bit empty, like there’s no point to adventuring here.

The writing here is decent. It’s focused and provides a moderately evocative description of the various scenes encountered. The very first encounter, the entrance, is reenforced (sp) by thick wooden beams, with a cracked crossbeam, bones scattered around the entrance, and a handful of barrels that smell of sour ale, one cracked open and covered in big black flies. This is the best example in the adventure of a good description of a scene. It’s short, and yet does a great job painting a vivid picture of the scene before you. It’s not really read-aloud, and what I’m quoting isn’t an actual quote; it’s got a bit of DM commentary scattered through it. But it could ALMOST be read-aloud, and does what it needs to do: give the DM an image of what’s going down, inspiring them to then give that picture to the players. There are occasional smells listed, or lighting notes, in the descriptions all of which work to let the imagination of the DM and players fill in the rest. It’s not overly rigid, not all rooms mention lighting or smells, which goes a long way to helping it be terse and focused. Which, of course, in turn then helps the DM quickly scan the room and run it for the players. It’s just enough, allowing the DM to then riff on things and leveraging their abilities for the game. 

Treasure is quite light, but the magic items in particular get a decent enough description. What does that mean? A potion is in a silver vial. Not just a bottle. A vial. Not just a vial, a silver vial. That’s one extra word, silver, and using “vial” instead of “bottle”, but the effect is substantially better than “a potion of ESP.” Likewise a magic ring that is platinum with an onyx band. These little touches really ramp up the nature of the items. This is exactly the sort of thing I’m referring to but encouraging designers to go just a little beyond what they expect. There’s an abstracted genericism inherent in the word potion, at least as in how we use it in D&D for a treasure description. By just working the editing magic just a little bit more you give the imagination something solid to hold on to, just as with a good room description. Non-traditional items are present as well, like Dead Mans Fingers, a mushrooms that grows to look like … dead mans fingers! Putting on in your mouth delays poison/death for 1d6 days, as it slowly dissolves. It’s a nice item. A good description analogy, a good effect (not immediate) and the added time delay factor. Folk remedies at its finest folks! But, yeah, the treasure is otherwise light for an OPR game. We’re looking at about 4000 in loot, for an adventure that has a deadlier than average trolland several 3HD monsters. Yes, it’s a side-trek sort of thing, just a spot on the road to poke in to. But … why? And I’m not talking hook. I’m talking Compelling …

The cave complex is small, about 60×90 in total. This makes many of the encoutnters feel like they are on top of each other. There’s an occasional note of a sound or smell coming from a particular direction, but the guidance here is not strong, nor is creature reaction, for a complex that is so small. It FEELS larger, or perhaps I mean more complex, than a typical lair dungeon, but it also doesn’t feel fully formed. It’s occupying some middle ground of not a lair dungeon but also not a traditional site-based location. I’m not sure there are a lot of these out there. A dyson map in a sinkhole comes to mind. So, no unifying concept, like with a lair dungeon, slightly larger than a lair dungeon, a variety of encounters in the location as one might find a site-based dungeon, but substantially smaller and shorter than one of those would imply.

And somehow this is all throwing me off of wanting to run this. If this were one zone of a larger complex, perhaps with a little more space in it, I think I would be more interested in it. It’s also got a few rooms that are crystal themed that come off pretty flat … a killer in a dungeon this small. They don’t FEEL like crystal rooms. It could be that I’m TOTALLY over the idea of just throwing in a couple of living crystal statues and saying “crystals in a room” being a good room concept. Or it could be that those are the weakest rooms in the dungeon and it’s no amount of leaping troll or “three pillar sized colonies of yellow mold” is going to save it from that. But man, it gets close … that leaping troll is a good one. And while the yellow mold room is a good anchoring concept, there’s no real reason to hang around.

The adventure explicitly has no hook. And that’s ok. But, there also doesn’t seem to be any reason to adventure here. Poke around. Find some things. Find a TERRIBLE thing in the yellow mold and just get the fuck out. It all feels so … unsatisfying. Isn’t there some german or french word that? When you anticipate something are are not really disappointed, but unsatisfied?

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. You get to see the first rooms, which is representative of the writing. Good preview.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/372871/The-Deadly-Mine-of-Pantanga?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 6 Comments

Beneath Bernhold

By Louis Kahn
Starry Knight Press
OSRIC
Levels 8-10

Hidden in a wooded vale lie the remains of Bernhold Keep. Beneath this ancient fastness dwell the spirits of its original inhabitants, betrayers who turned away from the Light and embraced Chaos in a climactic battle that rent this land asunder. Cursed to everlasting unlife, they wait below, ready to claim the lives of all those foolish enough to venture into their demesne. Are you brave enough to delve Beneath Bernhold?

This 54 page digest adventure uses 24 pages to describe a dungeon with fourteen rooms. Yes, as that page count would suggest, it’s padded to fuck and back with conversational writing, background data, and myriad other issues. The text is hiding a mostly linear dungeon with traps and undead. *sigh*

Your level 8-10 party is hired by some sage for 4000gp to go explore some ruins. Why you’re doing this at level ten I don’t know. I guess you’re suckers. On the way you meet a wandering monster table that takes multiple lines for each entry because each entry starts with what is essentially “it comes out from behind a tree and attacks.” Oh, and the treasure? The DM is left to determine appropriate treasure for the party.

This hints at the major issue of the adventure (beyond dungeon design choices) : the padding. Meaningless padding. It feels like every sentence, every phrase, every room is padded out. Every little thing needs the DMs hand held. “If the players search then they find …” we are told. This is the classic quantum padding I’ve referenced so many times in the past. An if/then statement that should be reworded to just explicitly state what is going on. Or “The treasure found is as follows …” This is just pure padding, having no use at all in making the adventure clearer. “If the players are not carrying illumination …” the adventure tells us, then they can’t see. Well no fucking shit. That IS how fucking D&D works, isn’t it? Or, rather, how LIGHT works? If there’s no light you can’t see? “If the players don’t breathe then they die of suffocation” is, thankfully left out of the room description for each room. 

The adventure goes on and on in this conversations style. Room backgrounds and histories that have no purpose in the adventure. “Lord Bob had a sliding floor trap placed to foil prisoner escapes.” You can’t even argue that this might, in some way, cause the DM to put in some extra feature or be able to answer some player inquiry, like “this room used to be a kitchen” sort of thing might be, in some possible, arguable. On and on and on it goes, every sentence in a conversation style. 

This leads to, of course, a wall of text issue where all of the text runs together and the DM can’t actually use the adventure for its main purpose: as a reference tool to run the adventure. This is, of course, one of the main conceits of this blog. The Adventure is a reference tool for the DM running it. The DM uses it to run the adventure, and thus it must be formatted, and the writing put down on the page, in such a way that facilitates the DM running it. Spending minutes reading a room description, and fumbling through it during play in order to pull out the details you need to run the room, is not a reference tool. It’s something to be read, perhaps. The greatest sin an adventure can make.

And the gimping. *sigh*. Undead cannot be turned. No commune spells work. A trap “cannot be detected as a trap because it is not one.” You put a fucking needle inside of a mouth in which you put your hand in to. Sure, it may be a door lock, pricking you to get blood so the fucking door will open, but, that CANT be detected as a trap? Seriously? 

I don’t know what else to say. Sticking your monsters in the second paragraph, or deeper, so the DM will overlook them? “Oh, uh, wait, sorry, there’s actually eight skeletons in this rooms glowing with unholy fire.” 

The text, padded as it is, is devoid of actual descriptions of things. Just plain jane words with few adjectives and adverbs, much less evocative ones. 

It makes my heart yearn for what it was meant to be. Not the garbage thats in front of me, but what the vision was. The art is there, you can see it on the cover, and on a few pieces inside. It was clearly an act of effort to do layout. To use the formatting that was used. And yet the editing is not there, in any way shape or form. And then, the actual DESIGN of the adventure? The traps and encounters and how they work together? No. This kind of product just hurts my soul and makes me wonder why I do this shit. To be reminded, every day, or the meaningless of it all? And yet, we must imagine Sisyphus as happy …

“If the players don’t remember when you described the green mist going through the fireplace then remind them so that the adventure can continue. 

*sigh*

I thought, maybe, that Starry Knight had improved. Maybe I’ll try again next year.

This is $6.50 at DriveThru. There is no real preview. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/370241/SOS9-Beneath-Bernhold?1892600

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

the FOREST that KNOWS your NAME

By N. Masyk
Monkey's PPaw Games
OSR/Pinkhack
Level? Fuck your and your concept of “levels”, just buy my product!

The sun is out. Smoke drifts from cookfires. Loggers nap in the shade, or dice beneath awnings on ramshackle yurts. Nearby, raised voices. One petulant: “This path was to be cleared weeks ago!” Another, defiant: “You ask the impossible. I need more soldiers!”

This 31 page booklet is not an adventure but rather some ideas for a setting in a weird haunted forest. Atmospheric, the way inspiring content in a setting guide should be. Also, falsely advertised and not an adventure.

fuck you.

its not an adventure

it says its a pointcrawl forest adventure. twice.

its in the adventure category

its not a pointcrawl

its not an adventure

It’s a collection of rando evocative tables and descriptions for a weird insular/haunted/bloody forest. Dark ancient forest, make some blood sacrifice to get the paths to open up, even just a drop of blood. Weird forest people living inside, farmers and the like. Loggers who want to log. Ancient ruins. Weirdo “formians”, no two alike. 

Everything in this is very well described. It’s evocative. The writing is descriptive, generally without not overstaying its welcome, although it does tend to the longer side. Which, is ok in something that is not an adventure. If I’m looking at a setting guide, or regional guide, some kind of thing to help inspire me to create a game or an adventure in that setting, then longer form writing, and even paragraph-style writing, is ok. It’s not an adventure, it’s something else, and it doesn’t need to follow the technical writing/usage conventions of an adventure. A bureaucrat is described as portly, brittle, slick-backed hair. Always glancing from side to side. Rarely leaves the city, eager to get back to it. “You there! You look a warlike lot. Indulge these local louts’ superstitious nature and the nawab will shower gratitude upon you!” That’s a great description. It’s specific. It’s sticky; it stays with you after you finish it. You instantly know how to run him. A brief conversation snippet, related to the adventure, provides more than the mere number of words would indicate. 

And the booklet does this time and time again. The formian table creates weird giants: a hobbled left leg, bound in chains, with a pair of ravens perched on their shoulder croaking words of prophecy, with a voice like a golden trumpet that ruptures eardrums in fountains of blood. That’s a pretty good set of random things to build a legendary creature out of! Magic items. Farmer descriptions. Things found in the forest. All of the descriptions hit and hit and hit. Who’s hungry for some blood figs?! The juice is a bright arterial crimson! They fall to the ground with a wet sound, SPLORCH. Sweet! 

But, that’s all the fuck it is. A series of random tables with some other descriptive elements, like creatures and so on. This is a booklet that you can use to inspire you to create a setting. There is no adventure. I’m not even sure that there’s a hint of an adventure. There’s some kind of implied “loggers need protection” thing at the beginning, but there’s not even enough there to go forward on. There’s no goal. There’s nothing to solve. There’s no places to plunder, no ruins to explore, no mystery to uncover. Not even a Big Loot to plunder. WHich is weird. There’s this section in the back that looks like it MIGHT be locations. It says things like “a break in the trees” and then gives some kind of a description. But there’s no map. And they don’t really DO anything. I mean, hey, some weird description and a monster that attacks. Yeah!

IF this were an adventure, then there would be some great evocative writing, but I’d ding it for a lack of interactivity. Writing a good location description, or an interesting NPC, is useless without something going on IN that space. You need some potential energy. In the example NPC, I quoted above, he’s at least sending the party on a mission/hiring them. But, beyond three “hook” NPC’s you don’t get anything like that in any of the locations or with any of the tables. They are just static random elements. It reminds me a lot of Isle of Unknown where you’d just encounter some bizarre creature.  For no reason. And, while some of that it perfectly fine in an adventure, if the ENTIRE adventure is nothing but that then you have a very dull boy. 

And that’s what you have here. A dull boy. No potential energy because nothing is actually going on in the forest.

Well, I mean, IF it were an adventure. Which it is not. It’s just another filler product masquerading as an adventure in order to snag your filthy lucre.

This is $5 at DriveThru.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/366945/The-Forest-That-Knows-Your-Name?1892600

Posted in Reviews, The Worst EVAR? | 23 Comments

The Brinkwood Thickett

By Matthew Evans
Mithgarthr Entertainment
Rules Encyclopedia
Levels 2-4

The Princess of Petals has been kidnapped! During the annual Birthmonth celebration of Brightbloom the town of Brink is swarmed by giant wood spiders. The foul beasts attack no one, but they abscond with the maiden chosen to be this year’s festival princess. She must be saved, but the kidnapping goes much deeper than expected…

This 26 page adventure features two mostly-linear mini-dungeons of about fourteen rooms each. Unique magic items can’t save a massively overwritten adventure featuring mostly combats. It reminds me of the bad old days of the early OSR adventures.

Twenty-six pages of triple column text. For an adventure with two dungeons, one thirteen rooms and one fifteen rooms. And, lest this think this is one of the modern “appendix heavy” adventures, it is not! It’s using those 26 pages to almost universally concentrate on the actual adventure. And, so, where does that highway go to? How did we get here?

Letting the days go by. Specifically, padding. There are weather rules in this. Almost an entire page of triple column text detailing the weather. Glorious glorious padding, telling us that rain two days in a row should mean that the rain on the second day should be the trailing edge of the rain on the first day. Chrome, the like I’ve not seen since Block Mania.

Or, perhaps, three solid pages of wandering monster tables for the wilderness! Not tables, per say, but more like three pages of large text blocks detailing the encounters in Heavy Wood, Light Woods, Wooded Hill, Meadows, and Cursed Lands. A simple encounter with a black bear, or stirge attacking is, at a minimum, eight lines of text long. Eight lines. To say something like ”they attack.” I’m not fucking kidding. “The party is swarmed by 2d6+1 stirge” takes eight lines of text, what with the blank line padding, stat blocks, and text. THAT’S how you get to 26 pages.

There’s a column of read-aloud to start the adventure. Which totally takes away your agency. During a village festival a bunch of giant spiders roll in to town and kidnap a village girl. You get to fight, but you are webbed quickly and the read-aloud covers all of the events, from them rolling in to them taking the girl to them leaving again. So, by the time you get to actually do something it’s all meaningless anyway. Then you get told to go save the girl. No reward, or anything. Just Go Save Her, but Ms preachy pants at the church. This is all drudgery of the worst sort! No supporting village information, nothing to engender you to the townfolk. Just nonsense.

So, you chase these giant fucking spiders for a day, in to their lair underground. You wander the fuck around down there for a bit until you find the room that says “Oh, they left again via this tunnel.” *sigh* I guess somehow you know that they took her with them. Whatever. I’ve given up caring. Spiders attack. Spiders Attack. Spiders Attack. *sigh* 

You continue to follow the spider trial, I guess, until you get an elf village. They control the spiders and had them take the girl. They are going to sacrifice her because their shaman said to. Because their stream has dried up. Yeah, yeah, they sent some dudes up stream to find out why but they didn’t come back so organizing a giant spider raid on a village of humans, kidnapping a girl, and doing a blood sacrifice seems like the right thing to do, for them. Like, WTF man? I get it, elves are asshole, but this is some degenerate wild elf shit, and not in a good way. Oh! Oh! Also, goblins are good guys in this adventure and gnolls mostly talk to you. The ELVES are the asshats. Along with a wood drake you led the gnolls to the source of the stream because he knew that their pet rust monster would eat the metal pump, destroying the stream, and cause havoc with the leves, which would cause them fuck with the humans. Got that all? The wood drake thought it would be a lark, the elves are idiots, and the goblins and gnolls follow the modern trend of being friendly. 

I don’t know. Four paragraphs of fucking text to tell us tha a false door opens a pit trap and a fountain with a secret door and a two sentence room description.

This is my fucking life. This is D&D. I remember these days. I remember my early days of reviewing. Of excitement in the OSR community. Of people creating things with lots of enthusiasm and whose visions didn’t not reach the page in the way that accurately communicated them to their audience. I should have thought that, ten years on now, that would no longer be an issue. I was wrong.

It’s got some good magic items. A spoon that makes things edible. A pendant with the word GLORY on it that does a phoenix/immolation thing ala breaking the staff of the archmage, unique swords. It’s a highlight of the adventure. 

The only one.

This is $5 at DriveThru. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/371129/RC2–The-Brinkwood-Thicket

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 10 Comments

OpenAI – The Purging of Segedwyn

By OpenAI Davinci Model
Self Published
5e
Levels 1-3

Explore a story of “fractured societies and forbidden magic”, and discover the (quite unbalanced) magical power of the Sword of Segedwyn (or was it a staff?)

This thirteen page adventure was written by an AI program, with just a little of guidance from a human feeding it some keywords to expand upon. 1) Tt is terrible. 2) It is interesting to see what the AI app can turn out. 3) It is NOT the worst thing I’ve ever reviewed, which is either sad commentary on the state of RPG adventure affairs or on me and my ability to pick/review adventures.

I know, I said I was taking a break from 5e reviews for awhile. But, this one is different! I know, I know, that’s what I always say, and tell myself. Anyway …I tell people various things when they ask about my degree. Some combination of philosophy and/or computer science, depending on the context. Which, while true, is not actually my degree. It’s actually in Cognitive Science, which was the fancy pants way of saying “Artificial Intelligence” back in the early nineties. Happily, my only actual AI class, I received a D in, which, makes sense, since I was only person at the particle accelerator/cyclotron facility that I worked at who had received a D in physics. So, anyway, this AI shit is now delivering and I have a passing interest in it. So you get to fucking suffer.

If you’ve followed the news at all you should be tangentially aware that the computers are now generating text that human brains can perceive as being a story. There are models that create fiction, write news stories, and other basic tasks, all with varying degrees of success … varying degrees that are rapidly improving. The more focused your model is, the more specialized, the greater the degree of success the model has in generating something that the pattern recognition systems that live in our brain will string together in to something we tell ourselves we recognize. They are good enough now, it looks like, that specialized programs, like for news stories, can take basic facts and string them together in to something to be published. We’re not talking Joyce here, but it’s enough. And thus we get to this.

What we’ve got, it appears, is an app that can create a text story. The human attached has fed it certain keywords in to guide it, just a bit, in to creating something like a module instead of a pure fiction story. This keyword guidance is, helpfully, bolded in the text of the document so you can see what the guidance was, and, there are screenshots at the end showing the keywords and raw text generated. Basically, the human is using the keywords/leading phrases to guide the app to create some text about it. Everything is up front and the vast, vast majority of the text is being generated by the AI app. It’s just poked in the ribs a few times to get it to expand some of the ideas/details it has previously generated so it better fits the model of an adventure.

It’s not doing too shabby. 

The basic plot is that the king and his henchmen are evil. The resistance wants you to take them down, and gives you a magic sword to do so. There’s a couple of double-crosses, including the sword, and a staff eventually fills in the role the sword was supposed to take as The Thing in the prophecy that actually kills the king. 

This is a 5e adventure, so, you know, plot. Which actually works out ok since thats what the AI app does in creating fiction. The generator has the ability to reference callbacks, things that have happened or were introduced earlier in the story. There are a couple of interesting things going on. 

I’m sure that I’m reading too much in to this, but, it looks like there may be some kind of hook or training in fiction? Or, maybe, I want that to be the case. In particular, the app has used the number 3. There are THREE henchmen of the king to be killed. Three is, of course, a magic item and tends to have great cultural significance. I don’t see any prompting by the human to use the number three, so, it’s choice in this is quite interesting. Further, the AI has generated the concept that the three henchmen, who must all be defeated in order to defeat the evil king, are actually one person with three bodies. The bolding is not the easiest to make out, but the human prompting seems minimal. It looks like this could be human prompting “This is because the henchmen “ and then the app has filled in “are actually one person with three bodies.” There we go! Given the use of the number “three” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. And it seems to be able to understand a surprise/double-cross, so, turning the three in to one is not a huge stretch. You can see a connection between this concept and the one with the magic sword/staff. You’re given the magic sword, to kill the king and his henchmen. You need it to kill them. But, it’s a trap! It actually harms YOU. You need the STAFF in the throne room to actually kill them. There’s another example where a rebel is actually bad guy and double-crosses you. Once you see the pattern “it knows how to turn a concept back on itself to generate surprise” then you start to see its use/overuse. I suspect that everything it generates has a lot of this in it. 🙂

Some of the prompting works better than other examples. An attempt to generate a magic amulet “The amulet allows “ generates “the user to see through the eyes of the animals.” Not bad. But in other cases he prompting works less well. There’s an attempt to insert “Matt the Rat King” in to the story and the generator essentially refuses to have anything to do with him except when prompted. 

One of the conceits of this blog is that so many adventures fail because the designer cannot recognize that adventure writing is technical writing. This is the “formatting” part of the three part Brycian adventure model. The adventure fails utterly there, being just arranged in simple paragraph form with a few chapter heads that seems to be mostly meaningless. Interactivity is mostly limited to combats and some sneaking around. Not great, but, at least as good as most dreck adventures. Evocative writing is not particularly strong. The writing seems aimed at a lower grade level. This is most notable in a section in which the human prompted “The mansion is described as follows:” This gets us the following text  from the generator “This stone mansion, built withing the last decade, features high walls small windows, and iron-bound doors. A small door with a peephole stands opposite the main gate. The mansion is surrounded by a grove of dead trees. The grove is protected by a 10’ high, 10’ deep ditch filled with a yellowing noxious smell.”  

It’s done a few interesting things here which stand out from the rest of the generated text. It’s generation of a grove of trees SURROUNDED by the ditch is quite interesting. The pairing of the two ideas. They have no relation to anything else and never appear again, and, being adjacent to the castle, are no obstacle. But, the app has paired the two items which is interesting. It also represents the best example of descriptive text in the adventure. A GROVE of DEAD trees. And a yellow noxious smell. We can quibble about smells being yellow. The philistine says NO, but the poet says YES, so, some awkwardness in the word usage can be a good thing. Mostly, though, the word choices are not too great. The king is a BAD man, and so on. There may be some usefulness in a model that avoids high usage words for adjectives and adverbs. 

It’s generated a plot, but its ability to form that plot in to coherent sections, akin to adventure beats, it currently lacking. Solving that issue, as well as its general tendency to pad by repetition, would elevate it greatly, maybe to the point of being a real adventure. Work on word choice would push things even further.

You can see how close this thing is to actually being useful, and this is in an almost fully automated manner. With some more guidance this could easily generate ideas for a human designer to “fix.” I look forward to the day in which DriveThru is flooded by these things, finally forcing a solution to the curation problem.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1.50. I would check it out, as a curiosity at least. And $1.50 to support dudes research/efforts? That’s trivial.

dmsguild.com/product/372065/OpenAI-Series-1-The-Purging-of-Segedwyn?1892600

Posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 20 Comments

Cold Wind Whispering

By Markus Lindermun
Apes of Wrath
OSR
Level 4? Wjo knows. 

A crying statue, missing children, a mad wizard, raging conflict and a sentient wind whispering words of madness …

This 68 page digest adventure features a seventeen encounter pointcrawl up the side of a wintery mountain, with a couple of small seven-ish room dungeons in a few of the locations. You can see what it is trying to do, but it just comes off as … static? 

I don’t really know what to say about this. It exists. It’s not great. It’s not insufferably bad. It’s just mediocre. (And, in my taxonomy, there’s no room for average.) I think I know why it is the way it is, and that’s what I’m going to talk about. Mostly.

First, though, the adventure. The usual assortment of “someone paid us to go here” hooks, along with a decent one: they say that a goddess sleeps at the top of the mountain and provides boons to those that awake her. They journey through hell (a frozen one, in this case) to seek knowledge is a classic one, and fairly easy to fit in to a campaign. So, up the pointcrawl mountain you go. Your decisions, right or left, are generally arbitrarily made and not toward some specific goal. Individual locations tend to give you a hint of the next location, but not your progress towards a goal. So “a trail leading in to a sense forest of red foliage, with a distant amber glow coming from deep inside it.” Ok, so, check that out I guess? It’s as good as any other choice. Red door or blue door, you choice is arbitrary.

Why is this different? What makes this different, say, then taking a right hand turn or a left hand turn in the dungeon? This choice. Also, is seemingly arbitrary. And yet, it feels different. In our usual exploratory dungeon adventure we have a reconnaissance in force: the party is loaded for bear and looking to fuck some shit up and get the ca$h. It IS an exploration and therefore the decisions are (almost) arbitrary when deciding right or left. But when an adventure is NOT an exploration, when there’s a goal, then we have different things needed. The mindsets have changed. I am looking for the lost valley; is this the way? I am making choices to help me find that, to accomplish my goal. In front of this we place the red door and the blue door. It is arbitrary. The decision is meaningless. Is there a place for this? Sure. But too much and our mindset and framing is lost to the “who really gives a fuck anymore?” cause. And this blog exemplief time and again, Apathy Kills. It doesn’t matter that left is the red forest with golden glow and right winds further in to the forest with a huge tree visible. I mean, piquing someones interest is good, but you need to feel like you are making progress also. Otherwise this is just a funhouse museum visit.

The individual encounters in this, taking a page or two each with the mini/lair dungeons taking a few more, engage in a couple of interesting sins. One is perhaps forgivable and the other NOT. 

First is that new sin, the inappropriate use of randomness. In several locations, when the party first enters, the DM is instructed to roll to determine what currently inhabits the area. This is not a superior way to describe an encounter. A randomly rolled encounter can not be integrated by the designer. The encounters next to it can not be influenced by it, in the text. It cannot be hinted at in the next room. It cannot be integrated in to the room text proper. It’s just The Town Square with some random monster standing in it. Yes, absolutely, emergent game play from randomness is totally a thing. But, I point you to Websters Unabridged Dictionary, again, as the model of perfection for this type of adventure. There’s not context to the encounter, either local or in the scope of the large adventure. Sure, “reroll on every subsequent visit” could be a thing. As could “roll on the wandering table on subsequent visits.” The role of the designer is not to ask the DM to roll, but rather to create an integrated environment that riffs off of everything. Inappropriate randomness doesn’t do that and is lazy design.

The second problem, though, is far far worse. Nothing is going on. I mean, NOTHING is going on. Oh, sure, there are places to visit. There are people to stab. There’s a machine to fuck with. But, overall, the general vibe is one of a static environment. There is not much, if any, dynacism to the environment or the individual encounters. “Hawk Meadows” is a perfect example of this. You’ve got tents, a shooting range and an aviary. They torture prisoners, worship a nihilistic god, and conduct lavish feasts.This is it. Their leader, 6th bastard of a 6th bastard, runs a tight ship, we’re told. But that’s just it. There is no inciting action. There is no tight ship to interact with. In spite of generalized hints, which I quoted above, there is nothing going on. If I just said “village of dudes who worship a nihilistic goddess” you’ve have as much to run the encounter as the half digest page provides the DM with. No sacrifice in progress, or prisoners in a cage. Nothing you WANT and not really anything that they want from you. (I guess you could infer “dinner”?) It’s just this static place. And this happens times and time again in the adventure. We get some hint of something. A spaceship. Refugees. A buried statue. But, all we get is that thing. There’s nothing actually going ON with it. Not much to explore or interact with. Over and over and over again. Yet another giant buried statue. The encounters don’t have a disposition to them. There’s a passiveness to everything. 

This robs the adventure. Everything is supposed to be connected, for the most part. THings in one area relating to things in another. Instead it all just comes across as individual THINGS in individual PLACES. There’s very little cross-pollination. There’s very little motivation in the individual encounters. The malaise of existence comes back to you, instead of being driven off by bread and circuses. Sysyphsus fails, time and again. 

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is nine pages, but you don’t get to see any of the encounters. Boo! Boo I saw, Sir!


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/353958/Cold-Wind-Whispering?1892600

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

The Blackapple Brugh

By Kyle Hettinger & Vasily Ermolaev
Self Published
Basic Fantasy
Levels 1-3

Blackapple is a small village on the edge of a great wood, near a brugh (an earthen mound) wherein is confined a cruel elf lord who once ruled the people of the village. He cannot leave the brugh, but is he truly no longer a threat?

This 46 page “local region” adventure is fucking magnificent and I’m a fucking tool for waiting so long to review it. It’s whimsical, serious, and full of the sort of delightful, but terse, specificity that makes an adventure and locale come the fuck alive. I’m mother fucking buying it and it’s going to be a staple of my games from now. 

I bitch so much about token and half efforts on this blog. So many adventures lack any JOY in them. And I don’t mean happy adventures, but adventures by designers that seem to take a certain glee in creating them. You can tell. It’s obvious, almost immediately, when someone GROKS it. This dude (these dudes?) grok it. And I want to communicate that to you with one encounter/locale.

The adventure has a Sanitarium in it. “Ug! Sanitarium! Fucking Magical RenFaire garbàge!” Oh, no gentle reader, not at all! Recall that this blog and it’s lowly writer LUVs him some tropes. When well done, just like mom used to cook my steaks. And this fucking thing is DONE. There’s a stone country house with four rooms on the top floor, the front and rear doors locked and the windows barred. Hmmm. “That’s different than the usual dreck…” I say to myself. The good doctor gets the following description: “Doctor Livinius is a thin middle-aged man with soft features and a wisp of white hair. He is typically garbed in tan or light rose-colored robes. While acting as a healer of madness, he wears a funnel- like aluminum hat purported to focus his mental exertions.” FUCK! YES! This is the shit! Dude is in it to win it!  And he’s truly dedicated to healing mental illness, “which includes exorcism, leechcraft, and ad hoc brain surgery.” Oh god yes! This This THIS! I soooooo want to run this dude! And, while I’m normally not a big fan of laundry-list room contents, and this adventure generally doesn’t engage in that activity, this guys house does give a description of the contents of the treatment room: “Hand saw, pliers, hand drill, dagger, scalpel, reams of bandages, bucket, eight dishcloths, a straight-waistcoat, four 8’ ropes, a metal-framed glass aquarium (worth 30 gp), 24 leeches, a bottle of cheap wine (sedative), a cudgel (sedative), a lamp, a small silver bell, Goodbody’s Book of Prayer, six candles, a silver holy symbol (worth 20 gp), and 2 vials of holy water.” Can you imagine?! The players searching this room, looking around, and finding that shit! Oh, the delight in their reactions! Oh the joy! Other parts of the adventure interact with the sanitarium. There’s an escaped madman in the woods. The good doctor is treating the local lords son, which comes in the play. And he’s an expert on fairies, which could be needed (elves in this are fairy-like) And he’s fucking competent, being a CL3 and an actual expert. With his bizarre metal hat and trepaning drill. Oh geez, I’m dr000ling to run him. 

And this is just, I don’t know,  page of text. This shit is sticky as all fuck. It says with you. You KNOW how to run this shit. 

Oh, oh. The local kids? In the village? There’s a local legend, you stare in to a mirror and chant a rhyme “mirror man mirror man (other stuff)” and the local spirit comes to treat with you. AND HE FUCKING DOES! Ooooohhhhh, I love it! THis shit works! It all fits together! It’s relatable. It’s fun. It’s sticky. It’s fucking D&D!

There’s a witch, on the wandering monster tables. She’s a nasty old crone who’s lost her cat. If you find it she gives you “The Blond Lady’s Wig of Mediumship (9 charges) which allows the wearer to speak with dead..” That’s it. That’s your text for a new magic item. FUCKIGN PERFECT. A dead ladies hair, I’m imagining. Maybe some scape holding it together? Maybe with a bloody wound? Fuck yeah man! None of this clean and sanitized magic shit. REAL magic items, imbued with power!

I’m doing a shitty job, here, with this review, as I do with all of the reviews of good things. The hooks involve a rascally nephew that needs a talking to, a crazy uncle gone missing, and a wounded treasure hunter buddy. Just those descriptions can tell you things are different here, and their actual one-sentence descriptions are very good, giving the DM just enough detail to run with. 

And that’s true with SO many aspects of this adventure, from wanderers, to locations to NPC”s and so on. There’s just enough information to fire the DM’s imagination and let them run with it. It’s using a pretty traditional organization/formatting scheme, with just enough cross-references to help the DM, and a clear writing style that makes it easy for the DM to run with. And the village is full of little shit children, my favorite fucking kind of little shits! The kind that makes you just want to smack the shit out of them, kids or no. 

There’s a variety of things going on in Blackapple Brugh. A few more “mundane” things, with only tangential relations to the main “elf lord” quest, and others with varying degrees of stronger connections. 

And there a fucking ownbear in the damn woods! Need I say more about this things old school cops? At level 1! Delightful!

A couple of suggestions: The children, a major focus of the adventure, are a bit abstracted in to a generic “little shit” or “scared mindless” description. A sentence on each would have provided some more personalization for such a major part of the adventure. Likewise, the “generic’ elves could have used a one page description of their personality/dress, all of them on one page, I mean, to help personalize them some also. I’m getting a strong “Bioshock” read off of them, and helping to play that up would help with the fey-ness. Finally, the descriptions, the DM text in particular, can get long in places. It is in no way unmanageable, but, it does stick out. This combines, I think, with the Basic Fantasy house style, to produce a somewhat cumbersome experience in places, especially in the Brugh proper. I’m not sure what more to say about this. I think the house style has reached about as far as it can, in this adventure, and perhaps is just over the line, or close enough to it that you can it becoming trouble very soon. 

But, these are minor quibbles. This is an excellent sandbox location. Not handholding, and leaving A LOT of room for the DM to run things like “killing the wild dogs in the woods”, while supporting the DM with that they need to run a memorable game. With some fucked up Mr Norville type fey. Fucking elves man! 

This is free over at Basic Fantasy, and only $3 at lulu for a print copy. You should own it.

https://basicfantasy.org/downloads.html#kh1

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews, The Best | 16 Comments

The Bloody Cliffs

By Tolkraft
Dendrobat Productions
OSR
Levels 4-6

The sole heir of Baron Solreigh was kidnapped, in the middle of the night, in the heart of the castle! The ransom letter is signed by Masked Harald, a thief, robber and benefactor of the poor.

His lair?–?the Bloody Cliff?–?is known, but would resist a frontal assault, which would also put the young heir in danger. Bringing the Baron’s son back safe will require a very cunning plan…

This 45 page adventure uses ten pages to describe a 26 room bandit hideout; their lair outside in the woods and the caves nearby, as well as a short “investigation” phase. The intent being a raid on the lair by the party to free an NPC. The maps are essentially unusable, and the formatting TOO formatted. A good lair assault ruined. This is an EASL adventure from our friends in Vive la France, but doesn’t really have EASL issues other than an awkward word choice or two. 

So, the asshole barons son has disappeared and Robin Hood wants some cash and tax breaks for the poor as ransom. Oh, and the new young pretty maid in the castle is missing too. Things that make you go Hmmmm…. The baron hires you to go on a commando raid to rescue his sweet loveable boy, all Longshanks/Prince Braveheart style. You can poke around the castle a bit, asking questions of people and looking at rooms, maybe turning up two or three bits of information. There’s caves in a cliff, there’s an entry at the river, and so on. So, fucking around ahead of time pays off with alternative points of entry and approaches. That’s good. You then walk over to the cliffs and do your assault the usual way: sneaking around until your plan goes to shit and then stabbing everyone. Most of whom are 1HD in this instance.

Base assaults are near and dear to my heart. Sandboxy, a good base assault supports the DM and lets them run things on the fly, giving them the tools for the “normal” base and then how the base adjusts and reacts, etc. As well as supporting play with multiple ways in and a good map. This is trying to do that, but not very well. 

The maps are a major issue. They are done in some arty program, I suspect one meant for battlemaps, with colors and features. But they come off crowded and confused, with an inability to really tell what you are looking at, where the rooms are much less what the features are or how they work together. You’re fighting the map the entire way, trying to figure out how things fit together. There are some photos in the back, showing a DwarvenForge type 3d terrain set of of a portion of the inside of the caves. I guess that helps a little. 

Our issues continue with the text. There is generous usage of long blocks of italics for read-aloud, making it difficult to sort through. There is a fancy gothic font used as a header throughout the adventure, even in room names, that I can’t for the life of me read. I actually had to go through the adventure searching to find the name of the kings son because the first letter was in the fancy gothic font, all illuminated manuscript style. Man, you gotta think about this shit. I know, I know, you want to make a pretty product. I want one also. But not at the expense of the legibility. Or, rather, not in a way way that impacts legibility to the extent that I can’t read it/figure out what the fuck room is where.

And the room formatting. I am a victim of my own words sometimes. Highlighting, building, bullet points, white space, they can all be used to make a text easier to scan and to find information. And when TOO much is used it then becomes harder. The text becomes disconnected from itself, too much space between things, the natural “grouping” of items is broken and your brain can no longer recognize (or, “easily recognize …”) that differing items are related. And that’s a major problem here. Long sections of DM text with too much shaded text blocks, highlighting and bullets. The read-aloud can be cringe-wrthy in place, with phrases like “ … as if even the water was afraid of the sinister name [the bloody cliffs].” *sigh* This is not what I need in my life. I want a description that makes me, and the players, think “wow, even the water is afraid of the cliffs!” not, being told directly, what to think. That’s telling instead of showing. You always want to show. 

We can combine this with some basic issues around base assaults. There is little to no guidance on an order of battle and/or how the base reacts to incursions and alarms. There are four lieutenants in the base and we get VERY little guidance on where they how, what they do, or how they react. (Although, its implied that at night they are all sleeping in the same room.) There’s very little in the way to help the DM. I could also point out that while there is guidance for climbing the titular cliffs, there is none for just walking around the other side. I mean, cliffs, not mesa, right?

Oh, I don’t know what else. I mean, there are separate entries for how to find the place in the day vs the night, which is good. And there’s a cute little section about what you can overhear the bandits talking about if you listen in or buddy up to them. And, yes, there is some guidance on negotiating with them (only works on a critical success!) or bluffing your way in. So, varying success levels there. And NPC descriptions tend to be too long. They do have some “three words” personality summaries, but their goals and what not are buried in text, with no highlighting. Not that they ever show in the adventure, except sleeping in their rooms. 

And there’s a lot of abstracted shit. Observing the cliffs is just a skill check, and if you critically fail you get captured. Doing a jailbreak (at the barons castle) on the one bandit who’s been captures is just a skill challenge. Climbing the cliffs, the DM can, the text tells us, be a real hard ass and make the players note HOW MUCH rope they have, to see if they have enough to scale the cliffs. If this a thing? Abstracting a climbing distance? You have rope listed so it doesn’t matter how far you repel? I get it, resource management can be a pain, but, fuck man …

Hard pass here. And, mostly, because of the map and the lack of comprehension on how it works. Reworking the map and formatting would help a lot. 

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $3. The entire thing is available as a preview, so, good job with that. The map is on page 24 of the preview. Check it out now, the funk soul brother.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/352361/The-Bloody-Cliff?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 17 Comments

The Frozen Temple of Glacier Peak

By Robin Fjarem
Self Published
Knave
Levels 1-3

The melting ice has revealed the walls of a long-forgotten temple at the summit of Glacier Peak. Historians and adventurers travel from afar to witness this legend come back to life, hoping to get a slice of the untold riches surely contained within. There is just one problem: The entrance is yet to be found.

This 24 page digest adventure uses thirteen pages to describe about 32 rooms in a three level dungeon. It’s got some norse folklore theming and tries to keep the writing focused. I get the concept that it was going for, but it feels constrained. I THINK it’s possible, tough, to come off with some PHAT L00T with no fighting; a nice folklore element.

Ok, so, cave up on the frozen mountside. And, in spite of that “historian” crack in the blurb, there’s no hint of magical renaissance in this at all. It’s pure norse mythology. We’ve got three levels to the dungeon. The first is a relatively empty abandoned temple with, I think, eleven rooms. You get reindeer hides on the walls, and antler carvings and small little figurines at modest shrines. The overall vibe here is one of a place empty, and abandoned. In fact, I believe the only encounter is with a centipede hiding in the chest of a skeleton. Old. And then you come to a stairway leading down. It’s covered, blocked with ice. Here we have a pretty literal transition to the mythic underworld. You need to find you way past it. Level two is linear, with just a handful of rooms. A giant lake, some islands. A small shrine on the second to last, that lets you turn the water in to a portal you can jump in to. And, at that last island, a 6HD norse troll, in a deep sleep. So, you know, don’t go too far. Finally, the lake portal leads to you level three with the rest of the rooms: norselandia.  Dark elf, grey dwarf, some frog-people, sprites, and a wingless dragon: the lindwurm. And, of course, his hoard. 

We are now in full on fantasy realm and you can talk to most of those bizarro people. The dwarf, chained to the wall by the dragon, his keys around the troll-kings neck … who was turned to stone by the dragon. Freed, he forges an adamantine sword for you. Or the gnome living in a cabin next to wall that has colossal door in it, the keyhole 8’ off the ground. He’s got the key, but will only give it up if you go X and get him Y. (Where X&Y are mushroom forest related.) Or the sprite that has lost his drum … that will put the dragon to sleep. And on it goes. So we’ve got a good transition in to the fantastic and strong folklore elements. And, as I’ve mentioned, it might be possible to snag a decent amount of loot with no combat.

The writing tends to the brisk side: “Grand hall with a high ceiling. Empty torch sconces in the walls. Reindeer pelts hang stretched out on the walls with stone benches beneath.” Not droning on, to be sure. Other rooms are perhaps too terse in their descriptions “Frozen Shrine: Encased in ice.” There might be some EASL issues with the quality of the imagery/evocative word choices, but I think the issue more comes down to imagining the scene and trying to get it down on paper. There is clearly an attempt made, in most cases, but one that falls short in almost all cases of bringing a truly evocative environment to match the interactivity in them. It’s not doing anything special in the formatting area, other than staying focused on the length and using some bolded words. I’m not on board with what IS being bolded, but clearly there was an attempt. Better writing and better bolding choices come with more time and more experience.

So, what the fuck is wrong with, besides some less than stellar evocative writing?

I could point out some mistakes in the design. The sleeping troll is at the END of the path, and wakes up if you make noise … but you don’t really know he’s there … and thus are not worried about making noise. Placing him up front, or, stronger signalling or snoring would help. And there’s a bit of this and that similar in the adventure in which there are things to do/not do that could cause tension but are, I think, mishandled or not telegraphed well, working against their intent. 

It’s also got a little bit of a fetch questy “find the red key for the red door” sort of CRPG thing going on. “So what do we need to do FOR YOU to get you to give us something?” came to mind. This is hard. You want interactivity. With NPC’s, them wanting things is good. But too much and it starts to feel like you’re running up to someone with a gold star flashing over their head and pressing the “skip dialog” button as fast as you can. 

It’s also constrained in its size, and I’m thinking particularly level three and its fantasy-land fetch quest stuff. Everyone essentially is right on top of each other. Melan and I differ, I think, to the degree we dislike this element, but I think we both recognize it and don’t care for the constrained spaces. I recognize that it exists, and why, and that NOT being constrained is far better. I just don’t ding something as much when it shows up. I’d much rather have some gravitas behind the distance, and quest, than just walking next door, etc, to pick up the thing and stab the thing guarding the thing. In particular, the lost drum, hanging in some random (literally!) tree in the swamp comes to mind. There’s no weight behind this. There’s no feeling of having earned that golden fleece. The adventure is trying to do too much in too small a place. But, meh, it’s 2021. 

Other things comes to mind, like the use of a random table for a treasure behind a waterfall. I don’t get why designers do this. Just place a treasure. The fact you have a table for it shows a lack of understanding of what random tables are used for in old school design. It’s far, far better to place a treasure, or monster, in an integrated way in to the design. Yes, there IS a time and place for random tables in an adventure. But not for general use. 

So, slow start, probably on purpose, and strong theming. But the language use doesn’t convey the theming well, although the interactivity does. 

This is $3 at DriveThru.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/370215/The-Frozen-Temple-of-Glacier-Peak?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 3 Comments