Holy Mountain Shaker

By Luka Rejec
Necrotic Gnome
OSE
Levels 5-6

Thunder and quake have come to the old town. Towers crumble, homes tumble, the quick become the dead. What omen could be more obvious? The Pharaoh Fish under the mountain is displeased. This God must be propitiated. Brave heroes must venture to buy the city’s salvation. At the very least, the Town Council needs to appear in control and send some ‘expert adventurers’ into the depths.

This 56 page adventure uses about forty pages to describe a pointcrawl dungeon with about twenty main locations and about sixty other minor locations. Each location is jam packed with things to do and see and uses the OSE house style in a decent manner … that could be improved upon. DENSE and a real fucking dungeoncrawl, the likes of which are seldom seen. If the DM can handle it.

WRONG! People are wrong about holy mountain. This is not your usual thing, I assert. It is instead Something New in adventuring. Something that nearly works great. It’s a pointcrawl dungeon. But, instead of it being a small little thing it’s HUGE, the designer likening it to a hexcrawl underground. And I think that’s accurate. When viewed through that lens a lot of what might be seen as flaws instead are strengths, given the nature of a hexcrawl.

There’s a degree of abstraction here that I think works well in a hexcrawl. For hexes are big and you can’t go on and on describing them. Similarly, the locations found in this are huge, so the text tells us, and the OSE house style is used to describe them. A style that fits in well to the abstracted nature of a hexcrawl.

The OSE house style gets some shit thrown at it. Using a keyword format, it uses bolded words to describe major features, and then, in parens after each bolded phrase/word, a few more words to help paint the pictures. Thus we get something like Hauntingly beautiful glade (swaying pines) Scarred Mountainside (blasted open) Yawning gap (entrance into mountain) Trickling stream (from gap) Crystal pool (fed by stream, filled with rubble, dead fish, glittering offerings.) I think that does a decent job of setting a scene, It takes work to make it work well, like any other format, to choose the right things to focus on and the right words to paint a pictures, and there can be misses. Following up on this style are some bullets with things like: Search pool (a few words about searching it and what you find) So, that’s the OSE style. It effectiveness depends, as always, by how much the designer has tortured themselves in editing it. I think it does a decent job in this adventure.

There’s a certain abstraction in this format. But, also, combined with a focus. And together they work. Take,for example, the local town. It’s done in one page. None of that usual crap about businesses. The DM can make up a fantasy town. No, in this we get a little bit about what are essentially five factions for the party to encounter. A second page is filled with rumors to add some colour. Half of a third is a timeline that further brings the town to life, with the actions of the folks inside of it coming in to focus as they deal with the threat of continued earthquakes from the mountain they all live under. It adds a tremendous amount of colour to the town, focusing on how the party interacts with the people and what they are doing on their own whale the party is about. A good thing to focus on in an adventure that adds much more th e playing of the adventure than a boring old list of businesses of a fantasy town that we’ve all seen a million times before. 

(I note, also, the art in this. I seldom mention art, but in this I do because, as when I always mention art, I think it compliments the rooms/encounters well. A cartoony style that is not childish, it reminds me a bit of Moebius. How’s that for a compliment?) 

What sets this apart, though, from normal adventures is the scale of the places explored. Underground, sure, but no mere 50×50 room. The spaces i this are HUGE. An underground river complex. A GIANT cavern and so on. The god fish, when you find him, IS A MILE LONG. So, we’re talking a scale that, while not quite a hex, has the same energy as exploring a hex. And this is where things in the adventure start to get complex.

If you search one of these areas for a couple of hours you can find some hidden things, usually a small area that you can further explore. And if you search for another two hours then maybe you can find another area to explore (There’s a six day timer in this adventure, so … search.) That means that each of the “rooms” in the pointcrawl usually has three or so other mini-chambers also associated with it. And ALL of them have a lot going on. This is where things get rough. There’s an attempt to keep each point to two pages. And, using the OSE style, that’s accomplished. But, also, there’s A LOT going on. And it CAN be hard to follow at times. Or, maybe, non-intuitive. I think in practice its probably going to be ok … but this is one of those rare things that I think I’d want to run before making a judgment on it. 

Just in that first place, the Hauntingly Beautiful Glade, you can search the pool, get all the gold in the pool ,or moved the rocks around in the pool. Searching reveals mummified scaled limbs, wearing gold rings and bracelets. Getting all the gold/limbs triggers an attack by some fish monsters as you completely loot the place. Moving the rocks around reveal drowned sarcophages, with and ancient drowned wight in red-gilded wrappings … and funerary offering with dark fish symbols.

But wait, there’s more! Searching reveal a path to a high hermitage, with old cottages ans graffiti and searching THEM reveals a note about a secret path up the mountain! Further exploration reveals the dim woods with hiding cultists in a camp, trying to catch new faith fanatics unawares. That shrine up the mountain path? A fountain with spring, pure, with holy water you can collect and an ancient fish alter that sacrificing two opens a secret way in to the mountain.

That’s a fuck ton! Plus, each location has it’s own wandering monster table of four entries to keep the party encountering things. And it’s own table of what happens when the mountain collapses at the end of the adventure … in a small of table of three ever worsening escalations. 

So, a lot, right?

Can you handle that? Your enjoyment of this is going to rest on that. I think you can run this right out of the box. Just crack it open, read the town, and go. And you’ll have a great adventure. I also think that if you read each area and really imagine it and get a feel for how it works together then you’ll have a much better adventure. A HUGE adventure. An adventure for which a timer almost doesn’t make sense at all, except, perhaps, to keep things fun back at town. 

The thing is PACKED. Dense. It does go a little heavy on the ruined technology civilization theme … which is saying something for someone as in to gonzo as I am. But, also, one note this is not. 

This is one of those rare things that I’m going to suggest you need to prep some before running it. That’s not something I recommend often. Usually I would just say to move on to the next adventure that you DONT need to prep much, if at all. But, this is something different. Almost a hex crawl but not quite. Something new. And I think that its worth exploring more. One of those rare things that it makes sense to dig in to. 

This is $7.50 at DriveThru. The previews is nine pages. You get to see that first room at the end of the preview, as well as the start of the next. It’s a decent preview. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/363966/Holy-Mountain-Shaker?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Level 5, Reviews, The Best | 6 Comments

Throne of Gondira

By Morten Braten
Xoth Publishing
5e
Levels 4-6

You have heard the wild tales of fabled Gondira, a city built by the sons of giants, with a palace of white marble and gates of beaten gold, now hidden by the jungle and haunted by white apes who walk upright like men. Can you penetrate the steaming jungles of the south to discover the lost city and bring back its treasures, or will you die before you can set eyes upon the throne of Gondira?

Working my way through requests.

This sixty page travelog of an adventure uses about forty pages to feature a small jungle region and a few dungeons, mostly in the city of the whip apes. It’s got a bland style, and focuses on the high level to a degree that I have no idea how one would actually run this.

I don’t like the Xoth adventures. They are too disconnected from their setting to make them interesting or able to run. They masquerade as sandboxes, but, rather than a sandbox adventure what this means in the Xoth context is that tend to be more of a travelog and/or regional setting. Abstracted, bland, and devoid of what’s needed to make an adventure actually run.

So, it’s another lost city/jungle/ape adventure. The Appendix N has a strong hold over folks. And is Yet Another Failure in the genre. It stars rather strong, once all of the pudding text is ignored, with a brief diary entry of an explorer. Not too specific and and the explorers feelings come through rather well. It’s both a hook and a brief “map”, so to speak, of how to get to the area i question. It is a standpoint column of text. It mimics a kind of dryer explorer diary, perfect for its intended usage, although the dry style continues in the rest of the adventure.

The rest of the adventure is … meh. We’ve got a small regional. It’s got some “civilized” areas with the usual assortment of jungle tribesmen and a few minor temples with a lake monster out front or oracle living inside. It’s also maddednning in how the regional areas are referenced. The map provided has some names on it and they don’t always matchup with the headings used later in the adventure. Is the Land of Kash on the map the same as the mud man temple? And whats with the rando insertion of the rebel tribesmen, what appears to be an event in an section otherwise devoted to describing locations? But, also, it’s after the “bland) wandering table … but doesn’t appear on the wandering table? 

The main attraction is the City of the White Apes. A small overview and city map, and several dungeons underneath it. The maps for the dungeons are done well in some cases, being a  little larger and having a more organic feel to them. I don’t mean caves, I mean a kind of flowing of the passages and corridors that feels like something some people dug out … at least as much as the map diagram, proper, is concerned.

But there’s not enough specificity. It’s almost as if the designer has some kind of mental block in providing the sort of organization and text required to run it, all in the name of “Sandbox.” The white apes, in the city, don’t really come across at all. You occasionally get a chance of one beig at the city gates, or overseeing the slave pens, but it comes across as an empty city. Maybe thats on purpose, I guess, but it’s SO hesitant to mention the apes, or them running around, that the entire place feels empty. And, no word on what the apes, intelligent, do to respond to intruders. Or if they capture the party, or anything like that. Can you just walk right up the palace gates and go in? That seems wrong, given what the text implies in other places. But that’s how the text comes across. As if you just wander in to a lost city, go up the palace, and start your typical dungeon exploration. But it implies that they are around. Kind of like thatSnake Riders of the Arandondo adventure in which there was only snake rider in an adventure the heavily implied they were everywhere but never mentioned them. Not quite that bad, but close.

That’s a pretty big problem. At the same level of issue is the text style used to describe the dungeons. It’s bland, and alternated from “unneeded” to “excessive text with backstory.” You get text, on the one hand, that is “This is a natural quay where canoes can easily lay to.” Inspired to run the room? Why is the text even there in the first place? You don’t need it. It’s bland and nothing is going on. And, yes, not everything needs to be an actual encounter, there’s a place for some smaller/empty rooms in any adventure, but there’s too much of it. “THis chamber is full of dirt, broken pottery and skittering vermin” or “An anaconda is coiled up in this chamber.” There’s nothing to these. It’s at the level of a minimalistic dungeon description, but it doesn’t even have an evocative writing to it.

Contrasting with that are the LONG sections of text, equally bland. Backstory. Motivations. And a lot of padding with if/then clauses breaking up boring descriptions. It is perhaps heartbreaking that section of Howard and other Appendix N texts are scattered throughout, with things like “Out of the darkness of a corner rose a swaying shape; a great wedge-shaped head and an arched neck were outlined against the moonlight.” Not exactly a room description entry, but, it shows all the signs of the evocative writing that the text of the adventure, the actual room entries, are missing.

The entire thing is bland. Written at a level of detail, and a style of text, that robs it all all emotion. Devoid of the hard editing that makes a description terse, easy to scan and run, and evocative. It’s a textbook example of something that might be run to read, and imagine but not actually run.

This is $15 at DriveThru. The preview is ten pages and you get to see some of the room descriptions and so on. It’s a good preview, in the sense that you can see the content thats important to help you make a purchasing decision.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/322051/Throne-of-Gondira?1892600

Posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 9 Comments

The Magonium Mine Murders

By James Holloway
Gonzo History Project
OSE
Level -  No One Seems To Care Anymore (4)

Strange noises in the mine. Bandits on the roads. A counterfeiting scheme, a crooked prizefight racket, a rebellion in the making … and a cold-blooded murder. Times are hard in the Halbek Valley, and your player characters are right in the middle of it all.

This 28 page adventure details a small area with a few things going on … including a MUUUUURRRder! It’s calling itself a “cluebox” to point out that its a non-linear mystery. I’m just gonna call it an adventure. It’s got the right ideas, it just needs to figure a few more things out before it is able to be something I would run.

There’s a proper amount of detail, and way to organize the information, for each type of adventure. Traditional room/key works great for an exploratory dungeon and less well for describing the businesses in town, for example. When you are doing a social adventure then the format and the way you organize the information for the DM must be changed yet again. What the designer is trying to do is be able to facilitate the DM running the adventure … and that means organizing the information in different ways for different goals. 

And that’s what this adventure gets right. It understands the more fluid and open-ended nature of an investigation/mystery. And thus the designation of a “cluebox” … I could do without the term but I understand the why of using it … this is a sandbox. As most things should be. 🙂  It’s got its own problems, but, fundamentally, its got the right style, the right way of organizing the information for play. It just falls down a bit on the execution.

We’ve got a town. Two twins actually, old town and new town. With two sheriffs, once for each. And a mine. Worked by miners. And by forced prison of war labour. Some miners are getting killed in side the mine. Ought oh! And the POWs are about to rebel … they got a tribal mixed in with them and are hoarding weapons in hiding. And the mine chief just got murdered! And there are bandits in the woods that have just gotten more violent. And there’s a  counterfeiting ring underway with ties to the mine. And there’s a dude in massive debt cause of illegal shit and he owes money and someone else wants their money. And there’s some prizefighting giong on … along with some fixin. I don’t know … I think I hit all of the major subplots? 

So, (A) that’s a fuck ton going on! I love it! And (B), you NEED a lot going on in one of these. There needs to be things to figure out. Everything can’t be a gun laying on the table. Anyway …

We get an overview of all the little subplotty things. Cool. Now I’m oriented to the information to come! Then there’s a little section on getting started. Meh. This ia weak part of the adventure. These are, essentially, the hooks. And they imply things. The two sheriff thing? It appears as a four sentence hook. Thats all you’re ever gonna get on it. It’s GOOD. But, also, not always straightforward to working it in. And this is the problem with all of the things going on. They seem a little hard to stumble on. I guess the mine, as the central point of things, might lead to most of them, but, still, it’s a little tenuous. There needs to be just a little more. Instead of the two sheriffs thing being a hook, for example, we need a couple of thrown in events in town. Maybe a page of town events that include things like the sheriff. Or a list of themes for the DM to hit, like, “Im telling the other sheriff!” and so on. Something a little more explicit. Hot a railroad. Not hand holding. But a little more local colour. 

We then get a brief little overview of each of the main locations. I thin each of the towns take one page, so, not excessive in any way. A few random things, a local business of import, and thats it. Its just about the right amount of detail. Just about. Again, the local color is weak. Yes, there a small table for each location of encounters, and gossip if appropriate, but, it just doesn’t frame the situation. There IS an attempt to frame things. For New Town we get “Once a small village, now a party spot for miners, filled to the brim with sutlers, gamblers, swindlers, pickpockets, palm-readers, prizefighters, quacksalvers and drunks. Everything is pricey.” So, you get where the designer wants to go. But you’re not inspired. You want to provide something that makes people think “Deadwood” from the Tv show, or some such. You want something that the DM can hang their hat on, and the relatively weak description given just isn’t it. Nor is it represent for any of the locales. But, also, the level of detail for the towns IS correct and yes, there SHOULD be a framing. The framing is just not too good at doing its job.

And, those sites? The ones without a good framing? They are generally at the correct level of detail. The mines don’t try to map things out fully, just a general cross-section is given with some notes. Great. Perfect. Thats what you need. But, then, when you get to an actual dungeon location (and there are a couple) you get the same level of detail. The designer doesn’t understand that the rules of the game have changed. You now need a little more detail. We’re no longer riffing at a “mine” level, we’re riffing at a “room two” level and thus the need for a little more evocative information.

Finally, get a section on the NPC’s. About three per page, with a little drawing, so they are not overstaying. A little overview that is generally a sentence long. What they know and their Suspicious Activity. With key phrases bolded. I get it. I don’t thin it works. Or, rather, I think you need more here. I think you need a true overview reference sheet of a page with the key sht on it to remind you, to reference during play. And the bolded shit don’t work, i think, Maybe bullets. You need it super clear. Finally, the Suspicious activity section? I don’t know about this … I support it, in principal, but, you need a way to introduce it in to the play, and I’m not sure that What They Know for one person matches up to the Suspicious Activity of another. Without it, how do you know what to introduce? 

At 28 pages this is a pretty efficient adventure for what’s going on. I can find nary an example of useless padding of text. It’s all relevant. To a degree that is unusual in an adventure. The framing overviews of the areas, essentially evocative writing for them, is a miss. I can understand that, evocative writing is hard, but, also, it needs to be there. Whats more of an issue for me if the NPC summaries and the hooks and what they know/suspicious activity shit. This should all be the heart of the adventure. The asking around. Poking about. Plying people with drinks, and so on. The adventure needs just a little more in this area. I don’t know, maybe, three more pages in total? But focused, on brining those aspects to life. In hooking things together more and allowing the DM to quickly reference “side shit going on” in a casual way during play. 

So, I don’t hate this. It got the basics down for a style of adventure that is hard to do. But, also, I’m not running it. It’s gonna be too much work to prep the way it is and is a little dry for me.

This is $7 at DriveThru. Ain’t no preview Or fucking level range! Fuck you man, put both of them there so we can know what were buying before we buy it!

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/406873/The-Magonium-Mine-Murders?1892600

(Also, there’s a little bit of “Magical Society” shit thats present that seems out of place. Why have magic tokens or a magical ore? I don’t think you need either?)

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

The Toxic Wood

By Lazy Litch
Lazy Litches Loot
OSE
Level ?

Lazy Litches Loot

OSE

Level ?

You have been hired by a secretive council of wizards, who refuse to meet in person with you, to rescue the survivors of Mugwort – a town which was thought to have been destroyed and lies deep within The Toxic Wood. The Wood is corrosive and the air is not safe to breath there, so the wizards have given you a magical orb which will create a safe dome of air around you. The orb must be fed with fuel containing life force to continue operating properly. They have also gifted each of you a less effective necklace which will create a temporary small bubble of clean air around your head as an emergency measure. The Wood became noxious a couple of years ago after a dragon known as Ion moved in. You will have to navigate to Mugwort without Ion noticing if you are to conduct a successful evacuation.

This 32 page digest hexcrawl features a forest with an otherworldly vibe and several factions and LOTS of fucked up shit going on in it. I dig the fucked up shit. I hate the lack of keys and the lack of focus for the hex descriptions. And, all you fuckwits upset by TODAYS YUTS got nothing to worry about; Lazy Litch appears to have sold out and not included any content that would offend your delicate belief facade.

This is a hexcrawl, I don’t do a good job reviewing them. Also, So, yeah, we all know Gamma World is my fav, right? And I really dig the Chtorr series? And Annihilation? Yeah? Well guess the fuck what … this thing hits all of those. You get sent off in to the toxic wood to free rescue a town and wander through what is essentially an area so mutated as to appear chtorroformed. And I dig that! The entire places is FUCKED UP, in a good way, and this is heavily complimented by the art, which has a sort of vaguely Kingdom Death vibe to it. You know I don’t usually mention art. I feel it seldom compliments the adventure. But, here, it helps lend to the sort of organic gothic vibe … almost with an art nouveau thing going on, that the environment has going on. 

Ok, so. This shit is weird. You need to know that. I’m serious in that it has a Chtorr or Annihilation vibe. Like, straight out of those. If you want an exploration in a non-familiar place then this is it. It’s better than those Paul Keigh adventures that Geoffrey put out. It’s more complete. More viscerally different. And yet its familiar enough that if you squint you are walking through the fungi forest that is typical in an RPG adventure. It’s just a really REALLY well done fungi forest … that has few fungi. 🙂 So, not really gonzo at all, at least how the term is typically used. 

It’s got weird plant life. It’s got weird creatures moving through it. And it’s got weird encounters. A knight, in full armor, hanging from vines, pierced by thrown, still alive, dreaming. And a useful tool. A witches house moving about, Baba Yaga style, on, like, vines from the bottom. Two insect sisters, one of whom has captured the witch in the house, who is key to stopping things. The village you are trying to reach, surrounded by a temporary bubble, three factions inside. Four if you count the solitary wizard keeping the place running. 

This place is so fuck up/interesting … but not completely so, that I’m having trouble describing why its good. There’s this tower in the forest with two trees growing through the roof. As you approach voices from you magic orb, keeping you alive in the toxic wood, warn you away. On the ground floor is gelatinous mass, full of eyeballs, that ALL turn away from you as you enter. If you ignore it you can pass. If you fuck with it, or address it, it gets pissed off. DONT LOOK AT ME! Going upstairs to the other floors gets you more weirdness. Until you reach the roof and discover a secret related to the Order of Six Circles. 

Who the fuck are they? No clue. There’s a LOT like that in here. A bunch of names and things thrown in. It’s fucking magnificent. Maybe this is elaborated on in another book, but, here, by itself, its perfect. It communicates mystery and wonder. Enigma. Who the fuck are they? What the fuck are they doing? It’s EXACTLY what you do to get peoples minds running away on them. Perfect!

I don’t know. I still am not communicating things well. Look. The encounters are fucking awesome. The flora and fauna are fucking wonderful and creepy as all fuck. The art showcased on the product page, is some of the weakest. I wish the new monsters pages were shaed. Or the NPC pages. Short, terse descriptions and a drawing that communicates a bit like Scrap did in DCO. But, none of the abstractness that offends the more delicate consumers amongst us. And, that’s an important point. It’s all relatable, or maybe just a bit unrelatable, but not too far over the line. It’s not abstracted. Each of the hexes gets about a half a page of description, a few more for the major ones. So, as the DM, you WILL be riffing on things and adding yourself to it, in the grand tradition of a hex crawl … even if there IS a little plot along the way. (I did mention this thing is FULL of factions, right? Or, maybe, “mostly self interested groups and people” would be a better term for it.)

Ok, so, spoiler, I’m gonna Regert this thing. It’s too flawed for me, but, I think for many of you, you’re going to enjoy it. Let’s talk flaws.

“This hexcrawl adventure focuses on game-able content and being easy to use at the table. It is graphic and art heavy and utilizes a lot of random tables to make it easier for GMs to run with minimal prep.” Uh huh. In my best Project Farm imitation: We’re gonna test that! 

The fucking thing is keyed wonky. Meaning there ARE no keys. You get a two page hex map with icons in every hex. Go look up the icon on the map to another page that has a reference to it. Find the name, lets say “Mugwump Village”, then go find Mugwump village in the text. This thing needs keys in addition to names or a whole fuck ton of cross references to page numbers. It’s fucking difficult. Further, the tree symbols, that cover the map, all kind of merge together and each is a different environment. GO look up your specific tree hex symbol and find it on the table to describe what it looks like and get the wanderer table. That shit just aint working for me. It needs to flow easily and its not doing that, Lazy Litch.

And the plant life table, that adds so much? I don’t have any clue how it is supposed to show up or be worked in to the adventure. I mean, “random plant” shows up on a couple of wanderer tables, but not enough to justify the amount spent on the plants … I must be missing something?

And speaking of missing something … the hex map is huge. 20×15 or so. You can explore one hex a day or travel three hexes a day. In twelve days things come to head and there will no longer really be asolution to the toxic wood. And thats after you’ve mutated a few times. I am more than a little skeptical that the travel/explore shit works the way Litch thinks it will … the ties between the various important locations are too tenuous … as to be nonexistent, that I think you canfind shit and/or actually “travel.” Litch has to be making some assumption about playstyle that is not being communicated. 

Finally, the text is a pain to dig through. This isn’t the ArtPunk Morg Borg nonsense. It’s something else. A hexcrawl should have a little section of text that sets up a situation. And this does that, to be sure. But, lso, it goes on just a little too long. It’s using a traditional paragraph format and that’s just a little too much text. And the font i a little too small. And the backgrounds a little too busy in places. It’s all just a little too much to reference during play in a meaningful manner. And then integrate in the environment? I don’t think so. 

So, there are some issues with the mechanics of running this, I think, both in how its to be run and the formatting used to facilitate communication from the text to the DM. But, the environment proper? Really kick ass. It does a GREAT job of communicating that weirdness of an environment. Annihilation, Chtorr … it’s familiar and yet OFF, by a lot. A lot of you are going to really like this.

This is $6 at DriveThru. It’s easily worth that. Ain’t no fucking preview though. Or level range recommendation. Boo! A lazy litch indeed!

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/407138/The-Toxic-Wood?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, No Regerts, Reviews | 14 Comments

The Lurkers of Bridgely Vale

By Kiera Kaine
Pig Faced Games
Heroes & Hatchets
Level 1-

South of the Grey Mountains lies the sleepy coastal plain of Bridgely Vale. Its ancient roadways, forests and settlements are seldom frequented by travellers these days. Only the harbour town of Bridgely sees much activity, as a transportation hub for the silver mined in prosperous Farely to the north. However, the land holds many secrets: forgotten ruins, hidden caves and lurking ne’er-do-wells. For those with a taste for adventure, it may be closer than first appears…

This 72 page adventure details a small region and six or so dungeons, using about fifty pages for them. The dungeons are not bad, from an interactivity standpoint, and have some interesting NPC’s in them, but the entire text is so busy it’s hard to focus on the rooms at hand.

I’m going to skip over the region and town portion of this. It’s just fairly generic fantasy trope stuff, with too much information on the NPC’s and businesses. There are exceptions to this, including a guy who “proudly sells his Gastronic Neuronic Tonic for 10 silver. It is bright green and glows in the dark. He won’t reveal any ingredients, only that they are ‘natural’.” That’s a decent little NPC’ tidbit. And, that’s par for the NPC’s found in the dungeons. They are usually interesting in some way or another and facilitate dialog well, with negotiation being possible here and there. I’m down for that. They are usually too wordy, but, then again, the entire thing is too wordy.

The product has “adventures” and “dungeons.” The adventures are pretty poor. The first involves killing a dog. That’s exciting, eh? Oh, wait, no, you can’t kill it, or you don’t get the reward. It’s fucking posossed, man! There’s also a little fight on a derelict ship that’s got some bogus rules like “if you fail your dex check by 5 you crash through to a lower deck/into the ocean. That’s a lot of fail for a routine check! Anyway, there are three or four little adventures that are all pretty poor. At one point you have to search a forest for a druid, and the DM is told they won’t find the druid unless they take pity on them. Hmmm … I see issues there.

This is the major problem with the first part of the product. It’s uselessly padded out. “Izzi’s real name is Jemma. She is an orphan and despite being regularly teased about her timid and somewhat dreamy nature, she is a hard worker and treated kindly by the patrons. She secretly dreams of better things and is intelligent but entirely uneducated.” Great. Nothing of use in that description.  “Sylvia agrees to help in any way she can, although she is tired and upset and won’t fight” … so, she doesn’t actually help? In a section on captured bandits you are trying to get information from:  “The constabulary, sheriff or magistrate will not stand for any form of torture” Fire & torture man. Fire & torture. Actuallly, I’m being a little unfair on that last one. The captured bandits are decent, pleading to lesser crimes, or they were just camping out, etc. Maybe they could use a brief personality, each, but otherwise it’s not bad. 

The dungeon are a different matter. The maps are done in some colorful cartography tool and, while they show terrain and light (yeah!) they are pretty busy overall. This makes grokking them a little hard. And, there’s no grid, so get out your tape measure.

The interactivity in them, though, is far far better than the adventures. Almost as if there were separate authors. There’s shit to talk to (a decent amount, actually) and maybe barter with or negotiate with. There’s statues to fuck with, fungi to eat, and so on. And some terrain features, like ledges and logs to cross over chasms on. It’s a decent amount of variety. The maps are a little small, maybe ten rooms to a level, which limits things more than a little. Somehow strung together though it would be a decent little dungeon. 

There’s a small read-aloud for each room. They can sometimes get just to the edge of being too long, but never fully go there, which is a good thing. The read-aloud is more than a little boring, using “dirty cage” and “small bell” for example. Actually, here’s the full read-aloud for that room: “Fixed to the wall opposite the door is a large fountain, artfully carved to look like a seashell with the figure of a mermaid spewing clear water into a basin. A jumbled assortment of supplies are stored here. A dirty cage sits in one corner, inside of which hangs a small bell.” That’s not the worlds worst read-aloud. You can see that the designer is trying to do a good job. It doesn’t get purple, and is focused, generally, on the interactive elements the party would want to mess with. Which is what it should do. There’s a miss or two that stand out in the text, like not mentioning skeletons in alcoves in a crypt room, but the overall content is not bad. I can take quite a bit of exception with the evocative nature of the writing though. It just doesn’t grab you. It comes across, I think, as more of a mechanical effort in writing. On the one hand, I don’t want to knock that, You SHOULD work your descriptions alot. And the evocative writing element is, I think, one of the hardest parts of putting an adventure down on paper. The ability to transmit a vision is a hard thing to master. And yet, it’s 2022 and there’s A LOT of adventure competition out there; workmanlike content is only going to get you so far.

The worst part is the rooms, proper, and specifically the DM text. It’s pretty common for a room to take up a full column of text. Some of this is from a stat block format that lists creature abilities out in a 3e/4e like format, with full text. That takes a lot of space and I can’t imagine digging through that in the middle of a combat. But, also, the DM text proper is long and … meandering? 

One of the shorter rooms DM text reads “The room is home to two devil mice. The kobolds

have been trying to tame them to be guard animals, with little success so far (their current feast is the last kobold trainer). The tapestry either confirms what the characters already know of the surrounding area or it could contain some clues to further adventures as the GM sees fit, especially since it was made many years ago.” We’ll ignore the “DM fill in the details portion; that’s just bad. But note how the feasting devil mice are referred to. It’s almost an aside, and buried in the text. With some embedded background. Better something like “two wire-haired coal black vermin with glowing crimson eyes rip and tear and a bloody body” or some such. (I just did that on the fly, don’t be mean to me.) That gets you what you want, some detail on the monster and what they are doing in a manner that communicates the scene. As written it’s almost clinical; a travelog. And not a very exciting one. 

This happens in every room in the adventure. Far, far, far too much text and written in this sort of oblique way that makes it hard to reference during play. It needs to be trimmed. It needs to be worked. You want a direct writing style. A trend towards terseness. Only the information that’s relevant to the adventure at hand. None of this “was once” shit that permeates the text. 

Work that fucking text until you are fucking sick of it and never want to see it again. And then work it some more! 

You could suffer through this, I guess, for the content. It’s not altogether bad content, the dungeons proper anyway. But why? There are better choices.

This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview is a poor one, only showing you four pages and only general regional fantasy garbage trope stuff. We need to see some rooms, some parts of the adventures, to make an informed buying decision.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/389531/The-Lurkers-of-Bridgely-Vale?1892600

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

The Sanctuary for Bicephalic Outcasts

By J. Blasso-Gieseke
21st Century Games
OSE/1e
Levels 1-4

A two-headed giant is seen at night. Two deer carcasses are found missing in the morning. A two-headed dragon is seen in the morning. Two fisherman never return home at night. A two-headed man and dog are seen in Grimholt Forest. They were heading for the Riddle Hills. Are these coincidences or are they connected? Will the party help the Confederacy of Barley, Bream, and Oak find out? 

This 36 page single-column adventure details a cave with nine rooms. You know the deal: the bad guys are the good guys and the good guys are the bad guys. A WHOLE lot of if/then conditions for everything. A kiddy adventure.

Yeah, I said it. Kiddie adventure. I know that term has been leveled against B/X in general, but I’m going to claim it now for these sorts of things. What was that adventure where there was a trigger warning against killing a pack of starving dogs that were trying to bite your face off? I got a stabbing knife and I ain’t afraid to use it! Yes, let us revel in mankind’s baser instincts! Quick, Robin, to the FlameThrower-mobile!

Mayor McDickCheese, Alderman Fuckwit and Headman Dickless want you to go look in to all these double-headed creature sightings. There’s this big ass 6-mil each 3×3 hex map provided … none of which matter cause they lead you to the exact hex you need. It’s full of caves. You search and the DM rolls a d20. If they get a 20 then you find the double-headed creature cave. Otherwise, every two searches you get attacked by something on the wanderer table that has a description of “It Attacks!” How longs it take to search for a cave? I don’t know, it don’t say. Which seems weird for an adventure that places such an emphasis on a “three day window
“ before the freak show owner shows up. 

You see, HES the real bad guy. All of the double-headed things (ettin, troll, minotaur, death dog, etc) escaped thanks to one double-headed dude who willed a goddess in to existence. Also, he charmed them all to be nice and one of the them, the minotaur with two heads, stole his charm bobble so they are all walking around outside now, eating livestock and people and shit. Oops. They are all nice people. Well, except for the fact that they eat actual people when not charmed. This is straining the term Good Guy for me. Eating people. Mental domination. At least the freak show dude didn’t do that shit. 

I wish I could say that there’s an actual moral dilma here, but there isn’t. It’s full of the usual gymnastics to make things ok and keep the plot on track “Though Tooma knows Beylon is dead, he will understand this as fated by Nooma and attempt to talk with the party and ask for their help.” That’s trying to say that the main two-headed dude doesn’t care that you just killed his friend since he thinks his god willed it. Uh huh. Also He will “give the party his fire opals to purchase another magic item that will allow him to recharm the friends under his care.” Uh huh.

Did I mention tha the hex map, while having encounter numbers, doesn’t use those numbers in the text? AUTO FAIL! And that like everything in this, including a two headed hydra, is like 4HD. And at least one werecreature. So, yeah, level one. Right. 

The text is RIDDLED with LARGE and LONG if/then sections. If the party leaves Bob alive and if they bring him back to the cave athen follow this section. Ifthey leave Bob alive and don’t bring him back to the cave then follow this section. If … you get the idea. 

It’s doing two decent things. It has a cave of echoes that will answer any question truthfully … once a day. A little too often, but good idea. And, to get in the main cave you have to trick a statue of the new god. They only let two headed creatures in. Wear a mask or create an extra large shirt or something to trick it. It’s left open ended … which is a good thing in D&D.

But, no. Kiddie D&D. Implied morality. If/tehns. No real descriptions. An attempt at formatting through bolding and the like, but far FAR too much of it to actually be helpful. And the if/then shit is not helpful at all.

This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview is twenty pages. It accurately represents what you’re buying.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/396438/The-Sanctuary-for-Bicephalic-Outcasts?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 25 Comments

Labia – The Strange Case of the Cursed Vagina

By Silvia Clemente, Miguel Ribeiro
The Red ROom
B/X & Wretched Bastards
Level ?

The Red Room

B/X & Wretched Bastards

Level ?

Princess Lisabetta, the precious daughter of the King of Riget, has been cursed by her evil aunt. Between her legs, Lisabetta now has a monstrous carnivorous “octopussy”. To bring the princess back to her natural self, an intrepid group of wretched adventurers must venture into the maze-like Citadel of Berleng and destroy the evil witch. But in a world of bastards, nothing is as simple as it seems and a dark, forbidden secret that will shake Riget is about to be revealed…

This 29 page adventure uses some number of pages to describe fourteen rooms in a dungeon. That might be under a castle? Maybe on an island? I don’t know. It’s some kind of funhouse thing that doesn’t actually describe ANYTHING. And I’m using a VERY loose definition of “describe.”

“The princess has a monster for a pussy” made me think this was LotFP, but, no, it’s for Wretched Bastards, some kind of B/X campaign world thing. Anyway, hang on … “Oh, my! I’m shocked! How disgusting! My sensibilities are in a kerfluffle!” There, was that chill? Did I do an adequate job at being shocked? 

Whatever. There’s almost nothing here. The king sends you to go kill his sister, the aunt. She’s in some castle on some island. And I’m not summarizing by much here, this is about how much information you get. Or, specifically “The unlucky bastards that take the challenge must reach the island, enter the citadel, find countess Golithya.” That’s the extent you get about the island and citadel. You do get a fourteen romo dungeon though!

The fourteen rooms have numbers on them. The numbers have a little key at the bottom at the map. “7- The Tar Pool” or “2- The Skeleton Office.” You don’t actually get keyed entries though. The fucking text just says “The Tar Pool” or “The Skeleton Office.” This pisses me off to no end. It’s like they just started writing the words backwards for no fucking reason. Why fucking do this? Did you make the product easier to use by doing this? Is it easier to find the rooms from the map in the text because of this? No? It’s a lot harder, you say? Then why the fuck do it? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m tempted to utterly fail every adventure from now on that does this. Fucking useless for running the thing.

Ah, but about the keyed entries themselves? What about them? “The lion lies asleep in a chamber close to the citadel’s entrance. A scrambled map can be found among the bones and half-eaten carcasses on the lion’s den; it points to a treasure hidden in a Citadel’s chamber.” That’s room one. Or, rather, “The Sleeping Lion’s Den.” Where does it point? To which room? Nope, you’re not getting that. 

This abstraction is present throughout the adventure and, I assert, the a design decision. Someone, somewhere, thinks that this is the right way to do things, otherwise it wouldn’t be so consistent in its application.”This room appears to be some kind of office.” No, it’s an office. “If the characters tart to look around then …” No, no if/then statements. Also, nothing happens in this room. A skeleton comes to life and then crumbles to dust. But, more to the point “”There is a hidden door in the room; if the characters detect and unlock it they will find a well-stocked armoury,” Perhaps my favorite is “In the pool lies a treasure chest filled with jewels and gold, but the bounty is too heavy to be carried.” … with no other words or details. 

Seriously, this is Indi RPG levels of detail here. “Maybe do something related to this keyword or something. “

In the end, this is nothing more than an abstracted funhouse dungeon. Random shit appearing in seemingly random rooms that is not well described. I would hesitate to even call this an adventure, PARTICULARLY given the issues with the map keys.

This is $2.50 at DriveThru. Reve in the eight page preview that shows you nothing of the room keys. Such that they are.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/408407/Labia-The-Strange-Case-of-the-Cursed-Vagina?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 14 Comments

Falkrest Abbey

By Andrea Tupac Mollica, Giuseppe Rotondo
Axian Spice
OSE
Levels 1-3

The forlorn Falkrest Abbey in the icy Lune Mountains is where the Queens and Kings of Yore used to be crowned and buried, along with their treasures. According to legends, the Fountain of St. Brynedd still pours its miraculous water somewhere inside. But what caused the fall of the blessed Abbey?

This 49 page adventure uses sixteen pages to feature a ruined abbey with nineteen rooms.It’s using the OSE house style (I think? It reminds me of it anyway …) and has a decent little amount going on. I don’t know. It strikes me as a little … soulless? There’s no GLEE here. Which, I guess, isn’t a bad thing. I mean, I didn’t take a dump in this ones mouth.

Let’s talk Evel Kinievel. Snake River Canyon. It was fucking glorious. It didn’t matter. If he made it then it was going to be fucking magnificent and his failure was just a thing of beauty. Hubris mother-fucker, ever heard of it? A product with vision may be a dumpster fire (Did I mention my girlfriend has a dumpster fire tattoo on her arm?) of an adventure but man, its got a fucking vision and it’s going for it. Either way it’s gonna be great! And, what about that adventure that goes to work every day, bringing home a steady paycheck and providing health insurance for all the little adventures … what of it? Good ol reliable. Fuck that thing. Errr, I mean, yeah, uh … Good Job! This is a decent adventure.

So, old monastery up in the hills. Burial place of the old kings. Healing fountain. Etc. The more interesting hook is that the local Earl wants evidence, from the monastery, that he’s related to a legendary queen … and the evidence found disproves his claim … that’s embarrassing 🙂  There’s this inn at the base of the mountain with some good rumors, both random and no. A dwarf went missing. There’s no such thing as vampires, they are just a legend. And an old diary for sale that has three extra random rumors in it. Nice mechanism and inn. Terse for what it is and provides some local color … and local color is the heart and soul of D&D. Take, for example, the bandit encounter on the wanderer table to get up to the monastery. It’s with “5 bandits.” Which are actually Old Beorly and his four treacherous children. SWEEEET!!! That the kind of specificity, the kind of local colour, that I LUV in an adventure. It’s something that the DM can run with. There should be more of it in the D&D adventure products I review! And … in this adventure …

The map, while simple, is good. Multiple entrances. Monsters located on the map for reaction purposes (even though only one group can really react …) and some interesting features like same-level stairs and an open courtyard, as well as some wall collapse, etc. Really good job on the map, for something as small as this.

Formatting is OSE style. It concentrates on keywords of features that are then expanded.  So, “Archway, wooden double door, fallen long ago.” Bullets , whitespace, bolding, and even mini-maps, all combine to provide a relatively complex environment that is easy to scan. Important things are called out, like, things heard in the next room. Thank fucking god someone has finally learned this lesson.

Ok, so, the actual writing and adventure? It’s ok. It’s not really hitting it out of the ballpark with descriptive text. I’m not imagining much here. And the interactivity comes off a little bland. It IS present. Clues in frescoes. Hearing things in the next room. Monsters eating other monsters. A couple of factions of undead who want you to go kill the other dude. The old abbott, in particular, I think comes alive in this description as an undead and in his wants and goals. (Which, again, are organized well.) 

The whole thing is just a little … bland. The descriptions are a little bland. The interactivity is a little bland. It’s not that it’s not [present. It’s not that it’s bad. It just comes across as … not too exciting. And I don’t mean that everything has to be all EXPLOSION SOUND or gonzo. But It’s just content that, generally, doesn’t seem all that interesting to run.

And what does that mean? When something is ok, and I don’t hate it, but, also, I’m not gonna do anything with it, it means No Regerts.

This is $1 at DriveThru. You getting the whole thing in the preview, so, enjoy. Check out page eight for that inn, or pages eleven and twelve for the map and a sample encounter. Pretty nice! But, nice ain’t enough anymore.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/409280/Falkrest-Abbey?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, No Regerts, Reviews | 12 Comments

Through the Valley of the Manticore

By Jacob Fleming
Gelatinous Cubism
OSE
Low Levels (ha!) to Mid Levels.

In the desolate and forbidding canyon lands, Hurloror Canyon is home to only the bravest and most hardy. The road that leads through it is the only way to navigate this dangerous wilderness. Travelers and merchants alike must face the canyon so that trade and commerce between city states can carry on. Much depends on the road remaining open and unimpeded. Fort Davelmag, the only safe refuge in the canyonlands, stands as a beacon for weary travelers and a testament to the will of the lawful. Once a military fortification built to hold off the advancing forces of chaos, now a way station for merchants and caravans, with a small detachment loyal to the crown stationed here. Now the residents of the Fort face a far more devious threat than the harsh environment or hungry beasts. Through the Valley of the Manticore has players traverse winding sandstone slot-canyons and explore natural cave systems rumored to contain hidden relics of immense value and magical power. Sooner or later they may realize that they are mere pawns in a game being played by an unnaturally intelligent monster. They will need cunning as well as strength in order to overcome this bizarre and terrifying tale.

This 48 page digest adventure, not really a hex crawl, contains a small region, a kind of valley in the desert, with a few small dungeons and a few quests in a trading post related to them. It’s formatted rather well, generally, and is trying to be interactive in places, but comes off a bit bland, which i snot helped by the minimalist descriptive style.I don’t hate it, and it’s intriguing in some ways … but not enough to run it.

Hex map, six mile hexes, with the map being six hexes wide and four tall. There is a town, a small desert watch/caravan stop, described as well as four dungeons, ranging from four to sixteen rooms. The dungeon maps are rather simple and the hex map has some roads through it, with the dungeons hanging off the road … with a couple of exceptions. Two two not on side roads consist of “head up in to the hills and figure out why the spring aint flowing anymore” and “follow the manticore back to its lair.” I mention this because this is listed as a hexcrawl when, in fact, it’s just a small region. All of the dungeons are related to subplots going on in the fort.

The forts your home base. The militia at the fort are on edge; a manticore has shown up and ate two of them. And, also, Frank the guard killed one of the caravan people stopping for reupply, they are pissed and not leaving until justice is done .. and he claims he don’t remember doing it though he obviously did. Also, the forts water supply is drying up. Also, the caravan leader wants a tomb robbed. Also, some other merchants kids went off to rob a different tomb. 

Formatting is good. You get a little description for each room and some indents and bolding to help call out some special features that appear lower down in the text. Essentially, it’s paragraph form, if the paragraph is short and references other information well. And has appropriate cross-references. There’s an exception to two the formatting being well done … the overview of the fort, for example, is essentially all paragraph and could have done with some indents/bullets/bolding, etc to help call out the more important pieces. But, overall, not bad at all and fits the needs.

Interactivity is ok. Meh, better than ok, I guess. Each dungeon has a couple of traps and a secret or two to explore. Teleporter, Well of Souls, etc. There’s an altar in one that you have to make a sacrifice at in order to open a secret door. The advice given is to be generous in how you treat the word “sacrifice.” I can handle that, and prefer things that way … let the DM interpret the player intentions. Money, a dead body, spilt blood, whatever. It’s the intention that counts 🙂 I guess I’m unhappy with the interactivity because of the lack of depth here. It’s all pretty self-contained and, given the small size of the dungeons, theres only so much room to get your interactivity on. 

The real issue with this thing is that its a minimally keyed adventure. A minimal key that LOOKS like more than that.

The entries FEEL like they have some weight to them. About six per page, or so, in two column digest format should be ok. And they are all a couple of paragraphs long with some bullets following for more information on specific room details/secrets. That should be cool, right? 

But it’s not. 

Let’s take a look at a couple of entries, shall we? “Giant Scorpions [incline state block] are kept here as pets. The floors here are slick with rotting blood and scattered with bones.” or “a group of gnolls [stat block] are eating meat from a recent hunt around a fire.”

You see, now, I hope and pray, what I mean by a minimalistic description. These are about at the level of the more interesting B2 description, with orcs shooting dice. And while that level of description is better than just “5 gnolls”, it’s not by much. Especially in 2022. When looking at these descriptions it/s pretty obvious what the issue is: conclusions. “Are kept here as pets” is a meaningless statement. It attempts to explain why there are scorpions here. As does “From a recent hunt” in the gnoll description. Descriptions which draw conclusions, explain history, and meaningless backstory are not good descriptions. Good descriptions actually DESCRIBE. What, about the room and scorpions, would make a player say “oh, they are pets!” That should be the description. Put them on chains. Put a collar on them. Something. The same with the gnolls. Put a carcass, hung upside down with an arrow in it, in the room, with maybe something fun done with the guts. “Ah!” the players says “they have just killed it on a hunt!” It is the job of the designer to bring the environment to life and inspire the DM so they can do as much for the players. And this don’t do that. Again and again it don’t do that. Again and again it is a minimalistic description that, in some cases, somehow takes up A LOT of space.

“The door to this room is trapped. If triggered there is a poison needle that will stab whoever tripped it. However the poison used on the needle is from one of the scorpions kept in room 3 and is not a lethal dose. [Poison effects follow]” This is all garbage. It is all meaningless. It is all padding. It is built up justification. It’s a door with a poison needle trap [poison effects.] Done. IF triggered … really, IF? We don’t do if’s when writing. 

It does this over and over again. Padding to no effect. Minimalist descriptions. The adventure LOOKS good. The formatting is nice. The art is nice. It’s on the right track to providing a little sandboxy region to have some fun in. But, it’s weak. Very much so. Writing good descriptions is hard. I think it’s the hardest part. I don’t hate this, but, I’d pick something better.

Oh, shit, I do want to mention, though, that this has some great monster selection. A roper shows up at an interesting time. The use of a scorpionoids, a black pudding, akrell. The fucking manticore itself in an arid environment. Really good monster selection here.

This is $10 at DriveThru. No preview because it’s broken. 🙁

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/400889/Through-the-Valley-of-the-Manticore?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 29 Comments

Terror in the Old Fell Forest

By Lord Eldrad Wolfsbane
Self Published
B/X
Levels 1-5 (Quite the range, eh?)

You all meet in a a loud and smokey tavern! It’s a sad time for the quaint village of Valehaven. For the bawdy son of the portly mayor and his foppish and foolish friends have went missing. The foolish group of young adventurers went North into the Old Fell Forest some two weeks ago. They sadly and alarmingly have not returned. Dark and ominous tales are whispered about the foul Old Forest. The party is hired by the portly mayor to find out the whereabouts of a foolish group of adventurers far to the north into the Old Forest. The mayor Miles Kaxzwell is a pale fat balding winy self righteous type of man who truly believes himself far superior to others as he is of noble blood! His “son” and his adventuring party of his friends, left a few weeks ago and nothing has been heard from them since. The people of Valehaven don’t seem to be sad at all.

This 28 page digest adventure is a series of scenes. It’s cute, if you’re in to reading things.  This isn’t really an adventure. It’s more a series of ideas, strung together and not really in a form to run. 

Eldrad is an idea machine. He does a great job coming up with things and jotting down terse and memorable things about them. You got the whole “get hired by the mayor to find his son and friends” things from the intro blurb, right? One of the rumors is “We hopes that mayor’s son and his friends don’t come back! They was knocking up the entire village! Even their own sisters, aunts and cousins!” Also, the mayor has fifteen sons. Also, he has multiple wives and gets rid of them Henry 8 style. THis theme is repeated everywhere in the small town. Also “Barracks: Here is the upstairs of a gigantic warehouse and store is where the barracks are. Various distant kin to the mayor and hangers On our employees Town guards. Talk around town if they’re very corrupt.” Thus, the repetition builds to something that even the most dense party can’t ignore. But, hey, there’s gold! It’s a fun little thing. I like it a lot. The town goes on to describe the local temple, with the line “He had quite and impressive torture chamber where he does inquisitions parties for the nobility as he tortures people for the crowd’s amusement. It is all work for the gods!” Uh hu uh huh … getting the picture? DId I mention that staying in the stable csts 2cp a night and the poorhouse only costs 1cp a night … ? Eldrad does a really good job. Everything really works together to paint the scene.

The writing, the evocative imagery, is really well done, when he engages in it. “A mysterious stone archway opens the way into the forest wall of the Old Forest after a day of travel.” Or, maybe “The Old Forest has huge ancient pines so big that it would take 20 men to surround one of these trees. The light is dim and the ground covered in pine straw. A few chatterings of birds above is the old sounds of life. The old cobblestone road continues into the bleak dim light. From above, giant pinecones rain down and one smashes one of the militiamen causing his head to explode and gore, brains, blood, eyes and teeth splat onto everyone and everything around! Giant Squirrels are protecting their territory!“ So, yeah. And, if you find the diary of a certain halfling out in the forest, a dead halfling mind you, and bring it back to his beloved in town then … “If Matilda Berrywine is told about the death of Tommy Took, she climbs to the top of the local temple and jumps to her death.” Yeah. Eldrad knows what he’s doing.

But, also, man, the thing is a fucking mess. The maps are handdrawn and then, maybe, a photo taken of them? They are blurry as fuck. And the garden in town? “It’s guarded by a wood golum named Oak tree Edd who will chase anyone away from the garden who don’t belong.” And then there’s “The Pit: The mayor brings in monsters from all over as well as adventures in most of the time on Lucky townspeople to fight to the death for gold and betting. The arena can hold a thousand people in its seats.” The vibe is all mixed up. We go from local hick inbreeding to a community of thousands with magic wood golems at the garden. It’s mismatched.

But, alas, all is not well in Eldradville. Could it be the treasure? “Treasure: EP: 2000, GP: 1000, Magic: Axe +1” Certainly, not awe-inspiring … Well, though, we are a just and merciful reviewer .. .how about the monsters? “30 zombies” Hmmm, while I’m enamored with the number 30, and thus the implication that this is NOT combat, I’m afraid that just will not do. And points to the main problem. Or, one of them anyway.

The road not taken is that this is just a series of scenes. You walk down the right path and encounter Z. Then as you sleep X happens. Then you meet B the next morning. This is, then, a home adventure. The kind you scrawl on a piece of paper two hours before the game because you need something. I think we can do better in a published adventure, yes?

But, more importantly, Eldrad doesn’t follow though. FOr while we get all of these great bits in town, about one great bit per location and several more scattered through the text … he can’t seem to sustain this. Thus a barrow complex has three barrows, with one bit per barrow. Sure, there are three numbered location, or six, or whatever, ut only one concept. It’s not a dungeon. It’s a scene. Everything is a scene. Everyone is a point in time with little to connect it. If it were Moria it would be three scenes and nothing more. They are unfulfilling. If the monster is the centerpoint then you get a bit with the monster and nothing about the environment. All this is a collection of ideas and nothing more. Here’s an ideal for this thing. Run with it. These are not adventuring locales. For every good rumor there are sixteen meh ones that don’t do anything r are not special at all. 

“On the second morning, no matter where the party has stayed early in the Morn, a stench is in the air, smells of beer, wine and unwashed ass, a visit from some locals. A crowd of about 27 smelly peasants Say…”

Empty.

Great fucking imagination, but you need to sustain it to the logical end to create an actual adventure. As is, it’s performance art.

This is $3 at DriveThru. There is no preview. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/398450/Terror-in-the-Old-Fell-Forest?1892600

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