The House of Lost Loves

By Thomas Scott Ingle
Self Published

The men of Dunnswain are distraught; all their wives are missing! They point apprehensively to a lone house on a hill, a couple miles from town. To paraphrase, “Our wives went there in a tizzy, and ain’t been back since…!” What do these men have in common, aside from their cowardice to investigate the house themselves? Why are only the married women missing? To whom does the house on the hill belong…? A short investigation reveals all…then it’s time to visit… The House of Lost Loves…!

This 84 page adventure explores, I think, the prurient sexual fantasies of the designer, Thomas Scott Ingle, mashed up with HP Lovecraft. Set in a mansion, it provides twelve different scenarios, written as a jumbled mess by a proclaimed edgelord.

Do you like big tittied anime milfs? Well, Thomas Scottt Ingle seems to. This adventure has its text overlaid on background images on … every page? And on every page there’s a topless big tittied anime milf. Ok, not every page. Half the pages? Maybe? Anyway. Lots of H-cup anime milfs adorn the art in this. This goes along with the text of the adventure which is full of women getting stripped, raped, and beaten. Big tittied anime milfs getting striped, huddleing as group while getting raped and whipped. That’s what you get in this adventure. I guess I should back to explain the big-tittied anime milfs Thomas Scott Ingle put in getting stripped, raped, and whipped and how we got there.

Thomas Scott Ingle opens this adventure by spending a page or so telling us what an edgelord he is and how this adventure is not for kids, cause he’s so edgy. Like, seriously, he tells us, not for kids. Great, got it. I forget, that might come before or after the four pages of HP Lovecraft fan fic. Why is HP Lovecraft in this? I have no fucking idea. I guess some weird shit happens and thats what weird shit means to people? HPL? Anyway, a few pages of background/fan fic. 

Ol widow Lovecraft (he got marrieD) lives in the house on the hill. A bunch of women form up a gang and go see her and are never seen again. The husbands (who , it turns out, have all slept with the widow) are afraid for their wives. But, notably, DO NOT form a gang to go deal with things. Their lack of drunken agency is astonishing.

Then we launch in to thirty or so pages of What Could Have Happened. There are twelve of them and each is three or for pages long. Each presents a different version of what is going on inside the house. With names like Wait, What, Who? And Unknown to the Lady of the Home, the titles give you wonderful summaries of what to expect from each. Each says things like “the creature is held in the basement laboratory (b4)” or “the naked raped and beaten female servants are held in the larder, B2.” Good job Thomas Scoot Ingle. With the raping. I mean, why not turn to the most cliched element of all where women are concerned. What about those male servants? Have they, also, not served? Something against a little male anal/oral rape? A  handy by an unwilling footman is out of the question? Let my point here not be lost. If a designer gave a shit about weird and then the duds would be taking it also. I mean, what the fuck does a tentacle care? But that’s not the case in these adventures. And, thusly, I am forced to conclude that something else is going on. Some other reason that Thomas Scott Ingle has written extensively about big-tittied anime milfs getting stripped, raped and beaten. Repeatedly. In a dozen different scenarios, or so. So, you know. Draw what inferences you care to. 

I don’t understand how any reasonable person is supposed to use this. You have five or so pages of “what happened in this variation” and then need to cross-reference that, during play, with the house description that is thirty or so pages deeper in to the adventure. How does that actually work in play? It doesn’t? It’s like a template, the house, was written and then a bunch of variables were formed up and whats missing is the final running of the app to fill in the blanks in the template with the variables. But, rest assured, they are not variables, in the twelve variations presented. It’s just a full of stream of consciousness text telling you what happened, backstory, who is where and kind of what they are doing. And, then, mashed in to all of this is a section in the back that says “Here’s are some traps to use throughout the house is you decide to use traps.” What?!

It’s just free paragraph writing. On full image backgrounds which makes the text very hard to read. Did I mention that one of the variations is a Rick & Morty theme? There’s one creature encounter in the house description, some cannibal parrots. Everything else you have to intuit and reference from the variations. The unnamed house servants, also, I guess? And have I mentioned how the house description conflicts with the variation descriptions of what is going on? Want in the front door? Good luck, that house description, with servants, is only accurate in a few of the variations. Otherwise, look at both at the same time … while holding the entire variation in your head, in order to run the room.

This is a nightmare product. 

This is $12 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages. You get the edgelord warning and a page of the HPL fan fic. Shitty preview, showing you nothing of the actual adventure in order to let you make you own determination before purchasing.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, My Life is a Living Fucking Hell, Reviews, The Worst EVAR? | 6 Comments

The Curse of the Ganshoggr

By Gus L.
Kill Jester
Level 1

The Goose King squats in his great longhouse among verdant fields won by his ancestors. He feasts nightly on the most succulent turf, rich foreign wines, and the finest lettuces. In the swampy dark outside, his kingdom crumbles and suffers. The great gander of the Claymarshes—despoiler, land-devourer, sword-blessed terror bird, maimer of champions, curse of the wrathful stars—has come again. The Ganshoggr’s scream rips the night in contemptuous accusation, sounding the Goose King’s failure — the dawn of an age of ruin.

This fourteen page adventure details a small pointcrawl with a ten room dungeon at the end … which are all sidelines to the main event: a Dragon to kill at level one. The density is high, the language colorful, both to an extent that is almost too much.

There’s a lot to unpack here. First, this is for Errant. It’s some D&D-mine system. Rules light, the marketing blurbs are perfectly written to appeal, they hit every point of interest to make you want to take a look. Until I got to “244 pages.” Uh, no. Seriously, the marketing of this D&D-mine is perfectly designed to appeal to me. Except for the page count. I mean, even Gus wrote this adventure for it, and Gus is one of the few people to get the “Not a Complete Fucking Idiot” Byrce award. But, then, all of the pull quotes are from things that seem suspiciously new school/art punk … which is fine except for that they come with the baggage of never having seen anything ever that they didn’t fawn over. Some dude at work was raving about Applebees. Exceptional, wonderful, etc. I asked him to rate it on a scale of ten and he said a three. Uh huh. Righto, I now dismiss out of hand everything dude says. But, also, Gus wrote something for this and he’s NOT an idiot. 

First things first, this is for a campaign world, not yet published (and, evidently, a LONG way off from being published) in which the world is full of bird people. Not animal people, I dont think, so this isn’t isn’t some furry sex fantasy thing. But, also, that’s fairly idiosyncratic AND if the published game world is a long way off why would you publish this so far in advance? I say that with the full knowledge that I don’t understand business.

So, theres this goose kingdom. A kind of viking/norse setting with longhouses and all that jazz. And there’s this grendel running around now causing problems. The goose offers rewards to anyone who goes out and kills it. So, your level one’s are going out to fight what is essentially a dragon. In the form of a giant goose. 

Yes, thank you, I am fully cognizant of what I am writing. But you gotta hang in there. What we have here is something so very interesting. It’s a very well-realized rendition of that thing I love so much: a folk tale. You’ve got some level one fuckwits and a herculean task. Much in the way of Gone Fishin, but with a darker tone. The dragon in question, errr, giant goose (gander? whatever) is a mythic creature. Wearing nine crows of kings. Removing them weaken him. And, he’ll bargain for them also. The ringing of bells damages him … with the side encounters in the pointcrawl featuring a decent few of them and people who guard them. He leaves his lair to rampage … letting the party sneak in behind him. An honorable dragon, you can surrender and it accepts personal duels. This is Smaug, with a bird telling you where to shoot that black arrow. 

Other parts, here, follow in that same vein. A farmhouse to take respite in, the family inside feeding you and gossiping about the Ganshoggr. The next morning it is a ramshackle mess. The food either being a blessing or curse, depending on what you did. That, alone, is a classic. But, if you confront them that night then throw off their disguises and transform in to three mighty champions … missing the arms and legs that went in to the stew they served you. They boldly announce their names … former knightly champions now but thralls to the Ganshoggr … and loathing it, they work against him how they can. Come one now, that’s so dripping with classicism that not even the star wars fanboys can ignore it. And the adventure does this everywhere. It’s quite strong.

Complimenting this is an indoor/outdoor vibe of the map. There are several areas outside the main dungeon, essentially attached to it. That fit in well, and supplement the mythic nature. This place is DIFFERENT, the vibe tells you. Not ruins, but actual locales, it integrates well in a way that I don’t know I’ve ever seen before.

The interactivity is great, complimenting the folk lore themes by not having everything be combat. People to talk to, trick, and, yes, stab if need be. But brave Little Tailoring the thing will probably work out better for you. 

The writing is great. In the fest hall of the goose king, at the start, we get “While the Goskarls sneer and bluster as a matter of pride, most of the court is amused and delighted to chat with the brave and common fools risking their lives on a mythic Journey”. That sets a mood that any DM should be able to instantly run well. Or, more traditionally, how about “Wide stairs open to a pair of low, candle-lit, stone galleries that reek of curdled wounds and stale sweat. Shuffling figures, their shadows huge on the peeling white plastered walls, crouch at the mouths of various niches” Wide stairs. Low galleries. Candle-lit. Reeking. Figures that SHUFFLE. The use of adjectives and adverbs here is excellent. It really paints the picture that I wish most adventures would. And none of these are isolated examples, it hits over and over and over again, as we’ve all come to expect from Gus.

I think the only way this is really lacking is in the journey to the Ganshoggrs lair. The devastation is a little lacking. I don’t know what I expect to see here. Refugees Destroyed lands? Trees with bodies in them? There are a few encounters on the way, but they tend to not be of this variety; they are mre mythic/folk, like a troll under a bridge. I think perhaps some lead in, to transition from the feast hall to the “lower” mythic encounters may have been in order to set the mood.

Also, the text is getting close to the line of being difficult to use. The formatting is a brief intro with a few words bolded and then some text expanding on those bolded words, with appropriate cross-references in place. I think, though, that the font and size are somehow playing a part in things being a little less straight forward than they might otherwise be. It is dense with baroque vocabulary and phrasings … didn’t I just read something about a FInnegans Wake bookclub finally finishing the book after 22 years? This is some wonderful text:” : Anesthetized by death, the Thralls of the Ganshoggr are the pale remnants of warriors slain by the beast. Six of them are missing their heads, the rest an arm or leg; all have foul, infected wounds”  It’s not over the line, but its getting close. 

I don’t know, I think, for those purists, you can swap out the goose references on the fly and run this like you would anything else. It’s a dragon. And instead of a possibility of a black swan transformation of the villain we get the possibility of a black prince ruling the land. It would be rather trivial.

This is free at DriveThru. You’re a fool not to pick it up.

Posted in Reviews, The Best | 16 Comments

Into the Elder Worm

By Jeff Simpson
Buddyscott Entertainment Group
Level 14

The Elder Worm, a purple worm of galactic size, has been released from its cosmic prison and is on the loose! Dare you crawl inside its guts to find out what dreadful creatures make homes in its bones and swim in its stomach? Are you tough enough to journey Into the Elder Worm?

This nineteen page adventure uses four pages to describe 46 rooms inside of a purple room. Yes, the page count/room count is correct. No, it is not anything other than drudgery. Enjoy, fuckwit.

I thought, perhaps, we were done with this sort of thing. But, no. There is still at least one person producing adventures in which you move from room to room and just stab shit. No descriptions to speak of. No interactivity to speak of. Just walk from room to room and stab shit. At level fourteen. In a dungeon that is the inside of a purple worm. I am incredulous. Let us examine this trainwreck.

There’s a REALLY big purple worm running around. You describe to go inside to … look around? See what’s up? Anyway, in through the mouth or butt. Inside you find a bunch of monsters, like fire and frost giants and minotaurs, and then a mind flayer in the brain controlling the thing. Don’t worry, it’s not done with anything of interest.

There are no descriptions here, per se, of the environment you are exploring. The very first room, in the butt, gives you this: “This assembly area is full of troops preparing to move out of the worm to conquer. There are 3 cyclopes, 2 bugbears each handling a basilisk, and 6 minotaurs. They carry no treasure of note and will fight to the death” This is a fairly typical room description. An assembly area. That’s it. Nothing more. Enjoy your worlds of wonder, sucker! And then a list of monsters to fight.That’s fun, right?! Here’s a description of a church, found inside the worm: “This church contains a shrine to Grimbus, God of Worms, Flukes, and Maggots which weeps an icy blue cloud of vapours from pores in the stone.” At least we get icy blue vapours, I guess. So, there’s absolutely no descriptions here, at all. You are a fucking fool to expect some, I guess.

And there is no interactivity. You get to go in to a room and stab something. No one cares about whoever is in the next room. Your only respites from just entering a room and having a DM yell INITIATIVE is the occasional secret door. I guess there is a little city in the intestines, but “the innkeep is a specter” is not exactly what I would interactive. I guess “does not immediately attack” could be see as an interactive encounter? At least in this adventure?

46 rooms in four pages. That’s a pretty decent spread. Too good to be true, as the examples from the text prove. Instead, though, we get fifteen pages that are NOT keys. Fifteen pages of wasted effort. All of the time and effort spend on those fifteen pages SHOULD have gone in to those fucking room keys. THAT’S the adventure here. Why pay attention to all of the other shit, the appendices and explanations and intro and all that bullshit? Why not just put that effort in to the keys? Because you think they are good enough? Here’s a tip for every adventure writer ever: Your keys suck shit. I don’t give a shit who you are. Your keys suck. Put some effort in to them. Yeah, sure, real artists ship. At some point you have to call it done and move on. But until then you should be working on your fucking keys. All of that other shit you’re typing the fuck up? That’s a distraction. Work on your keys some more. Then work on them some more. If you don’t hate the thing you’ve created, yet, and are not disgusted by looking at it another day, then you’re not done yet. I don’t get why people don’t get this. Work on your fucking keys. THAT’S the adventure. And it’s not perfect, yet. 

This adventure, though, is just pure drudgery. ENter room. Have a fight. Next room. I loathe

This is free at DriveThru, and thus, no preview.

Posted in My Life is a Living Fucking Hell, Reviews | 45 Comments

The Count, the Castle, & the Curse

By R.B. Bo
Deficient Games
Levels 1-3

An invitation—by a Count of a name you’ve never heard. From a Castle in a land unknown around these parts. And a Curse which plagues him, pleading for each of your aid—by name—in exchange for an offer too tempting to ignore.   By next morning a horse-drawn carriage awaited each of you. The dark horses stood silent, their black eyes seeing everything and nothing. The sharp-collared driver shifted on his bench, mumbling to himself. You climbed in anyway. The carriage lurched forward the moment you clicked the door shut.

This 42 page adventure is a castle with about 25 rooms; a respun Castle Ravenloft, the original. It’s got good descriptions and an interesting pre-1e take on encounter/interactivity. But, you’ve got to deal with some pretension to run it. And I, the Padishah Emperor of pretension, am also allergic to it.

This adventure is a respun Ravenloft. We’ve got a castle, a fortune teller, a sun sword, mothers icon and tome, beating heart, and dude McDuderson running around having encounters with the party before he big bads them at midnight. It is fairly remarkable in that it has managed to do what we all wish but almost never succeeds: updating something to modern formatting/sensibilities. And I mean that in a positive way. The number of times I’ve typed something like “this needs a heavy edit or rework”, particularly with Dungeon mag, gives way to dreams of doing this. Some have tried, almost always failing miserably. This designer mostly succeeds. It’s like they did a D&D-Mine but left out all (most?) of the shitty new rules ideas that everyone shoves in to theirs. 

The map. We get a side view of the castle with connecting hallways and rooms with page numbers next to them. But, also, I suspect you will never use the map. At the end of each room entry is a little note on room exits, which I usually loathe. It describes the way to the next room. Thus it is kind of point-crawly. But, also, it gives you that “what you hear/see/etc in the next room” thing that a lot of adventures are missing. There’s not keying, or, perhaps rather, the keying is the page number of the room, which is given the in the exit information. It’s manages to take two things I tend to gripe about, the lack of keys and exit information, and turn them around to instead have them provide value in running the adventure. That’s interesting. Mini maps are included, but not really needed. 

The room descriptions here are also quite interesting. The designer has a penchant for those sorts of terse and evocative descriptions that I think both elevate an adventure and make it easier to run. “You wake to sloshing water and clinking chains. Smells of decay & stagnant water. Darkness surrounds you, save for a single candlelight floating between your broken cells.  Dangling feet above water from a single fetter” We’ll allow the use “You” here since it’s the “you wake up” first description form the railroad hook. Another is “A large underground chamber illuminated by wall mounted candles. The air is heavy and thick with dust.” And while I’m never really a fan of the word “large”, or other boring descriptor words, it IS working hard to create a vibe for the room. Which is what a good initial room description should be doing. And, I mentioned before the exit information, like “to the left faint echoes of screams and the sharp crack of bullwhips.” That’s what you want. The interactivity here is also fairly interesting. You do have some fights. And there is a series of encounters with the more memorable people int he castle. Basically, each time you meet them (thanks to the wandering table) they do something more interesting than the last time, thanks to a provided table unique to each one. And yet this is not the interactivity that makes the adventure interesting. It’s got this weird mashup of styles … something like OD&D meets a video game encounter, maybe is a good way to describe it? There’s this non-standard thing about it, but, also, can you see one of these being a really good encounter in, say, an old point and click title. And I mean both of those in a complimentary way. There’s just some weird shit going on in these rooms. There’s a room with a grandfather clock with a skeleton butler dude tinkering with it. If you offer to help he crawls behind the clock and shouts instructions to you … which the player must then repeat verbatim. Or, a baby being born in one room, that if you take it with you rapidly ages to maturity through the adventure. It’s weird shit. And, it generally has some impact on the adventure, not just weird for the sake of being weird. 

If you wanted to run Ravenloft in one four to six hour session then this is the thing for you. It’s a neat respin of it and good positive example of someone accomplishing an update of something older. 

I did mention the pretension, right? This starts with the following hook: “An invitation—by a never heard. From a around these parts. And a plagues him, pleading for each of your aid—by name—in exchange for an offer too tempting to ignore.” What is it? Never mentioned. You start after having been attacked. You’re in the hanging water room I quoted earlier. You have till midnight, then the count shows up to finish you off. So, better find some gear in the rooms and/or escape before then. *yawn* Also, no one kills you in this. If you die, but monster or trap, you get found later, still alive, huddling in a corner. The goal of the monsters/traps are to raise your stress levels for you final encounter with the count. Which WILL happen. You’re told to make sure the party understands that the count WILL be showing up at a set time, in real time. Like, say, you announce he’s showing up in six hours, real time. Uh huh. It’s got this concept of stress. When scary things happen you get more stress. That raises the AC of your enemies and makes saves, etc more difficult. You can lower the stress also. The adventure sprinkles trinkets throughout. When you find one the player gets to describe their relationship to the object from their past life. You find things like Moms Perfume, or your favorite bedtime story. I swear, I’m not making this up. 

But, whatever. Yanking all of that shit out and tossing in some treasure and getting rid of the time limit shit would turn this from its pretension kick to something interesting to run as a D*D adventure. More so than I6, I think. 

It’s Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $0. I’d download it just to see how they managed to pull this off, at that price.–the-Curse?1892600

Posted in No Regerts, Reviews | 3 Comments

Mantle of the Basilisk

By Allen Farr
WinterBlights Challenge
Level ? Why the fuck would you think you deserve to know the level before you dumped some money in to the designers pocket?

Contact has been lost with the remote mountain town of Thurby Hill. Rumours say the town lies deserted and the Baroness and her retinue have fled. In reality, something sinister stalks the town and now resides in Thurby Manor. Will this foray into the wilderness be your last? Will you, like the townsfolk, get caught in the crossfire and find yourself petrified – quite literally?

This twelve page adventure features a manor/caves with about 25 rooms. You will rejoice in how generic it is, with the usual 5e plotline. Oh, wait, it’s OSR. “At least it’s not total garbage.” is the best I can come up with.

Did you read that little marketing hook?! “Will this foray in to the wilderness be your last?” Oh, please, let it be so!

So, no one has heard from this town in awhile and you’re sent (by someone I guess, it’s never made clear who) to go check it out. On the way there you see some dudes with a broken down wagon chucking a broken statue in to the river. They’ve been hired to take some statues from the town temple to a wizards tower nearby. You will never hear about the mage and his tower again, so, I hope the party doesn’t go there. You get to town. There are people there. While everything is not fine, it’s also not the case that they should not be out of contact with the rest of the world. Ok, I guess we’re ignoring that. Anyway, you go off to the local manor home, explore it to find more statues, and then in the basement find some basilisk and an evil alchemist. It’s good to see the evil alchemist trope return. Maybe it never left? It’s perhaps one of the easiest reason ever to make your baddie do something, the anti-science bent of the modern world creeping in to the D&D adventures. Anyway, it seems theBaroness let dudes out of prison to go kill basilisk in the forest. Then she did the same with the workhouses. That caused dudes family to get stones and now he’s pissed and taking it out on the former criminals who got all Wagnered out of prison. Why? Who knows. 

There’s not really anything to this adventure. You wander around the manor seeing statues then make it to the basement and kill a few basiliks before killing the dude. Along the way there is a simple trap or two. “A potion vial drops on some goblin statues and turns them back to flesh!” Uh huh.Perfect. An adventure that is rooted in cause and effect and needs to explain magic. Perfect. Just perfect. Seriously, almost every room is  devoid of anything interesting. Including description. “There may be a few coins sewn in to a cloak or two” or “there may be undead, to be determined by the DM,” That’s not the job of the designer. Telling the DM to do it. That’s not the job of the designer. It’s the designers job to do the work. But that, it seems, is lost on the designer.

At best, the adventure is not HORRIBLE. The room descriptions, while boring and vague, are not overly long. I mean, they don’t actually provide an evocative description, or have any interactivity beyond a fight or two, but, hey, at least they are not long and hard to scan. Walk from room to room and stab a thing or two and then the adventure is over. Yeah!

And, thus, this adventure is not total garbage. The verbosity has been kept in check. The premise is shit. There are unresolved things left everywhere for the DM to figure out, from the mage to the treasure (and the stunning lack of it in an OSR adventure). There is absolutely nothing to recommend this adventure to a DM. But, also, it doesn’t make you want to claw your eyes out. So, you know, for anyone else this would be four stars. For me, though, I just don’t care about it. At all.

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages. You get to see the set up, the village (what here is of it) and the outside of the manor along with some of the first room. So, decent preview. Maybe another room page would be in order.

Posted in Reviews | 3 Comments

The Last of Summer’s Light

By Frank Mills, Greg Lambert
Dueling Dragon Adventures
Levels 1-3

In the shadowed vale of Hazelmoor, Where the twisted trees and silence snore, There lies a secret, dim and deep, Of folk gone wrong and the oaths they keep. From man to man go tales of old, Of a wild god, untamed, and bold, And those who dared its name to scold, Burnt to ash, or so it’s told. So woe to thee, if thee draws near, To hear their chants and feel their fear, And witness as the beast draws near, In circles black; your soul they shear!

This twenty page adventure is an exercise in frustration. For the DM trying to run it. It’s got a bit of wicker man-ish shit in it, but not done well at all. It’ long paragraph cinematic focused garbage

The Harpers have lost contact with a dude in a town. You’re sent in to find out what has happened. Ok, so, it’s not the Harpers, with the Watchers, but its the Harpers The dude, the local innkeep, stopped sending letters to them a couple of months ago. Except when you get to the town he’s been gone for about a week, says the dude in the inn. Except somewhere else, when you find a bloody letter, he’s been gone for a a couple of days. The adventure contradicts itself several times. Likewise there’s this witchfinder on the hunt for witches and wizards to hang, burn etc. He got to town a week ago. Or maybe a couple of days ago according to another note. Except, also, when you are in the mayors house the witchfinder bursts through the door to announce himself and that hes here to burn witches. So, I guess he just got here? There’s a mute girl in this adventure, except shes not mute, she whispers to black goats. Except she also talks to you later. So, I guess shes not mute. The adventure love nothing so much as to not have its facts straight, which is going to frustrate the players to no end, but, whatever.

Whats is supposed to happen here is tat youtube to town, find the dude missing, go look at the wicker man they are constructing in the town square, follow the mute girl, look at the dudes house, get attacked by cultists, get their key and somehow learn you should go in to the forest where the key lights up and leads you to a small dungeon. WHen you come out it is suddenly night and you are surrounded by villagers. Back in town you see the witchkeeper about to be sacrificed, are attacked by villagers, and then the giant burning effigy comes to life and attacks. Maybe you untie the unpleasant witchfinder and get to work killing folk? The End.

This has got a couple of things working for it. First, the witchfinder dude is totally unpleasant and cruel. And, yet, dude IS right. The entire town ARE cultists bringing back an evil (or at best “cruelty of nature” neutral) and they really do need some murdering and rooting out of evil. Second, the adventure has a town wandering table that has at least a half dozen or so nicely creepy things in it. From a swarm of rats who turn out to be eating a human hand to the Witchfinder dude standing in the middle of the street in the rain, just staring at the inn at night, asi if just waiting for something to come out of it. There ARE some groovy things going on in that table. The table is far too big to support the adventure, given its size (three evenings of play my ass, this is couple of hours of play at best …)

The hook here is that your patron senses/fears great evil may be at hand, because innkeep dude missed sending him a letter and a barrel of ale, and you’re sent to investigate. Very 1960’s EVIIIIILLLLLL dramatic. It would have been far better if you’re sent to look in to, like, eight agents who didn’t send a letter this month. Someone fell off a horse. Someone went to see his mom,  a letter got lost/stolen … a bunch of little mundane things. And THEN a Oh Yeah The Entire Town Is Evil thing. 

Let’s see … no level range on the cover. Also, inside, we learn that there can be no magic users or animal people in the party. Great! Good to know AFTER You buy the adventure, I guess.

Let’s see … when you find the innkeep he dies in one round. Perfect drama, I guess. You need t get a key from the rando cultists attack. It’s covered in dist. Except its been hanging around a cultists neck. So, you know. Makes no sense. 

It’s all written out in long paragraph form, like a CoC adventure. Even the little dungeon is just explained in text. It’s fucking nonsense. It’s all mixed and mashed up, I guess in “plot” order. It’s as if you were having a game tonight and needed an adventure and write down a few ideas on an index card “mute girl talks to black goat and disappears in to mist.” And, then, you expanded that in to twenty pages without really adding anything of meaning to it. It’s just long form garbage with no formatting to turn it in to the sort of reference document you need when running a game. 

I did mention the end fight with 4d6 cultist villagers and a giant 8HD burning effigy, right?  At level one?

With no formatting and an emphasis of forcing cinematic scenes, this is a garbage adventure

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1.The preview is six pages. You just gotta intuit that this IS the adventure … everything is like those first six pages.

Posted in Reviews | 3 Comments

The Gallery of Wondrous Sundries

Nickolas Zachary Brown
Five Cataclysms
Five Cataclysms
Mid Levels

Welcome to the Gallery of Wondrous Sundries, dear Adventurers! Here you’ll find all manner of things that’ll leave you positively astounded! Items and creatures and…things from your world and many others, cursed and enchanted and bewitched and rigged for all manner of fascinating and dark purposes! Beware the Lower Galleries, for invaders have put it in a state of chaos; exhibits run amok! So have a wondrous day future exhib- er, dear visitors!

This 47 page adventure presents a museum dungeon level with about 150 rooms. It’s a funhouse-ish level, with a linear/branching design and vegetable people. Yes, you read that right. Less than I am looking for, unfortunately.

This is the museum level. Every megadungeon needs a museum level, it seems, and this is the one for the five cataclysms megadungeon. I’m usually down for some Five Cataclysms shit, but, this IS a museum level and I think I almost always loathe those. Too passive, in general, I think, as a concept. Anyway, this is the museum level. It’s divided in to two sections. The upper half is the standard museum level with robot guards, jellyfish cleaners, things to not touch, and a spectral beetle curator. The second half, behind one choke point, you’re given permission to loot as long as you kill the invaders. They are the culinars; dudes that all look like food. Yeah. Tomato berserkers and baby carrots. Those are actual entries from the wanderer table. 

I don’t know what the fuck to say about this. The food people thing? The usual passivity of  a museum level? I mean, you go in to room after room and see an exhibit. You can immediately get attacked by it or you can look at it and decide if you want to fuck with it or not, with little indication of if you SHOULD fuck with it or not. Room after room of this. I suppose it’s the lack of variety in the play that really gets to me. If every room is a Grimtooth then … why? Why bother? 

A typical room description might be “ Upon a lectern rests a human-leather tome and beside it rests an inkwell, a quill, and a razor. The inkwell is empty, but stained with old blood.” So, pretty to the point. Not very evocative. The point is interacting with the object in the room, not the vibe. THis is, in fact, one of the better rooms. The book is written in blood, with many blank pages. FIlling the inkwell with blood causes the pages to be filled in more and more. The story of a barbarian tribe that, as you refill the inkwell, stat to overrun the world. Which actually happens in the real world. Except you probably wont know that until you exit the dungeon. Decisions only matter if you know you making the decision. Although, I guess, you can intuit whats going to happen; it is, after all, a book written in blood from an inkwell of blood you have to personally refill. Anyway, that’s the vibe of the descriptions and what a decent room interactivity looks like.

And that’s a pretty positive example. Another room has a “blue metal device”, whatever that is. No description. Ever. Great. But if you destroy it then you can take the blue spoon that ethereally therered to it. I don’t know. Maybe I’m missing some pop culture reference? How do you destroy a blue metal device?

Of the more serious entries we get this wandering monster: “A Statue of Death, Finger Outstretched Hostile; Glides through the gallery, attempting to poke its victim with its outstretched finger. Will retreat once a kill is secured. He has, of course, Finger of Death. 

So, somewhat jokey. A little more than I prefer in my adventures. Or, perhaps, a different type of humor than I prefer in my adventures. Room descriptions that are less evocative and more … fun house? In other words, here’s a thing, do you want to fuck with it? The map doesn’t really support anything other than museum play. There’s just not enough going on here. It needs more. Factions. Sub-zones. Some things to take advantage of, in the greater context outside of a single room. I guess I’m saying that it’s a very STATIC level. And static levels are not very fun levels. 

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is broke. I can has sadz?

Posted in Reviews | 4 Comments

The Buried Settlement of Khandar Thung

By 1st Adventures
1st Adventures
Levels 1-3

The Buried Settlement of Khandar Thung is a First Edition adventure designed for a group of 3-6 first level players. Characters can advance to level 3 if they successfully complete the adventure. Embark on an epic quest in the enigmatic village of Riverfront Dale, a place plagued by mysterious disappearances. Venture into treacherous landscapes, face ancient magic, and delve deep beneath the mountain to unveil the secrets of a long-lost buried settlement. Will you reveal the truth and save the village?

This “Thirty page” adventure features two dungeons with about 35 rooms total. It’s a VTT only adventure, requiring Roll20 to even look at. An attempt to go to new places, technically, it fails at every turn.

We are not luddites at the 3.048 meterpole. Pushing the frontiers of adventure design, trying new things, finding better ways are embraced here. I mean, it’s gotta be better than the same old second edition formula, right? Time marches on, friend, and we need to get with the meta! In 2023 it just seems like the polite thing to do is include a map and/or art handouts that can be easily uploaded and shown to your players on some VTT platform. I mean, in person is absolutely the best experience but I recognize that virtual is here to stay and thus we should do some kind of bare minimum to bring value to that platform also. 

How about, though, the VTT exclusive adventures? The ones that exist no where else but on VTT? You don’t get a download, just an import in to Roll20. That’s … interesting. 1st Adventures here has one of those for us to try, for 1e. I am a bit perplexed on the No Downloads thing, since that would make it far, far easier for the DM to get an overview of the adventure and do a read-through, but, sure, I’m open minded. Which will only lead you down path in D&D adventures … this is shit.

There are four scenes, I guess. Little girl yelling for help in the forest. Then find a witch in the forest. Then go in to the caves. Then go from the caves in to the lost city. There’s supposed to be this town also. There’s a photo of it and it’s fucking hyperlinked all the fuck over the place. There is no detail of it though. We’re supposed to learn that a lot of people go missing, but, we get nothing but an artist rendition of a village. Perfect. If you can’t handle this much then your selected format isn’t worth the virtually free bits it’s composed of.

The map and DM text is on the same “page’ in the adventure. I don’t think this works well for screen shares, but whatever. The very first read-aloud in the adventure is “You walk through a green and lush valley.” Yup., It’s all in second person POV. This, alone, should be enough to condemn an adventure to hell for eternity. 

Oh, wait, wait … the adventure is supposed to get you to level three. All six of you. What is that, at least 24,000gp in loot, if we assume 20,000gp per? The first caves have about 1300. Hmmm … me thinks we’re not going to hit level three in this one, kiddos. 

Ok, so, full color maps that are terrible for the DM to read. They don’t even look that great, being muddled and full of useless detail. One of my favorite parts is the fonts used. The background is black. The text is white. The higlighted color is purple. SO you get a purple font on a black background. This is nigh impossible to read. Why not just make the highlight color charcoal instead? 

Encounter one is “Emerge from the forest, you see a girl running towards you in desperation. She has a pale face and her eyes reflect fear and worry. “Please, help me!” she says with a trembling voice. “My older brother, Ashle, has disappeared. I don’t know what to do, please, help me.” — Yup, ‘emerge’ from the forest. And the the next lines, for the DM text say “ they can decide whether they want to help her or not. If they decide to help her.” This is what we get. This is what your money buys you. The DM text letting us know that the players can have their characters help the girl. Or not. 

The witch of the forest? She’s a druid. And the fucking garbage text REFERS to her as a druid. In read-aloud. This is TERRIBLE. We DO. NOT. do this. She’s a fucking witch. She looks like a witch. Describe her lik she’s an old hag. Don’t fucking ruin the fucking mystery by telling the fucking party that shes a druid. And ESPECIALLY not in the read-aluod. Fucking christ. 

Which tracks with the rest of the read-aloud, which over-reveals room details left and right, destroying the back and forth between the players and the DM that makes up the heart of D&D. 


It wants to hyperlink. We get 300 hyperlinks to that artist rendition of the village. In the most ridiculous places. Like, when you free prisoners in the caves it hyperlinks to the photo because the village name is mentioned. Just a simple search and replace, I’m sure. And, the creatures, which are hyperlinked to stats? Well, some are. And some are not. And those that are get 5e char sheets and some weird ass textual stat block that is clearly programmatic. 

THis is just fucking garbage. Fight after fight with almost no interactivity beyond that. Garbage read-aloud. No real formatting. It’s just fucking terrible. So much so that I feel the need to point out that all VTT adventures can’t possibly be as bad as this, can they?

1e my ass.

This is $7 at DriveThru. No preview, since you can’t own it unless you have a Roll20 account.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, My Life is a Living Fucking Hell, Reviews | 3 Comments

Thralls of the Sun

By Olav Nygard, Johan Nordinge
Cyclopean Games
Blood & Bronze
Level 1

Enter the Slave Pits, where the wretched are sent to perish. You have stepped away from the light of life-giving Shamash; your trespasses have forced the divine eye of the heavens to dismiss you into the shadows, for if you ever met his gaze again his flaming wrath would surely strike you down. But one day, maybe, you can win your freedom back: by hard work, by cunning or by blood in the Sun’s court.

This 48 page mesopotamia themed adventure features a dungeon with four levels and about 110 rooms. Think of it more as a small region or town and not a dungeon … but with dungeon-like elements. It might be groovy as a three-shot or so or someone looking for something different. Which is a weird way of me saying it’s interesting but a little unworkable?

We’re in some kind of mesopotamia land. You get Shamash and Akkadian references, but it also seems a little dark sunish outside with some ancient civ stuff also lurking around. Okey doke, got it? You’ve been chucked in to the slave pits. You live in a big central cave underground with the other slaves and get taken to work in a tunnel each morning by some guards. Who are the only people with any lights. Oh, also you’re wearing a collar that explodes when any sunlight touches it. Ok, intro is over … what do you do next?

I’m gonna have to jump around a bit for this review to make any sense. The adventure is described in four levels. The upper two are the main levels. This is where the big slave cave, tunnels out to the sunlight, guard posts, work sites and so on. Let’s call this a kind of “town.” And then, down below, are two more levels. This has a tomb in it and is more dungeon-like, at least in the way we think of traditional dungeons. 

But, before the keys start, there are a coupe of pages of notes, including a How To Run This section. It suggests the adventure keys be used in four separate ways, along with some atmospheric notes and themes to go with each section. First, have the party get dumped in. Darkness, despair, exploding head slave collars, etc. Then introduce the slave camp. You finding your way in the “big city”, exploring the slave camp, being sent to work … and finding a light so you can explore the tunnels. Then you’re in the tunnels and exploring, like a more traditional dungeon, and looking for a way out. This is going to be a combination of something like “exploring the kings palace”, since there are guard posts around, and exploring a dungeon, since its dark, unknown, and does in fact have some dungeon levels and puzzles in it. Along the way, both in the slave camp and in the keys, you’ll find a decent number of puzzles (giant heads!) and NPC’s to treat with. And most of them are looking to play Let’s Make A Deal. In fact, the adventure might seem a little slower than most because of this. You both are and are not in a dungeon, and this is one of the better products that communicates that kind of vibe. (Although, I don’t think there are a lot of products that are, appropriately, going for that vibe.) You’ve got a kind of slower “town” pace, with talking to folk, with some Work Your SLave Shift stuff going on in between, while you plan and plot. For once, one of these “escape as prisoners” things really does have enough room to breathe and let the players grow and explore. Most of these sorts of things handle the escape in the very first room; it’s really just an excuse to strip the characters of their gear. But this puts them in an environment large enough, and complex enough, for them to plan and work their little schemes. Sneaking off to explore. Trying to get food and supplies. Making deals with unsavoury folk. And this is all great. If you think of this like a kind of “escape the slum” town adventure then you’ve got the right mindset. Kind of. I mean, you are still slaves. 

Our room descriptions are decent, for the most part. Nothing great but solid enough to support the adventure at hand. Things like: “Empty. Damp walls gleaming with moisture. A rotten rope and some splintered logs on the stony and debris-covered floor hint at the original structure.”

There’s really quite a bit going on here and a lot of good encounters/situations to help support the basic premise of the play. The mesopotamia theme is gonna be rough to work in, and continue on with. It’s meant to be the first game, so, starting with nothing, in the slave pits, is not exactly a gimp. And, in fact, the degree of agency the players have over their characters situations is really quite interesting. A little more on guard bribes, or general slave uprisings, or the like might be in order, since it’s VERY light in this regard. But, if you see the players as loners and/or the general populace clearly not in to going all spartacus, then you’ve got a solid little adventure for continued play. Every resource found is a treasure  … with real treasures being used to bribe people for more of the basics. And it does this all without going too far down the path of torture porn. Just enough to bring the setting home and makes those simple supplies worthwhile while not so much as to make it a grind or eye rolling. 

This is $5 at DriveThru. The eighteen page preview shows you the intro sections, a few keys, and the very good map of level one. You should be able to infer things from there.

Posted in No Regerts, Reviews | 7 Comments

The Ruin in the Savage Wastes

By Connor McCloskey
Black Gamberson
Level 1

10 years ago, a catastrophic earthquake struck a stoic keep on the borderlands of human civilization. Three days later, the keep was attacked from within. How, no one knows. The few survivors say that daemon men from under the ground breached from within the fortress itself, and butchered all who stood against them, leaving the heroic Castellan and his guard unable to mount an effective defense.  A decade later, the eldest brother of the Castellan is to be named a Baron, and has sent out a decree; Anyone who can bring him his fallen brother’s sword in one month’s time will receive 200 Silver, and a hectare of land in his Barony.

This eight page dungeon presents two levels of a certain ruined Keep in a Borderlands location. Great evocative writing, good formatting, and enough interactivity at level one to not make me mad. It also gets purple in places and could use a little more focus when it comes to the monster descriptions. 

This is a duel version adventure, for OSE and Shadowdark. And while duel stated would normally indicate something bad, and while I have been on a poor run with Shadowdark, it is also true that the better Shadowdark adventures DO in fact channel a decent OSR vibe. This is also the first adventure by a new designer. And it’s got three stars on DriveThru. New rule: five star drivethru products and three star products are actually pretty ok. Seriously, whoever gave this tree stars is a fuck. Sure, in some perfect world then this might be a perfectly average adventure. But that’s a world in which 95% of shit don’t suck. 

So, ye olde keep is hit by an earthquake and then some grimlocks tunnel up from below and wipe everyone out. Not grimlocks, in name, but they are grimlocks. Primitive humans, they eat your adrenal glands. What’s that western movie, the one with the grimlock cannibals? Bone Hatchet or something like that? Yeah, that’s what we’ve got here. Some sub-human cannibals. 

And let me tell you, dude brings the vibe for that. “The sound of a rabbit screaming a

death curdle. The Ruk beyond break off its legs at the small joints and drink it’s terrified blood.” Ouchies! This sort of thing is done a couple of times. It does a decent job of communicating the vibe without explicitly appealing to gire. It also, I think, would motivate the players. And player motivation is THE BEST way to get the people at the table engaged. In one room we’ve got a bandit, quietly weeping, hanging from a pillar in chains: “Significant amount of face (including eyes) and chunks of legs and hands eaten. Wants only to die. Begs. Name is Marsor. Asks that Hana in Last Tree be told that he loved her dearly but never said. If Hana is with the expedition she will weep heartily for him, say sweet goodbyes, and end him herself. “ Yeah, it’s kind of tropey. But, tropes exist because they are good when done well, and I think this is done well. It’s visceral, again without, IMO, being gory. There’s this appeal to human emotion also, real human things, which helps ground it. That’s some grim fucking shit right there, even without your (potential) hireling doing her thing. Fuck those dudes! Time to homo sapien those shits! Note also, that this is not drug out in a paragraph or two. It gets in, stabs you in the liver and gets out again. That’s how you fucking do it!

There are spots where the writing is quite good. Look, we’re not talking Paris Review, but, also, this is a fucking D&D adventure, so almost anyuthing not cringy will work. There’s a little village, the new last outpost of civilization, included. The village of Last Tree. It has the last living real oak tree before things turn to scrub oaks. The village overview ends with “the tree died last year.” Sweeeett!

The inn gets the following description. I’m also including the first potential hireling:: “Hot meals, warm ale, cool stone floor, ice cold bar wench. A beautiful stone fireplace; not used. Cheap board (3 GP) and drink (3 SP), expensive food (3 GP). Thugs for Hire (Bandit stats): Half a share of treasure. Tinal -Neutral-Tattooed, slaps back, in deep gambling debt. RP: Untrustworthy Jason Mamoa.” Terse. Good description. For both the inn and the NPC. Gives us a vibe and lets the DM run with it. That’s what the fuck a good description should do. Nary a wasted word. And just about every single description in this adventure is done that way. Written to give a good vibe in a minimal amount of words. Formatting contributes pretty well to this. Bolding, bullets, whitespace all combine for something that is pretty easy to read. Not quite rock star levels but still really really good without falling in to the OSE minimalism format. 

A few notes. There is an overland portion that is rather week. Kind of like a six hex hex crawl. It’s doing nothing. And, it has a rift that could be confused for the valley in B2. The Unfathomable Crevasse. It’s directly between the ruins and the town, so it invites exploration … with none really given or much of a description. The entire overland is much like that and is not effective.

The text gets quite purple in places. The fortress to the north looms dejectedly. Or, a wall that looms above the ruins of the keep, silent, fuming, mourning despair. Uh huh. I’m down for some looming but not the mourning and fuming and dejectedly shit is a little much. I get it, we’re trying to inject that despair and forlorn vibe. But that ain’t it.

There’s also an issue with the monsters. We’ve got a wight, some “spirits” and the Rak baddies. The wight, the former Castellan, could use a good solid description. He’s gonna maybe be a central part of the adventure. (Note, he’s not really focused on in the adventure, but, his presence is there and he can be used to advantage or encountered as a baddie … good focus there without going on and on.) Same for the Rak. Bring those evocative descriptions to them. And, there’s a decent number of “spirits” in the adventure. Some are just apparitions, but some, it seems, are hostile. Telling which is which is not always easy. And, I assume that “spirit” is a creature in the OSE manual? This could be done much better.

Finally, you’re there to get the Castellans old sword. A symbol of power for the new baron. You’re returning it to a priest.wise woman in the town, the representative of the baron. When you get back to town with the sword and go see her she MIGHT be a little off. Cause she’s an imposter now, her body buried under the floorboards. “This person is an impostor, a Cultist of Ramlaat, whose influence grows in the region.” Noice! Good complication when returning to town for something that most folk would just write off as a pretext. 

Really good effort here. I might point to some order of battle issues, the overland, a little sparseness in the interactivity as reason to go No Regerts. Soe may be due to the size, or lack thereof, of the adventure. But, really, quite good. 

This is free at DriveThru.

Posted in No Regerts, Reviews | 21 Comments