By Dave Tackett
Quasar Dragon Games
A wave of pain and death sweeps over the town of Sligo during a festive faire and
market, causing fear and panic. As the characters investigate this horror, they find that is just part of an ongoing, multifaceted plot to drive away all humans and their allies. With giants, demons, hags, undead, and more lined up against them, the characters will have their work cut out for them.
There’s a lot of enthusiasm in the OSR community. That’s not always matched by focus and sometimes a vision doesn’t get translated on to paper well. Our 10-12th level characters experience the impact of an evil energy wave and, presumably, set out to find the cause out of the goodness of their cold cold murderhobo hearts. There are several smaller encounters that lead up to the big bad, and programmed ending. The adventure has A LOT of text, which is almost uniformly unfocused, meandering and verbose. It also has a couple of nice encounters and generally handles the monsters more as NPC’s, which is very nice to see. The writing needs to be more focused and there needs to be more ADVENTURE and less mundane.
The adventure is verbose, and more than that it’s verbose in describing the mundane. Lengthy descriptions of the mundane, lengthy read-aloud that add little to no value, lengthy descriptions of actions taken by NPC’s and monsters. None of this is interesting. None of this adds anything of real value. Here’s a read-aloud that, at least, is short: “Bare stairs lead downward. On one wall is a tapestry showing a traditional brewery.“ This is the soul of tercity compared to several f the other read-alouds, and the read-aloud is then augmented by lengthy DM paragraphs. Needed information gets lost in the text. The read-aloud assumes. That you have torches. That you did X. That you woke the orcs when you came in. Not good. And a textbook reason why read-aloud is generally bad, especially in higher level adventures. This lengthy text, the filler information, is the primary reason that the adventure is 62 pages long. Well, the last 22 or so pages are just appendices for magic and monsters and maps, but, still, seven or so mini-dungeons in 40 pages is not a tight adventure. And it long for no reason. One underground area is little more than a single long hallway with jail cells off to each side, packed in. Skeletons in one, wraiths in another, more skeletons, vrocks, etc. Original it is not.
It does do several things right. The rumor table is exactly the sort I like to see to see in adventures. It’s specific. It’s bits of overheard conversation. “There’s no invisible pig, Ealga. It’s a friendly joke played on outsiders and children.” or “I swear I seen it, a giant cockroach the size of my daughters pony! Up fast the monk house!” These add color, they are specific, they aren’t’ just boring fact communication. It’s that idiosyncratic nature, the specificity, that makes an adventure worth running for the DM as a play aid.
Likewise it does a great job in the way it treats the monsters. No fighting to the death here, mostly. You can bribe monsters, they will plead, even the bosses! In particularly there’s a nice lich, one of the bigger bads in the plot, who doesn’t really give a shit to die. That’s quite nice, as is the devil you can rescue you will then pledge to serve you .. and follow through! OMG! A monster that doesn’t backstab you!
Every once in awhile there’s a small nugget of a nice scene. The inciting event is the evil wave of energy that kills the old and infirm and turns them into zombies … including babies and toddlers. That’s a nice little bit, as are a couple of the flowing-red-eyes zombies.
Mostly though, this feel unnaturally long. And weirdly non-OSR. Lot’s of low-level undead. MAYBE a little light on the treasure front, and most of it is book magic items. There’s none of those “conversion mistakes” like long rests and DC checks that would give this away as a conversion. It’s more like … mundane?
This is available at DriveThru.
Thank you for the constructive criticism. Detailed reviews like this, with both positives and negatives, are very helpful.