By Barry Blatt
This sandboxy thing is set in historical England (Duh!) right before the civil war. It’s big, at 128 pages. It’s full of people and places and things to get into trouble with. It has three horrific possible endings. It’s hard for me to see how you can use this, effectively, in play without a couple of read throughs and MUCH notes taking.
You get a rough outline of what’s going on, a couple of pages each on the major NPC’s, a description of the area, in very general terms along with some potential complications in each area. You also get a description of the major adventure villages/locations, again with things to complicate the goings-on, a brief timeline, and a brief description of three possible endings as well as some historical context. All in about 128 pages.
I like my adventures with a strong social element. In dungeons I usually talk about faction play, with various groups wants different things, and perhaps even factions within the factions, to spice things up even more. In towns and villages I like it when the various folks have some sort of relationship with someone else. They hate betty, they want george’s leather apron, etc. This spices things up and provides motivation for the party and for the NPC’s. Besides, with A LOT of stuff going on then there’s the chance for more chaos, and I think D&D thrives on chaos. This sandbox does that. Just about every place you go and every person you meet has something going on. They hate Bill. They are secretly an X. You can find Y. On and on and on it goes. This is the primary strength of the adventure. Lots going on, lots to interact with.
That is also the weakness of the adventure. It’s not that there is too much but rather that it is organized rather poorly. This combines with a nudge, nudge, wink, wink writing style that is a bit too verbose for its own good. This is not a book for running a game at the table. In spite of the 128 pages there’s no real reference material for the DM that’s targeted at actually running the thing, except a map. There are timelines, hidden in various areas. There are random people on the road tables, or rumor tables, scattered about. The list of potential NPC’s is pretty long.
What this needs, badly, are two reference sheets. One needs to show the various timelines, expanded with the various NPC’s. Assuming the party didn’t just show up and fuck things up, the main plot would move along like this and the various little NPC’s subplots would move along like this, along with a cross-reference of where they would take place. Reference sheet two needs a list of various NPC’s. Their various personalities, in three or four words, where they are, and what they want and/or how they interact with the timeline.
It’s not that there’s too much content. It’s that the content is not organized enough for the amount that there is. Overlapping major NPC’s plotlines, all of the minor plotlines, the various NPC’s, and the scattered things of interest. In particular, there are some clues scattered about and the party is going to need to be poked in certain directions if this is going to be anything other than aimless wandering put to an end by Call The Stars. Bringing everything under control, dropping hints, channeling the party, and responding to their various wanderings, who they meet and what they see and how it relates to the larger plot, is what’s missing here.
What are your expectations for a 128 page adventure that takes place over a four or five days? Is this a fluff book, that you expect to rip apart, take copious notes, and get inspired from, or is this a resource to run, generally as written, at the table? If it’s the later, it needed to do a MUCH better job at saving the DM time and effort.
This is available on DriveThru.