By John Fredericks
Sharp Mountain Games
The elven alchemist Corlue needs brave adventurers to help him locate a rare plant in the northern woods. This plant can help him locate an ancient undead king who seeks to return to life and conquer the world. Who will aid him in his quest?
This is a 28 page adventure, with about fourteen pages of actual adventure, primarily inside a small twelve room temple ruin. I seem to recall not being completely offended by the last thing from Sharp Mountain I reviewed (a witch adventure?) This one has a high point or two but is generally not interesting, with the usual long text and lack of detail that plagues most adventures. When its SPECIFIC it can be good, but that’s all too rare and invariably is hidden inside a long text block.
The party is hired to escort an alchemist the last three miles in to town and, sure enough, he’s being attacked when you reach him. In town you learn he’s looking for a rare flower to stop The Evil One’s return. Poking about turns up an ent in the forest who knows where everything is. Looking for the ent has you finding a young ent set on fire by bandits. This leads to the evil temple ruin where he’s held captive.
The adventure has octobats! They aren’t used enough, just in the final encounter room, which is a shame. Putting them in more often/earlier would have the party freaked out the entire time looking for them. The thing is chucked full of advice. When the advice is specific, which usually appears in the “How to roleplay this encounter” section, it can be a decent add on. The bullywugs, for example, end each sentence with a *croak*. That’s good advice. A little silly, maybe, but it really anchors the encounter and provides for something fun & memorable. Likewise, they were paid off in juicy rare beetles and are truly amazed/astonished if the party is not impressed them as a rare delicacy. That’s good shit right there.
Unfortunately, this kind of solid specific advice is both rare AND buried in text blocks full of meaningless trivia. We’re told that the local inn has solid furniture and hunting trophies on the walls. Great, just like every other fantasy fucking inn that has ever appeared. Instead of concentrating the text on being evocative and focusing the interesting, what’s special about THIS inn, instead we get tedious descriptions (and reaction descriptions, and scene descriptions, and …) that focus of the trivia and the mundane. “Leave me be!” shouts the alchemist, as he is under attack in the first scene. Wow. Great. Perfect. How was this creative masterpiece ever arrived at? The point, of course, being that it does nothing to inspire or add to the encounter. It’s like telling us, in a room description, that a bedroom has a bed in it. Of course it fucking does, it’s the bedroom. It’s only notable if it DOESN’T have a bed in it, or the bed is pristine clean in a dusty room, or the design has the answer to a puzzle, or the indent in it show the princess is a fairy. It has to ADD something. The text in this adventure adds very little.
I could have some minor quibbles with providing skeletons as enemies to level 3-6 parties (don’t they auto-turn at that level?) but it’s really the DM advice I take exception to.
The advice to the DM punishes the party for good play. If the party sneak around then the DM is encouraged to move combat encounters they would have missed to instead be in front of them … so they encounter them. Not. Cool. This punishes players for smart play and is almost the textbook definition of Courtneys Quantum Ogre. Instead, one could show the players the patrolling skeletons at the entrance that their smart play so cleverly bypassed, in essence rewarding them and saying “you people were smrt.”
The adventure IS full of other helpful advice to the DM also. “DM’s, if you are using your own base town instead of this one then change the names, etc to the ones in your town.” Dear god. Or, how about “Feel free to change the name and gender of the young ent to suite your needs.”
Recently I tried to get in to a building at work that I seldom access. They had just remodeled the building and they had just switched over to a new card access system. My card didn’t work. I called support. After relating these facts they told me to hold my card vertical up against the card reader. In spite of the fucking fact that I use my card a dozen times a day at card readers. They then explained to me what ‘vertical’ means. That’s what this adventure is doing with its advice. “Remember to breathe after speaking so you don’t suffocate.” Again, clogging up the adventure with useless advice. And don’t feed me any fucking line about n00bs. I’m reminded of the “If Quake was done today” youtube video. “Tip: you can shoot enemies to kill them!” “Hint: This is the wrong way!” What the hell happened, indeed.
This needs a BIG edit, removing almost all of the text, and beefing up the descriptions to be more evocative.
It’s $2.50 on DriveThru. The preview is five pages. The last page of the preview shows the first page of the first encounter, with the alchemist outside of town. You get to see the *croak* as well as the “I have no quarrel with thee!” trivia. The second page of this encounter is still more monster stats, taking up the entire second page.https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/151798/Giants-Perch–An-Adventure-for-OldSchool-Games-and-Labyrinth-LordTM?affiliate_id=1892600