By Jay Kemberling & Joel Logan
A Hole in the Ground Terrain & Games
They have all been convicted of various crimes. Let your players come up with what they were rightly or wrongly convicted of. They are told they must keep a lighthouse lit for the next five years upon the island as their punishment. A supply ship will come every six months to bring them provisions for the lighthouse. They are told to stay within the walls guarding the lighthouse and not to venture onto the island for great evil awaits them there.
This seventeen page adventure has the characters stuck on an island. Two individuals offer them an escape, if they kill the other person. It’s quite long for what it is, offering really just two encounter areas. It’s a good idea, easy to read and run, but needs to be fleshed out more.; it seems too small/lite.
I reviewed a different adventure in this series and wasn’t very impressed. The folks there suggested I look at this one, one of their favorites. I can see why. It’s quite different in tone and organization from that earlier offerings. The background is short, only about two paragraphs, and describes lovers cursed, and that one must die to break the curse. Nice classic set up. As the intro implies, the party starts on the island. Being PC’s they will no doubt explore where told not to, and this encounter one or both of the NPC’s and be offered an opportunity to escape if only they would kill the other, freeing the NPC from the curse. A melancholy affair, I salute the adventure for getting in and out fast with background and the classic trope.
The unique magic items are ok, with unique effects but somewhat generic descriptions. A line of “WoW” would go a long way there. It adventure also does a decent job of making Question & Answer time easier for the DM. For each of the three main NPC’s (two accursed lovers and a lighthouse keeper) we get a small section description questions the party might ask and their response. It’s easy to pick things out, even though it is in “read aloud” format. The read-aloud doesn’t really add anything, and therefore it could have been in “DM text” format, saving considerably on space.
It also provides some guidance with common PC activities. Want to build a weapon? Or hunt? The adventure provides some short guidelines, as well as one or two obvious gimme’s for PC’s, like “A dwarf will recognize the stonework as elven.” THis is good adventure design: anticipating the most frequent issues the DM will have to face and addressing it.
It’s short, with only two real encounters: each of the former lovers. You may visit each multiple times, but it’s just those two. Other than the length and weakness of writing (which I’ll get to shortly) this is the primary issue with the adventure. It’s more of a side trek, in Dungeon Magazine terms. In fact, I’d say it could EASILY be a one-page dungeon and loose very little.
There ARE some long read-alouds. Again, you get three sentences, at most. More than that and people stop paying attention. Don’t believe me? Go find the WOTC article on the subject. It’s linked in my “Review Standards” page.
I would note also that he writing addresses the characters directly, which is never a good idea. This is done, generally, to build tension and communicate flavor and I think it’s a TERRIBLE way to accomplish that. “In your weakened condition …” or “You make your way to the center of the bottom level …” Nope. Do not. I hug the wall, like I always do, awaiting DM treachery. These attempts at first person writing don’t get the party in the mood, they do the opposite in yanking them out of it.
The read-aloud is also abstracted. “The lighthouse looks old.” That’s a conclusion, it’s abstracted from something. Better to write and describe the lighthouse in such a way that the listener/reader comes the conclusion it’s old. AGain, I’m not looking a novel here, just a short replacement sentence that communicates the vibe that the lighthouse is old, for example.
There’s a moral issue in this adventure, and those are always hard in D&D. It’s supposed to be a fun game; there are indie games available for exploring your childhood traumas. Two accursed lovers. Both want you to kill the other. Both offer you an escape from the island if you help them. No one really evil. That makes the choice hard. A little more in the “Chris was obviously evil, at least at one time” category, or a clear third option (there is one of those, but it’s not exactly clear to the party, I think) could help the designer out of that bind.
I wouldn’t say this is a good adventure, it’s a tad short and the writing a bit long. But it’s not exactly a bad adventure either. Given my recent 5e reviews that alone is a compliment. A one-page version of this would be a nice thing to experiment with. The vibe reminds me a bit of the Metagorgos adventure I reviewed … in the last year? I don’t feel ripped off, and while I think the themes interesting, there’s not enough to capture go forward with running it, I think. But … I’m also interested enough in the publisher to check out some of their other offerings.
This is $1 at DriveThru. The preview is only two pages, with the second page showing you that short little background at the end of it. A third page, showing an encounter, would have been helpful from a “make a purchasing decision” standpoint.https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/225869/Off-the-Beaten-Path-Vol-I-The-Isle-of-Klamacki?affiliate_id=1892600
The WOTC article directs to a error 404. It’s been this way for years, now. Internet wayback machine lets you read it if you rewind to 2014 : https://web.archive.org/web/20140714065724/http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dd/20050916a
Maybe you’d like to make a PDF copy and host it here, for posterity.
“Undercover at Gen Con, Part 1” is actually still live, at a new address:
A good tactic to remember info from the boxed text, if you’re a player and get distracted easily; have a pocket notebook and pen, try to shorthand anything that seems pertinent in an info dump.
If you’re a DM, mention this to inexperienced PCs. Tell them D&D (etc) games are mainly fun, but part of the fun can also be puzzles, and some details may be important!
I play now more than DM, so I always follow this; I couldn’t imagine a game where my DM doesn’t give me any more than a few sentences for flavour or detail…but I guess that’s a personal preference and some folks do like a straight up minis dungeon crawl with no brain busting involved.
However, if it comes between needing to run an adventure, or side trek, fast (published, not yours) and getting emotionally triggered by text boxes, try to get your players in the habit of keeping notes once in a while; it can open the door to a different style of play you and they just might like!
–There’s a moral issue in this adventure, and those are always hard in D&D. It’s supposed to be a fun game;
You really are a fucking idiot.
DM’s who punish you for killing orc babies are asshats. Choices are fun, except when an asshole DM is involved.
The adventure doesn’t TELL you to punish the players for a choice, which is good. Maybe I’ve been burned too many times.
I wouldn’t waste my time with someone whose sole contribution is “You really are a fucking idiot.” You spend your time doing this for free; he doesn’t deserve to be addressed.
It’s best to make the goblin babies full sentient and innocent, but also ravenous and stat them up as a swarm…
It would be useful to have a delete option for commenters as on blogspot, or in my case an auto-delete after 10 minutes.
I’ll poke around. I’m not sure of WordPress capabilities.
Have you seen this guy’s reviews, he seems to complement what you do by concentrating on old material but in the youTube environment.
I just enabled that feature Kent. Let me know how it works for you. Looks like a 5 minute timeout.