By Marc Elsenheimer
The old tower looms over your small village. In the past it was a sign of resilience, but now it has turned into something else. As you step out of your small homes into the Towers shadow, the fear of the wizard Broshgar creeps back into your hearts. He took your food and your goods, he abducted your friends and your family and without remorse he killed anyone trying to stop him. Only a few months ago he took four of your children at once. And you let it happen. But today is the last day you’ll ever be afraid of him. Assembling in front of the towers entrance you are ready to end his reign of terror.
This six page funnel details an assault by villagers on a wizards tower. It’s as good first effort with a few interesting mechanics. It’s also got boring read-aloud, an obsession with trap descriptions, and feels bland for a wizards tower.
This is the authors first adventure he’s written. He’s also German and there are some minor spelling/grammar issues. I tend to let that shit slide even with native english speakers, as long as the intent is there, and it is here. Besides, his english is excellent; all I can say in deutch is Ich kann Glas essen, das tut mir nicht weh.
Its got a nice hand-drawn map with an isometric view also included. Probably not needed for a map as simple as this but I appreciate the effort. It IS hard to find the stairs on many of the levels. I still can’t find them … but I if you ignore that and make some assumptions then its ok.
One of the most interesting things about the adventure is the authors willingness to play with mechanics. Looting some armor from a battle you just won has the fumble die increasing by one because of damage. That recognizes both what the party WILL be doing (looting) as well as adding an interesting effect. Likewise, an item gives non-wizards a spell with a d10 action die. There’s a basic understanding here adding flavor to the game using unusual mechanics. That’s a significant step up from folks that just use book rules and monsters,
I would call the wizards tower a bit bland though. It kind of feels like a generic wizards tower. I think some of that is the writing. Rooms are described as ‘large’ repeatedly, with other rooms descriptions using the word “small”. One room uses the word “massive” twice to describe two different objects. This pattern continues throughout. The use of common adjectives and adverbs is a big nono. You want to convey flavor and Large don’t do that. It would be interesting to see what the original german words were. IE: hopefully we can chalk this up to translation difficulties.
But there are other issues also. Read-aloud telling us that there are two doors out of a room. Yes. We know that. The map shows us that. The read-aloud doesn/t have to tell us everything about the room. The purpose of it, if you’re going to use it, is to provide a short punchy description that will hook the players. It is not the end all and be all of the description. The DM can easily add “there are two doors out” or respond as such when asked by the players if there are exits.
I would also note some explanation paragraphs and sentence included. These generally attribute motivations and are entirely unneeded. For example. The DM text in the first room reads: “The Entrance room is designed to test potential guests, of which Broshgar had few. The barren room has only one object of interest, the Bookshelf. It is trapped to amuse Broshgar and hurt or kill guests that can’t keep their hands to themselves.” The second paragraph describes the trapped bookshelf. We don’t need to know he likes to amuse himself. It doesn’t add anything to the party actively adventuring the room.
Finally, there’s a bit of an obsession with detailing traps. I’ve noticed that some authors seem to have a mania about it. Every detail must be described. Just get in and out quick. If it takes more than about two-three sentences then it is probably too long. “Both traps are triggered by stepping on a special floorboard of a slightly darker colour.” Uh huh. That classic trap padding. Scything blade, 1d6, DC14 reflect to avoid. DONE! Yeah, I know, I write the most boring shut. But its also not two paragraphs.
Still, in all, a decent effort especially for a Dark Eye player. (Boing! Score one for Bryce’s international relations!) It’s not especially a bad adventure, and the end is a little video-gamey with some tricks involved. I like the appeal to non-standard mechanics and encounters, like a cauldron ooze, are pretty good. The writing isn’t going to win a C- in the evocative category, but, hey, english as a second language. That makes it less interesting, as wizard towers go, than it could be. But, as a nice, free funnel I’d say its pretty good. Better than a bunch of paid funnels I’ve seen. But, thats not really a compliment …
This is free at the authors blog, Out of Curiosity