Arrival at Fort Perilous

By John Leeper
Grey Goblin Games
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 1-3

On the border between wilderness and civilization, Fort Perilous stands, keeping watch and holding the forces of Chaos at bay. Your heroes find themselves in the fort, drawn into the battles between civilization and monsters, between Law and Chaos.

This thirty page adventure describes a home base/fort, the region, and three dungeons with about seventy rooms between them. It’s ok, but tends to the UNREMARKABLE side of the evocativeness spectrum, with it being just a hair more than minimalist in its descriptions.

The fort/home base takes about three pages to describe: one for the map, one for the buildings, and one for the NPC’s. That’s pretty fucking terse. It doesn’t fuck around … either good or bad. The fort locations are all generic, in content if not in attempt. An armory, where things can be bought, sold and repaired. Ok. A church of law, with “five clerics” that provide healing. A paragraph for each of ten locations is about a paragraph too much for each location, as written. It could use a little more that’s not “the usual borderlands fort.”

The NPC’s fare a little better, with a state block, physical appearance and a personality that provides enough to run them but doesn’t overstay its welcome. The chief wizard looks like a bank clerk, is crotchety and grumpy, but interested in magic and arcane topics. That’ll do. A little bolding of important words, over the two pages of NPC’s, would have done wonders to help the DM pick out the keywords while scanning the text.

The region has about sixteen or so locations not fully detailed, each with a short paragraph giving the DM the barest of outlines. It’s enough to fill in the blanks and provide an occasional bit of an idea to help the DM kick off further adventures.

The three dungeons are the star of show here, or are meant to be. They feature orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls, with a few other things thrown in to keep things lively.

It’s boring.

Look, I know people like to misinterpret what I say. It helps them carve out a niche for their own ideologies. It’s the whole generic/vanilla thing again. Generic Bad while Vanilla can be good. The adventure doesn’t have to be full of explosions. It doesn’t have to be gonzo. I doesn’t need any of that shit … but it does have to have SOMETHING. Let’s boil this right down to the core: if a typical room is “3 orcs” is that a good room? No, it’s not. It’s Vampire Palace level descriptions in 2018. If you’re putting that shit in then you’re engaged in some kind of performance art or making some kind of point. I don’t need a point made. I need some fucking content that helps me run the fucking adventure. Now, that’s a rather extreme example, but let’s look at a description from this adventure:

“Larder: This room has 2 orcs and 1 orc leader. The normal orcs have shields and hand axes. The leader has a shield and longsword. Hanging from the ceiling are a variety of dead animals, including deer, half a cow, rabbits and birds.”

This is just one step beyond the minimal keying. The only additional detail is the dead animals, and, while an attempt, is not the soul of evocativeness. The entire adventure is like this. I appreciate the attempt at terse writing, but not to the extent it is in this adventure. The adventure needs to have something to hang its hat on, or, more correctly, for the DM to hang their hat on. There should be SOMETHING for the DM to riff off of. Without it you’ve got what is essentially a minimally keyed adventure and I’m not fucking paying for that. That’s not adding value. If a random monster generator online can generate your dungeon then why are you charging for it?

The answer is not the minimally keyed dungeon. The answer is not the expanded minimalism of describing the mundane contents of rooms. The answer is not the endless room descriptions that plague other products, clogging them up like a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. (Mmmm. 60 pounds of impacted fecal colon sandwich …) There’s a middle fucking ground. Terse, but evocative. Something for the DM to use without sending them in a Joyce-like pit of text.

This ain’t it.

This is $2 at DriveThru. The only preview is that shitty “quick” one they offer and it doesn’t even work.

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16 Responses to Arrival at Fort Perilous

  1. Anonymous says:

    There are a lot of these “Keep on the Borderlands” style adventures available, so it is entirely reasonable to ask for an interesting twist. If, for instance, you could broker a deal with the orcs to attack the hobgoblins, and the orcs will keep their end of the bargain under certain conditions, that could be interesting. Ironwood Gorge is a superior take on this basic situation; Bryce has already given that the thumbs up.

    • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

      Keep on the Boredom Lands

      • Shuffling Wombat says:

        If your comment is suggesting that OSR writers could be expending their creativity on something more interesting than Keep on the Borderlands replicas, I agree. However I suggest Keep on the Borderlands is a better module than some seem to believe: there are features such as having to make a sensible choice of allies. And I’ll bet a lot of people have played and enjoyed the module over the years, maybe more than for any other module.

  2. Edmund Gloucester says:

    THE BRYCE LYNCH ARCHIVE — edited by Edmund

    Dante Alighieri: ex Purgatorio de Bryce Lynchio
    —–(interview translated by Edmund)

    Da—- After I encountered him I hesitated to include the Lynchio in my poem.
    Ed—- Oh?
    Da—- There are plenty of idiots in Purgatory you understand, but none seemed so at home.
    Ed—- At home you say.
    Da—- Positively happy. Chipper.
    Ed—- Purgatory is an awful place and yet Bryce was content.
    Da—- Have you seen those hairy little dogs with bright eyes and massive tongues?
    Ed—- No.
    Da—- Well they might be daft but they are always happy even when kicked.
    Ed—- That is how you imagined Bryce.
    Da—- I didn’t imagine him. I saw him in Purgatory. Uniquely content.
    Ed—- You didn’t see him. You are a poet. You imagined him.
    Da—- Don’t be an ass. I saw him in Purgatory as plainly as I see you now.
    Ed—- I think you write really well but if you present yourself without evidence as a visionary …
    Da—- Nevermind that, Lynchio is dangerous anomaly and he must be stopped
    Ed—- Don’t shout. We are having a civil dis…
    Da—- Shutta Da Fuck Uppio. Bryce Lynchio is INSANO…

    — 100,000 Classic moments (verbatim paragraphs) from the unending review-river —


    ==== Weather it works or not, as an adventure, I don’t know. A lot depends on the DM. A lot ALWAYS depends on the DM, in every adventure. This is so true that I explicitly ignore it in my adventures, concentrating on “helping the DM run it.” I FEEL like there’s just a little bit more missing from it. A little more in the way of events, conversation, NPC’s based around the party motivations. As is it feels a little TOO open ended. ====

    • YouDontMessWithTheJeff says:

      Please seek professional help

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      I’m going to doom myself with this comment, but I like classically educated Kent more than potty-mouthed Kent. His Dante interview resembled the glory days of Usenet.

      • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

        ‘Classically educated’ Kent always stumbles before the finishing line. I suspect that his classical education is limited to watching those old Mr Magoo Does the Western Canon cartoons as a teenager.

  3. Bill says:

    This is the internet at its best

  4. Seems like a safe, friendly place

  5. Gus L says:

    It’s like Bryce attracted the internet equivalent of flies. Froth lip, spit speckled, pinpoint pupiled flies. What did he leave out to summon such an annoyance. I think he made a mistake by reviewing Venger, which makes sense because shit tends to attract flies.

    I am also curious about that exact line between minimal and dull v. evocative and worthwhile – especially in the context of any adventure with humanoids living in holes? Is it even possible in 2018 to write such a thing?

    • Klaus Gerken says:

      A guy who called himself Edmund, with Kents profile image, posted on other blogs recently.
      I would argue that this Edmund Gloucester guy is just a Kent-sock-puppet. So it’s not like Bryce attracted new flies.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      Ignoring Orcs in Hole, the Elfen Memory Waters thing adventure has some nicely minimalistic but evocative writing.

    • Shuffling Wombat says:

      In reply to the 2nd paragraph of Gus L’s comment, such an adventure needs to be something more than arrival at Fort Desperate, which is under siege (although the monsters never seem to attack), with caves nearby, happily arranged in increasing toughness, where humanoids wait to be killed and looted. However there are variants that might be written; why not take a leaf out of Conan: Beyond the Black River and make the focus a sneak raid to assassinate a warlord/shaman before an overwhelming attack; or maybe rival mercenary groups (of whom the PCs are one) are carving out their fiefdoms, and naturally making alliances/fighting each other.

      • Handy Haversack says:

        I think one of the TSR X modules had something similar . . . Servants of the Shadow Lord? I remember my players being behind enemy lines and trying to gather information and take out key players. Of course, they ended up mainly seducing and concussing and seducing stable hands and then weaponizing a herd of horses, but I think that the set-up was along the lines of a stealth raid.

        • Shuffling Wombat says:

          Yes, X11 Saga of the Shadow Lord; there was also a GURPS adventure Conan beyond Thunder River. Both were pretty good, from what I remember. But maybe ideas used a couple of times aren’t completely played out.
          Love the description of what the PCs actually ended up doing. All that is missing is some attempt to masquerade as enemy officers and ending up helping the wrong side.

      • Gus L says:

        The issue with simply recasting a Caves of Knockoff Chaos as a location for series of mission based adventures is that It’s something you can do fine with B2. The structure of Keep on the Borderlands – haven & dungeon of humanoid lairs in small wilderness is also good and admirably repeatable. To me it seems necessary to file off all the detail that makes it Orcs in a Hole if one wants to use it and improve it as a published item. Anything other then a complete re-skin might be playable, great at your table even, but is ultimately nothing more then trying to charge money for play notes on a 1980 adventure.

        A pairs of levelled humanoids adventure needs a lot of hood details, novel staging and high functionality to justify itself is what I’m saying.

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