Stephen J Grodzicki
Low Fantasy Gaming
This fifteen page adventure has an eighteen room ruined temple inhabited by frogmen. With the bulk of the adventure in six pages, it manages relatively focused room descriptions while making some decent stabs at evocative writing. But good wanderer actions can’t save an also ran in the frog man adventure arena.
Challenge of the Frog Idol and Tower of the Were-Toads weigh heavy in this review, alas. Unfair to compare! Unfair to compare! Yes, life IS unfair.
Some dude wants you to go with him so he can collect artifacts at a abandoned elf temple. Not exactly an archeologist, it’s more of a “elves are extinct and I’ve got a thing for them” than it is the academic archeology of so many adventures. Any way, the old temple is partially flooded and has some frog men living in it. The history, background, and hook all come in a single page that gets in and out quickly and is fairly forgettable and ignorable for folks just wanting some frog men in an old elven temple.
There’s a good action-oriented vibe to the various encounters. This ranges from the wilderness encounters, to the wanderers in the temple to the actual rooms. A snake looks for food, frog men play in the water splashing, or giant eagles land in trees engaged in a mating ritual. It’s enough to get the DM going to create something, which is what they should be doing.
The descriptions are going just a little extra also. A forest is ancient and lush, with trunks as broad as houses and an intricate canopy obscuring direct sunlight. Snakes try to drown their prey, stirge swarms buzz, frogmen playfully leap out of the water, a mirror is stained and spotted with mold while objects gleam in a clearing. Nothing if “big” or “large” or “red” or “huge.” Note the use of intricate, or laping, or buzzing, or other more descriptive word choices. There’s an attempt to paint a picture and that’s the kind of value add that I think adventures should provide.
That said, it’s still not the most evocative writing. There’s a … layering? Missing. Rooms feeding off of each other to layer up a vibe. Yeah, the frogmen flooded rooms are next to each other, but it doesn’t feel like the whole is more than the sum of the parts, as far as evocative writing goes.
It’s also the case that the designer cuts a few corners. That gleaming from the wooded clearing (a clearing full of foreboding, good writing in that) isn’t described. And laughing coming from a hollow in the tree is not either. I get it, the designer is allowing room for the DM to expand further and riff of of unexpected things. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’ve bitched so long and so hard in thousands of reviews about the lack of value add that when I see someone TRYING to do something it still sets me off. Anyway, it probably deserves a pass.
What doesn’t deserve a pass is room nine, and I want to use this to illustrate a larger point. There’s this HUGE partially flooded cavern. If you drew two lines across it to divide it in to thirds you’d have rooms seven and eight and nine. Seven and eight are the entrance and middle and nine of the back third, up above water. Nine has an frog god idol on it. And a torch illuminates it. But no mention of that is made in roos seven or eight. So you get to nine and suddenly there’s this eerie torch illuminating an idol. LAME. LAME LAME LAME! Think of the effect, in entering room seven, of the DM noting the flickering light in the distance, and then it becoming more distinct, the frog idol, etc. There’s a kind of lack of “big open area” awareness in this, and this is not the first adventure to ignore it. A bonfire on the roof of an abandoned castle, or eerie lights in one corner of a graveyard … designers don’t seem to take a look at the map and note sounds, lights, or monsters drawn in from other areas. That’s too bad, seeing something in the distance can be both a good motivator to get the party going and a good way to get them focused on something so they ignore something else. 🙂
There’’s some good magic items, nice and unique, and some poorly thought out org choices, like putting monster stats before room one instead of at the end. I should think that would make it harder to locate the stats during play?
Anyway, bullywugs, errr, frog men, riding dragonflies are cool, but things are a little too … staid for me, where frog men are concerned, especially considering what Challenge and Were-Toads did with them. This is a decent adventure, it’s just not a GREAT adventure. And I can’t tell you what a pain it is to live like me every day, with standards that high.
This is $1 at DriveThru. The preview is only two pages long and only really shows you the one page of background/hook. A page of room descriptions would have been nice, to give people a good idea of what they are getting. Also,how about trying to put a level in the DriveThru description?