By Kingtycoon Methuselah
Game of the North
Nothing is what it seems and no one can be trusted on Cormorant Isle! And yet you find that you must rely on dangerous strangers if you hope to leave the Isle alive. Who are these tricksters and what is the secret that they will kill to keep hidden?
This 73 page adventure contains about ten adventure locales on an shipwreck island, each with about ten or so locations. Imaginative, this thing is VERY hard to decipher. Fonts, layout, rules, phrasing … I actually had a very real headache after the first two pages. I’m going to count this one as a ‘Failure to Review’ … I just don’t think I got it.
I usually review an electronic copy. This one I had to resort to printing out, which yields something a little easier on the eyes. As I noted, it gives me a headache. The format is three-column. The read-aloud font is a kind of dark magenta or brown, with a grey background, in italics. There are weird section breaks that are not obvious. You’ll be reading a paragraph and the words will just stop mid-sentence. That’s your clue that the section below is a major new section break and you should continue reading from the top of the next column to finish the paragraph you are in … an invisible section break. Except when there actually IS a formatting error and the paragraph just ends WITHOUT it continuing in another column. “The heretic has “ … clearly is meant to convey something, but it just stops right there. The tables presented look like screenshots, with a font, background, color that over the line on readability. You CAN make it out, but for your eye health you should not. This 24 pages of the adventure, proper, actually failed to print the first time I tried. There is something STRANGE going on, none of which lends a hand to comprehension … at the table or not.
The game system is … not mentioned? “OSR.” A scale walls test is mentioned as a “d6 scale walls test.” Like, that’s the check, as in game system, or you need to make d6 attempts at a check? Other sections reference Search result 1, search result 2, search result 3, and so on. I have no idea. Things kind of LOOK like D&D. Each NPC and creature gets their own full page character sheet (with something called “Primary Mode” with a symbol in it?) and a “Phys/Men” trail score … but it also has HP, AC, HD, Mv, Init and so on. I just … I don’t know …
The writing is … abstracted? Obtuse? Both? Your ship needs provisions, there’s an island ahead. Through the spyglass you see a battle taking place on the beach. Three ships are burning. You see the last combatant drowning the second to last under the waves.
Huh? Battle between who? The people on the ship? There’s no detail, in the read-aloud or DM notes, of what the fuck just happened, or enough context to infer. This lack of context to infer what is going on is a major, major issue throughout the adventure.
This is in spite of a summary, which comes at the end of the keyed encounters on page 25 or so, that tells the referee what is going on. I note that reading that summary sheds VERY little light on the goings on.
Did I mention that there’s an Exquisite Corpse label on a Lulu product? My eyebrows are raised.
“But Bryce, you haven’t actually reviewed the adventure yet!” Correct. There’s a witch, riding a giant sword, over a beach throwing fireballs to set ships on fire. There’s an illusion of a bonfire. It’s also a teleporter to other, REAL fires. Uh, there are knights, and places, and some Lashan, and a witch and … I have no fucking clue what is going on in this adventure.
I fail. The weekend is coming. I’m going to try again.
Ok, weekend over. Tuesday now. I’ve been through the adventure three more times and feel that I now grasp it, although I’m not sure enough to run it.
Your ship needs provisions so you land on the island, seeing the end of a battle of knights, one drowning another in the surf. Landing, there’s recruitment attempt by the knight to his cause. His group (they have a camp farther in) is here to find and rescue a woman, kept by another group of knights. There’s a small castle that you and they can rush. (From this point out they serve as a kind of greek chorus, getting killed, etc as you explore the island.) You could, also, join up with the other group of knights or do something else … at least that’s what the text tells us, although its not exactly well supported. Somewhere in this the islands witch shows up and burns down your ship, trapping you. From the castle, ruined and full of bodies, you see a tower. Exploring the tower lets you see four other areas, each with some tie to an element. Getting through those MIGHT get off the island. Along the way is a kind of animalistic dragon with mimcry in a lava cave, some leshen, children in masks (another chous, or a sorts, maybe) the witch, and so on.
It’s got strong allegorical ties then most adventures (ie: >0) and some great language in it. Buried behind text that is THICK to get through. A highlighter won’t work in this one.
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $7. The preview is six pages. The last four pages show the first encounter sections. I encourage you to TRY and read page three.
Could this be an attempt to recreate the “Lost” TV show’s chaotic ensemble of weird events on an island?