by Ed Shatto Self Published 5e Levels 3-5
For levels 3-5. This is the first of four modules in a series. In this module we learn of an impending demon war, and go in search of a magical sword. Full of battles, riddles and puzzles.
Hey, it’s Saturday, that means non-OSR stuff, in general. I’m going to try something new and repeat myself more/rehash old dead topics, since they will be less familiar to the 5e crowd. We’ll see how long this lasts.
This 31 page adventure features a twenty room nearly entirely “text/challenge” dungeon. It is, essentially, just a series of linear combats interspaced with linear riddles. I’m at a loss to find something positive to say. I guess … it’s coherent?
We start with a two page backstory. Yes, I’m kinder about those things these days (unless important things are in it) but in this case it’s a taste of what’s to come. The 2 and half page read-aloud that begins the adventure. Yup. 2.5 pages. Players don’t listen to long backstory. Did you know that WOTC did an informal study and found that players stop listening two to three sentences in to read-aloud? That’s a lot less than 2.5 pages. It is far FAR better to provide a few keywords that describe the personality and then do something like bullet-point paraphrase the salient issues. Then the DM can do a little more back and forth with the players and it comes across more natural and is interactive. D&D is supposed to be interactive, between the players and the DM. A long monologue has NO place in D&D.
It takes a week for the party to sail to some old ruins, wherein they are looking for a sword. The sea voyage has four entries. “Pirate, mermen, dinosaur, sahuagin.” Just a 1-4 and those four names, nothing else. It’s up to the designer to add value to the adventure in order to assist the DM in running it. “THEY ATTACK” is boring. The pirates need some character, the sahuagin some mechanism of attack. Each entry deserves a few words, no more than a sentence, to give the encounter some character. Then the DM has something to work with during the game.
Arriving at the ruined city the party is presented with a map. The only encounter is the tower at the center. What happens if you search? Do you have random encounters? Is there ANY guidelines for the ruined city at all? No. “The party should go to the tower, it is the next stop,” Linear adventure design is BAD adventure design.
The rooms in the tower either have a monster that attacks or a fey that gives you a riddle/challenge. This is what I would expect from this, and it is boring. Again, D&D is an interactive game. You need to give the party something to do besides fight. And no, solving a riddle aint it. The purpose of the room is not to have a combat or to solve a riddle. That’s the height of bad design. Something else should be going on, something more, and the combat and/or riddle should be a part of that, but not the sole reason for the room existing.
The final room is the old “12 foot pit and 11.5 foot board” thing, and you’re not allowed to bring anything in to the room, says the fey who meets you outside, because the door won’t open otherwise. IE: do what the designer says you should do and don’t be original. Look at the D&D spell list. Imagine the very first time, back in 1971, that a player encountered the 12 foot/11,5 foot thing. Look at the spell list. Know why dimension door exists? So the players could skip that puzzle. At the cost of a spell splot, a precious resource. Someone at the table said “fuck this shit, I’m researching a new spell: dimension door” and thus it became part of the list. When there is only one solution allowed then the players are not playing D&D, they are just doing what the designer/DM wants.
And, and that book title trap? I couldn’t read it on my copy of the adventure. Since the titles only exist in the picture I can’t really figure it out. Was it meant to be a handout?
Also, there’s a line in the backstory about a wizard who attempts to control an archdemon. It goes something like “Only a fool would attempt to control such a Being…” Hey! Yo! Prejudicial much? You never hear about all of the time a wizard controlling an archdemon turns out well, only the bad stuff. I think our nameless narrator suffers from a lack of archwizard vision!
You don’t want to get anywhere near this adventure.
This is $2.50 at DMSGuild. The preview is six pages. You get to the the two page backstory and the 2.5 page read-aloud, and that most excellent wandering monster table. The preview should show you a couple of rooms/encounters, so you can get a feel for the types of writing and encounters to be expected in the product.