By Richard Iorio
Rogue Games Inc
Embrace is a voyage into the heart of an evil plot. Something strange is happening, and long-held beliefs are being perverted to fit another’s evil ways. How the characters accomplish their task and handle the looming crisis, is another matter all together…
This 46 page adventure is the typical Lovecraft Call of Cthulhu adventure converted to 5e. Actually, it appears to have been written for Sword, Shield & Spell and converted to 5e. But the publisher also sells the Colonial Gothic RPG game, which appears to be CoC in colonial america … and if you think “What if HPL wrote his stories set in colonial america?” and then converted it to 5e then you’d have this adventure. Everything about this is CoC. The pacing is HPL CoC pacing and the writing is straight out of every CoC adventure ever written. IE: bad.
Some woman’s husband has disappeared and not been seen for two months. Seems he was a university professor specializing in religion and went to some village to look in to something, not being seen since. The party is hired to find him. Sound familiar? Like every HPL story ever? When you think of D&D do you think of university professors? This thing is full of stuff like that. “Coach inns” abound, and some of the art looks more like a colonial american inn than D&D … Anyway …
The usual has happened. A cultist came in, took over the local religion disguised as a druid, and then converted people to Shub worship. There’s a strong wicker man/creepy village thing going on, down to the artwork showing a burning wicker man, along with the usual “everyone in the village is cultist”, people staring at you, the local sheriff is in on it, etc. If you’ve played any Call of Cthulhu game, ever, or read a rural New England HPL story then you know what the adventure is. Wander around investigating, locals rise up, and then confront the EHP.
So, long read-alouds. We know that’s bad and why it’s bad. No one pays attention after three sentences. Then there is MOUNTAINS of DM text. But it’s CoC Dm text style, which means it’s written as a “first x and then Y and then z happens” which is impossible to follow and run at the table. You can’t scan it. Bullet points and/or white space formatting is in painfully short supply. You can’t find shit, it’s all buried.
NPC descriptions are long and written in the same style. We’re not reading a novel. We’re trying to run something at the table. The writing and formatting needs to be oriented towards that. If all the other Call of Cthulhu adventures jumped off a bridge would you also? Bandit stats, in 5e, are a column long. How ever did older games manage with inline stats? Oh, the horror of recognizing what’s important in the game and it’s not stats, The Horror!
At the start of the game the party gets a letter the missing guy received. It’s signed W. The DM text tells us the wife “probably doesn’t know who W is …” How does that help us run the game? The inexplicable nature of that line boggles me to no end and is representative of the complete lack of understanding of what an adventure is and how to write one. “I had an idea and I threw a bunch of text down on a page in a roughly linear manner” is no way to run a railroad/write an adventure.
Also, there’s no indication what level this adventure is for on the DriveThru page or on the adventure cover. Bad publisher! Bad! How the fuck am I supposed to know if I should buy it for my group of Level 1’s? Oh, I should just buy it? Oh, you didn’t think of thigns like that. See, get my point, YOU WERE NOT THINKING ABOUT THE NEEDS OF THE DM WHEN YOU WROTE IT.
It’s a CoC adventure. It’s another point in my favor that Horror translates well between all settings, from SciFi to Fantasy to 1920’s. It’s not bad, at its core, but it’s just the usual CoC tropes, handed down from HPL himself.
Also, I now associate the 5e brand (and Pathfinder, for that matter) with suckage. When I get ready to go buy one I ask myself “I wonder just how bad this one will be …” I’m guessing that’s not the image that WOTC & Paizo are trying for. Mixing official shit with homebrew in the storefront was a bad idea, as was allowing the cross-branding. Hey WOTC, when you finally get that 10 picture movie deal done (You belong to Hasbro for cross-branding purposes. That’s it. And we all know it’s mostly or MtG) I’m going to think “I wonder how bad this one will suck?” because of your paper publishing strategy has led me that way. That’s what you were going for, right?
This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is perfectly representative of the paragraphs long writing style that you’ll find in the adventure. So, good preview in that you tells you what to expect: a disorganized mess.