(5e) Embrace

By Richard Iorio
Rogue Games Inc
Levels 8-9

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.


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14 Responses to (5e) Embrace

  1. Gnarley Bones says:


  2. Gus L. says:

    I recently read a retelling of Horror at Redhook from the cultist perspective. It was compelling and a less “Cultists Bad” “Eldritch Evil Obvious!” would go a long way towards making this sort of adventure reasonable.

    Isn’t one of the things about the evil ancient masters from the darkness behind the stars that they are seductive? They offer power, they seem pretty chill, the soul and mind are slowly given up to them for power and secrets – not ‘instantly become a slather mutant murder freak in a raggy looking robe’. You don’t get your culty looking squiggly knife as schwag for coming to intro meeting or taking the stress test!

    Normal PCs should be super susceptible to promises of power and wealth for seemingly mild acts of minor amorality.

    • Ice says:

      What was that retelling of Horror at Redhook called? It sounds interesting. In my current DCC campaign, the party decided to be lovecraftian death cultists by their own entirely by their own volition and I need some inspiration.

    • Handy Haversack says:

      The real horror in Red Hook these days is the rents, and no one got there without being “super susceptible to promises of power and wealth for seemingly mild acts of minor amorality.” And then some. But we’re not here to play Papers and Paychecks, I guess..

  3. Dumbass Shite says:

    The genius amazes! Non-linear maps, not-too long room descriptions, info ordered by how it might be used. Hitherto unknown treasures of design! These are the fresh insights I have come to love from Bruce. Why is this guy still wasting his massive intellect on elfgame blogging? He should be making millions somewhere.

    • Anonymous says:

      Kent, how come you think you know so much about roleplaying games? Don’t you need friends to play them?

    • Kent's Conscience says:

      The nature of ‘elfgame shite’ is eternally bad in the same ways? Bryce, for whatever reason (masochism?) is willing to read and discuss the great raft of mediocre adventures out there – if you want to do better do so, but I bet you won’t. If you want to whinge remember that you’re someone complaining about a review of ‘elfgame shite’ you find uninspiring. In a chain of being, like some neoplatonist CHUD would offer up, people complaining about D&D reviews are at least one rung below D&D adventure reviewers.

      Also, Kent – please start drinking earlier so liqour’s sweet chariot carries you off before the public library opens depriving you of internet access.

    • Slick S. says:

      “Dumbass Shite”

      Kent, you’ve finally landed on the perfect username, no need to bother with your alt accounts anymore.

  4. Dave says:

    “university professor specializing in religion and went to some village to look in to something, not being seen since”

    This being D&D and not CoC, why is this not a Paladin? Or an Inquisitor [cleric 5]? Fits the game world better. Introduces some possibility of faction play, sometimes you get players who don’t like Inquisitors and will be sympathetic to the villagers. Foreshadows the PCs going full fire and sword, which you know is the most likely outcome once the party figures out its cultists all the way down.

    I realize its a small thing individually, but why not do the small things well?

  5. Anonymous says:

    You’re honestly claiming every CoC adventure is badly written? Including the numerous classics by Tynes, Willis, Peterson, etc? I know your review persona is a slightly assholish but that comes off as ‘only eveh played DnD’ ignorant. Embarrasing.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      I think by “writing” I mean organization, etc, not the core ideas. Clearly things like In Media Res and others have some sound footings. I doubt, however, many other RPG’s get as much focus as D&D, and therefore they have fewer examples of more in-depth creative analysis.

  6. Regarding: Also, I now associate the 5e brand (and Pathfinder, for that matter) with suckage. Ithink I understand why now. In a tweet a couple weeks ago where Chris Perkins tweeted about changing the statistics block for NPCs into full sentances to make it more fun to read (see this story: https://bleedingfool.com/rpg/wotc-considering-npc-stat-format-change-why/) Apparently, products from WoC are suppose to be fun to read. There suppose to be literature to read rather than tools for running an adventure. The head is rotten and so it makes the body rotten.

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