Geeks Next Door
Just outside the Lonely Desert, on the edge of civilized lands stands a massive 200 ft., black cube known as The Brick. Glyphs and symbols adorn the brick, etched into its impossibly hardened sides in an ancient forgotten language. Some say the brick is the doorway between the living and the dead. Some say it is a gateway to another plane. Still others claim that the brick is the foundation for the entire world, and discovering its secrets will unlock the keys to the multiverse. […] What secrets does The Brick hold? What treasure might be uncovered within its black sides? Gather your companions, grip your holy symbols, and bring light into true darkness as you come face to face with the mysteries of The Brick.
Uh … ok.
This 31 page adventure is part eight of a twelve part series. It has the party making some skill checks and then fighting four cultists. The setting is ok? It tries to have flavor? It fails on … adventure?
So, giant square building in plain, glowing runes on it, undead swarm out every night returning by morning. Town nearby, full of holy orders, dedicated to understand the structure. Party has been in town for seven adventures and this is the eighth. Once a year the town assaults the buildings, killing undead and keeping them at back while scholars study the building. The party joins the scholars, makes some skill checks to figure out the building, and then gets attacked by four cultists. Oh, and there’s a party in town the night before so you can engage in some stuff like turkey eating contests and the ilk.
IF you’re ok with the magical society/ren-faire shit then the setting is ok. The whole undead magnet/building thing, with glowing runes, is cool. Once you put a town nearby, full of clerics that train on undead, it starts to get weird. There’s a Romero thing going on where the people in town go to the walls to watch the undead swarm out every night. Surreal. And the leader of the assault (of 2000 people/knights!) rides an armored giant boar. Like I said, it takes some getting used to. The flavor is more “dumb D&D magical society” than it is weird OD&D undead magnet or surreal town watching the wall. It’s like it’s almost doing something interesting but is afraid to go there.
Oh, did I mention that in this town FULL of holy orders and scholars that specialize in the undead, that the mayor is a disguised lich? Yeah, with a mind shielding … how did you know? The inability to do something good matches my own.
Oh! Oh! You gain a level! Yup, you get enough xp to level, says the adventure. In fact, you level after every one of these, or so says the introduction. Doesn’t that match that Mearls statement that the party should level after each nights play? 5e is a story game. If it’s a good 5e you throw in some tactical combat that you can lose. If it’s a bad 5e then you can’t lose.
So, lets see, story game, four combats and some skill checks, a bunch of magic items that give you mechanical ability score bumps (weirdly a lot of them?) , boring rumors, town map doesn’t tell you what the buildings actually are just business names, shop descriptions with trivia instead of gameable data (she buried her husband instead of burning him … uh … so what?) super long flavor text and a lot of it, used as act transitions … the laundry list of bad shit goes on and on.
The 4e skill check part is so mechanical that, at one point, the cult attacks between success four and five of the run.
But, the setting is kind of interesting, and the concept of it being a central point of the campaign is kind of intriguing. It gathers all the NPC’s together on one page, and gives you another page of randos to spice up town life, and tries to summarize them in just a few words: 31/F/Hu/Shy & Nice. Not great, but the thought behind it is the right one.
It’s REALLY fucking hard to get past the lack of content and story-based structure. Yo already have all the flavor text you need if you want to steal the idea, from reading the intro blurb and the review. Although, the thing IS free. There’s just nothing much to salve in this beyond the “town near a weird building that attracts undead” conceit.
And you didn’t stick the fucking party level on the cover or in the description. How do I know what level this is for before I buy it?
This is Free at DriveThru.
Bad 5eisms aside – not sure evil undead spewing Kabba vs. crusaders is really a vibe I want in my games.
Seconded! Maybe an effective trope, but the implications are not very charming. Without having read it that seems like a general problem with this and a lot of other bad adventures; there is little consideration of what stories are being told (or have the potential of being told, in less railroady scenarios).
For better or worse…a Black Cube in the middle of the desert sounds like a ass-kicking adventure. However, I would of tried to stray away from undead…and gone more an alien situation. There is some stuff that people expect undead…NO!!!! turn it up to something completely different! A disguised lich??….maybe…..give it some serious bureaucratic influence and interest–maybe its against the Cult and the gathered undead…Just reading the intro gives ideas for factions and a tinge of weirdness…but not sure of purchasing the whole package…
As regards “you get enough xps to level” I seem to recall this happening at the conclusion of an early Dragonlance module, where there were released prisoners able to teach you enough to gain a level. Didn’t like it then, and time has not mellowed me on the idea.