OSR/Generic/Veins of the Earth
The Pilgrimage of Hunger is a small cave system written for Veins of the Earth. The idea behind it is that it came into being in response to the hunger of the living, sentient minds and souls of the Veins. If it is the creation of cruel and dark gods, of a devil or demon, something from the Outer Dark or of some strange underworld godling of hunger that has devoured its own name is up to you as the GM. It is assumed that the existence and rites of the chapel are known to at least a few dwellers of the Veins in the wider area, and that those in the know make regular “pilgrimages” to the chapel (for the sake of survival).
This seventeen page adventure describes an eight room cave complex. Veins of the Earth style with living darkness and the more realistic cave system descriptions, etc are all present. While it is deep and rich, I would make the case that it’s not very interactive and suffers quite a bit from a writing style that’s not conducive to actually running it.
The caves here modeled after the Veins style. The darkness is alive and it takes time to go from point A to B, up and down, with it abstracted in to a pointcrawl. That’s all fine and it’s good to see something coming out in this style. The darkness description is contained in one small paragraph near the beginning, in italics. I think at this point it’s clear I don’t like long italics blocks. A few words, ok, but more than a sentence is hard to read. Further, the darkness, tactile, smell-o-vision atmosphere is supposed to be ever present. I would have like to have seen it front & center in everything. There’s a little border design on every page … I can’t help but think that putting the general atmosphere in that border, or a border of keywords, would have been much more effective in helping the DM integrate it in to all aspects of the adventure. Or, maybe just on the page that has the abstracted map? When running a game you need certain things at your fingertips almost all of the time, the map being one of those. Putting other “general need” reference information on it makes sense. As does something like a border, etc. Both make the information readily at hand for the DM to use, prompting their memory and cueing them to make use of the extra.
The various encounters are interesting, in a way, and interactive in the sense that if you fuck with things then things will happen. The text is deep and rich, conveying a layered approach. It’s rich and deep enough that it’s hard to convey. I get the same vibe as I do when reading William Hope Hodgson or the knocks off stories. Airy, deep, mysterious. The keywords there would be “when I read it.” In the realm of “RPG Adventure as a Lit thing tending to being read more than played as a substitute for people tired of Drizzel Durden Genre Fiction” then this thing out-Paizo’s a Paizo “adventure.”
That, of course, is not a compliment. I’ll take a Hodgson vibe all day long, but I won’t read it at the table. The thing is DENSE, with about a page per room description in places. Multiple paragraphs, not much in the way of whitespace organization beyond a simple paragraph break and just a little italics. Headings, indents, other techniques used to draw attention, group information, and the like are few and far between or not present at all. This leads you to long silences to read the room and try to hold it in your head. Craig the dwarf dropped to his death as he tried to climb the shaft. His corpse lies at the bottom of it. The preamble adds nothing to actual play but a lot to the Paizo-nature.
Kent would argue that one buys an adventure, studies it, takes notes, and spends many hours in preparation. And, yes, you could do that. But that’s not where I’m coming from. I think, that in 2019, we can expect more from the shit we spend out money on (or time, an even more valuable resource.) I expect us to have learned something about design in the last fifty years of D&D publishing. I expect the designer to add value that way. There’s always a role for something fabulously imaginative that eschews organization. A product that you must study to use serves as fluff, inspiration, or possibly as a cornerstone to many many sessions. But why not both? Is that concept really so foreign?
I would argue, as well, that while the encounters in this are interactive they are not the right kind of interactive. In a lot of (older?) Greenwood adventures it can feel like you are touring a museum. Raggi-land punishes mercilessly if you interact. Kuntz can hide things so deep you can’t find them. In all cases you can interact. Good interaction drives the adventure. It gives you reason to interact. There’s a flower. Eat it and some weird thing that you could never anticipate will happen. Well … why would I eat it in the first place? Because I have death wish? At higher levels maybe a little more of this can excused; the party has enough divination magic that they should know better/in advance. But what of the rest of us? Why the fuck would I ever eat from the flower? I didn’t make level 4 by eating strange shit FOR NO REASON. Likewise, a weird old man with little memory, in a cave. Uh, ok. And? It comes off as weird for the sake of weird, with no force or lure to interact.
I want to be delicate in these next comments. I’m pretty sure this is an English as a Second Language adventure. And that’s great. I love adventures from outside the english-speaking world. The various takes on things, influenced by their own cultures, Scandinavian, French, Asian, are all great and I would hate for this comment to be viewed as a pushback. And lord knows their english is better than any language I know. I tend to overlook a lot of minor things, but when it starts to interfere with comprehension then it’s a problem. A quick read-through by a native english speaker, with a highlighter, could have perhaps focused the designers attention on certain areas that could use a second look. It’s a relatively minor thing in this, but it does stick out a little more than some of the French or Scandinavian stuff I’ve seen. Not a full on editor, just a pass off to friend with a request to highlight the more awkward sentences/phrases.
And there’s no level present? On the cover or the DriveThru description or in the description?
Imaginative, the bones of something good, but the “good” interactivity is lacking, with little drive to explore (almost no treasure at all) and risk, combined with a somewhat “normal” writing style in paragraph form that hides information from scanning and location during play.
This is Pay What You Want at Drivethru with a suggested price of $2.50. It’s PWYW, so you, in a sense, get the preview for free. But, it also provides the ENTIRE thing as a preview, for free. I’ve seen a couple of products lately do this and I’ll on board for it to be a trend in 2019 and beyond. There’s so much shit on DriveThru that a requirement to post the entire thing in the preview would also be a blessing.