(5e) Horror at Havel’s Cross

By Richard Jansen-Parkes
Winghorn Press
Level 2

When a group of archaeologists put out a call for adventurers to help them escort a valuable artefact back to civilization, nobody expects anything out of the ordinary. However, our heroes have more than mere bandits to deal with at Havel’s Cross… Undead monsters roam the night and an ancient artefact stirs within a long forgotten temple. Getting to the bottom of the mystery will require a strong sword-arm and an even stronger stomach.

This six page adventure has three encounters. It’s free text format make it hard to use during play. Any detail is lost.

So, up front, I loathe the “archeology” thing in D&D. That implies a 19th century setting and I like my D&D less Victorian/Edwardian. Miners, lost kids, there’s lots of reason to have some people disappear and someone to want to find them.

Positives: It only uses the D&D basic rules. That’s a good approach. The basic rules are enough for most people to have and it would be great to have a rich amount of data to pull from. It also uses bullet points to convey information, particularly when you question someone. If Bob has some information for you then you can expect to find three or four bullets points, each with maybe a couple of sentence. The first few words of each sentence coney the subject of the bullet, so you can scan it easily enough to find what you need. Bullets: good. Putting the important stuff first so you can easily find which bullet is which: good. There’s also a section where a DC check on a dead horse (or inside an inn) can help inform you that there might be undead involved. That sort of thing is good. I quibble with putting it behind a DC check to begin with, but at least it’s not an empty check.

And on the bad side … garbage read aloud: it’s too long and it tends to try to tell the players what they feel, etc. On the DM text side I’m going to mention something else related: “It’s like staring in to a nightmare.” Uh huh. These are both symptoms of a large problem: the adventure tells instead of shows. “You feel scared” is telling. I’m not scared. At all. It’s lame and breaks immersion. But if you describe a scene and the players GET scared, or they think “man, that’s out of a nightmare!” then you have SHOWN. This is substantially more effective. And of course, no one pays attention after two read-aloud sentences.

Did I mention there’s a roll to continue? You need to roll a DC 12 in order to find a door in order to continue an adventure. Don’t put your adventure behind a DC check that the party can fail. Yes, every DM on earth is gonna hand wave it. That doesn’t mean you did right when writing it.

The major issue, though, is the organization.

This is now the second or third adventure that is organized in paragraph form. What I mean by that is, imagine you write out the adventure without any section heading, keyed room entries, and the like. Just one long document of text, only broken up by paragraphs. Then bold a word or two. That’s an extreme example, but it’s essentially what’s going on in this adventure, and the other few like it I’ve seen. Wherever this shit is coming from it needs to stop.

There’s no keyed map. It attempts to describe the map in the text. “There’s a chamber to the left” says some read aloud. Somewhere in the text that follow is a paragraph or two that describes the chamber to the left. There’s a window to look in, but you have to hunt the paragraph that tells you what you see. The complete and utter lack of effective organization is a major pain.

If I were forced to run this close to RAW then the adventure I would run is “Contacted to find a missing archeologist. Find a dead horse outside an inn. Dead people in the inn and some goblins/a hobgoblin. Go to the dig site and find temple with empty room, a room with some ghouls, and the final chamber.” I mean it, that’s what i would run, almost verbatim, that is contained in the adventure. I would supplement this with the bullet point data, because it’s easy to find, but that’s it. I’m not gonna take ten minutes to read the room, etc when the people show up to it. It’s more important to me that the players be engaged in the game then I run the adventure as written. That means that ALL that extra detail, beyond what I typed above. Is completely worthless and should never have been written/included. Unless, of course, it’s organized in such a way that I can find and reference it during play.

But as written, now, in the free-form text flow it uses? No fucking way. This is just some generic throw-away stuff that’s hard to use, and that’s not compelling enough for me to make an greater than usual effort.


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18 Responses to (5e) Horror at Havel’s Cross

  1. Kent says:

    1– Bullet points are for bullet headed morons (or readers of this blog).

    2– “I loathe the “archeology” thing in D&D”

    I love the archeology thing in D&D.

    3– Bryce Lynch is trying to write a Dummy’s guide to Basic D&D for pregnant mothers.

  2. Yora says:

    One thing to say about these 5th Edition adventures. While the content may be as lacking as the average OSR adventure, many of these covers look way better than the crude AD&D immitations

    • Gnarley Bones says:

      Eye of the beholder, I guess. That’s a static cover. Nothing’s happening. Give me a Brian “Glad” Thomas cover any day.

    • Gus L says:

      I’ll take amateurish pen and ink made for the product over amateurish digital painting from a stock art pack personally…

    • squeen says:

      Yeah. Where/how is 5th edition getting all of its first-class artwork? NOTHING looks amateurish.

      • Part of the perks of joining the DM’s Guild I believe…

        • Chill_ice says:

          Just out of curiosity, why don’t more of you guys who make content put it on the DM’s guild? I looked at DM’s guild website a bit and it looks like you retain almost all creative control over the product as long as you can make it fit in their boxes (IE, ‘generic setting and 5e). I could be horribly misinterpreting this though.

          Also it looks like they have some clause about not posting idiotic diatribes on your blog. I am sure that rules out a few people, but not most.

          Converting to material to 5e is incredibly easy, I’ve done this myself quite a bit when nobody wants to play DCC.

          It seems like it would be a good way to get the largest market share possible.

          I dunno, I am just curious.

          • The #1 reason for me is I don’t have fun with 5e (or, really haven’t given it a chance). I like 0e, 1e, and 2e.

            The 5 people I tried to get to convert our stuff to 5e either gave up, didn’t like spending the time on it, or said it was “impossible.” If one of the other Merchants wants to do some 5e, I’ll entertain it, but we wouldn’t join DMs Guild as we wouldn’t be able to sell anywhere else and I just spent a good chunk of time on a lovely website. 🙂

      • The Middle Finger of Vecna says:

        Slapping slick artwork on an adventure that isn’t good is putting some lipstick on the pig.

        • squeen says:

          I agree completely, but it’s only that I figure generating fantasy artwork of that calibre would be very expensive and time consuming—far outweighing the effort put into most of the textual content.

          What am I missing in the economics of this? A slave-labor pool of tiny third-world digital brushes?

          • Slick S. says:

            I was never very good at digital painting when I tried it but if you’re proficient then it’s a lot faster of a process than using traditional media. The people who were good at it could really crank them out. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were people out there whose job it is to build up a big library of stock art.

    • Chill_ice says:

      I can kind of see where you are coming from here. A lot of the 5e/pathfinder art has very high production value. This particular module’s cover art is pretty cool and if it was on a shelf next to some of the less interesting OSR art i’d definitely look through it first. However, most of the 5e/pathfinder art comes off as very sterile to me. It looks like it was designed for teenagers. In many cases, I think the more DIY looking OSR stuff completely blows it out of the water. Fever Swamp and Veins of the Earth books are two great examples of this. They are pleasurable to just look at, and rifle though. They are the only two role-playing game books that I keep with my regular book collection instead of cloistered in a box in my closet.

  3. Slick S. says:

    From the blurb:

    “When a group of archaeologists put out a call for adventurers to help them escort a valuable artefact back to civilization, nobody expects anything out of the ordinary.”

    Given how often this kind of thing apparently happens in the average D&D world (judging from the amount of adventures that start like this), I SINCERELY doubt that.

  4. Chill_ice says:

    @ The Merciless Merchants.

    “we wouldn’t be able to sell anywhere else”

    Ah, that’s what I wasn’t sure of. I couldn’t find anything explicate about that on their FAQs (but to be honest, I spent about 2.5 seconds researching this). Makes sense though, and it’s bullshit.

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