The Devil of Murder Cliffs

By Casey Christofferson
Frog God Games
Levels 3-5

In the pale light of the witching hour when the moon shows off its twin horns,
Tis said that a devil rises from the deep with a murderous taste for the soul.
You will know ere he stalks for the crows love to talk
About how they have picked clean your bones.

Let’s see what the Frogs are up to these days!

This 39 page adventure details a small regional with a bandit camp, some gnolls, an inn, a druid, and some loggers. There’s a meta-plot thing going on where the inn, bandits, and a ghost have some stuff going on. It feels more like the outline of an adventure, with a lot of generic detail added to it. The emphasis on act 1 & 3 is too short, I think.

Part 1: You arrive at the inn. It’s about a page long and then the inn is described, room by room, up until about page 20. The inn room description is 9 pages long with the “mission introduction” contained on a 10th page. You get your mission: defeat the bandits &| druid. Part 2: the wilderness including the bandit camp, gnoll camps, druid, evil mountain altar, logging camps, etc. 6 pages, 8 with the wanderers. Part 3: After defeating the bandits/druid you come back for a feast. Then all hell breaks loose. 1 page.

This feels more like the outline of an adventure. Imagine I wrote a page of plot. Then I write the outline of some locations to go visit. Then I expanded those locations with a bunch of generic detail, over several pages. That’s what this feels like.

The introduction/hook is a couple of paragraphs about four bandits (1hd) attacking the inn, a lady inside yelling at the party to kill them, and then her asking the party to kill the bandits and their ally, the druid. It’s almost a throw-away. I guess it’s meant to be expanded by all of the context provided in the NPC backgrounds and situation overview that appear before this. It feels like a cumbersome way to handle things. Yes, all of the NPC’s in the inn kind of make sense, but the way the “plot” is condensed in to just a couple of paragraphs seems awkward. I think maybe it could have used a little less of NPC description up front and maybe a little more in the “welcome to the inn!” sections.

Likewise, the wilderness sections are weird. A wandering monster table followed by some wilderness locales. There’s a couple of gnoll lairs that expliplify this. Just six or so cave rooms, with some generic descriptions and generic gnolls. Leaders, wives, bodyguards, young … it could be the B2 cave. It feels flat, and somehow could be replaced with “gnoll lair with 6 rooms, 12 gnolls, a chief, 2 wives, 8 young, and 2 bodyguards. 300gp” It feels weird. There’s a lot of text but it doesn’t really DO anything.

Party 3 kind of exemplifies this. It’s about a page and deals with consequences. A dinner party, maybe escaped prisoners if the party captured any and then a hunt for them in the inn, and a ghost possessing people to cause trouble, and maybe an attack by gnolls and bandits on the inn, all at the same time. First: AWESOME! I fucking love chaos in an adventure, especially at the end. A billion things going on at once! Delicious!

But, more to my point, it’ feels weird. It’s almost like THIS is the actual adventure and everything else just led up to it. But it’s covered on one page. Suddenly, the EXTENSIVE room by room inn description makes sense. If the party is doing a hide & seek with the escape prisoners then you need a full map and room description. It’s still weird though … the extraneous detail of the inn. And, yes, the designer is right, the party is likely to explore and get in to trouble in part one, so a map kind of makes sense then also. But nine pages worth?

It’s all a kind of super-weird choice. There’s this evil mountain alter that has a magic item that will be pretty hard/impossible to recover, given the permutations and lack of hints. But then it once again becomes a focus in the end of party 3, when a ghost can possess someone there. Except they can do it in part one also.

There is something to this adventure, but the emphasis and the way ideas are presented is out of whack with the clarity. Specificity is missing, and instead we get this kind of outline format that’s then expanded upon with genericism. And then it’s WAY long while the more interesting sections are very short.

And then the treasure is quite light for S&W. The gnolls have 400gp. The bandits little more. What/how the bandit officers patrol is buried in the description of the officers tent instead of the camp overview. Information is misplaced and wrongly emphasized all over the place.

Again, the concepts are not bad, but it’s quite cumbersome. Well, the inn people are baddies who betray you, which triggers lifelong D&D trauma of always sleeping together in inns and never eating or drinking their food and never making friends/allies anywhere. The DM’s party in murder hobo survival is an important tale to tell.

This is $10 at DriveThru. There’s no preview. Sup with that froggies? How about letting us see what we’re buying ahead of time when you charge us $10?

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29 Responses to The Devil of Murder Cliffs

  1. Bigby’s Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

    Expliplify?!? I refuse to believe that’s a typo, Bryce. I know you just invented a new word, and am thinking of ways I could use it in a business setting.

  2. squeen says:

    I feel like the OD&D sweet-spot is characters level 3-6. Afterwards they get a bit too powerful and always seem to have a trick up their sleeve, and at the lowest levels they fall over in a stiff wind and are too risk averse.

    Bryce, you make the point in several reviews about not enough gold/treasure for a gold = XP system, but I don’t necessarily think that’s so awful. As a DM, I think it kind of nice if the party adventures together for extended periods before striking it rich and levelling up. Feast and famine, so to speak.

    The game becomes a bit more about establishing a character’s “reputation” in the world, and less about game mechanics and the they linger a bit longer in that middle-level zone. I think that also relates a bit to the point that treasure should be “interesting” as opposed to standard (+1 sword, 20 gems @ 50gp each, etc.)—the former can be sparse and still lend ambiance, the latter is just accounting and needs to pile up geometrically to move the needle.

    Sure the PC’s complain about “when am I going to go up a level” (I don’t usually tell them their XP), but then again…PC *always* complain.

    • squeen says:

      Also, on the cover…is that a crow, or is he holding a bird-shaped gun?

      For a death knight, he’s got a bit of cowboy swagger in his body-language.

    • Oswald says:

      The issue really comes in when you’re using a lot of modules. The books have pretty robust guidelines for treasure amounts and even the old modules seem to have a decently paced amount. Because GP =xp, you can see in a module when it expects players to have gained a level so they can handle tougher challenges. Any of the moldvay adventures are good examples of this. I’d prefer if the adventures people put out where roughly standardized with the treasure because I mess with the xp advancement but I find it easier to use a simple formula rather than having to reverse engineer the entire design of the adventure to get it to my liking somosim

  3. Evard's Small Tentacle says:

    The Frog jumped the shark long ago…

  4. Melan says:

    Thanks for the review! I checked this out on DriveThru, but got cold feet about that $10 because there was no preview whatsoever.

    On the topic of treasure, it is an issue because D&D’s advancement mechanic is tied to it – no loot, no XP. Aesthetically, the Scrooge McDuck-style gold mountains required for the higher levels feel quite wrong to me. This is why I use an XP multiplier – but an adventure without treasure is kind of a dick move, even when otherwise realistic or even genre-appropriate.

  5. Tamás Illés says:

    The reason for the low amount of treasure is simple: it’s a lazy conversion of an adventure originally written for D&D5e – just like the rest of the line’s S&W adventures.

    • John w says:

      Hang on, some of them are covered from pathfinder! But yes I have been underwhelmed with frog God’s conversions

      • Tamás Illés says:

        The current line of short adventures that started with The City That Dripped Blood indiegogo campaign is mainly for 5e. Pathfinder was an aftertought, The City That Dripped Blood and The Devil of Murder Cliffs doesn’t even have a Pathfinder version.

        • John W says:

          Sorry I was making reference to Stoneheart Valley and some other books I have seen. Just pointing out the conversions are not just underwhelming when converted from 5e.

          • Tamás Illés says:

            Can’t argue with that. The adventures in Stoneheart Valley even go back to the 3e era of Necromancer Games. It would be interesting to compare all the versions.

          • John W says:

            I’m running a rappan athuk game with pf and certain parts stick out as very 3.5. I’m sure I have the original pdfs as a stretch goal for something somewhere but alas I cannot find them to check

  6. Kent says:

    OKEY DOKEY so going forward, beginning today, this is going to be an accumulating list of IMBECILES & CRETINS (from my vantage point there is a difference, everyone is an idiot to me so you readers of TENFOOTPOLE should not be offended that I distinguish between you IMBECILES & CRETINS)

    The *Imbecile* imagines he has something to say but obtrudes nothing but stinkbreath — that’s what intrigues Bryce Lynch and is the basis of his blog.

    The *Cretin* has nothing to say but is a hysterical fan of *Imbeciles* — these guys have en masse fooled Lynch into thinking that spending a million hours reading D&D material is five hours well spent.

    Bigby’s Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist

    • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

      Your Dunning-Kruger is showing, ya gobdaw.

    • Chill_ice says:

      Mr.Kent, I am very curious. Where do you fall on this spectrum? Are you an imbecil or a cretin or something else?

      • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

        Kent wishes he were smart enough to be considered an imbecile or cretin. The name gives it away, ‘Kent’ is short for Kentrosaur… he has a brain the size of a walnut. If he didn’t have a grapefruit sized ganglion in the region of his arse, he wouldn’t even be able to walk.

    • Kent's Conscience says:

      “There are four kinds of people in this world: cretins, fools, morons, and lunatics…Cretins don’t even talk; they sort of slobber and stumble…Fools are in great demand, especially on social occasions. They embarrass everyone but provide material for conversation…Fools don’t claim that cats bark, but they talk about cats when everyone else is talking about dogs. They offend all the rules of conversation, and when they really offend, they’re magnificent…Morons never do the wrong thing. They get their reasoning wrong. Like the fellow who says that all dogs are pets and all dogs bark, and cats are pets, too, therefore cats bark…Morons will occasionally say something that’s right, but they say it for the wrong reason…A lunatic is easily recognized. He is a moron who doesn’t know the ropes. The moron proves his thesis; he has logic, however twisted it may be. The lunatic on the other hand, doesn’t concern himself at all with logic; he works by short circuits. For him, everything proves everything else. The lunatic is all idée fixe, and whatever he comes across confirms his lunacy. You can tell him by the liberties he takes with common sense, by his flashes of inspiration, and by the fact that sooner or later he brings up the Templars…There are lunatics who don’t bring up the Templars, but those who do are the most insidious. At first they seem normal, then all of a sudden…”

      Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum – 1988.

      • squeen says:

        Read the synopsis of the book. Sounds like a good one.
        Thanks for the tip.

        Bring this back to D&D…it seems like there are plenty of diabolical cults in use, but few “secret societies” in the traditional sense. Does the existence of actual and real magic make these irrelevant?

        I think it might be interesting as an experiment to insert a group of conspiracists into an urban environment (like The Lone Gunmen)—a group the PC can get information from, but have to sift through the random nonsense. Possibly, it’s members are the bored landed gentry, so at face value seem respectable.

      • Kent says:

        Nice! A lovely theory, fluid with his definitions and yet scientifically accurate.

        Umberto Eco lacks Vehemence & Persecution to round off his observation. Come, Umberto. to this community of old D&D gamers, and together we will crush their simple hearted good natures into a few little nuts of excrement.

        Ah! how I will dance around the little nuts cast in the dirt at the end of time.

      • squeen says:

        Decided to go with crazy today, eh?


  7. squeen says:

    Whoot! Whoot! I made the CRETINS list! In your faces Imbeciles!

  8. The Middle Finger of Vecna says:

    I’m more like a doofus.

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