By Jay Libby
Dilly Green Brean Games
Swords & Wizardry
Half naked Hobbs, a mystic wizard and a shrine long since abandoned call players in the first Stairs of the Immortal: Swords & Wizardry adventure module The Shrine of Ptatallo!
This 23 page adventure is a linear mess in free verse form. I don’t even know what to call this style anymore. This is just a garbage linear “modern” adventure with the stats converted to S&W.
Look man, I know I can be a caricature of myself at times. Yeah, I have these things I like to say about criticizing the work not the author, giving feedback, writing a review so you can find it useful even if you don’t share my tastes, and then I show my ass by doing Reviews As Performance Art. But jesus H fucking christ man, it FEELS like adventure design is going backwards. My first exposure to the incomprehensible were the Willett/Bloodymage adventures, and it seems like the number of trusly shit-tastic things is getting more and more prevalent.
I went through this spate, in the early days, of reviewing a pile of things that were CLEARLY money grab conversions. Slap a different game system on the cover and maybe half-ass a couple of stats and release it for thirteen different game systems. Mechanic confusion abounded, idiosyncratic parts of games were ignored (xp=gp, for example) and so on. I developed a strong hatred for the people involved in the money grabs. Sometimes you can see this spill over when I spit out the word “conversion” like it were venom. Perhaps unjustly at times.
Willett and Alfonso were different. Alfonso hadn’t played D&D in like twenty years and was just publishing to get titles under his name so a big publishing house would pick up his novels. Like the money-grabbers, his motives were less love of the game and more something else. Willett seemed like he NEEDED money, but seemed to have a love of the game that he just could not express and get down on paper in a logical way. I have a lot of sympathy for those folks. Getting a vision out of your head and down on paper in a way that makes it easy for someone else to pick up and run with is not a trivial task. And yet thousands of people manage to do it. Emulating, mostly, they get it out and down in a format that looks like it could work. And then there’s things like this adventure.
There’s this trend lately to publish an almost stream of consciousness adventure. An almost novelization. And I don’t mean fiction and I don’t mean the Paizo over-wordy bullshit. Imagine there were no maps and you were telling a story to a friend over a beer and you kept saying “and then we …” and “then I … “ and so on. Rapid fire. No pauses. Almost stream of consciousness but without as much randomness.
This seems to be format that people use when writing adventures. This is now the (fourth?) adventure in about a month or so that I’ve seen use it. I just don’t fucking get it. It’s completely confusing. You have to dig through paragraph after paragraph of data to get ahold of whats going on. The section breaks are few and far between. “The room to the right contains” and “the room to the left contains …” are the extent of the keying. Oh, wait, no, there’s also “the tunnel leads to another room that has a …” sort of thing. What kind of fucking thing is this? It’s like you just described a dungeon, room after room, in one big long section. There are paragraph breaks, but no section breaks to speak of. Some paragraph breaks are new rooms, Some are different things in the same room. How the fuck is this usable in any way? I don’t get where this is coming from but it needs to fucking stop. It’s bad enough that this adventure is completely linear, but this format, on top of it, does nothing but make my life harder at the table. How the fuck are you supposed to use this?
And the adventure is only about six actual pages long, everything else filler, fluff, and monster stats. How about some cash so you can level? Of course not.
Look, you gotta meet me halfway here. I’m happy to review new people. It’s hard as fuck to get any publicity in the DriveThru marketplace. But you need to do a little research and figure out for yourself a modicum of adventure design.
I present to you my new ratings scale, which I promise to promptly forget about as soon as I close my browser:
- Not An Adventure
- Stream of Consciousness Adventure
- Emulating an Adventure format without knowing how it works
- I know what I’m doing
- I know what I’m doing and life has not crushed my soul
This is $2.50 at DriveThru. There is no preview.
An eerie coincidence: it seems both Alphonso Warden and Steve Willett may be deceased. Bloodymage is confirmed; Warden just dropped off the radar in 2012, with no further publications or posts to his name. His last post on Dragonsfoot (under the name “munafik”) was April 10, 2012.
I once searched for him to see what he was up to, and an obituary at https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/boulder-co/alphonso-warden-5076684 had this note: “Alphonso Warden was born on January 1, 1972 and passed away on April 21, 2012 in Boulder, CO.” In a 2011 DF post, Alphonso wrote: “I have resided in Boulder, Colorado, for the past twenty years or so, and don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.”
So it goes.
Narrator: He left Boulder all too soon.
Sad. I talked to him many times at DF. Of course, bloodymage and I talked all the time during my tenure as a DF Moderator. He was a rough-and-tumble soul, to be sure, but he had a pure love of the game.
“Take a pull on the hell horn for me should you get there first!” -Conan
Presumably, they have product still available at Drive & Lulu. I wonder what the policy is at both places for dead authors with no contacts? Eventually hey time out of some “renew your x” thing and go away? With their products gone forever?
That’s sad. People should think of a way for their stuff to live on. No one’s gonna make any money at this shit. Ad if you are then that product will be pirated and live on forever. It’s the smaller more indie stuff that will end up being ephemeral. Gone Fishin’?
Alexa, play ‘The Greatest Adventure’…
Bloo’s chief achievement was his life in what Charles Portis referred to as ‘pelagic America’. The real adventure was his overnight stays in church parking lots, getting to conventions a week early, seeking donations from forum members, sent to small town Post Office general delivery, to fund him until his government checks arrived. His Arizona adventure, involving a dog-walker fiance he described as ‘crazy’ and his mysterious four hour conversation with the local Mormon authorities… his relocation to an old folks’ home in north Texas, where the nightly singalong was a thorn in his side- these are the choice adventures.
The real danger is the lapse of domain names- the loss of his plans for Polyhedracon d4-3, involving an armed security force and a dubious recipe for an egg dish for the concession stand. Gone are the stories of Bloo’s grifts, the job offers for his LLC, necessitating a 1K buy-in, the infamous Garycon dine-and-dash, a mysterious account by a young player about Bloo’s need to pack heat while gamemastering.
A lot of Dragonsfoot threads chronicling Bloo’s final days were scrubbed due to depressing or distressing content. In one of them, a forum denizen made a mysterious admonition: “You know what you did!” This is the sort of stuff that will be lost, never mind ‘The Stink in Golanda’.
Alexa, play ‘Tears in Rain’ monologue.
“the infamous Garycon dine-and-dash”
I hadn’t heard that one. I only lurk on DF, I must have missed it before it got scrubbed. Care to give the TL;DR version?
Looking at the name of the publisher, I suspect that Libby wants to sell more canned beans with dill. Is there a jolly green giant that the player character’s have to slay?
Great, now I’m hungry for haricots.
There is no way I would even have picked this up with that cover. Bad judgement all around.
Who is this half-naked Hobbs? It’s on the cover so I guess this person is very important? I’m sorta curious?
I just wanted to say, this review is a thing of beauty. I wish I had the balls to publish something like this. The unfortunate side effect is, now I want to read the thing myself to see how bad it is. But there’s no preview! Argh!
And here I am not putting stuff out because I can’t find a room key format that I really love or expend the effort to make one page cheat sheet versions of things… I never thought of it, but maybe freeverse is the way to go. Real beatnik shit.
Like the lyrics of “All along the Watchtower” randomly scrambled up with room keys from Tamochan and a short story about the time I was acosted by a goose in the public gardens as a child. Alternatively maybe this stuff is meant to be a script that’s read aloud on a stream. No one j7st plays D&D anymore, you got to film it to monitize on youtube. We need to write adventures for that maybe, with the dumb NPCs voices written in as dialect.
Maybe I am just a curmudegon…
…and the OSR enters its beatnik phase.
” I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by a robust feat system, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through Lost Mines of Phandelver at dawn looking for an angry fix,
pigheaded orcs burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the Gygaxian dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of G+ floating across the tops of splat books contemplating THAC0…”
Oh God make it stop!
I dub this poem “the Howl of the Bandersnatch”
If that means steering away from the Dadaism phase that is “gonzo design”, then I’m all for it.
Perhaps Gus L is roght. Reminds me of the old MUDs, or the early text-based computer adventures from the 80’s.
If so, the writing style makes a certain sense. Why bother with a random-access room key if you’re just going to railroad the players? Why bother editing your ideas down to evocative snippets if you’re just going to shovel-feed the players read-aloud text? Just give the GM a breadcrumb trail of room blurbs and be done with it.
Breadcrumbs & Room Blurbs, indeed.
My mind translated ‘Shrine of Ptattallo’ To ‘Shrine of Fellatio’. That would have been a much better adventure.
Sounds like a Venger adventure.
Not without gratuitous apostrophes, it doesn’t
The Shrine of Fellatio, a XXX-rated adventure! Featuring new classes and feats! And terrible plot lines. Set to bongos and wah-pedal guitar tracks.
I blame Zak “If you are not my fan you are harassing me” Smith for a lot of this shit, especially Blooeymage’s. because around the 2011 time period he stated “everybody should try and get published. I recall Bloo even acknowledged that quote when starting his company. Maybe Zak inspired this other guy too.
No, not everybody should try and get published. The ranks of gamers is swollen with idiots and mental deficients (you there, Kent?). A lot of stuff just sucks. You can grab the Old School encounter reference and randomize better gaming.
Steve Willet was clearly a person with serious mental issues. Many of these were apparent when Dragonsfoot was letting him moderate. It got much worse over time and his delusions led to bafflement as to why his product wasn’t being snapped up, and to conceiving game cons where armed guards patrolled the halls and his “crazy old lady fiancé” made “Polly Eggs” for the snack suite that we can only assume was a form of devilled egg. While its true many of us seemed to be goofing on him, in reality we were fascinated by his journey. His dark side which included con dine and dashing and taking delight in killing peoples characters (rather than being grateful they were there and delivering a fun game for them) was just another interesting part of the story. He seemed an enigma. I’m sure there was more darkness we will never know.
With all this Frank and Zak stuff going on, we could really use the simple nature of Bloodymage’s foibles right now. But hey, maybe Christian Walkers one-page kiddy scribble ‘zines will save our souls, dudes.
Thanks, Captain. Thanks for being the true Bloo Detective, and tracking down The Greatest OSR Story Ever Told.
Guys, it’s not new. I have read this style of stream of consciousness style a score of times in amateur AD&D adventures in badder, older days, the difference is they were written in word documents or damn .txt files and uploaded for free download on some barely-frequented website. Now people can polish it up a bit, slap a price tag on it and try to sell it. The barrier for entry is lower, it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff when adventures cost money and have no preview and you get ripped off, but at least the wheat /exists/ nowadays.
Dammit stop talking about my free adventures that way. Writing them brought me joy!
Seriously though I do wish more people would offer free stuff on thier blogs rather then slapping some clip art on something and selling it.