(5e) Harrowing Heights

Daniel McDonald, Sam McDonald, Pete Pinner
DeepDark Designs
Levels 1-3

A level 1-5 adventure module for 3-5 players and a game master that pitches the PCs against kobolds and drakes, with strong nordic-themes and a focus on overland travel.

More crap. I thought this one would be different. Five reviews. All five stars. A closer look reveals that all of the reviews are long and sing the praises of the product, list cons, and still give it five stars. Treachery?

It would match the other puffery. You’re partaking on a Grand Journey! Best of all the adventure is lovingly illustrated with art and cartography! No, that’s not best of all. This is 114 pages. Five or so scenes and a couple of overland journeys. How does it accomplish this? By perhaps the worst cases of hand holding I’ve ever seen.

NOTHING in this thing is simple. If you simply cut out all of the regional and cultural information (the vikings tolerate all religions and treat everyone as equals. Oh, my, that’s unusual. Never saw that coming. So, it’s a bunch of humans that wear furs and act just like every other D&D culture?) then you’d still be left with about fifty pages and about five scenes and a couple of overland journeys.

Hand holding. Conversational text. There’s SO fucking much of it. SO much that I can barely make heads or tails of the actual encounters. “The kobolds occupy the spaces indicated on the map, split their numbers however you like.” On and on and on it goes. The fucking thing can’t take a sentence to say something, it has to take a fucking paragraph.

At one point the jarl is presented as an NPC with a section on how to roleplay him. He’s a concerned father … so we need an extra couple of sentences to tell us what that heading means. He’s authoritarian, not draconian. So we need another two or three sentences to tell us what that means. It’s fucking stupid to the extreme how much this thing drags on.

Oh No, jalrs daughter hasn’t arrived! Go look at the ambush scene and fight some kobolds. Go back to town and talk to the Jarl. Wilderness journey to druid who knows where the kobold live. Kobolds destroyed a bridge, so talk to a nearby cartoony eccentric wizard. Talk/kill kobolds at their giant village and talk/kill the old lady behind it all.

You get to prove your worthiness to the druid before he helps you. Isn’t that original? Proving your worthiness. I mean, every shitty adventure on the face of the earth does this, so why not this one also?

The read-aloud is long, of course it is, and it tells you how you feel, because of course it does. “There’s a sinking feeling in your gut …”

If you kill the jarls guards at the viking settlement then you are recognized as brave and loyal men and not charged. Wereguild? No.

You see, the designer has a plot he wants to force down your fucking throat. Getting arrested isn’t in that plot so it doesn’t happen. Capture a kobold? Guess what, he doesn’t know where his lair is … because that would eliminate a couple of scenes to the adventure and we just can’t have that happening can we? And the viking theming is just pasted on in the loosest way possible, so no cultural stuff included. Just get on the railroad, do what your told while playing with your phones, and wait until four hours have passed so you can go home.

Unless you’re the DM. In which case you get to wade through all of this shitty shitty text. It fucking holds your hand in the text in every way imaginable, using the loosest of all conversational styles, but then says things like “there’s a 5% chance he possess a magic item.” or Suggestion- Put some debris on the map as difficult terrain to represent the looted wagon contents. Fucking really? Seriously? You can’t even set the fucking scene or rewards up for us? You can give us multiple sentences of backstory and explanation justifying everything that happens in every part of this adventure, but not that?  You know, of course, that the backstory is fucking useless and just gets in the way of the details that we need to run the adventure? That the loose conversational style is a disaster at the table, while you’re looking at the book trying to run the adventure?

“An Incentive. Depending on their motivations and personality traits, the PCs might already be moved by Dalla’s plight. Either way, Orm is prepared to offer them a tremendous reward for going above and beyond the call of duty.”

There is absolutely no understanding displayed AT ALL about what an adventure is or is meant to do or how it should. Or maybe there is and they just selected to do the opposite at every possible decision point.

Bad Adventure Design. Bad Adventure Formatting. Full of puffery. In retrospect, I should have known from the 5-star reviews. Why do people put up with this shit? Are there no standards at all left? “I tried” is worth five stars? I guess this is what people want. Paying $10 for a PDF that has almost no adventure in it and is padded out? I want to think that people just don’t know what good design is. That the consumer doesn’t so, so they put up with this garbage. That the designers don’t know and thus keeping churning out this same stuff over and over again.

This garbage is $10.50 at DriveThru.  The preview is eight pages and shows you nothing of the actual adventure, just the background garbage.


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14 Responses to (5e) Harrowing Heights

  1. Melan says:

    Also furthermore, the author misspelled “Lejendary Adventures”. Shame.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You should leave a link or snippet from this review on the page…

  3. mike says:

    “Harrowing Heights” seems like a soap opera name. “Today on Harrowing Heights, will Carl the kobald find his missing dagger, will jocasta tell her father that she’s pregnant,, but who’s the real father? Find out today on ….. Harrowing Heights!!!”

  4. Gus L says:

    So sick of Vikings. Sick unto death of bad Norse themed crap. Vikings are to the 2010’s as ninjas were to the 1980’s and pirates the aught’s. If you must have a sea raiding honor bound warrior culture pastiche from chilly climes use a Haida stand in. Go read everything on Straits of Anian first though, and please, just give those jarls and shieldmaidens a damn rest.

  5. PyroArrow says:

    The review reads like the module is a 2nd Edition adventure as well!

  6. Evards Small Tentacle says:

    Legendary adventures puts out awful drek, just like Paizo and it’s ilk. It’s all about insufferable word count and cloaking shit with so much window dressing that it looks good from the outside. Modern adventures design lost so much during the 3e evolution.

    • Ice says:

      Yeah, the 3e shit I have read and tried to run is the worst. Even when some of the content is imaginative and interesting, it is all buried under a shitload of useless harangue. It is a bad model to use as a framework. The preview of this module definitely makes it look like one of those confusing messes. The cover and art in the preview are corny as fuck. The two of reviewers on RPGNow said that they had run it and enjoyed it. I wonder what it was like to be a player in those games and what the Gm did to prep it.

    • Yomar says:

      I’d agree with PyroArrow that it started in 2E and was prefaced by the Hickmans’ stuff. 2E had some fantastic settings – Planescape, Dark Sun, Spelljammer – but I can’t recall ever reading a decent 2E adventure that could be run as written. The big shift WotC introduced was the attempt at comprehensive mechanics and heavy emphasis on stats and dice rolls with less room for just interesting ideas. That and the whole “half-demon dragontouched fire-souled dire hippopotamus” template thing.

  7. Jay Murphy says:

    Wanted to leave an adventure here. The endless parade of disappointment Bryce must endure. May its simplicity speak for itself;

    An Adventure
    The PCs are passing through a rural village on their way to someplace else. The locals ask for their assistance.
    A long lost relative of the long absent Lord has returned to the Lord’s empty manor and claimed his inheritance.
    This is enacted by a pair of tough henchmen who travel from hamlet to hamlet taking tribute from the scared peasantry.
    If they give any more they will run out of their harvest stores.
    The village is prepared to offer up wine and amorous friends, perhaps they are in need of craft services? If you cannot think of anything to entice the PCs interest you may resort to money. Just remember these poor sods are living on the edge.
    Shortly the PCs get their chance to confront the two powerful mercenaries as they are now coming to town. They talk a tough game, but are really poor, hungry peasants from a nearby village. They will yield quickly after taking any damage. They will plead their case, but the enraged citizens of the hamlet are angry for revenge.
    After the killing the villagers pay off the PCs for their part. Then the villagers start trying on the armor. They think they can go around and start doing some extortion of their own. Everyone knows the hamlet over the bridge are a bunch of dunder-heads.

    What do the PCs do?

    Villagers are skilled only in farming and the like. They are mostly unarmored, but any in the impressive plate mail will have improved protection.

    Things to consider:
    Where the armored men come from, and where is the stuff they have been pilfering?
    How many hamlets were victimized and how many hamlets were in on it?

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