By Michael Mills Cannister & grape OSR Levels 1-3
Buried deep beneath the barrow mounds of the Wild Wood, Rokar the Terrible slumbers fitully in his sarcophagus, his bride beside him. What terrors protect Rokar as he dreams his fevered dreams? Do you dare enter The Crypt of Rokar in search of treasures and knowledge beyond imagining?
This ten page adventure describes a small tomb with fourteen rooms over four pages. Giants rats, yellow mold, zombies, and a ghoul make up your opponents, all found in their usual environments. Read-aloud is not overly long, in general, but not very interesting either. There’s nothing to separate this from any other low level small dungeon.
What if you don’t do anything bad, but you don’t really do anything good either. What’s the measure of a man in that situation? How do you make a determination, a decision to choose one thing over another? That’s easy for me; I expect more and in a crowded marketplace don’t settle for anything other than the best. Well, except for the fact that I bought it in the first place.
A damp library? What could it contain? Yellow mold. A storeroom full of crates and barrels? That means rats. I do indeed like the classic, but there’s a difference. You’ve got to do them well and they just are not done well here. Let’s examine this from the standpoint of last-minute adventure prep. The players just exted you from the liquor store, asking ifyou wanted anything else other than Krystal and japanese single malt. They are about three minutes away from arriving. If I provided you this map and said “you’ve got three minutes to key the adventure” then you’d come up with something that said “2. Library – Yellow Mold. 3. Storeroom – Rats.” If that’s expanded in the most obvious way possible then you have this adventure. It brings nothing new over you writing “Library – Mold” or “Storeroom – Rats.” That might be ok if it did it really REALLY well, but it doesn’t. It’s drab.
I will note a few of the more interesting things it does do. At one point it notes that zombies, locked in a room, fed on the canopic jars kept within. This is the old zombie trope, and one that I’ve seen reintroduced lately. I’m quite fond of it. It seems like the 80’s and 90’s and 00’s had zombies that were just lifeless bodies swinging swords. This new trend of flesh eaters brings so much more than that, being able to immediately leverage forty years of pop culture zombie imagery. There’s also a little bit of hints captured in the read-aloud. That storeroom read aloud notes the smell of decay and faeces. The library notes a smell of damp and mold, hinting at the yellow stuff. It’s not consistent, but when it’s there I appreciate it. There should be a back and forth to D&D. The DM mentions something, the players, the smart ones anyway, dig deeper asking follow-up question. And thus player skill is rewarded. It’s got a couple of rooms that do this and I’m happy to see that.
It’s also inconsistent in its logic. The front doors are busted open but some statues nearby retain their bejeweled eyes. Those zombies that fed on the canopic jars? That’s backstory, the read-aloud gives no hint of a room in chaos, jars smashed and bloodstains on the floor, etc. Just the usual anti-septic description.
“Many books appear to be damaged by decay or pests.” the library read-aloud tells us. Puddles of books, rotting in damp, gnawed upon, all are words that evoke imagery much stronger than “damaged by decay or pests.” That’s an abstraction, a conclusion. Rich adjectives and adverbs appeal to sensory information instead and allow the party to draw their own conclusions.
Nitpicky shit: The level is only noted on the cover, so when I’m on DriveThru looking for a Level 1-3 adventure I won’t know this is one unless I lick on the cover to enlarge it. I’m not sure that’s the wisest decision from a consumer ease standpoint. There’s only about 1400gp of treasure in this. I think I would have expected more, seems low. Especially since there’s a wight in this Level 1 adventure, that can only be hit by magic items.
Finally, let me mention to deriguour text. You know the stuff. “The DM should blah blah blah.” or notes that you should read the boxed text to the players when they enter the room. I just skip this shit, but, as a point of interest, is this really doing anything but inflating page count? If you’re buying an adventure on DriveThru do you need to be told to read boxed text? Even if you DIDNT know that do you need to be told that? In this case it explicitly notes DM’ing in the players favour. I’m not cool with that. Is there a place for this genero information anymore?
This is pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $5. There is no preview. I get it, it’s free since it’s PWYW. I don’t give a shit, stick in a good preview anyway.
The players should have a reasonable chance of survival, however a certain amount of danger and risk is necessary to keep things interesting.
As game master you should adjust the number, strength and aggressiveness of encountered creatures to ensure this occurs.
When the players enter an area on the map you should read aloud the boxed text in its entirety. You may also add any additional information from the game master’s notes immediately thereafter as you desire. This may be necessary if the players fail to find a crucial item, exit or other plot device.