By Stephen Yeardley AAW Games 5e Level 7
A request to find out what has happened leads to an offer of assistance and a chance to help a lot of people out. All that is required is that the players descend the stairway and rescue the missing townsfolk, although they have been missing a week, which isn’t a good sign. Oh, don’t forget that the stairway is trapped, gets slick with algae and seawater and is used to dump all manner of waste. What could possibly be off-putting about any of that to experienced adventurers?
This 35 page “adventure” has 96 random encounter rolls and four caves. Someone had an idea and expanded it the wrong way. It has the usual poor formatting. A couple of neat ideas doesn’t save it from itself.
Ok, imagine a sheer cliff wall. At the top is a town. At the bottom a sea-side dock. Running up the cliff are a set of stairs, in four switchbacks. 96 stairs in total. Now, the stairs are not actually stairs, they are more like those columns that make up Devils Tower. Except each can, and sometimes does, move independently a bit. The riser height is, on average, about four feet. The town likes to dump their garbage down the stairs to let the high tide take care of cleanup.
There’s a table that lists each stair and what happens on it. And by “what happens” I mean “what happens in addition to the random roll the DM makes,” For, gentle reader, the stairs generally each has the DM rolls randomly as well. Roll percent and add the number of the stair you on, if it’s over 100 you roll on another chart. Yeah you! This could be a gap between stairs, some toxic good, a column moving, or a monster.
How does this work in practice? Do you actually roll for each stair as the party encounters it? That’s cumbersome. “What’s on the next stair?” I don’t know, let me roll. “How about the one after that?” I don’t know, let me roll. This is dumb as all fuck. I don’t see how this works without rolling for all the stairs before the adventure starts. In which case why didn’t the fucking designer do that? I don’t like rolling for the dungeon design during the adventure. I like to let people know what they are seeing/experiencing ahead of time after they ask me what see through the doors, hallways, etc. I just don’t see how that works in practice with these random design things without it all being worked out ahead of time. Which, again to beat a long dead horse, if you’re rolling ahead of time then why didn’t the designer do it for you?
No spider climbing or flying or other forms of magic allowed to descend the cliff/stairs. For the designer has decreed that you shall experience his adventure the way he intended and thus you shall walk down each and every stair. Make your fucking acrobatics roll you tools, that’s what the designer wants. This is TEXTBOOK too high an adventure. fIf you have to gimp the party then the adventure is too high, you should reskin for something lower and/or redesign it. If the lich is casting 99 wish spells to keep you from passwall’ing then maybe the stupid fuck should have picked a different spot to live in. Yes, I know high-level D&D adventures are hard to design. And I don’t give a fuck when you trot it out as an excuse to gimp the party.
I don’t know. There’s a collection element out of Assassin’s Creed … collect all of the dead porters guild tokens … Gotta catch em all! Actually, there’s a small table that lists them all with room to make a checklist and take notes. That’s a good idea. There’s also an NPC porter that seems designed to be annoying but, also, could follow the party if he’s not allowed to accompany them. An unwelcome but non-hostile tag-along behind can be fun.
The main text is well padded and uses the typical long form paragraph style. I just reviewed an adventure that did essentially the same thing. In contact to that, where it had short paragraphs that focused every word on essential detail and was well formatted to find information, this adventure does none of that. It’s just the usual stream of information in paragraph form making it hard to find information during play.
This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages. It’s all background information except for the last page, which shows a cross-section of the stairs. That’s worth checking out. Not enough adventure have vertical elements or show how the vertical elements work. But imagine it … a roll for each stair …. ug.