By Joel Logan A Hole in the Ground Terrain & Games 5e Level 1
The players are asked to investigate the cause of merchant caravans in the region disappearing. The adventure begins at the Blue Crab Inn in the small village of Holly Springs. The players adventure next into the wilderness where they soon discover the source at a cave. Inside the cave the players face many tough challenges, have the opportunity to find treasure, and are forever linked to the Tarmalon Galactic Museum.
This 43 page adventure details a cave system with eighteen rooms over about 28 pages. And some museum thing.? It looks like it’s licensed IP from legacy of the Ancients, some kind of computer game? The DM text is some of the most irrelevant I’ve ever seen.
How doth thought sin? Let me count the ways …
The level doesn’t appear in the adventure description, only on the cover. Meaning I have to click the cover picture on DriveThru and hope it’s there. Fail.
NPC’s get about a column each in 5e format. Appearance, Voice, Wants, Morality, Intelligence, Status, paragraph. Better, I think, to put together a sentence or two and then move on with life? Then they would all fit on the same page. Mindlessly following a script (or format) is never a good thing.
There are a fuck ton of town and regional maps. None of which really matter to the adventure. Yeah, you’re in a town and yeah, you travel to a caravan ambush site but the number and degree of maps seems out of proportion. There’s like ten, between the extra supplement and the ones in the adventure.
Sure daring town locations as … “9. Warehouse – Holly Springs contains several warehouses. The ware- houses are large wooden structures used seasonally throughout the year to store livestock, food, and oth- er goods coming and going from and to Holly Springs. “ Why was this included?
Or perhaps the same blacksmith seen in every adventure ever … “4. Blacksmith – Jasper is a very skilled blacksmith and until lately made a very good living. In addition to agricultural tools and services Jasper is a master weaponsmith and also makes an occasional piece of armor or re- pairs for Frederick’s Armor Shop.” These are the sorts of town locations provided, the same generic ones found in every town. The words are meaningless, they add nothing. Generic fantasy blacksmith” would have done.
“The following are the items that Lillyanna sells that the players may be interested in:” Seriously? No? Then how about …
“If the players choose to speak with him at the Blue Crab Inn they will learn the following:” This happens over and over again. THE NEXT PARAGRAPH WILL HAVE INFORMATION FOR THE DM TO READ TO THE PARTY.
“ The fishing and bait shop is exactly what it sounds like. Players can buy fishing supplies, bait, and also fresh fish and seafood.”
Civilized lands, lush farm country. Monsters are very dangerous and appear in 6 out of 7 wandering monster rolls.
I assume the Galactic Museum is something from the computer game? There’s a map, but not details on any of the exhibits noted on the map?
“The players may be very crafty and attempt to setup a scene to ambush whoever is attacking the caravans. The bone dwellers are watching the area and will attack the players late in the night.” Though shalt not avoid the plot.
Gonna track the ambushing monsters? All that detail, provided, is irrelevant since you just find their lair anyway.
“GM Notes: These stairs were built long ago when the caves were inhabited by humans taking refuge here during turbulent times.”
“This should prove to be a hard encounter since …”
“Over the years the tendro snapper has accumulated a small treasure hoard which is scattered amongst the bones and debris on the land inside of 3B2.”
“3B5 Bone Dweller Village – This room of the cave serves as a village for the bone dwellers.”
“The females of the tribe are also forced to do the cooking of meat for the tribe and many of the menial tasks such as gathering water and the mending of tents and clothes.”
“This passage isn’t used near as much as the passage at 3B7 due to the tendro snapper at 3B2 and 3B3. This passage is likely the one players will use to es- cape if they were captured or to delve further into the dungeon to find Elliot’s brother Bartholomew.”
Have I made my point? 1. EMPTY ROOM – THIS ROOM IS EMPTY. 2. ORC VILLAGE – THIS IS THE ORC VILLAGE. It’s like a greatest hits of padding the adventure without really saying ANYTHING at all.
But … it does provide some monsters reference sheets. Ne per page, but whatever, they are included. It also tries to use a bullet point format to convey conversational information an NPC can relate to the party. Most of it is stupid, dumb, and padding, and detracts from the more important information, but, hey, the designer tried.
There’s also a nice little bit where the party can overhear that boys ran away from a ghost ona beached ship, near the village. There really IS a spectre on the boat! It’s not exactly handled well, at all, but the rando idea/rumor is cool
Thus ends my review/non-review of Cave of the Bone Dwellers. The adventure with the most useless DM’s text I’ve ever seen.
This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is eight pages. It shows you the NPC’s in the taven and their bullet point layout, and some of the town location descriptions. Judge it for yourself and know that the town is one of the highlights of the adventure.