By Aaron Lopez Aegis Studios O&O/BX Levels 2-3
Outside the city of Luminere lies the town of Crescent Falls, a medium-sized village of 500 residents. Crescent Falls has been relatively quiet until recently. Several rural farmsteads have had their entire family go missing leaving local authorities stymied. The small garrison of the town is already overloaded as most of the soldiers and town guard has been called to aid with a harvest festival in Luminere. The town watch only has three members left to keep the peace, so they have called on assistance from adventurers to get to the bottom of the mystery.
This nine page adventure is a straight-forward hack of a small wererat lair with five rooms. The text is the usual muddled mess.
The exploration of O&O from Aegis Studies continues. I will say that Aegis has done a great job of getting a wide variety of designers to write adventures; I don’t think I’ve seen a repeat designer yet. As long as that continues then I’ll continue to review the new designers content.
Rather than presenting facts that the DM can work with, the adventure is formatted in “paragraph” form, which tries, in its own way, to tell a story. This starts with the hook. You get the usual read-aloud with the sheriff telling you whats up and then long paragraphs of when the party does this then this other thing happens, usually someone telling the party something. This makes it hard to scan the text during play. You have to dig through the paragraphs to find the information you want. It’s not that paragraphs are, in and of themselves bad, but the length of them, combined with the lack of whitespace/breaks, makes it hard to scan for information. Better formatting in the way of more whitespace, offsets, or bullets would have helped this a lot.
I know I harp on this a lot, but it’s an important point. I HATE digging through text to find information during play. Rather than present a situation, like some facts about the boy, in his own section, instead it all gets buried in the text in one place and you have to take some pauses to read the entire thing … and hope you didn’t miss anything buried in a different section. The adventure must first and foremost be usable by the DM at the table. It’s an immediate turn off when its hard to use. More than my own personal preference, I think its one of the major design flaws in almost every adventure. It’s like people have forgotten how these things are used. I’m sure it has something to do with the designers innate knowledge; they KNOW what they wrote and how its supposed to work, so they are not having to refer to the text. The rest of us, though, have to rely on it.
It doesn’t help that the adventure is behind a stat check. Yes, the dreaded Roll To Continue the Adventure appears. To find the lair you have to succeed in a stat check to track the wererats back. Yes, it’s also a roll that everyone is going to fudge when the party doesn’t make it, so why does it exist in the first place? An additional challenge, or boon, makes much more sense in these situations.
I continue to be aghast at the mechanics of these O&O adventures. I don’t get the system (which maybe means I should buy the book and check it out.) 3HD wererats have 19 HP. I guess maybe this is on a d8 instead of a d6? Then again, the adventure is full of wererats, which I’m pretty sure still take magic weapons to hit. At level 2. Combined with this being a straight forward hack with almost nothing else going on, I have to wonder how many people play old school D&D like this? Just room after room full of things to cut down with nothing much else going down? I like killing monsters also, but the charm of old school is sometimes twisted in to that being the ONLY thing going on in an adventure, and that sort of grinding combat is something I would expect from 3e, 4e, or something like Warhammer minis at a con.
The cave is dim because foliage grows up outside. The rats have dug a trench from a river in order to get fresh water. There’s so much justifying, in just about every room. “This thing is this way because they did Y.” Is this really necessary for most of this stuff? No. It’s a trench with fresh water. Why does it, and everything else, need a backstory and justifying? It’s just padding that gets in the way of the adventure and, of course, makes it harder to scan and use during play.
There’s a tapestry of exceptional quality, with no further details. You have to roll on the treasure tables for the loot the wererats have. A few words more should have been spared for some detail on the tapestry and it makes no sense to tell the DM to roll for treasure. Isn’t it the designers job to create specificity for us, to inspire us to greatness?
Just another mess of a hack adventure.
This is $1 at DriveThru. The preview is three pages. You can see the intro/hook text in paragraph form, the roll to continue, and the first part of the first room. All on the last page of the preview. It gives you an excellent idea of the writing style you are to encounter, even though I would have preferred to see an entire room in the preview.