In the Company of Thieves

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.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/280977/In-the-Company-of-Thieves?1892600

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16 Responses to In the Company of Thieves

  1. uncolober says:

    Don’t monsters always use d8 for HP in all/most D&D editions? I’ve never heard of monsters using d6s. Still, only 4d8, or 3d8+5, averages to 19 HP, so those wererats do have more HP than they should (unless “HP higher than it should be, to-hit and saves lower than they should be” is their supposed shtick).

    • The Ghost of D&D Past says:

      In the only real edition of D&D – before everything got bad overly simulationist with AD&D or became about character building and stat inflation in B/X weapon damage they used D6 – as god intended. Don’t ask for details – I’m still cranky about the Greyhawk supplement’s variable weapon damage.

      • Anonymous says:

        Iron spikes!

      • squeen says:

        You had be at “…as God intended.”

        Brilliant.

      • Anonymous says:

        Makes sense, because I like to be on the cutting edge and only ever use the newest of the new editions like B/X.

        • The Ghost of D&D Past says:

          B/X is a damn abomination – and all those retro-clones are even worse. I get it that ya’ll like your dick monsters and edgelord dickmonsters, but real D&D isn’t about a +15% bonus to hit and a +50% bonus to damage because you lied about rolling an 18 STR or got some GM who let you roll 8D6 take the best in your prime req. It’s about your PC dying in a cave because you got a rock dropped on your head, forgot to carry enough torches and/or were stupid enough to get in a fight with a mummy. It is the weakness and failure of the human spirit and the ingenuity of the human mind reduced to something you can tell stories about while taking cheap acid.

          Kids. By which I mean anyone under 49.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If room details ‘backstories’ are succinct, as in examples provided here, I view them rather as tools in PCs’ disposal: cut the foliage to let in more light and eliminating dim condition at risk of attracting unwanted attention, dam or poison the stream that wererats clearly need and care about enough to dig. It is when such details become too long they stop being useful: “The water trench was dug by wererats under the order of Wilfur The Goldtooth who had bad sleep that night and just wanted to order wererats around to be a jerk and feel better about himself”. Unless wererats hating Wilfur is a part of the situation, and adventurers can use learn and use that resentment, such details are excessive. ‘Foliage covering the entrance to the cave and this is why it is dim’ is immediately useful, in contrast.

  3. Janice says:

    I hope you keep reviewing the O&O modules. I get the impression that several of the authors try write oldschool D&D without having played that kind of modules. There is a certain learning experience by reading your reviews.

  4. Lugh says:

    Nice Game of Thrones fonts lol

  5. Graham says:

    That whole ‘Make a skill check to start the adventure’ idea is one of the worst concepts I’ve seen.

    The worse case I’ve come across, was in a Call of Cthulhu scenario published in GDWs Challenge Magazine called ‘Deep Trouble’. The hook (if you can call it that) is that the players read a newspaper article and then have to make a skill check to realize that something mentioned in the article is ‘important’ and they should investigate it.

    There is nothing in the scenario to explain how to start the adventure if all the PCs fail that skill check.

    Keep up the good work Bryce, hopefully someone will take note of what you’ve written.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      You live a meaningless life and die alone with all you are forgotten. Everything else is pretense to make it bearable.

      This daily affirmation brought to you by new Zing! Cigarettes! You can’t be an existential hipster without cigarettes, so why not try Zing! For that great “I’ve wasted my life …” flavour, look to Zing!

    • PK says:

      Don’t you know? Skill checks are fun! Rolling the dice is fun! And failing the skill check and staying at home drinking because you missed the call to adventure is also fun! Have fun, damn you!

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