By Perry McKinley Self Published 5e Levels 1-4
The PCs will need to investigate the town of Undervine, carefully examining the various personalities there. They will travel to the Muckfoot Bog, the Shadytree Woods, and the nearby Caverns of Undervine. the players will face obstacles and enemies that will challenge their very resolve, until they discover the true evil behind the murders at Undervine.
This seventeen page adventure details a ten location town, a sixteen location manor, and a 6 location cave. You wander about and poke your noses around and kill some shit. There’s a lot of explaining, history, backstory, and read-aloud … very little of which contributes to the adventure. It’s almost certainly completely mis-labeled in terms of level. It’s a mess. And this review is going to be a mess also. Because Reasons.
Yeah, ok, I fucked up. I saw the cover and “Forgotten Realms” and thought I was buying OSR. It’s DMSGuild so it’s 5e. Not that there are any stats provided in the adventure. Not that it matter anyway; the opponents include a Gibbering Mouther, three wights, a basilisk, and an ancient legendary werewolf. At level one? Yes, at level one. I tend to give encounter balance a pass in many of my reviews. A little plus/minus here or there doesn’t matter. Running away is a thing, as is Combat as War. But in a plot-heavy adventure, or linear one, then my eyebrows raise a little. If you HAVE to do an encounter then things need to a little more in line. I guess “have to do” is all relative anyway, you can always just leave the town to its fate. Still, man, 3 wights? A Werewolf? A fucking basilisk? The power curve on 5e changed, but this is silly!
This thing engages in Why Bother syndrome. This is when the designer tells the DM that they can do whatever they want. This does that over and over again. On the way to the town in question “The DM can decide whether to challenge the PCs with an encounter, pass, or roll on the encounter table below.” Or, maybe you’d like some “Once the party moves on, the DM will need to decide if the story has progressed enough for the final conflict with the Werewolf.” Oh, joy. So things just happen because the DM wills it for the sake of the plot and story. This is BAD FUCKING DESIGN. Look, to a certain extent this shit happens in every D&D adventure and in every D&D game. Yeah, the DM drives things from a certain point of view. But in good design its in reaction to the players characters and their actions. In bad D&D it’s because the plot demands it or through DM fiat. Toss an extra clue in somewhere, or clarify things when the players misunderstand or are talking themselves in to a corner? Ok, no problem. Throwing baddies at the party until they reach ability exhaustion for the sake of the plot? That’s bad design. We’re paying for content, well written and designed content.
The usual long read-aloud is present. I roll my eyes every time. There are walls of DM text with little breaks, dictating the history of rooms, reasons why X is Y, and so on. Bob used to take his meals in this room but he hasn’t been going down to eat lately, having lost his appetite. Uh. Ok.So? Is that meaningful to the adventure in ANY way? No? THEN WHY THE FUCK DID YOU WRITE THE WORDS?
Perhaps my favorite part is the hook at the beginning. A storyteller in an inn relates the tale of the town. He won’t tell the party his name. Outside, if followed, he disappears in a fog. He can’t be fought or killed. He’s some kind of ghost thing for absolutely no reason at all. He just is. If it were a storyteller named Bob that you could stab, would it make any difference? Does the presence of short little DungeonMaster in his red robes add anything to this adventure? Or is it just more of the DM fucking with the players for no reason at all?
On the plus side the Lynch brothers (the wights) were hung in the village and there’s a frozen fountain the village, covered in snow. Cleaning off the snow reveals a body frozen in the water. That’s nice imagery, and easily the best idea in the entire adventure.
This is Pay What You Want at DMSGuild, with a suggested price of $2. The preview is six pages. It is an accurate and true representation of the adventure in all its glory. From the writing, the read-aloud, and DM text to the muddled confusion of how everything works together.