By Devin Cutler Self Published 5e Level 3
The evil wizard Tharikthiril was defeated by the dwarves years ago. But why then are the groundlings becoming numerous around his ruined tower? And what are those strange lights seen in the distance coming from the direction of his tower? Has the wizard somehow cheated death and risen again?
This 31 page adventure describes an evil wizards (former) tower with about fifty rooms described in fourteen pages. It can get lengthy at times, in DM text and read-aloud, but tends to keep things reasonable. What is suffers from, more than anything, is being boring. It tries, but beyond monsters and lengthy traps it has little to offer.
This wizards tower, errr, former wizards tower, has a large ground floor of 33 locations and then a couple of very small tower levels and a couple of very small dungeon levels. Running around inside are some vermin, goblins and corrupted dwarf-mutations, and an evil wizard with a few abominations.
Traps are sprinkled throughout, each taking up far more space than they should with multiple skill/stat checks referenced. There’s a few attempts at a weird effect or two in a couple of the rooms.
Unlike most adventures, this thing takes a good running start at an evocative writing style. One room has it’s corner collapsed with rubble strewn down the mountainside. A mosaic purposefully pried up in one hallway. A room choked with stone from the ceiling, mud, water, dung, all forming a thick goop with the skeleton of a small humanoid lying atop it, gibbets of meat still on its bones. We can argue about the use of small and goop, but gibbets of meat still upon its bones, and the image of the skeleton in the much room, if a good one. It’s a nice lure to bring the party in. In general the adventure does a pretty good job of getting in and out with its read-aloud while providing the correct degree of specificity to be evocative when mixed with its colorful use of adjectives and adverbs. It’s not exactly The Best but it is CLEARLY a cut above the fact based descriptions that permeate adventures. A little scrubbing or agonizing editing and it could have possibly been really a standout in that area.
It does fall down on interactivity though. The adventure interprets this as monsters and traps and therefore it falls in to a rut of combat and traps. There ARE a few rooms where you can speak to a demon lord via a circle, and so on, but, especially on the homes main floor, it needs some more interactivity. For every small skeleton luring you in to combat there are 12 rooms that are far FAR more mundane. It doesn’t have to be a funhouse but interactivity needs to be more than combat and traps. Especially when those traps are nearly never telegraphed. Bad!
And then it goes and gives a full page of read-aloud monologue at the start, as a hook. Or gives you a page of text for a room with a quasit in it. These are extreme examples, but its clear that restraint failed in several other rooms as well. Long read and short DM text is usually a key that something fucked up. Short initial read-aloud, and an exploding format of the DM providing more and more detail as the players investigate would resolve this. Experiences are consistent, at least initial ones, with the DM consulting for more as needed.
It’s also clear that, for most of the adventure, an order of battle is missing. With a couple of groups of at least semi-intelligent humanoids I would expect a few notes on how they respond to intruders or summon help, etc.
And then for every good room description we get history and backstory embedded in the DM text, adding noting to the adventure but getting in the way.
Not doing much good. Dipping in to the bad on occasion but not living there. Is that enough to recommend an adventure? No, but it’s enough to not hate it. For its faults, this thing is better than most published 5e adventures. What’s heartening is that I think usability and interactivity are more easily learned than evocative writing. It’s possible that this designer may get things together and figure out the interactivity and usability elements while kicking up their evocative writing another notch. There’s just too much decent content available go lower than “Decent.”
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $2. The preview is quite poor, showing you that page long read-aloud in the hook and nothing of the actual rooms/encounters. Thus you have little idea of what to expect when you buy the thing.