The Wizard’s Marbles

By Danita  Rambo
A Dash of Adventure
Level 5

A story of forgetfulness and secrets for 4-6 adventure-seeking characters at 5th level. This self-contained story runs around 3 to 5 hours.

It’s been awhile since I trotted out The Worst EVAR tag, hasn’t it? I guess, all things considered, I get what I deserve. I mean, I throw myself in to these things without any consideration for the signs. Look at that mights description. All of two sentences. (But at least Danita but the level range in there, something that a lot of people, strangely, do not do.) Two reviewsa three-star and a two star. What the fuck does it take to get a three star review on DriveThru? EVERYTHING gets five fucking stars on that site. Well, except, what, Mines, Claws, Princesses? Didn’t that get a shitty review or two? So, see, there’s precedent; asshat fuckwits give good things lowball ratings on DriveThru … so this could be a case of that. Except it’s not. Sometimes a cigar is a cigar. 

This twenty page adventure has four rooms/scenes. In lear order, of course, because story and plot are everything. 

Except …. When is a twenty page adventure not a twenty page adventure? Well, there’s the cover and title page, so that’s now eighteen pages. And the last six pages are absolutely blank. Completely. We’re now at twelve pages. Then there’s the two page irrelevant backstory. That’s ten pages left. Then there’s that two page appendix and a one page journal entry at the back. That’s seven pages. Then there’s one page on how to run the adventure, so now we’re at six pages of content for four rooms. Better than twenty pages for four rooms I guess. Fucking shit is misleading as all fuck. Steading was what, eight pages? For a bazillion encounters WITH an embedded story?

How do you feel about read aloud? How do you feel about A PAGE of read aloud? It describes you approaching a wizards tower, going in, up the stars and in to another room. How’s that for player agency? Not even a pretext of player agency here, just DM plot. At the end of the page long read-aloud you’re told that players can use a Detect Magic spell to see a glow as from the school of transmutation. It’s meaningless, of course, and has no impact on the adventure at ALL, so of fucking course we have to be told about it.

Fucking trivia. This thing is FULL of trivia. Room contents exhaustively catalogued and described. Does it matter? Will the party interact with it in a key way in the adventure? No? THEN DON.T PUT THE FUCKING DETAILS IN. Imagine an encounter in a kitchen. Do you, as the designer, need to put in every detail of the kitchen and exhaustive list all of the contents? No. We all know what a kitchen is. We can make shit up and fill in. That’s one of the jobs of the DM. And more is not better. It’s less. It detracts from the DM’s ability to find the PERTINENT information in the adventure rather than the trivia in the adventure. Scannability at the table is a critical criteria and these trivia details only detract from that.

There’s Roll to Continue moments, where you can’t continue the adventure without making skill checks. This is dumb. Every DM ends up fudging these rolls so the adventure can go on, so, why put them in? Are we just not expected to do anything? It’s far better to have consequences as a part of a roll, rather than making them a block, or, even better than that DONT HAVE A FUCKING ROLL. Why are they rolling? Because that’s what you do in D&D, roll dice?  Because that’s the convention you’ve learned? The BAD convention you’ve learned? 

There’s a riddle presented that’s never explained. One NPC says “idhssattiea” to another. It’s a key point in the adventure. It’s never explained. I still have no idea. 

In every scene, because that’s what this, a scene based plot fest, you get a little thing like that. Solve the riddle. Get multiple chances. If you do you get a marble. If you don’t you don’t get the marble. In both cases, you go to the next scene. Finally, at the end, you fight a mind worm (It’s all fake! You’re in someone’s memories. Yeah you! You’re impotent to impact certain things! Fun!) 

“Once you feel the party has asked enough or gotten enough background out of the room, then continue on. A glowing archway opens and you see a black space…” That’s not design. 

This adventure is crap. It’s also a classic case of good intentions not playing out. People don’t set out to write bad things. They have, I’m sure, an exciting idea floating around in their head. But it doesn’t come out right. Can you just write, stream of consciously, throwing words down on a page with little order or thought and have a good adventure? Fuck no. And it doesn’t help that the vast majority of examples people have to turn to are shitty as all fuck. Usable/Scannable at the table. Evocative Writing. Interactivity. How many adventures, the 70’s till now, manage to use push those three sliders far enough to the Good side to produce a decent adventure? And people are supposed to know what Good is, to emulate, when the big publishers just don’t give a fuck and toss out more dreck for the masses to gobble up?

A template with colorful borders and nice cover do not an adventure make. I’ll take a single column black on white adventure with some usability over gloss any day. Concentrate on the writing. On the usability. On the interactivity. Put all of your effort there. Then spend a minuscule amount of time on the gloss. Once you’ve got the basics down you can expand and make your gloss better.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $3. The preview is six pages. The last page shows you the first room and is EXCELLENT indication of what’s to come.

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7 Responses to The Wizard’s Marbles

  1. LL says:

    I like the concept of a mind-worm monster that’s actually a figment of someone’s memories, or which transports you inside someone’s memories, or both. That I can salvage, at the very least.

  2. Evard's Small Tentacle says:

    The author has something in the works based on Pride and Prejudice…. 😛

  3. Dragonsdoom says:

    I actually really like the idea of magic marbles and physical objects that represent memories/thoughts. I wonder what sort of spells one could whip up revolving around those ideas, like a spell that forces a memory marble out of your nose with a sneeze, which could then be used as evidence..

  4. Momo says:

    The riddle “idhssattiea” is scrambled text for “It’s a shit idea”, which is a self-aware commentary on the adventure, with an I missing, which is the eye for design the designer definitely lacks.

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