By Morten Greis Aegis Studios B/X Levels 2-3
A small child has been stolen from their parents, and the adventurers must find their way to the temple not just to gain riches and uncover secrets of the past, but also to save the child. During the exploration of the ruin, the characters may unleash an army of undead, whom they must contend with.
This fourteen page adventure describes a ruined midwife temple with twelve rooms in about six pages. Decently organized, evocative writing, interactive … it manages it all before throwing in a bunch of room history to muddy things up. This needed a hard edit and it didn’t get it. Still, it’s ok.
There’s this concept of unique monsters that is not usually touched upon. You’re not fighting A troll, you’re fighting THE troll. It elevates the monster back to mythic status. This adventure has a bit of that going on … you’re fighting the first harpy. In the place where was cursed to be one: the temple to a midwife of which she was in charge. And she now steals babies to turn them in to harpies. That’s a fucking story. It makes sense, and when things makes sense you can build on them. It’s not followed through on much; there’s a village nearby that knows there’s a harpy there, so the whole mythic angle kind of falls off … but still, harpy stealing babies is great.
The adventure pays attention to things the DM needs to know. The entry for “outside the temple” has a little section on what the party finds out if they scope out the ruins for awhile. Perfect! That’s something parties do and the adventure gives you some advice on what they see. Two sentences. It also notes obvious ruins entrances. Again, perfect; that’s the question people ask and the adventure helps the DM answer it. This sort of thing continues in the adventure. One room has notes about attracting the attention of creatures in the next room, with notes about how they react. It’s got a cross-reference to point the DM at the relevant section.
It’s not that adventures need a “view from outside the ruins” or notes on what the party sees if they stake the place out, or notes on reactions of nearby creatures. Not per se. What’s notable is that IN THESE SITUATIONS IN THIS ADVENTURE the DM could use some extra guidance/help and the designer recognized this and provided it. Yeah, these specific examples are going to fit a lot of adventures, but the general rule is the important one, not the specific one. The creatures that you could conceivable talk to, by parlay or torture, have a little sentence or two on what they know. Again, just what the haggard DM ordered.
Interactivity is good. Exploring, talking to ghosts, interrogating kobolds. And even, potentially, bargaining with the harpy for the most recently kidnapped baby. Secret doors need things to be opened. A room causes you to cry tears of holy water. You can swamp a statue baby for a real one. For only twelve rooms it’s pretty good.
And the writing it pretty decent also. Leaves blown in to the corners of rooms. A stench of wet dirt. Low mists with gravestones peeking out. “None of the skeletons have any skulls.” It’s primarily from the read-aloud, which is kept short. It feels a little forced at times but I’m going to attribute that to perhaps some second-language issues. (And to be clear, the english here is excellent, perhaps just missing some of the nuance that a REALLY talented writer could bring.)
The read-aloud generally refers to things in the DM’s text. The DM’s text has paragraph breaks with holding to draw the eye to the appropriate section “The Items on the floor” section has the details on … the items seen on the floor from the read-aloud. The writing does tend to be a bit long but the combination of the read-aloud referring to the bolded section that follow, with the use of whitespace makes it all pretty easy to find what you need in a hurry.
This is an O&O adventure, which I THINK is based off of B/X. If it’s gold=xp then the gold is a quite light.
I mentioned that the writing can be long. THis is generally because of the rooms history. “Originally this room was a blah blah blah” says the paragraph that drones on for four sentences. I don’t care why the roof is destroyed, be it time or siege. I don’t care that visitors nevers went to this room, only midwives. This doesn’t matter to the adventure. Or, rather, I only care about those details in as much as they relate to the party exploring. Crumbling roofs are great. How they got that way is useless trivia that gets in the way of quickly scanning the text to find what you need to run the room. Unless, of course, it has some bearing on the adventure. Some DIRECT bearing on the adventure. Not a “might be nice” detail. Not a “depth and richness for the DM.” There’s a place for that, but not two cousins removed.
Decent adventure which would be made better by the delete key. I don’t see an editor listed, but, that probably wouldn’t have made a difference anyway, so oh well.
This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is only three pages. The last page shows you the “outside” text and the beginning of the first room. The read-aloud is not the bets in the adventure (it’s one of the poorer examples), but the DM text and attention section are good examples of what’s to be found deeper in. Another page of “real” text would have been appreciated.