By Don MacVitte Hellebarde Games Castles & Crusades Levels 1-3
Yellin Bislama has committed horrifying crimes. He has admitted to leaving children in the desert, staked down. He has confessed to impaling people… And much more. The Mayor has asked you to escort him to Sand Guard, where the army will take him for trial.
This 31 page desert-ish adventure details the parties attempts to relieve a fifty-ish room fort under siege, followed by a zombie “invasion.” It knows what it wants to be but it just can’t get anywhere close to getting there. It feels like there’s an idea here but it doesn’t actually showed up formed enough for good supportive GM content … for most of the usual reasons.
Ok, so you’re escorting dude to another town for his crimes. Along the way, or at the town, you discover he’s faking it: he confessed as a distraction. The town you’re taking him to has been put to the sword and the keep has been invaded. The party “explores” the first level, fighting the dervish invaders, relieving the elfish guards on the second and third levels, and finding out that the basement has a tomb in that the dervishes has opened … releasing a bunch of zombies.
So, desperate battle inside a fortress, bodies and combat everywhere, partial zombie invasion … that’s the kind of chaos I like! Factions, excitement, confusion! But that’s not what happens here.
There’s a small overland section as the party travels to the fort. There are three wandering encounters a day, fights, as well as some pre-planned encounters (fights) along the route … which takes a day on horse and two on foot. That’s a lot of combat. There are two non-combat encounters that run far too long and explain ancient history and trivia.
Getting close, you see a burned and sacked town and the fortress, its gates battered down. And thus out comes the map. The map that someone forgot to put any doors on the rooms, so they are all walled off. *sigh*
The rooms are full of trivia. How people died. What the rooms were used for. All of the banal descriptive stuff that never leads anywhere in an adventure, only taking up word count. The hallways are either in pristine condition (no fighting evidently having taken place in them) or have descriptions found in other rooms. “Oh, wait wait, that hallway you walked down was full of blood!” Not. Good. The elf guards who you’re relieving? No consequences at all. Not a thank you, or how they generally react, or a commanders conference, or a reward. Likewise the dervish invaders have no order of battle, just waiting in their rooms to get killed. And the zombies are nicely contained in their underground tomb, with room after room containing “zombie guards” of one type or anything.
An “adventure” that is nothing more than room after room of dervishes and zombies to fight. Throwing the party in to an event is a good idea, but then its not followed up on. It feels static and overly concerned with trivia. And at the end, after a column-long trap with an 87,000 granite block, you get 100sp and 127gp. I guess this is a “story award” adventure then … with no guidance on that?
This depressing adventure s $6 at DriveThru. (I’m not allowed to bitch about cost since I just gave an impassioned plea on a work Slack channel for quality over price in a post-consumer society.) The preview is six pages. The last page shows you a good example of the room descriptions … their trivia and the length they go to to describe nothing interactive.