(5e) The Feystone Shards

By Perry McKinley
Levels 5-8

The Heroes are tasked to find five fragments of a shattered Orb, once worshipped by a faction of Elves. The search will take the party to a haunted Citadel, as they seek the scattered remnants of the Feystone. From a city of Stone Golems, to an alchemist’s underground lair – the players will face obstacles and enemies that will challenge their very resolve.  The Heroes will need to discover the secrets of the bauble’s fey magic, finding the lost Elvin city where the Orb was once worshipped as a God. Join in the hunt for the Feystone Shards, and see if your characters are ready to transcend common Heroes…and become Legends.

This forty page adventure details about twenty regional locations, some of which expanded, in the parties hunt to find the five shards of an ancient artifact. (Yawn.) It’s a mess of an adventure, with no summaries, few DM aids, long read-aloud, confused DM text, abundant italics … and combat as interactivity.

Here’s your adventure highlight: “In one hand the bony fingers clutch a piece of parchment.” Most of the read-aloud is much more forced in its allusions. That’s not even proper read-aloud block, it exists as a stand-alone sentence.

“An elf faction” … and a cult, two famous and tired abstractions. A shattered artifact to be put back together, another great unused adventure idea. The text adds backstory but it does so with writing that abstracts the concepts. Rather than a backstory that comes alive and adds depth it abstracts. It’s an elf faction, which is how I might refer to it in an academic paper written three hundred years later. (Well, assuming I’m a human and not an elf.)  The challenge in writing is to add the specificity that will fire a DM’s imagination and let them run with the encounter concept without vomiting up an abundance of words that makes the makes the adventure less easy to use. And the allowed number is generally quite small. Good organization can increase that number, but it’s a non-trivial endeavor. The way NOT to do it is have you read-aloud say things like “Hezra tells the party that …” Third-person is no way to build a bridge.

The opening read-aloud is in third-person and is a column long. Other read-aloud spans paragraphs. Long sections of the text are in italics. Italics is hard to read. Players stop listening to read-aloud after a couple of sentences. What we have here is someone emulating other styles they’ve seen, not knowing that the other styles were terrible. It does try to highlight certain portions of the text to draw attention to it. That’s great. But it’s not enough.

(As an aside, the quest-giver offers you 500gp each for each shard of artifact. I’d go hire a village of around 500 people, for 1gp each, and collect 499gp*500 villagers in reward. But, I’m now a nice guy on the weekends so I won’t say that.)

One of the core issues with the adventure is the lack of context and summaries for the various areas. What we have is about twenty locations and about two sentences of that column-long read-aloud … with very little other context of summaries of what’s going on in the various encounter locations. You go in each blind, trying to figure out, with your players, what the fuck is going on. That works in something like G1, but not when the text expands out the way it does here. Without the context and summaries you’re blind as to whats going on and going to have a hell of time running the thing. This is one of the main issues that torpedoes this product. I mean, the rest of its mistakes are bad and would have kept me from giving this a good score, but the context/summaries issues just lowers from a middling value, like so many other adventure, to some place near the bottom of the barrell.  

It has all of the usual issues with a plot adventure. The quest giver is actually evil. (Wow! What a surprise!) and captured minions reveal nothing … otherwise you might find out the quest giver is evil. Of course, nothing much is done with the quest giver being evil, so, you know, no big loss there. Most of these things have some big reveal in the last room where the party is “betrayed” by “a friend” that everyone saw coming a mile down the road. This doesn’t even do that, never really mentioning it again.

There are many mistakes right out of basic editing “There appears to be little here” or “it appears to be two eagles facing each other.” Weasel words. 

Endless shitty rooms with nothing going on. Interactivity that is little more than combat. Pre-defined places on the map where the read-aloud says you have to camp and have a random encounter. One room has a dragon. In the middle of the text describing the treasure it also has a sentence describing the dragons reactions to the party. Seriously? Because that makes sense? Because if I’m the DM looking for how a monster reacts to the party then I should naturally assume its in the middle of the text describing the loot?

Look, I know all this shit are vanity projects. I know designers are people and they are excited to share. But Jesus H Fucking CHrist hire a fucking editor for your vanity project. And pay good money for a good editor. I know, it sounds weird. I want you to pay A LOT for a GOOD editor. I want you to agonize over every word. And then I want you to sell it as Pay What You Want. But in the end you can take some pride that you have made something available to folks that is really good. No designers are making any money off this shit (which is true enough) , so instead frame the issue of publishing a different way. Instead of trying to make money with people paying you why not instead take the position that YOU are going to pay money to put something great out for people to use? 

This is Pay What You Want at DMSGuild with a suggested price of $4. The preview is seven pages. Page one has the third-person column read-aloud and a bit blog of italics … along with some examples of highlighting. Go ahead and read that column of text … it’s the only context inthe entire adventure of where to go and what to do. The preview is good, the entire thing, in that it shows you what sort of text to expect from the adventure … all seven pages.


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53 Responses to (5e) The Feystone Shards

  1. squeen says:

    “Instead of trying to make money with people paying you why not instead take the position that YOU are going to pay money to put something great out for people to use?…”

    I think you are right on target again Bryce. For most folks, the goal should be to make something of quality (and reap some accolades), not to make a profit.

    Give something good to the hobby and you’ll feel great.

  2. squeen says:

    Oh, took awhile for the video link to come through…

    Apples and oranges, mate. A big for-profit entity like Warner Bros who want to use your unpaid creative labor to make a profit for investors is total b*llshit. Totally agree with Ellison—its his bread and butter after all.

    Not the same as a nickle-and-dime hobbyist publishing a one-off vanity project. (Not saying your should give away the copyright to your creative products in case it catches fire and someone else tries to grab it from you.) But in MOST cases, the product is just going to make you beer money, so focus on quality and forget about the dough.

    • Malrex of the Merciless Merchants says:

      Cool…then the editor, artists, cartographers, and layout people will want to work for free too then? To feel good and all that?

      Without the writer, the editor wouldn’t have a job. It’s cool to work for free once in awhile if you wish to give back to the community or for a good cause but I disagree having to pay for an editor just to give it out for free. Editors can be pricey…if you don’t believe me, look at my funding goal for my Kickstarter. If it funds, I’m breaking even by the way, so I’m not really following my own argument here.

      Do you tip waiters? They plop a dish of food in front of you and wait on you for 30 minutes or whatever. A adventure writer can supply several hours of entertainment…. Maybe the waiter should be paying the cook and just be happy with their tips (and at least they get tips…PWYW is not even a comparison.) If an adventure is PWYW, you aren’t even forced to read it…if you don’t like it, you can set it down, not having to pay a thing…but since you got it for free and you don’t like how its written, you think the writer should have to pay someone to make it better? If they are charging 20$ for their product, then I think you may have an argument but PWYW?

      • squeen says:

        No the professionals you mentioned are professionals—that is their chosen way to make a living. They should be paid if you want to use them like tools to accomplish your goals. Just like Ellison (“Repent Harlequin, cried the ticktockman!” 😛 )

        But what is your goal?

        Death, or if you prefer Father Time, is the only real antagonist in our lives. How you choose to spend your days is the only decision that really matters.

        If you, as a creator, want to invest your energies into creating money, then that’s what you will most like create—the ONLY thing you will likely create.

        If you care about something else—D&D, science, art, whatever—and you are talented and apply yourself, you will likely create that.

        So my point, and Bryce’s point (I think), is concentrate on your creation. Pour everything you’ve got into it—even money—since that’s the only way to make something above average. Be like Walt Disney or Steve Jobs or Albert Einstein and focus on what you are making. What happens after you’ve accomplished your goal (profit, fame, etc.) you can’t really anticipate. It’s not in your hands.

        Pay your bills, by all means. But no one looks back at the business magnates of 50 years ago and says, “Wow! That money that Tycoon X made in 1960 was so different than the money that Tycoon Y made this past year! Man he really changed the world! What a well-lived life.”

        As Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.”
        As Steve Jobs said, “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
        As Einstein said, “God does not play dice with the Universe.”

        (I’m pretty sure Einstein never played D&D.)

  3. Infected with this sudden upwelling of revolutionary spirit and growing social consciousness, I quickly visited Drivethru and stood in line to obtain all parts of Craig Pike’s Black Maw megadungeon for PWYW roebels. I was dismayed to find out comrade Pike had not yet converged his megadungeons to cause of ultimate social, political and distributive justice and I was coerced into paying 2 dollars for each part. Faced with such structural violence, I wanted instead to get some food stamps but was taken in an unmarked van.

    When I arrived in politburo headquarters I tried to reconcile Comrade Lynch’s viewpoint on PWYW and authors working selflessly in giant brotherhood of man, I was confused by the statement on his website where it reads that he receives money from affiliate links to adventures, does editing for money accepts patreon money and does consulting against monetary reward. When I voiced these concerns to comrade Bryce I was instead sent to a gulag.

    ‘You should be working on railroad to Siberia to give back to Glorious Soviet Union and contribute to world revolution, not because guard points Kalashnikov at your face,’ they say.

    • squeen says:

      Was waiting for that. No communist or hippies here. We all work the salt mines just like you.

      You guys do great work. Please keep it up. Charge all the market will bear—you’ll get no gruff from me. TANSTAAFL!

      • OSR Caveman says:

        cringe and commiepilled

      • PrinceofNothing says:

        Many dozens of elfgame dollars thank you my friend:) I’m not accusing anyone of communism or other silly shit, I just wanted to point out the perceived hypocrisy of the”adventures should be pwyw and you should pay money to make them good” via over-the-top allegory. It’s a nice ideal but it often doesn’t work that way in real life.

    • squeen says:

      I do also enjoy the free reviews Bryce churns out week after week at his own expense.

      • PrinceofNothing says:

        Agree. And since he buys all of them himself and devotes a shitton of time, there’s nothing wrong with him saying “look guys, If you want to show your appreciation you can join muh patreon” or something.

    • OSR Caveman says:

      based and capitalismpilled

  4. Lord Mark says:

    Ha ha ha. You’re trying to make money writing amateur niche products for a sub niche of a niche hobby? You want money? You’re better off selling vampire secrets and dick pills via spam.

    Bryce is correct here – and again it’s the hysterical “it’s them commies that are keeping me from getting rich off me elfgames” crowd that really brings home how shit this community is. Go publish your Gor fanfic with an option for die rolling and just be happy that your buddies pretend to read it.

    • Malrex of the Merciless Merchants says:

      Nah…just dont want to pay someone to meet peoples expectations for a free product to satisfy their FREE reading hobby.

    • Very low effort strawman.

      Why does Bryce have affiliate links and a patreon if he is correct?

      For clarification: there is nothing wrong with anything Bryce does because adventures are not free, I merely observe that this idealistic observation doesn’t seem extend to reviewing and consulting and pointed it out via allegory.

      Any other potato-tier observations, “fellow”-community member?

      • Lord Mark says:

        You seem, brittle, unhappy, frightened, lonely, gullible, overly familiar with the forum slang of unloved teen boys … precisely the type easily led into foolishness by internet grifters. Have you considered how much more time you’d have and how your suppurating inadequacy would be soothed if you were an immortal vampire? Vampires are real you know, you should PayPal $5,000 to vampiredickpills.com today to learn my secrets.

      • PrinceofNothing says:

        What is that? There is no rebuttal to my position? You are instead disassembling to conceal both the idiocy of your position, your intellectual inadequacy and your failure to be kool on the internet?

        Maybe an elfgame blog is a little too much for you and you should practice your trade in Youtube comments sections before you giving it another go.

        • Lord Mark says:

          Debate Me screams the incoherent lunatic, validate my crack minded utterances and maunderings about communists in ttrpgs as meaningful and worthy of discussion it howls.

          The only question you raise is how so many of you fit inside such a small car.

          • PrinceofNothing says:

            To alleviate the tedium of having to further engage with this poor dullard without having to surrender the all important last word he desperately craves, my next reply will be something along the lines of: ‘no u’ or maybe ‘~holodomors’ unless he puts in some effort. Make us proud Marky.

        • PrinceofNothing says:

          The reason Lord Mark is upset is that people would rather commit suicide then pay a cent to be subjected to his banal words and he needs everything to be PWYW so he can alleviate the all-pervasive, crushing sense of inadequacy that permeates his every waking moment. What a fag.

          • Knutz Deep says:

            Isn’t this Lord Mark guy the vampire wannabee who has spammed this blog in the past? Bryce should ban him.

          • PrinceofNothing says:

            Wasn’t that Kent? This guy ain’t no Kent.

            You’ll get no objection from me but it seems like much ado over very little. I recommend just responding with ‘no u’ or ‘hahaha fag’ if you find him particularly irksome.

          • Lord Mark says:


            The man baby howls, madness shattering the day. “Faggot” it squawks and its chubby limbs flail, flashing maggot white, until its cries became hoarse and exhausted … the Cheeto dust settles as calm returns to the fetid, jizz-stinking swamp of grandmother’s basement.

            Rousing itself from the yellow crusted body pillow, it resolutely types on, cash money centinaire dreams of OSR wealth challenged by a likely fake internet Vampire spammer…

          • Grützi says:

            Man that Lord Mark dude is like a three-legged kitten:
            Kinda cute to look at, funny to watch … but in the end still retarded.

        • Rad says:

          Holy shit you’re a cunt.

  5. Bryce Lynch says:

    It’s pretty easy to admit to being both a hypocrite and idealist. The worlds too complex to not be a hypocrite and being an idealist still means you’re a dreamer.

    I’ll comment on the Pay The Writer stuff. I don’t think it works in this situation. We can look at the issues divided in two parts: a b2b relationship and a consumer relationship. PTW totally works in a b2b situation. You, a “business”, pay someone to write something that you will sell to consumers. This would be the same arrangement I argued for editors, layouts, artists, etc. In these cases you are looking at a portfolio, previous works, etc, and making a judgement if you, the business owner (which in this case just means “an amateur writing an adventure for publication”) will get similar output. This relationship is different though when you shift to the consumer side. At this point you are pushing your wares to the general public. There IS no preview, portfolio, etc. In essence, PTW doesn’t works because it’s not the writer getting paid … it’s the publisher. (Which are one and the same I realize.)

    Working for someone else? Get paid. Working for yourself? Just push it PWYW or for free.

    And … this position is confined to the amateur hobbyist. At some point you’ll graduate to semi-pro or pro and then by all means charge. I assume that by that point you’re no longer producing crap. And, of course, if you’re pushing printed material then you should charge for printing and shipping. I’m not an idiot … at least in that regard.

    In an idealized world then Monte’s business model of product priced to support him works … AND , of course, he produces high quality works. 😉

    • PrinceofNothing says:

      But if even basic scrutiny reveals that you don’t live up to your own ideals then that says something surely?

      Silly derailing about commies aside, why should anything but the quality, time investment and demand for a work determine its worth? I feel like your position would work just as well if it was ‘if you make junk just do PWYW or free’ and you left the perceived status of the creator entirely out of it.

      I will also point out that for a long time it was your position not to check out free shit. I don’t know your current position (I know for a fact you checked out some free PWYW/free shit), but I like it or not people tend to attach a sort of perceived quality based on price even though there are plenty of genius PWYW works around (Mines, Claws, Princesses comes to mind).

      • squeen says:

        I’ve been lucky enough to acquaint myself with a dozen or so Dutchmen—but all of them were budding entrepreneurs.

        Just saying…

      • PrinceofNothing says:

        VOC mentaliteit.

        • squeen says:

          For sure.

          I love the Dutch—especially Johan Cruyff.

          My Dutch friend’s (American) wife says of him: “I am Dutch, I must announce my opinion LOUDLY.”

        • PrinceofNothing says:

          We have a reputation for directness and the distinct honor of being the second worst people to encounter on vacation, just behind the russians. I like Canucks, and have a mild dislike for californians (I can’t speak for any other state).

          • squeen says:

            Everyone in the USA over the age of 25 (except for Californians) probably agrees with you.

            (Kidding folks!)


          • Malrex of the Merciless Merchants says:


          • Ice says:

            I know man, fuck those Californian idiots. Especially those all of those assholes in Santa Rosa, they are the biggest dumb asses of all.

          • Malrex of the Merciless Merchants says:

            LOL..damn you Ice….

          • squeen says:

            Prince only said “mild”…

            I do have a soft spot for San Diego though. I spent a summer building IBM-PC clones with Intel 8086 processors in them in a time before anyone had even heard of Dell or Gateway—and playing D&D (of course).

            Absolutely perfect weather.

      • Bryce Lynch says:

        Why mighty Prince, are you defining ‘worth’ as ‘the amount willing to be paid for something? How very 20th century! But, seriously, I’m exploring other definitions of worth, I think, at least at some levels. At some point, sure, you gotta eat and if the cash helps then I shant begrudge you … unless you write something shitty. 🙂 But, are not there other options as well? The quality/price thing is for sure real.

        • But you don’t disagree with my definition of worth expressed as some combination of quality, demand and Production cost (in time/money), possibly with the addition of availability, or at least you will admit it seems to make more sense to base the value of a product on the actual product instead of the socio-economic status of its owner correct?

          I will allow that that model does not entirely cover the concept but it seems robust enough to cover the majority.

          I feel like I am pulling some sort of Sabbath-esque verbal trickery but I can’t for the life of me figure out another way to go about it.

          Or to phrase it differently:

  6. Oswald says:

    The upside of doing things all by yourself with your buddy as editor and public domain art is that any amount of money is profit. This is why only an idiot would pay a grand in labor to produce a pywy adventure. If you look at the profit margins in India publishing and know the kind of hours necessary to make one, any non minimum wage job is a better time investment for money.

    Personally, I’ve released all my adventures into public domain for personal political reasons but I was making about 300 a month when I was consistently releasing adventures because my production cost was zero. The real big money in pwyw is to use the low price point to advertise physical versions of your book which have way higher profit margins. Art followed by layout are the most expensive parts of producing an adventure. That’s why guys like kiel chenier or luka are able to put bread on their table, being able to do your own art is a non trivial advantage in this field.

    • PrinceofNothing says:

      Smart guy Oswalt. Writes damn fine adventures too. Mines, Claws & Princesses kids!

    • squeen says:

      $300 per month is non-trivial income. I begin to see the incentive.

    • Dark_Tigger says:

      How many hours of work would that 300 bucks need?

      • Oswald says:

        I was making that much after a year of working near 30 a week on writing. From what I’ve talked to with others, that’s near the ceiling of how much you’d get unless you moved to patreon or started using kickstarter to fund higher production costs. That’s part of why the leap to “going part time at your job” is so difficult.

  7. Oswald says:

    The 300 a month is from gangpressing my brother into being my editor and accepting far less than professional art quality. Getting people aware of your adventure seems to be the most important part though. When bryce and prince liked my last adventure, I made 500 in a single week and then it dropped sharply after 2 weeks. The scarcity of digital goods is almost purely artificial, the “full ancap free market” price of an adventure is probably a dollar while a grand is the minimum for anything approaching pro quality. That’s why kickstarter and patreon are universal in digital markets like games, music and adventures. Advertising by getting good reviews and figuring out multiple income streams is numero uno to figuring out how to move to part time at your job to become a big name d&d person.

    The hard part and why I couldn’t do it is that all the “osr thought leaders” who show up in enny awards have to spend 20-30 hours a week on osr discords, running a blog, youtube vids, living on the internet, networking in different communities, managing kickstarters etc. in addition to the 20-30 a week it takes to write a decent adventure. At that point, you’re selling yourself to people rather than just being a private individual with a hobby.

    • squeen says:

      EOTB’s brilliant post (https://csio.blogspot.com/2019/08/yar-to-end-of-osr.html) said much the same. I thought it had the ring of truth to it. Interesting to hear your take as well. Thanks.

      • EOTB says:

        Thanks Squeen. I do agree that anyone trying to make a living doing this – well, I know that I couldn’t spend all that time. I’m willing to take the time to learn something like InDesign because that’s a skill that translates outside of the hobby. So if I’m writing for my own table anyway, and knowing InDesign is good anyway, then putting something up and making it accessible is worth the marginal extra time even if it’s only going to offset the costs for me to go to GaryCon and let me write off stuff on my taxes that I’d buy anyway. I can take the skills I learn doing that and fuel what really puts food on my table outside of RPGs.

        But yeah, I don’t see the draw in the extra 80% of the time needed to break into the top 20% of the semi-pros.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      Yeah, it’s marketing.

  8. EOTB says:

    I think every writer of quality should give back something freely, but only writers without quality persist in giving out everything for nothing, or next to it. Self-confidence doesn’t sheepishly ask for scraps.

    I largely only buy works that cost actual money. I value my time. If I am not using my own material then I had better be using something as good or better, or whatever time spent picking through the vast sea of veryverycheap for gems among the other is better spent with pencil in hand. The works I’m looking for are overwhelmingly found in either free materials charitably given by those known to be able to sell their thoughts otherwise, or in their sold thoughts.

    But certainly, if someone is little known, then showcasing your ability through blogs or contributions to community projects is a very good idea. You want to build up some number of people who anticipate further efforts from you. But you almost certainly will not create that by saying your own work isn’t worth more then everyone else’s.

    A writer also must be honest about what they expect their effort to be used for. If they don’t use it in play themselves; if they’re basically writing fan-fic formatted in OGL terminology that they want other people to read when they’re not playing, then they will price according to what they themselves would pay for that, which of course isn’t very much.

    The other considerations are that even if you are a fantastic writer who makes material cheerfully remembered long after it is played – all businesses lose money for long periods before they make money. And this isn’t a high-profit area; no one who could make work that stands out is kidding ourselves. But it does have a tail – if you don’t cut off the possibility of one by saying yourself that your output is worth only a few minutes of someone’s labor. And I would hope that if someone makes the effort to translate a good time into pages someone else can use to provide a good time, that once that author is finished they have the small joy of that work giving them some small amount of pocket change for several years.

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