By Sean Smith Self Published Quarrel & Fable
A harried messenger collapses in the town square with news that the king at Firefen has succumbed to a demonic parasite. And where the king is ill, the land is ill. Will YOU rid the kingdom of this evil before the disease spreads?
This nine digest page adventure details a road journey from a town to the home of the king, through a demon-infested land. Nice little ideas are abstracted to a degree that they are no longer useful. It’s too short for what it’s trying to pack in, falling somewhere in between the abstracted nature of a hexcrawl encounter and the details of a regular encounter. It doesn’t do either any justice.
I accidentally bought this. All I saw was “OSR” and not “other OSR systems” on DriveThru. In my own defense, I tend to think of the OSR label as “compatible with B/X” … and many light systems are essentially NOT. They bear more resemblance to indie RPG’s then to B/X. System aside, the adventure bears the marks of being essentially a linear set of encounters, something we should all be familiar with from more modern versions of D&D play styles where they eschew the game element and concentrate on the experience. So I’m reviewing it anyway. Such as it is.
It’s organized in a kind of time-based manner. First you encounter this and then you encounter this. It’s not really laid out in a keyed format. There are some headings for different regions/areas, but then it just runs through the “first this and then this” thing. It’s still relatively easy to follow though, with paragraphs being clearly laid out and information contained within, even without area headings, blding, etc.
The general format might be “first this little things happens and then you’re in this big situation.” First you meet a bandit on the road, jumping out of a copse of trees. “Your lupins or your life” he shouts. That’s your encounter. That’s followed up with about four sentences, in the next paragraph, describing a small starving village, the abbey in it that has closed its doors, they sell salt, and the villagers wants to eat an albino cock and black chicks running around. So, a LARGE situation. Farmers jump out to attack … and then run away. Small encounter. You happen to a friendly well-fed village of kind people … who are cannibals. Big Encounter.
All of these are, essentially, underdescribed. The bandit and farmers are just people that jump out. There’s nothing to them, no soul. They need more than once sentence, maybe two, to bring the encounter to life. To give it some character and flavour.
The bigger town/village encounters are essentially the same. It attempts to describe these huge situations but it doesn’t give enough detail. It turns in to an abstracted idea of an encounter, like one of those “fifty ideas for fucked up villages” garbage supplements on DriveThru. Here’s your three sentences to describe your new campaign world. Run it!
I’m not arguing for things to be infinitely explained, or rigid beyond use. But a fun extra details, an NPC or two, a roving gang, some farmer details, SOMETHING to bring the place to life and help spark the DM. It’s as if it were “an exciting new campaign supplement!” and it only contained the words “the dark lord or Mordor is trying to take over the world.” Well, ok, sure, but there’s lots of possible shit in that. Maybe you could give me just a little bit more to work with? Otherwise this is just a roll on some random tables that’s put down on paper.
The wanderers are a great example of this. A short wandering monster table. Farm bandits. Slug fiends. Demon friar. That’s it, just a list. But each one can only be used once, it tells us. Well then why the fuck didn’t you include just a little more information about a vignette? The friar forcefully converting a flock through demonic executions, or the farmers, idk, doing a wicker man or something? It’s all so abstracted that it might as well be Wilderlands. Although, come to think of it, Wilderlands had MORE detail and was organized better.
It does, at times, engage in a decent word or two. Fleeing across a river hiding in the “long reeds.” Long reeds in a river, fleeing, hiding in them, that’s great imagery and gives me something. I want more of that.
Also, while I’m not an expert in this system, I think combat is unusually deadly and the idea is to come at things sideways? But then why all of the forced combats in this with many encounters being a “they jump out an attack!” type? Maybe I don’t understand the system.
Weirdly abstracted. There are two roads between your start and finish, and you’re only ever gonna encounter stuff on one ,meaning half the book is wasted. Quantum Ogre don’t matter here, it’s bad design in a non-exploratory railroad.
This is $6 at DriveThru. Of course, there’s no fucking preview. $6 for nine pages is pushing things. Quality deserves payment. But the reality of the situation means you’re just getting fucked over for these high price/low page count things … that don’t have a fuck preview.