By Todd Pote Arcana Creations S&W Levels 1-3
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Several children have gone missing from the village of Morfurt and they seem to have disappeared without a trace. The villagers fear that evil has returned to the ruins of an old abandoned tower. Answering the plea for help, the Earl of the region dispatches a party of adventurers to investigate.
This 28 page adventure features a twenty room dungeon in an old tower. It has three themes: abandoned, hideout, and old secret area. That’s a good mix, but the massive read-aloud, history trivia, heavy mechanics, and low treasure make this quite skippable.
You spend some time poking around a village, and then eventually wander up to an old tower ruin. Inside you hopefully find a little hidden path and make it past the “ruined” appearance to the part of the tower used by a gang of slavers. Eventually you’re confronted with a dark hole in the floor and/or bars over an underground creek, both leading to a secret area that has several obstacles and the only real treasure.
Read aloud is MASSIVE. Half a page in some cases. That’s poor design. It’s overly descriptive, trying to describe too many things in too much detail for an “initial” burst of data about a room. “There’s a 12 inch by 6 inch by 18 inch chest in the room.” No, the room is decked out bedroom, or there’s a small trunk under the table. Done! Individually, a detail may be ok but then you layer detail on top of detail on top of detail, in the read-aloud, it very quickly violates the Keep It Short principal. Further, it detracts from the back and forth between the players and the DM that is a key to a successful D&D experience. (Hmm, does this go for ALL rpg’s? Or just “exploratory” ones?)
Similarly, the DM text gets VERY long as well. Trivia and mechanics, for the most part. The ogre like saffron on his desert. The innkeepers other daughter lives in the nearby village of Kraughton. The bars were built ages ago by the priests that used to live here. These add nothing to the adventure at all, but they do detract from the ability to run, making it harder for the DM to find the text they actually NEED while searching past this trivia. Yes, many things COULD be useful, but unless you can make a strong case of it being useful at the table then Fuck. Your. Worldbuilding. I’ve got a game to run. Now. And it’s in the way.
Have you ever wondered how much you can get for pumice stone? Well let me tell you, at least 200gp is you mine the vein in this adventure! At one point there are bars and we’re told each can take 15 points of damage before they break. Of course, this isn’t in a combat situation so the mechanics are entirely superfluous. Inclusion of unneeded mechanics, again, clogs things up. Further, let’s say it DOES matter to the adventure … do you still need it? Is it enough to note the bars exist? I suspect the answer is No, you don’t generally need it. Unless it’s key point in the adventure where the party is trapped and time is short and the situation tense; a constructed vignet. Otherwise we run in to that garbage from other official adventures where each door and object in an adventure had a break DC and hit points. And man, is that ever fucking tedious …
And then there’s other decisions made that are mind boggling. There’s a couple of timeline events embedded in descriptions in the village. In one home/business we’re told that in two days time her child will be the next to disappear. Why not remove this to a separate timeline area instead of embedding it in a room description where you have to hunt it down? I’m not looking at the Weavers Hut while I run the adventure, I should be looking at a timeline or reference table. And in other areas there’s a maddening lack of detail. One room is full of a pile of bodies/bones, and yet no mention is made of it at all in the text. Every fucking party that goes in is going to look at it … but no aid to the DM is given. Then there are the confusing text descriptions. The text tries so hard to make things clear, in detail, that the minutia gets in the way of actually understanding what’s going on. At one point there’s a dry, slick streambed, in a channel I think, but you’d never know that from the text description. And after reading it three times, I’m still not sure of the layout. The amount of treasure is quite low. Maybe 2k and almost all in the final hidden area. This could be confused for a Milestone system adventure instead of one for Gold=XP systems.
There multiple areas, abandoned, hideout, hidden, are nice, especially the inclusion of a hidden area with a treasure for those that push past the boundaries of the hideout world. There’s a detail or two that is nice also, especially in the “abandoned” section, with skeletal arms sticking out from under rubble and so far. Putting monster stat blocks in a sidebar is a good idea, but you have to deliver on the RA and DM text also to make it a usable adventure.
This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages and shows you nothing except some long boring droning background data. A good preview needs to give you an idea of what you’re buying, which generally means at least a few encounter descriptions.