By R. Nelson Bailey Dungeoneers Guild Games OSR Levels 1-3
Nothing much usually happens in the sleepy fishing hamlet of Har’s Point. Recently, however, a ship has crashed on the rocks outside of town. Now rumors concerning treasure it supposedly carried are running rife amongst the fisherfolk. Some of these rumors hint that dead sailors from the ship are now walking the nearby beaches at night. Even more concerning, a mysterious stranger has been spotted around town. A few inquisitive adventurers might be able to discover what exactly is going on in Har’s Point.
This sixteen page adventure details a couple of locations in and near a seaside village and a few events related to a … sahuagin attack. It’s more a “sixteen page overly wordy outline” then it is an adventure. And it’s pretty brutal as well for the level range given. What was U3? Something like 3-5?
Well, the little sahuagin bastards have, once again, lost a religious artifact and need to find it so they go a raiding. You’d think their gods would punish them more, given how much they seem fuck things up. But no, they keep hanging around, showing up in every sea adventure EVAR.
There’s a shipwreck which, ostensibly, occupies the party. While messing about with it and staying in the village to do that, some people go missing That you probably never hear about. And then eventually a weird woman shows up. And then eventually the sahuagin show up and try to kill everyone. I know, right? So, the party is in town. They want to go out to the shipwreck, that has lots of rumors of gold on it, and of dead sailors wandering the beach at night. To get there they have to take a little boat. Which costs 400gp to buy, ten times the going rate. Or, I guess they can steal one. But then, for the last two hundred yards to the shipwreck (its on a reef) there’s a 50% chance each turn it capsizes, likely killing everyone because you take 2hp of damage each turn you’re in the water. AND there’s a 5 HD giant eel that prowls the place and attacks anyone in the water. Don’t worry, if you’re a seaman background then it’s only a 30% chance per turn of capsizing! What the fuck man! 200 yards of this? Once there you find no gold, but trade goods. “Ah ha!” sez me “Even better! Goods from foreign lands!” Alas, there are no details given. Just “trade good” with no value.
The sahuagin are searching the shore/land around the wreck, looking for their lost artifact. They search three hundred yards a night. The text explicitly says they search an area that is six miles from the south of the little village to four miles to the north of the little village. Ten miles. At three hundred yards a night. That’s like, what, two months? But wait! They end up attacking the village on like the third night. So … I don’t know what the fuck is going on.
The idea of events is a good one, for a general outline of an adventure like this, but it seems ass screwy in this. The events take place over three or four days … and yet the party is likely to hit the shipwreck quickly and probably move on. It’s like it wasn’t thought through, with the capsizing thing. I like the sort of a “locale and general outline with events”, almost like a little sandbox, but …
The first event is the disappearance of two beachcombers, at night. Who are killed and eaten in an isolated location. Which means no one knows they are dead. WHich means the event doesn’t really impact the party. It’s the same as listing “Bob & Martha thought about having sex but decided not to.” How the fuck does this impact the adventure? Leaving a bloody mess, near the boats, or on the way to them, or somewhere else … THAT would serve as some sort of inciting event to get the parties ass in gear. As written, though, it’s a non-event. “But Bryce”, the whiners say “you can change it.” You’re damn right I can. And I would, too. You know what else? I’d also write my own adventure instead of using some poor quality thing like this. It’s the designers job to do this shit, to inspire the DM, to give them the ability to run a good game … if not then what the hell are we paying for? SOme stats out of the DMG?
The church is the center of social activity in the town, we’re told. That’s it. That doesn’t play in to the events. That doesn’t play in to the townfolk. It adds no local color. No local color is provided. It’s a good fucking idea, but you have to then anchor that with specifics. When the party come in they are having a wedding, or a town meeting, or something else, going on all the time. WHile the baddies attack there’s a sewing bee at the church. WOrk it the fuck in for vecna’s sake!
There is, essentially, no treasure to speak of. Instead we are provided with milestone/goal XP. Which means that the party has to read the DM’s mind to figure out what they are supposed to do. “Ha! You didn’t figure out that the crown was what the baddies were looking for! No 200xp for you!” or “No, the chick dies, you don’t get your 200xp for that.” There’s multiple problems here. First, the fucking system is gold=xp, so that’s how the party is going to play unless the DM is up front with them that there is no gold here. Second, the party can’t succeed unless they know what they are supposed to do. Are we do read the goals out to the up front? I’ don’t have a problem with that, if we’re goal based, but it also kind of kills the game flow, IMO, given the SPECIFIC milestones mentioned. Compare to more modern systems, like 5e, where the milestone system is used and it’s more “complete chapter 1.” Finally, it implies there’s a right way and a wrong way to play the adventure. I hope you’re goody good who help fishermen for no reason, because anything else and you’re not getting XP from this adventure. It’s bullshit. It’s like saying “Ha! You were supposed to roll low on all of those to hit rolls instead of high! Suckers!”
And since I’m on a tear, let’s talk about rumors. The rumor table is laid out traditionally, with fifteen or so numbered rumors. But not all rumors are known by everyone. Only the fishermen know some of them, for example. But, you have to sig through every rumor to find who knows what, it’s not organized at all. Organizing it by “Everyone” “FIshermen” and so on would have made much more send.
In the end this is just another poorly organized adventure with too many words laid out in a long text paragraph format with little to no though made to usability. IE: the usual.
This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages. The only worthwhile page is the last one, showing you part of the village description. It would have been better to show the actual encounter areas so people would know what they are getting for their sixteen page $6 adventure.
Wait. Is this a repeat? Didn’t you review almost the exact same premise like six months ago?
Like… six years ago – it was a free adventure on the Dragonsfoot site. I think the review (which I admit I just skimmed) was a little more generous (though still not favorable!) – likely because it was free.
Thanks! I must’ve run across that one when looking through the archives and thought it was more recent. Phew! I’m not going crazy and/or people aren’t getting that bad at recycling ideas.
I would have to check to compare, so it might be an unfair assessment on my part, but from the two reviews it feels like the free version might actually be better defined, what would be ironic/tragic on many levels.
What’s worse, I almost reviewed Trollback Keep again. Three in as many weeks? I’m loosing it!
The villagers are wreckers, they drew the ship onto the reef with a false signal fire, planning to loot it. The zombies/spirits of the crew are keeping them away though. They’d love it if some outsiders dealt with them so they could get back to work, but they have to finagle it without letting the cat out of the bag.
It’s not just book zombies, it’s tough zombies still trying to act out their last moments on the ship. Maybe the ghost of the captain as well, who needs laid to rest but can accuse the villagers.
The sahuagin are… competitors in the wrecking business? Partners in the wrecking business, but they were supposed to have been paid by now? Unconnected to that, but they use the village to fence ship-wrecked treasure? Let’s say there’s a partnership with a split, sahuagin get whatever goes sinks to the bottom, villagers claim whatever’s on the surface. But they also fence what they don’t want through the villagers. Sometimes at very favorable rates, but they do absolutely expect to get paid, and the wreckers not being able to get to the ship has thrown the whole deal off.
Whatever the case, they’ve been creeping around the village at night leaving warnings. First a skull on a stick, next a cow slaughtered, then a villager kidnapped, then a villager killed. This can be solved either by giving the sahuagin whatever they’re owed, or by murderhoboing a sahuagin raiding party.
Most of the adult villagers know something’s up, but the active criminal group is only a half dozen to a dozen guys. If someone wants to go full Judge Dredd on them that’s on the table, and will put a stop to the problem for ships. No “their wives and children take up the family trade, what do now paladin?”
One single boating roll to cross the waves, of course. No roll to failure bullshit. And assume competence when assigning odds, boating skill/background should be a big help.
Elapsed time: 5 minutes. Though there is a writing prompt aspect to this, I don’t know that I would have come up with that on my own.
I love this idea. Fix-crap-adventure-of-the-week contest. Make it a thing!
I agree with some of what you wrote, particularly that this adventure is somewhat lacking in specifics, but I find that to be a desirable feature rather than a problem; It allows for the adventure to be fit in to almost any setting or campaign with little effort, a very typical characteristic of most old school adventures. Treasure is somewhat lacking, but this isn’t really a problem, it’s very easy to simply add more if desired. XP for accomplishing goals is not unusual, and considering this is a small side quest, I don’t find threwards in treasure and XP overly low at all. As for some other points, I think you maybe misinterpreted some details. The sahuagin band’s search area *can* range widely, but it states that they begin and concentrate their search just west of the village. Also, you leave out the fact that the PC’s can rent a boat manned by a fisherman for significantly less money and reduced risk in order to explore the wreck. There are several other similar points that seem distorted or just plain wrong to me, almost as though you really didn’t read it all that carefully. I found this well written and easily adapted to a variety of settings. It can be challenging as you pointed out, but the author specifically addresses how to handle any issues with underpowered parties. I guess my point is that I must disagree with your overall assessment and would encourage DMs to give this a look.
“Treasure is somewhat lacking, but this isn’t really a problem, it’s very easy to simply add more if desired.”
If the DM needs to put in extra work to identify and fix a problem, it’s a problem no matter what. A dungeon with no loops is easy to fix but it’s still an issue. And whether it’s easy to fix doesn’t matter… easy work can be boring, repetitive, and exhausting.
Lacking in specifics isn’t a desirable feature for the vast majority of DMs. If the adventure’s church is too weird for my setting, it takes zero effort to just toss it away. Most of the time, it won’t be; it’s that much time and energy saved. Why prepare a church, or improvise it at the table, when I could slot in a pre-made church that’s just as good, if not better and more vibrant, than what I could brainstorm? Isn’t that why I’m buying an adventure? To use other people’s cool ideas so I can spend less energy (and time) coming up with my own and more energy DMing?
XP for accomplishing goals is absolutely unusual in OSR. And the option to rent a boat doesn’t excuse “rolling to failure” if you don’t.
Bryce has reviewed this adventure twice, I think that’s more than enough reading it.
I want to believe you, so I’ll check it out anyway… but only because it’s free.
And it’s pretty brutal as well for the level range given. What was U3? Something like 3-5?
Even that was way too low. What the hell is the point of an undersea adventure if the characters have limited access to water breathing magic? I don’t get all the love that the U series inspires, it goes from ‘Scooby Doo’ to ‘Jaws, but even worse’ over the course of three slim publications.
Too bad this is such a mess, that cover art is OUTSTANDING. It comes across as a lost Trampier piece.
U1 is fantastic for newer players, I’ve never had a bad experience using it, but I definitely agree on 2 and 3.
I would rate U1 an excellent starter module: the poisonous vermin in the house are sensibly depowered, Ned is a different sort of trap, intelligent play will increase your chances. (You need a decent plan to win the Sea Ghost combat.) I have more sympathy concerning U2: if the PCs find a lizard man they can communicate with, it can become a bit of a non-event. (From what I recall the module is vague on whether the lizard man officers can speak common, and this is important.) U3 should not be approached as a kill everything in sight module, more an explore and investigate whilst not attracting attention. The climax of the first level is getting the wand of polymorphing: what is stopping the PCs from polymorphing into a mixture of sahuagins and sharks, with maybe Oceanus as a
Thank you for summing up exactly why I don’t like U2-3. U2 ends up either with the PCs slaughtering innocents or is basically a non-event as you said. Success in U3 depends almost entirely (at least for a level-appropriate party) on finding a secret room full of magical goodies. Horrible, horrible design.
Other than art and a really neat looking cover, I wonder if anything is different from the free version?
Matthew Ray did the cover and Bradley K. McDevitt (also excellent) did some interiors. Definitely old school there!
I have zero complaints with this side-quest. And with regard to the authors writing style, I found it entertaining and and at times droll. And of course the art is kick ass.
Listen, if your players need to be hand lead through an adventure then this quest is not for you. This is a mystery module. The PCs will have to grill the towns people to get the clues they need. Huge opportunities for great role playing. Also, an equal amount of ROLL playing as well…if you get my drift. Bottom line, worth every penny.
Angry Golem Games Reviews, “Shipwreck at Har’s Point”: http://angrygolem-games.com/adventure-design-non-linear-adventure-review-shipwreck-at-hars-point
This isn’t a review… the author doesn’t voice a single opinion. This is just a description of the adventure and claims that it, apparently, qualifies as a “matrix adventure”. Which I think that’s just elaborate lingo for “non-linear”, but it’s hard to tell among piles of ESL-isms.
…the page on “matrix adventures” includes this gem: “If you are thinking that a matrix adventure is a sandbox, let me tell you that you are wrong. A sandbox style is more like a matrix without adventure. A sandbox has basically no plot or structure. It’s pure improvisation, with pro and cons.”
This is straight-up bizarre.
Ill take the red pill….
That matrix / sandbox quote does sound accurate though!