By Steve Wachs Red Pub Games 1e Levels 4-6
… But now the long lost abode of Obryn Sapravda has been found! Your band of brave adventurers has been hired to explore their depths, and learn the fate of the legendary mage. Your mission is frought with secrecy and intrigue. Can you unravel all the mysteries of The Vaults of Obryn Sapravda?
This 111 page dungeon adventure uses 54 pages to describe a few dozen rooms spread across four or five levels. Interesting interactivity and some decent magic items are present, but the entire adventure is done in the verbose tactical style of 4e, this being a 4e conversion, that makes it very hard for me to imagine being playable without substantial effort on the DM’s part. And is almost universal that “requires substantial effort on the DM’s part” ain’t an adventure I’m gonna recommend.
In ten-is years of reviews I’ve come to recognize certain styles of adventures. One may be the overly verbose style of the Dungeon Magazine era. Another is the indie no room numbers” stye, and another the scene-based style. 4e adventures tended to have their own style as well. The rooms tended to be more like areas and encounters were set pieces. There was an emphasis on terrain, and these set pieces would run to several pages in the adventure. Maps emphasized the battle map nature of the game. (All of which emphasized the tactical mini’s approach 4e seemed to encourage, but, whatever, I’m not here to slam 4e yet again. But … Fuck 4e and “tactical miniatures” rpg’s!) This adventure is a conversion from 4e and thus has all of that.
Given my “Fuck 4e!” comments you may be surprised to learn that I don’t hate this adventure. Well, ok, I don’t LIKE it, but I don’t LOATHE it either.
There are common elements shared between 4e and a more freeform experience that are positive. The emphasis on terrain, for example. While 4e inevitably emphasized the movement/combat tactics issues, in a mechanical way, with terrain, it’s also the case that varied terrain in a room or dungeon is a great thing. Shelves, precipices, sam-level stairs, muddy areas … those add to the varied environment.
Further, this adventure has things that the usual 4e adventure did not. Multiple levels are present here, around five or so, I think. Non-standard magic items are present, and the one that do tend to book are offered smoe variety, like a bronze-headed +1 mace. A little extra description can go a long way to make the boring +1 weapon better. Mechanics are, I think, one of the worst magical effects, but by beefing up the description you can still have something interesting. And this adventure does that with all of it’s magic items, at a minimum, and puts in some others, beyond book items.
More than this though, it is the adventures emphasis on interactivity that sets it apart from just about every other 4e adventure … and most OSR adventures as well.
Interactivity is fairly high in this, even without the “set piece” like combat rooms. As a kind of platonic example, you can find a scroll in one room under a false floor. In another room is a statue in the middle of a basin, the basin filled with sludge and goop … the kind no sane adventurer fucks with. Fucking with the statue results in some bubbles in the sludge … you can get it to move, revealing a hold underneath, and a magic rope that the statue will hope in it’s hands … it’s will respond to some commands to lower/raise people in to the hole. This is the sort of interactivity that makes dungeons comes alive. Potential danger, explorations, discovery, and wonder. That’s D&D.
But … this thing has deal breakers.
First, there’s no map. The last fifty of so pages are full of battlemaps, and each room has it’s own little reference map, but there’s no single unified map. This makes understanding how things fit together quite rough. You have to rely on the notes for each room to understand tat exit hole A goes to entry hole B in room B4. This is CRAZY. Given the length I can’t understand why an overview map wasn’t included. The overall impact is a significant contribution to these feeling like individual isolated set-piece encounters instead of an integrated adventure.
Second are the entries proper, and their length. We’re talking four pages for a room, in some cases. Tactics notes. Read aloud. Multiple read-alouds. Overly details dimensions. Its hard to actually understand how the room is supposed to work b ecause there is soooo much spread out over sooo many pages.
A Trap! The chance you trigger it is 100- 1% for each point of dex -40% if you have infravision. Just a quick little calculation!
This text is dense and detailed, waaaayyyyy too detailed for each room. Exactly as one would expect from a 4e adventure.
And, at the end, you get up to 1500 XP as story rewards. I can haz sadz. 🙁
I understand this was all the norm in 4e. That doesn’t make it right then, or now, even though this ia 4e conversion. What it DOES do though it give me hope that the designer will get better in organizing their material and concentrating on the proper aspects of the adventure. Like I said, the interactivity is there. Some of the imagery, also, like the bubbling from escaping air under a sludge pool. What e needs to learn to do is delete about 75% of his writing.
This is $7 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. The last two pages begint to describe the dungeon and show you the first (small) and room and begin to show the next room, which is MULTIPLE pages long … but you just get to see the first. Note the emphasis on the physicality of locations, where things are and how big they are.