By Simon Miles Dunromin University press OSRIC Level 1
Fresh-faced and more than a little hung-over our newly graduated mage of the great Dunromin College of Magic and his friends step into the tea-room next to the Porter’s Lodge and ask for something for a headache. Within minutes they find themselves accosted by the smiling figure of Malcolm Darkstar, Bursar of the College and owner of the tea-rooms, keen to ask them a favour…
This 48 page book has three adventures: a small kobold lair, a fetch quest in a dead wizards manor home, and a side-quest burning farmstead/argument with a doppleganger spouse. It makes some attempts at verisimilitude but fails in being usable, as it asserts it wants to be. Or even interesting.
Three little adventures for level one’s in OSRIC. There’s not much going on in these. There are, though, a lot of words. There are page long room encounters. There are LOOOOONG sections of read-aloud. There’s an attempt to use bolding to highlight keywords and phrases in the long text but it largely misses its mark, being the wrong words bolded to to get the flavor of an encounter. It largely shows an unfamiliarity with better formatting techniques like bullets and indentations. This isn’t a one-size fits all, an adventure should not be all bullets and indents, but a mix of text, bullets, indents, and bolding usually does a better job than just one of those techniques alone. Further, when bolding and text are used by themselves then it becomes critical to keep the text short, use para breaks appropriately, and bold the right things. And none of that is done here. The net impact is a kind text wall that resists scanning. And if you can’t scan the text easily then you can’t run the adventure easily.
There’s also this kind of mania for physical descriptions. Read-aloud and DM text both are pretty specific. 8’ high, 4’ wide, 5’ long passage, and so forth. Does that matter to the players? Short and stumpy, or other flavour text, would be better. This mania for EXACT dimensions, especially in read-aloud, drives me nuts.
Dungeon trappings are buried in text instead of on the (linear) maps. (Well, the kobold map at least is linear.) Embedding the smells and noises on the mpa, for example, keeps them fresh in front of the DM’s eyes, helping them add flavor to the game as they are running it. Remember: the published adventure is supposed to be a play aid for the DM, helping them run it.
There’s also a weird tone in this. King Modred and Lord Darkstar. The text refers to a bizarre land, and the whole “beginning wizard” thing makes me think of some juvenile audience … but then there’s murdered kids in a house on fire and other darker things. It’s got a weird tone. And almost no loot for a 1e adventure that, by definition, requires hold to get XP to level. There’s some handwaving about doing this on purpose, but by doing so you’re destroying one of the key posts of the game.
This makes me think, for all the world, that the designer is VERY new to this. They have a vision in their head. It makes sense to them, and they try to put it down on paper. But, that’s not the goal. The goal is to get it in to the running DM’s head so they can run it during actual play. What makes sense to the designer, who is intimately familiar with their own work, doesn’t to someone who has to slog through all of the text text to get out the good bits.
And the good bits are few and far between. This is mostly kobolds and goblins and the like, with snare traps and other relatively boring things. There’s a ncie order of battle for monsters in how they react, but, like everything else, it’s too long and too prescriptive. Evocative is not prescriptive.
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $4. The preview is the entire thing, at 48 pages. Yeah! Try pages five, six, and seven as the overland/intro and tell me you can run that easily. Or pages eight, nine and ten for approaching the kobold lair. It’s just little to no organization at all except paragraph this and then paragraph that happens.
Happy Fucking New Year. What a way to start it.