By Jonathan Hicks Farsight Games S&W No Level Given. Shame on you!
You and your friends are about to embark on a dangerous yet rewarding adventure into the floating dungeons of Kursh Velgont, a powerful but long-dead wizard. The magical dungeons of the wizard have risen from the ground and toppled the abandoned castle that it used to be part of. Right now it is drifting through the air towards Chalisan, and the undead denizens of the dungeon are falling from the rapidly collapsing hunk of earth and corridors and terrorising decent folk! How has the dungeon risen? What power keeps it aloft, and what damage will it do to the lands? The PCs have been commissioned to get into the floating prison and find out why this is happening, and to try and find a way to stop it before it reaches the town of Chalisan and the evil dead are deposited upon it!
This sixteen page adventure, details a seventeen room dungeon that if floating through the sky, dropping undead and dirt and stuff from it as it floats towards a major town. It’s a conversion from Advanced Fighting Fantasy and shows it. A few neato lines of descriptions are scattered throughout, but that can’t stop the disco: long italics read-aloud, and bad design.
How shall I rail against thee? Let me count the ways …
This is a conversion from AFF. It shows. This is where I now go on and on about the unique flavour in a game system and how most conversions don’t capture that. Let us take a game like Polaris: Chivalric Tragedy at Utmost North. (AKA: The Harry Clark game containing no Harry Clark.) Sad tragedy marked by failure and people saying “but though are but a warrior …” to fail you. Now, let’s take G1/Steading and stat convert it to Polaris. Is it a Polaris adventure? What if I don’t convert it AT ALL and just call G1 a Polaris adventure? What if G1 had no stats, could I call it a Polaris adventure? What if I took an adventure for a game like Polaris or Lacuna, something with esoteric targeted rules and just said “Yeah, It’s an OSR adventure now” … a game whose entire concept was based around player ingenuity, no forced combats, gold giving you XP. That’s what this is. The designer has little understanding of what makes a D&D adventure and has just stat converted the thing from AFF to S&W. The big loot at the end is 200gp in gems. That’s great, right? Let’s see, split five ways … better to stay home and ambush people in the alley and take THEIR stuff for xp. Being a hero don’t pay, at least in XP. And then there are other things, like falling damage. You can fall from the floating dungeon. You take a d6 damage, even though its very high up. Is that how falling damage works in S&W? I don’t think so. Or, maybe, “high up” means 10 feet from the ground?
Nevermind the abstracted treasure in the form of “200gp in gems”. Nevermind that we’re not told how fucking far offt he ground the dungeon floats. A super basic quality. Something everyone wants to ask, I’m sure, as they approach it. “How long are the ropes hanging down from it? How long must we endure undead attacks while we climb?” Or even “how fast is it travelling?” since that’s a main theme of the adventure. Nope, none of that. It’s all fucking abstracted. No brave little tailors here. Look, yeah, I can make it up. But that’s not the point. It’s a pattern. It’s a basic lack of understanding of what to include and not include in an adventure.
What should NOT be included? How about column after column of read-aloud? And it’s in italics, making it super hard to read! And it’s full of bad fiction writing!
“The lands are rife with danger, but there are plenty of rewards for adventurers willing to take the risks and face the evils that threaten to plunge the lands and lives of decent folk into darkness. Most days pass by without incident and people go about their affairs peacefully, but some days are dangerous and can change lives forever.Today is one of those dangerous days.”
Uh huh. That’s the read-aloud?
It goes on and on with the read-aloud. “Which way do you venture?” the read-aloud tells us. Uh huh. Priorities misplaced. And none of that fucking “its for beginners” shit. We don’t fucking pander. Besides, thats just justifying bad writing, there are better ways to present to n00bs.
So, mountains of read-aloud. Including a big bad monologue. Joy. A room description of a hallway junction that takes a quarter page .. for nothing more than a hallway junction.
And then there’s just bad design. There’s enforced morality “no matter how many foes the players defeat they should not receive any XP.” No, that’s not how D&D works. That’s how bullshit enforced morality works. “Once you defeat the monster you notice the large key on its belt.” No, that’s bad design. By making the party notice the key in the outset you make it a temptation. The point becomes getting the key rather than just engaging in another fight, which is how it’s written. AFF or no, a fight for the sake of a fight is bad design. “Don’t be too hard on them this early in the adventure, just have one or two skeletons per player attack the party.” No, that’s not how things work. Again, combat for the sake of combat and an ATTEMPT to have a dramatic moment. Those enforced moments SUCK BALLS. Better are the moments that come from the players own attempts. That’s what you’re writing for.
The writing is muddled, with various elements all knotted up in the same paragraphs making it hard to find information. It’s conversations “don’t tell the players, but in 6 rounds a numbers of skeletons will come to investigate.”
What’s sad here is that there’s some good imagery. Buried in a column of read-aloud is, in the opener., a woman riding up frantically yelling “Have you seen it?! Have you seen the dungeon?!” That’s a good opened. The lower parts of the ropes leading up to the floating dungeon are slick with blood. Skeleton heads have an inner green glow. There are bloody handprints on doors. That’s all greta. It’s just too little, too far in between, and buried under mountains of useless text and bad design.
This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages. You don’t get any dungeon rooms, which is bad, but the last two pages DO show you almost two full pages of read-aloud. That’s a pretty good indication of whats to come. Also, THERE’S NO FUCKING LEVEL RANGE GIVEN. *sigh*