By Dave Tackett Quasar Dragon games OSR Levels 2-4
Lying undisturbed for ages, this accursed tomb is discovered by the characters and a great evil is encountered. Will they survive this brush with darkness or will they become its latest victims. An OSR compatible module for any old school RPG or modern clone, The Temple/Tomb of Asibare is designed for character levels 2-4 or an especially harrowing first level.
This nineteen page adventure describes a twelve room temple/tomb with a vaguely middle eastern theme. Long read-aloud, mountains of backstory text in the rooms DM text, wall immune to everything but a Wish, this adventure has it all! Well, except treasure. So, not exactly an OSR adventure. More of a “Great example of how to not write an adventure” adventure. What RPG system is that? All of them Frank, all of them. Also, which one of you “gentle readers” suggested I review this? No christmas card for you this year!
Recall the new basic Bryce criteria for adventure success: Do I want to use my cheap yellow/beige mechanical pencil to stab my own eyes out when I try to run this? IE: is it bad? Evocative writing and interactivity might be “not boring” but making something not easy to use at the table easily earns you the BAD moniker. This is BAD.
You’re caravan guards. There’s a new building revealed out of the sand at an oasis you are stopped at. That night some other guards get killed. The next morning the caravan master asks you to take twelve(!) other guards and go inside to try and see what killed them. Ordered to your doom by those who control the means of production. Typical! And not even a bonus for your trouble!
The read-aloud in this adventure is BAD. It is LONG. Very long. Several reach a column in length. Read-aloud, is used, can’t be long. It has to be short. Why? Because people stop paying attention. You get a couple of sentences. 2, 3, maybe 4. No more. No one FUCKING CARES after that. They are here to play D&D not listen to DM monologues. No, listening to the DM is not the core D&D mechanic/loop. EVERY RPG thrives on the interactivity between the players and the DM. Back and forth. The DM presents. The players respond. The DM follows up. Then the players. And so it goes. Short. Bursty. Interactive. Long read-aloud breaks that cycle, people get bored, phones come out, and the DM wonders why no one is engaged.
The read-aloud in this adventure is BAD. It tells instead of showing.Instead of describing a locale, scene, event, it instead tells the players what their characters think and feel. “Every instinct tells you to run.” “By the flickering of your torchlight …” This is some hollow and false attempt to write an impactful encounter by making the players feel something. But it’s doing it by TELLING them instead of SHOWING them. You write a description that makes the payers feel a certain way, yo udon’t write a description that TELLS them tey feel a certain way. Besides, it’s also embedding actions in the read-aloud, assuming they are using torches, etc. This is never good. “You walk around the pyramid and see nothing”, again, in the read-aloud and again, assuming player actions and destroying the interactive loop of D&D. When you put extra descriptions in the read-aloud then you prevent the players from taking the actions with their characters. Instead of the read-aloud describing the first room and every detail of every aspect, instead the adventure should give a general overview and then allow the players have their characters investigate, with additional details coming out as they walk around and look at things. This preserves the interactivity loop.
The DM text in this adventure is BAD. Mountains and mountains of backstory in the rooms. This monster is here because of X, Y, and Z, which goes on for a paragraph. This is not what goes in to a D&D adventure. Or, to be more specific, this is not what should USUALLY go in to a D&D adventure. This sort of backstory, why the monster is there, why the trap was placed, what the room used to be used for, etc, is only of interest if it somehow drives the action of the adventure. The Why’s of things are less important than the current interactivity. The Why’s are for readers. The Why’s are a plot guide for a series Tv writer. Interactivity is, instead, aimed at ACTUAL PLAY. That thing we’re supposed to be using this for? And the Why’s get in the way, clogging up the text, making it hard for the DM to find the information they do need during actual play.
And then, at one point, you see a succubus in a circle. As a read-aloud, one of your twelve henchmen guar buddies walks over the circle and gets kissed out by her, drained. *sigh* I knew this was coming when I saw you had twelve buddies going with you. Not this, explicitly, but something like it. The NPC’s being dumb.
There’s nothing to see here in this adventure. Just room after room of undead, etc, animating and attacking when you enter the room. All combat, no treasure is not exactly the crafty OSR play I am expecting.
Maybe my car will get hit by a truck today.
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2. The preview is six pages and shows you the intro and several of the room keys. So, a good preview since it shows you some of the encounters, the core loop of the adventure, so to speak. Take a look at some of the read-aloud and bask in it.
You were obviously taken in by the cover. Who can blame you.
Why even put that cover on?
I kinda dig it in an 80s computer game kinda way.
Yeah, I’m with Chainsaw on that.
Someone should really fuck with the program and make a GOOD adventure with one of those z-list 80s computer game covers though.
What gets me is that Bryce quotes something about a pyramid in his review. That’s…not a pyramid.
It doesn’t look, visually, like a pyramid. But in the read-aloud it’s a pyramid. 😀
“Show not tell” is a surprisingly challenging concept for many writers. In RPG modules, I think there’s the added challenge of transitioning for prepping for oneself and prepping for others. Referee has an idea for a room, initially jots down quick notes like “old tomb, scary monster, creepy coffin” like he’d use for himself. Referee then “professionalizes” it as “This room was once the family’s main tomb (blah blah) but now has a MONSTER X in a very creepy coffin.” You really need that third pass, when the order gets reversed from “brainstorming how the threat came to be” to “immediate relevance to players and threat” and then “tellings” get switched into “showings.”
I think you’ve nailed it. The third pass is the hardest—editing stuff OUT or reorganizing what you’ve got. Feels like going backwards to most folks I’d imagine.
And there’s always going to be some philosophical differences driving how to organize the key. Personally, I think the most immediately “interactable” thing in the room should be put first in the key (orcs shooting dice in the center, two bunks each on the north/south walls, trunks underneath the lower ones) and no describing the map, but I know some referees who like to sketch out the whole room to the party first (the 20×20 room has a door on the east wall, two bunks on the north and south walls with trunks underneath and two orcs shooting dice in the center”) because they believe the players should have all the info up front, so they’re less concerned about whether the monster’s mentioned early or late in key. More often than not though, it’s probably no “third pass” than a philosophical difference.
2014 was a busy year for Dave. He wrote 4 modules (this one included) and nothing else! Huh? Wonder what happened. I wonder if read aloud was more popular in modules at certain points of time?
ASE1 has read aloud and enter room effects. What makes those so much better? Gonzo, invention and a sparing use of the tactic?
Yeah, Bryce has a major fetish for randumb gonzo stuff so he overrates that shit. Take any of the “magical renfair” modules he hates, replace the magic streetlights with SATURNIAN GLOW BRAINS and the cops with CYBORG GORILLAS and he’d shill the shit out of it.
“Also, which one of you “gentle readers” suggested I review this?”
Sorry: it just came up on the DriveThru “you might be interested in this” section. Boy was it wrong.
Admittedly the hate-filled reviews gets the most attention
That intro paragraph was enough to make me lose interest. Yes, tell me some more in a passive voice about how harrowing this module is .
ALSO which module was the first to use the demon in a summoning circle trick? The Death Demon in Castle Amber? Or was there something earlier? Mmm, Castle Amber.
Heh… Temple of Ass-Bare… indeed…
“I FUCKING LOVE LENS FLARES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
— Dave Tackett, probably
I imagine that Dave Tackett is sitting in his room, weeping with his face in his keyboard because a stranger on the internet poked fun at him. Poor Dave.
I imagine him going through a brutal, scathing, hellfire of a review, then a whole comment section full of insults, then getting to mine and being like, “THAT WENT TOO FAR! NO ONE INSULTS MY LENS FLARES!”