Eric-christian Alexander OSR
The sorceress Shar’Almana built a vault long ago to hide some magical items that her Lord had no use for, intending to sell them once her service was no longer needed. However, for unknown reasons, she disappeared and her Vault laid unclaimed for centuries.
Well, so, I guess the jokes on me.
This is a review of The Secret Safe of Shar’Almana, an adventure in Silver Swords issue 2, a forty page digest zine. The dungeon has two levels, thirteen rooms over three pages (two digest pages having the keys) and … is minimally keyed with abstracted treasure. It is a non-entity. A nothing. One tenth of one step above Vampire Queen.
I’ve got an excuse. I saw that this issue had a setting where the Sun kills the Moon and the entire campaign world revolves around that. Arise fair sun and kill the envious moon! If you wanted to make the worlds best pessimist how would you start? Well, with an optimist full of joy. Duh. Of course.
The adventure here has nothing to do with that. That’s some other article. This adventure has thirteen rooms in a large font spread out over two pages, which includes the map on one of those pages and the intro on the other page. This leaves little room for the room keys. Never fear though, they are minimalist. Yeah, I know, I already said that. Hang in there. It will make sense.
The map is one hallway. There are doors off the hallway. Open the door and see a room. No other exits from the room. So you go down the hallway and open the next doorway. To the next room. There are several map styles that one could use. This one is, without a doubt, the worst possible. Yes, even lower in my mind than a strictly linear map. (Hmmm, maybe the “long hallway map” is a sub-genre of the linear map? I’ll have to think on that.) Anyway, the linear map at least can make the claim that it’s part of a plot based adventure and not exploratory and thus is aligned to the assumptions of that plot-based adventure. (Wrong! But it IS an argument that can then be debated.) THis don’t got that. It’s just a hallway with rooms hanging off of it. Minimally keyed.
How about that abstraction? Go in a room. Find a chest. What’s the chest have? The DM consults the text: “Give rewards appropriate for 2 levels higher.” Or how about “locked chests have at least 1 magical consumable.” Is it becoming clearer, now, how a pessimist is made? Arise fair sun and kill the envious moon! Oh, wait, it’s minimally keyed. Room 4. Goblin Warren. 4 goblins. [stats]. Yes, I feel all of the power of the poetry of the language exercised in that brief statement. The long line of adventures stretching back to Vampire Queen. Lo, I see them. Lo, they call to me!
Well, no. They don’t. It’s minimally keyed. They don’t do anything.
So, you’ve got rooms that have maybe seven or eight non-statblock words in them. And those words are abstracted, pushing the work back on to the DM.
This has two things in it. First, it has a talking brazier in the first room that is chatty and is you feed it 5# of food it will answer questions. Second, it’s got a room with shattered mirror glass on the floor. If you bring in a big mirror it shows a passage through a blank wall to the treasure room. You know, the one with a treasure 2 levels higher. That’s good content, both of them. There’s something fucking going on. It’s not described evocatively at all, but you can least see some interactivity there, a chance for adventure beyond “4 goblins.”
There’s nothing here. My inner child is, once again, wounded to its core. And I have only myself to blame.
This is $3 at DriveThru. The only preview is the little flip-book preview, which doesn’t let you see what you are buying. Put ina real preview, so we can get an idea of what we are buying beforehand!
Now, on to more important things. Do I want a Jeep Wrangler with an Ursa Minor top?
Or do I want a Ford Ranger with a walk-in cap?
FCA quality is not good. But the removable wrangler roof means that the tent access is through the INSIDE of the Wrangler since it’s a full Wrangler replacement roof. Ranger is 2 feet long, which causes me a little anxiety in town, but that also means 2 extra feet of storage space for STUFF. Wrangler will let me go more places and NOT having a Wrangler leads to some anxiety about “what if I can’t get someplace I want to go in the Ranger?!?!!?” Realistically though, I can probably get every place within my (non-existent) skill level with the FX4 XL Ranger? And, the Ranger is, I think, substantially cheaper? I’ll do the full cost breakdown today. You can assume KO2’s, winch, recovery gear, etc on both.
Yeah, that’s right, I just ended my shitty Dungeons & Dragons review is a #vanlife post. Suck it! (Are you a pessimist yet?)