The Allure of Poison – 5e D&D adventure review

By Erik Horvath
Self Published
Level 5

Meet Navo Purebrew, a master distiller with a new way of distilling spirits. But when something of extraordinary quality is produced it is bound to draw in trouble. Navo could never have imagined that trouble would find him in the shape of a huge elemental spirit made up of his very own beverage. Visit the renovated chapel / bath house of Sharess, deity of indulgence, and help navo defeat this power-drunk creature alone.

This twenty page adventure describes a three level site with about twenty rooms. Mixed read-aloud and long DM text could be much better. Much. The designer is a reader of the blog, soon to be former reader, and asked for a review. It’s really that simple.

Genre warning: this ain’t my thing. Quest dude made friends with a genies, was given two water weird helpers, who in turn have a bunch of kua-toa buddies who show up? And dude lives in an abandoned temple to the god of hedonism, which he’s renovated back to perfect form? I don’t think my preference in this area impacts the review, but be aware.

There’s a magic ring of protection in this that is in the form of two arms hugging. That’s good.

You come across a drunk man on the side of the road. He says ice and water monsters have invaded his home. Could you please? There is no reward. I understand that, no matter what happens, the players are having this adventure tonight, but, still, just a bit more a pretext would have been nice. The outcome is the same, the party goes on the adventure, but I do prefer not pushing the suspension of disbelief this early in the adventure.

Many of my reviews concentrate on the read-aloud and DM text, and this review will be no different. There’s a basic usability issue that most DM text and read-aloud make up the primary cause of. The ability to quickly scan the adventure and find the information you’re looking for, at the table, is what theis scannability enables, when the DM text and read-aloud is done well. Further, the read-aloud generally touches both in interactivity and evocative scenes. Done well the adventure is joy and done poorly it comes off as bland. Using words, as this adventure does, like huge, and such. Unbearably strong smells, and looks of horror on peoples faces. These are boring words and descriptive text that features conclusions rather than descriptions. The read-aloud also has a touch of that overly flowery and conversational style that one associates with novels rather than adventure read-aloud.

DM text is similar. It tends to mix in background information and has a conversational style that adds little to the adventure. East is the seating area and west is the entrance room, just as the map shows. This room used to be … and this room held a battle between X and Y. Mixed in to the middle of all of this is a great sentence: Tiny ice shards cover the floor and blood is sprayed across the southern wall of the entrance area. More like that, please, and less background and trivia and needless padding. “This room shows signs of a battle” No, it doesn’t. It has those little ice shards and blood splatters.  “Before you stands …” No. 

A noisy room is hard to hard in advance. Brush that is meant to hide a wooden fence, and provide an actual in play obstacle, is not shown on the map and only buried in text. Bullets points are used … in the initial adventure  background information, where it’s not needed and paragraph form is ok. But then the rooms, where it would stand out, it’s not used. Weird. It’sd use in NPC information, the quest giver is good, but that’s essentially it.

Other than that, how was the play Mrs lincoln?

This is Pay What You Want at DMsGuild with a suggested price of $2. The preview is six pages and shows you the intro and a few of the encounters, so, good preview.

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14 Responses to The Allure of Poison – 5e D&D adventure review

  1. Anonymous says:

    Stupid phone. Was that a Bob Newhart joke! I bet Erik appreciates the review though.

  2. Erik Horváth says:

    Hey there,

    Yes, I do appreciate this review, and Im all there for constructive criticism.

    as this adventure was the first time ever I tried something like this, i knew its gonna have a lot of areas to improve upon, but now I know where and how exactly. So thank you, I wil work on myslef and perhaps produce something better in the future.


  3. PrinceofNothing says:

    Have you abandoned any consideration of the content or structure of the adventure as a criterion for reviewing entirely?

    • Stripe says:

      Bryce has been fairly consistent about “structure” being one of, if not the most important aspect of every adventure. He sometimes calls it one of three elements of a successful adventure; other times, one of four. A copy-and-paste from a recent review:

      “For awhile I’ve had four pillars of judgment. Ease of Use at the Table, Evocative Writing, Interactivity, and [. . .] Design.”

      “The number one priority is to make it easy to use. Because if you don’t then no fucking person is going to use the fucking thing.”

      Everything he said in this review is stuff he’s said repeatedly over and over and over again in every negative review *and* almost every *positive* review of his I’ve ever read.

    • I shall have my answer from the lord of this demesne, not half-witted familiars. Bryce! Reveal thyself!

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      No. However, I also believe the question is meaningless. Consider a circular cow …

      The primary complaint of published adventures is that they are impossible to run. Too much prep work, a nightmare to wade through, etc. Even the most cursory examination of the field shows this to be correct.

      Ergo, if you wish to write an adventure then this must be the first hurdle you get over. A hurdle that we know, from above, is not cleared by 90% of the adventures written. If you do not clear it then people will not run your adventure and you fail. (That being the primary marker of success, since we now live in a post-consumer utopia.) “I made a wheel.” Uh, it’s square and doesn’t roll, so … ok …

      Rule 1: Just make the fucking thing usable. Please? Pretty fucking please?

      Once that hurdle is cleared then we can look at if it is evocative, interactive, and if the ‘design’ is good.

      I’m hesitant to say that you can fuck up any of them and get to a good adventure. If you do a perfect 10 on evocative and interactive and design, for example, then maybe it IS worth it to put the effort in to it to run it? But, possible and probable are not the same words. If you want to write an adventure, just start by making the fucking thing usable.

      • So the question is definitely not meaningless and you essentially adopt a knockout criterion of usability which has to be passed before other factors are even taken into account (more or less). It’s a sensible rationale. I asked because this review barely discusses the content but now I understand why.

        Stay healthy old boy.

        • Bryce Lynch says:

          No, it’s not a gate/knockout criteria. I think I explicitly said so in my last paragraph. But, the best thing most designers can do is concentrate on usability.

  4. OSR Fundamentalist says:

    I always consider The Allure of Poisoning Myself after I force myself to read 5e products

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