By WR Beatty Rosethron Publishing S&W Levels 4-10
A legendary Dwarf temple in the Endless Mountains, north of the Rosewood Highlands, The Chantry of the Deepflame was abandoned generations ago when a plague decimated the Dwarf people. Now overrun by a particularly nasty tribe of Goblin-kin in service to their powerful Godking, the Chantry ruins call to the brave and the foolhardy, treasure seekers and glory-hounds who will surely find what they seek in the dark and crumbling ruins of this once glorious Temple.
This 244 page adventure is a fairly well done description of a moria. The above ground portion/wilderness journey is confusing but you can tell it’s magnificent in its scope. Below ground, also, is great in scope, and more comprehensible. Writing can be long, though whitespace and bullets mostly help. The writing proper can be a bit on the dull side and the interactivity feels a little combat oriented, maybe with some faction play roleplay elements. Puzzle-ish/things to mess with feels sparse. Reworked, it could be quite an interesting achievement. The closest thing to this would be that big harback Rappan Athul
So, it’s a big underground dwarf complex, with “deeps” and is full of goblins/and their ilk. Also, they are ruled by a balrog-like thing. Also, some of them don’t like being ruled by that thing. Also, there’s an entire area ABOVE moria that is pretty damn large and complex, which adds to the complexity of the place. Also, that portion feels like a confusing mess.
This thing. I don’t even know how to start.
Ok, so, to get to a moria you have to travel to it, right? And it sits in the mountains, right? So, obviously, there should be an overland journey, right? Well, there is one in this. Tunnels, cliffs, waterfalls, bridges, towers, keeps along the way. There are, I don’t know, a dozen maps pages all related to the “overland’ journey? And even after studying things for half a day I still don’t really know how they all work together. There are two primary overland “overview” maps. One is hand drawn in pencil and scanned in with computer-added numbers. It’s legible, but you don’t really get the sense of the topography. Another one is in full color and show the landscape well, from a kind of iso-metric view. I’m STILL not certain is they are meant to show the same places? Maybe? Then there’s all the sub maps. I have no idea. I have no idea how they fit together. I have no idea how they go on the map. The maps themselves range from little hand drawn things, to nice cave and dungeon features drawn on them, to complex maps with no numbers on them that are then textually described. The map variety is great, both in features and some elevation/fitting together and overall complexity. Things are substantially better once the action moves in to moria-proper. I feel like, inside, I can keep a better handle on how the mpas fit together and work together. The variety and complexity is GREAT, that much is immediately obvious. But man, it needs a serious re-work for comprehension, in how it all works together. That’s MOSTLY an issue with lack of summaries/overviews in the text, but the titles for the maps to help contribute to the issues . “Area ten map two.” “The Riverwalk.” Uh. Ok. I have no clue.
The sections really needs a little more overview and or summary attached to them to aid in comprehension, how they work together, and how they are to be used. As is they feel like stand-alone vignettes. I mean, they all are related to the ongoing goblin situation infestation, and have some inline notes about warning other/other areas, and their relationship to the whole, but HOW the specific area fits in to the whole seems to be missing. Or, maybe I’m just still bitching about how the maps fit together?
It feels like the outside portion was written at an earlier or later time than the core moria-part. Even the formatting and layout looks different. The outside section is extremely bullet point heavy, in fact so much so that I’d say that IS the format chosen. The interior portion is more of the traditional paragraph form with decent para breaks and use of bolding (for creates, mostly) and bullets to highlight lists of things. Both are fine, in theory.
In this case it seems more like a fire and forget writing attempt was made with little to no edit for better comprehension and usability. Things are bullets that I would have combined with another item, or things are included that could have been left out. The ORDER is generally ok, with most obvious things first, but it still feels like the writing is substantially more expensive than needed. Simple encounters take a quarter column while an entire page is not unusual for some.
In spite of this length there are still comprehension issues. I mentioned the lack of summaries/overviews, and even map connections are an issue. The first “underground” portion that leads to moria ends with room 18. The map shows a dead end in that room but the text says it can be approached from either direction. It implies, as strong as possible, that moria’s that-a-way, but it doesn’t tell you where or how it links up. In other areas entire numbers are skipped over. Basic, basic editing issues combined with the lack of a “agonizing cut” edit combined with alack of an edit to add to the evocative nature of the descriptions.Large chambers abound,
Other things left out include general notes about a rebellion, with most of it being left to the DM to wing, beyond some rough “factions alliances” data. Given the degree a rebellion is name dropped then a page of how it throws down would be nice.
It does do a great monster stat sheet. Wanderers are doing something. There’s a NPC summary section well laid out. Treasure decent to good both in new mechanics and in descriptions. There’s even a “shit going down in Moria” table, like, the watcher in the water is loose in the dungeon and how the goblins react, etc. Great emergent play possibilities.
But this needs a hard hard edit. One for comprehension, one for usability, one to punch up the writing. AT its bones this is a really really great environment, but you’re gonna have to study the outside, and take copious notes (on at least reactions) inside in order to run it. It DOES approach mega-dungeon territory in it’s size, or at least “major campaign tentpole” and thus putting some work in to it would yield repeated results.
Look. You can actually see me try to waffle on this and talk myself in to it. The ideas here are great. Some of the interactivity and setups are magnificent. A little combaty, but still great. I really really really want to like this. And maybe i DO like this, at least in theory. But I can’t see myself ever actually running this. It’s going to be too much effort for me to prep. It feels almost like a first draft, in the quality of its writing. (Layout wiseiots ok.)
This is $7 at DriveThru. There’s no level range anywhere in the description, but at least it’s on the cover. The preview is seventeen pages. You get to see the first underground area, the bullets, the writing style and layout and quality, the unnumbered keep map, and “the crevice”, which Istill can’t figure out how it works. This is a good preview of those sections, representing the quality of what you’re getting. It doesn’t show “moria proper”, and as I said I think things improve quite a bit there. You could buy it just for the insides, but you’d loose all that glorious outside, and still have prep issues.
Thanks for the review, Bryce. I have mentioned a couple times that the Chantry was years (almost a decade, actually) in the making. The “moria proper” areas being the oldest while some of the outdoor approach stuff was written just weeks before we released this. Every criticism you make is fair – it needs (begs for!!) a couple more editing passes – for ineligibility and usability. There’s a truth is publishing, writers can’t edit their own work. That’s the case here 100%.
I appreciate the slog that it must have been for you to wade through 244 pages and every review of our products (this is the fifth!) have been dead on with criticisms. Your suggestions are always helpful and it’s always encouraging reading the notes on the things you do like.
If you don’t mind me asking, if there was a short list of editors whom you would trust to revise an OSR product, who would they be?
Hmmm – I’m not sure. I guess I’d take recommendations.
Rosethrone is a one-man operation with zero budget and I’m not sure how much a real editor would cost, but it might be worth it in the end. I’m afraid this project would need some serious work…
Thanks for your reply.
Hey Stripe – I wasn’t just hedging. Truth is I don’t follow “who’s who” in the publishing racket. I have no idea who would be a good editor – I guess I’d need to look and see who has done editing on projects that I particularly like… GusL below has kind of confirmed my suspicions. At 4 cents a word, this would run into the thousands – far more than I’ve netted in the 2+ years of publishing for all the products in the Rosethrone line…
Decent real editing from someone with practice with RPG products should run about 4 cents a word or around $500 for a 30 page product — if you aren’t trying to cheat your editor. That said, even someone who isn’t an editor reading and editing your stuff is a great help and will catch more mistakes then you can on your own.
Ynas Midgard is great. Don’t do Brent Jans–ghosted me after taking my money for his charity. Also from one garage to another, swapping editing/’fresh eyes’ could be on the table.
Thanks. Looks like he has a blog.
Malrex – not sure how to contact you. If you might be interested in doing some editing/fresh eyes… I might be game. Could you email me at rosethronepublishing AT gmail.com please?
Alright…I take it back. An email misunderstanding with Brent Jans…he has finally responded to me. Poor chap thought he had sent it to me a few months ago.
WR–I emailed you. You can also reach me at Themercilessmerchants at gmail dot com. Garage Warriors unite!
Thanks again. Very helpful information. Never thought you were hedging!
Dangerously based and, dare I say it, redpilled.
OSR Fundamentalist, what are you babbling about now?
It’s a compliment, lurk moar ya finna simp
What’s next, a person who goes by the name, OSR Agnostic?
@Middle Finger I was briefly considering copying the cool kids by referencing 1e wizards like vecna and bigby, but melf’s minute mammaries didn’t quite have the right ring to it.
@Robert, OSR Heretic. Your loss. Melf has some nice jubblies, or so said Mordenkainen.
Bryce, would the overland portion be fixed simply by drawing your own dots on the overland map & placing the interesting features wherever you decide to (corresponding to the dots obviously)?
Or would I end up with a fustercluck of then mismatched rumour tables, NPC advice which is now wrong, clues buried within locations that I’d need to change etc… I’d be prepared to dig a half dozen or so details out & ammend them, but two dozen or more- not so much.
The maps are pretty hard to follow, but what I think happens is:
1. The PCs follow one of three trails – the Undermountain Trail, the Overmountain Trail or the River Trail – to the “Bridge Area” set out on map 3
2. They cross one of the three bridges (which one they use depends on which trail they took)
3. Two of the bridges take them past the South Keep
4. Then they have a choice of entrances to the Chantry proper, although some of them appear to require climbing down the cliffs into the Crevice whilst others are off the beaten track, so in practice it looks like most parties would initially choose one of the two most accessible entrances (and only discover the others if they happen to come across them as exits from the Chantry).
Yes, maps had me scratching my head for quite awhile. Especially since the area details are not in the same order as PCs come across them. However, when I realized there are three routes (Jeff V above) I was able to concentrate on the path I knew my party would take (underground).
I think simply adding a “how the maps work” paragraph would mitigate the initial confusion.
Good adventure with lots of room for a DM to build his own narrative. My party just made it past the Twin Towers and are no longer sneering at the thought of “wimpy goblins and stupid trolls”! 😉
Thanks for these additional suggestions. Perhaps there’s enough distance from the writing/layout now that I can make some additions and corrections…
Jeff V – multiple entries was the idea, with a few being “obvious” or “normal” and a bunch of alternate routes in
Wayne Goldsmith – so glad you figured it out! Hope your party is on their toes in the Chantry proper 🙂
Bryce – thanks again for being willing to plow through all kinds of confusing messes of adventures (like the Chantry) and for fostering this kind of conversation. Maybe in the not too distant future we’ll post an updated version (as well as a simple “additional stuff” download) with a better map and some clarifications.
You should take Malrex up on your swap! 🙂 Or contact Black Blade or XRP and see what they do (Allan, Jon, and Joe have always been good helpful folks!) I always did proofing and editing for Jim Kramer (RIP) at Usherwood for product – but that was “light” editing, there are better folks for that out there. Continued good luck WRB!
I sorely miss Jim Kramer. His work was fantastic – the writing and the layout, top notch.
Truly a good guy for sure. 🙁 Talented writer too. I play a lot of PbP and my next one, I think, is going to be his Arachnophobia! which was one of my faves of his. Gonna miss him for sure. I believe his layout often garnered high scores from Bryce as well. 🙂
If you’re interested, I’d be willing to help at no charge, as I find this sort of thing fun and have some time on my hands like a lot of us these days. I recently did a similar (albeit much smaller) job on an old adventure, The Beholder Contracts, which you can follow in the comments of its review on this website.
Keith – not sure how to get in touch with you. If you’re interested in doing some work for not much pay email me at rosethronepublishing AT gmail.com
Just picked up a pdf of this earlier today as part of the drivethrurpg sale. $5.24 for 243 pages. As Bryce points out the organization, especially how the maps/locations fit together, is a bit of a mess but once you figure it all out there’s some damn good stuff in it. Definitely hope to run it at some point. Jeff V provides some helpful tips in an earlier comment above.