by Carlos 'the Rook' CASL Entertainment OSRIC Levels 5-9
It is said that the legendary Queen Eshalla was so beloved of the Klunish gods that they whispered their divine secrets in her ear. These mysteries that might ensure that their chosen folk would live forever in lands of peace and reason, she etched onto the blade of a great porcelain sword. Yet in the cataclysm that saw their empire destroyed, the blade was lost, seemingly forever. Can your heroes recover Queen Eshalla’s Porcelain Blade and return the Klunish Empire to its majestic heights?
Ok, so I tries. I tried to find something that was not a journey into a nightmare, or high level, or had a zoo with rust monsters in it or had “9 gnomish monks riding off to save …” or finding monster pets for kids in a city or was high level. I ended up settling on this thing, even though it’s a tourney adventure. It doesn’t look like there’s much mainstream and it’s mostly tourney/con/gag stuff.
This 62 page adventure contains a 21 room linear dungeon described in about twenty pages. The rooms really do take up about a page each, on average. That means long read-aloud, longer DM text, details history and backstory for everything, no matter how simple. The overwriting in this is to an extent I have seldom seen. This adventure is unusable.
Opening it up, the first nine pages are a massive Massive MASSIVE wall of text. Just about non-stop two-column. I counted ten bolded headings, which averages about one per page but they are clustered together. This is all background, introduction, more background. Still more background. Notes for the player characters. Notes for the DM, notes for convention play, and then multiple multiple multiple campaign notes.My main takeaway, I mean after recovering from the stunning effect of nine pages of text, is wondering why “im a caravan guard for a group of religious pilgrims” is still relevant when I’m a level 9.
The first read-aloud is three pages long. THREE PAGES. And then a page of DM notes all related to the players accepting the hook, in a tournament module made for convention play.
There is then about a page of details on an overland journey, which involves two wandering monsters tables for “Plains” and “Arid Steppes.”, consisting of men and possible humanoids. That’s it. Humanoids. Anyway, that shits for campaign play. The tourney starts at the dungeon you are travelling to to get the magic item to save the kingdom. Ok. dungeon starts on page sixteen.
Read aloud for each dungeon room is MASSIVE. Dm text for each dungeon room is MASSIVE. It takes a long paragraph to note that the dungeon is unlit. And then other rooms also take a long paragraph to tell us that they are unlit. It takes a paragraph of DM text to tell us that the stairs in are steep. And of course it has to also say that it has no game effect. This is a common issue in adventures like this. They do all of this build up, taking a long paragraph to describe a set of steep stairs, and then tell us that it has no game effect, since they’ve spent a paragraph implying that it does. There are multiple things wrong with this. First, just describe the fucking stairs. Stop flagalating over them. Then, just leave it at that. Do you need to tell us that the air in each room is not poison? Do you need to tell us that every 10’ section of floor is not trapped, over and over and over again? All this does is pad out the adventure text and make it FUCKING. IMPOSSIBLE. To wade through while at the table running it. Every adventure is, first and foremost, a tool to used by the DM at the table running it. These long sections of text bloat make it impossible to do that. When people complain about adventures they ALWAYS complain about how hard they are to prep and use. It’s because of overwriting. Not like this adventure, because this adventure takes it to an extreme seldom seen before even in the annals of Dungeon Magazine.
Each room has to drone on in detail about what it was once used for. It’s generally the first paragraph of DM text. You know, the single most important thing in each room? The thing that tells the DM what is going on so as to orient them? Not in this one, in this one it’s backstory for the fucking room. God, I fucking hate this shit.
Massive read-aloud. Massive DM text. Backstory upon backstory. How bad does it get? Room two takes two pages to describe because it has six statues in it, four of which attack. You gotta have extensive backstory for the room, extensive descriptions IN MASSIVE DETAIL for all of the statues. For a room in which, like, four of the statues attack and one hides a secret door. This ain’t how you run a railroad.
And then there’s the explaining. The trapped hallway has three book spells in it. First one goes off to lure you in, then another, then another. This careful construction of room effects through the use of chained spells is indicative.
The evocative writing in this, generally the read-aloud, is not in and of itself bad. It avoids the use of words like “large” and “huge” and “empty” and instead chooses more descriptive words and does an ok job of creating an evocative description of a room. It just does so with a number of words that is WAYYYYYY too many.
I don’t know. This one can’t be saved. It’s likely that the others in the series are written similarly.
The PDF is $9 on the CASL Entertainment website.