By Ben Barsh Pacesetter Games & Simulations S&W Level 3
Many years ago, a fanatic cult claimed a sanctuary as a base for plotting their wicked ways. They named their redoubt the Temple of Mercy because it is where new followers would journey to repent of their sins and be granted mercy. It is unclear how the cult was defeated, but they vanished nearly 120 years ago. The temple has been quite since the disappearance of the vile clan. Recently, a religious order of holy priests has been interested in claiming the temple as their own. They are looking for bold adventurers to slay sinister monsters, evade treacherous traps, and bring glory to the forgotten Temple of Mercy!
This 24 page adventure has 22 rooms over two levels in an old temple. Long DM text and middling read-aloud confuse encounters with a lot of notes and temple statues puzzles.
There’s a lot of backstory that can skipped over in this. Pages of backstory, DM’s notes, and flavourless village, etc. This shows up in the rumors as well, with generic “a brother and sister guard the entrance” type rumors. These abstracted and generic items add little to any adventure. The village is the typical village with the details that are presented being the usual ones for the tavern, etc and have nothing to recommend them. Likewise the rumors are of the abstracted sort. Better to gmake the rumors longer, and perhaps fewer, and give them a voice with the brother and sister being Mary & Frank, bad seeds from birth, etc, told by the tocal farmers etc. There’s a skill to adding flavour without necessarily adding much text. That’s missing here in both the village and the rumors, with everything being this kind of abstracted and generic fantasy ideas that are not given much life at all. It can all be safely ignored, but it’s … sad? To me that they exist in these adventures and add little to them. All of the time and effort wasted on them to little effect. It would be better, i think, to simply note that a village exists and let it go at that, without wasting efforts on them, if they are just going to be generic things. The rumors also; either do some good ones or leave them out. These generic abstracted things add little. I’d rather see a half dozen done well than two dozen short sentences without flavour. On the plus side, the hook has you being given a quest to clean out the temple … which isn’t great, but at least you’re offered 5000 gold to do it, so it’s a little more than the usual light treasure pretext.
There’s one wilderness encounter. While crossing a river you spy a wrecked rowboat on a sandbar in the middle … with a bag in it spilling gold. Now that is how you tease an encounter! These sorts of setups always get my DM juices flowing, tempting the players with something to take a risk for. A couple of dire wolves show up, which is a nice bait & switch from the typical “bad fishies” stuff one would expect in a river, which, again, if a nice bit of design. They even have “evil temple” brands on them, which is a good touch also. I might have played up iron collars, beaten and abused, etc with them, but, it is a couple of steps above your typical generic wilderness encounter.
The temple proper, has map that is essentially lines with a few off shoots. It’s a nice LOOKING map, but offers little in the way of exploration play. Treasure is on the lighter side for S&W, meaning you’re going to have to do four or five adventures of this type, maybe, before levelling.
The read aloud is generally ok. It makes an attempt, and largely succeeds, in being evocative. Doors are stout and rivers rage, water drips from ceilings. And then it switches to large rooms that are “strangely empty.” This is a cut above the normal read-aloud. It also has a tendency to over share. “Upon closer inspection the chair is covered in dried blood.” I believe that the soul of RPG’s is the interactivity between the players and DM. When the read-aloud over shares then that interactivity is cut down on. Better to note a chair, or a ruined chair, or even a stained chair, maybe. When the players follow up and question and/or examine then the DM can share a read stain, and then further follow up with “dried blood!” When the read-aloud shares too much up front then the ability of the players to interact with their environment, and the DM, is diminished, to the detriment of the game.
DM text tends to be long and conversational in tone, with way too much backstory and “this room used to be” mixed in to the text. This is, of course, on e of the worst things a designer can do. By making the DM text long and hard to scan then you’re impeding the DM’s ability to find information in the room and run it during play. I can handle poor read-aloud, and even uninteresting design, but these “also ran” adventures of short length and slightly generic nature, it needs to really distinguish itself by having good DM text. A statues can’t just have ruby eyes, of no. It has to be done as “if you climb the statue and pry out the eyes then the will find that they can take home …” Genericism returns as well, with an insane acolyte, for example, instead of Zed the paranoid.
Interactivity is above average in this, with statues that need repairing and pools of water to play in for attribute, etc, effects. There are a variety of notes laying about (too many …) to give the party hints on what to do, even though what to do s pretty obvious in most situations. “Oh, replace the X that is missing from the Y.” Nates are an easy out. A well written description, or other ways to communicate information is far, far, preferred. Still, better interactivity in the dungeon than most adventures like this.
The interactivity in the dungeon would place this adventure above average, if the read-aloud and DM text could be better managed. And I’ve just about given up on everything outside of the dungeon by now, thinking about it as just taking scissors to it and pretending none of it ever existed helps me sleep better at night.
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $5. The preview is three pages, showing you some of the rooms of the dungeon, so that makes it a good preview. (Even though, with PWYW it is essentially a total preview.) Rooms one and two, in the first page of the preview, are fairly typical of the writing. Generally above-average read-aloud with long DM text void of formatting to help scanning.