By D.S. Meyers Oldegrave Adventure Company OSR Levels 1-2
What will the characters sacrifice to save the Western Wood?
Soooo … yeah.
This 54 page digest adventure details about forty locations outside and in two small fifteen-ish room dungeons. Weird bullet format and a strange … forced? Nature to it, along with some abstracted detail, make this one a miss for me.
While staying in the town an old guy shows up in a wagon, shot by goblin arrows. His kids have been kidnapped, so the party traces them back to a fey circle and then a rose petal path to a glade. The fey queen says he was abusive and they killed him and are keeping the kids. Oh, by the way, could you go clean out a bunch of undead from some ruins nearby? I’ll give you The Gift of the Forest if you do. (Amulet of +5 CHA vs Fey/woodland.) The ruins are about eleven locations, with two mini-dungeons of about fifteen locations each. One of them has this artifact. A PC has to willingly give up their life to destroy it. If they bring it back to the fey queen then she kills them all for doing so and not destroying the artifact that she has never mentioned before. So …. Yeah. Obviously more than one thing wrong there. The overall vibe is a good one, enhanced by the old timey public-domain art selected. Well, good up until the point the fey queen sends you off. Then it’s just a boring old slog. The entire tone and style of the adventure changes. It was better BEFORE the dungeon stuff started.
The encounters for the ruins and two dungeons are trying to be useful to the DM. basically, each encounter has, like, three bullet points and then some stats and maybe a small section on treasure. There might be another small section explaining something or some development in some of the rooms. GL02-Hall reads “*3 goblin skeletons approach from the bend in the hallway. * Close quarters fighting.” Well, ok. I guess maybe that’s define in OSE? GL04-Kitchen. Big Chef Goblin Skeleton and 2 other goblin skeletons. Timer for ceiling collapse as the chef swings cleavers aimlessly hitting walls. Uh …. This is minimalism, or just a hair beyond it. And minimalism is No Bueno. I can roll on the monster charts in the 1E DMG and do minimalism.
The timer, mentioned above, is one example of them in this adventure and there are a few others. They seem … weird. I guess maybe the goblin chef one is ok. You can at least see him hitting the walls and I guess, somehow, you know they will collapse? But in another place the timer is just used to have some raven fly through a window in a few rounds. What’s the point of that? Suspense? I mean, the party doesn’t have any choice over it.
And, then, there’s the issue. The party has no choice. Not with the kidnapped kids. Not with the quest pretext. Not with the artifact that makes you have to kill yourself to destory it. Not with the fey queen who kills you if you dare bring it back to her, presumably wiser, guidance. Or with the ravens and maybe the chef. Interactivity is important in an RPG. Without it there’s this false sense of mission. You know you have no impact so you don’t buy in, or, worse, buy in to your character instead.
The town has sixteen locations. A few sentences each. None of them really doing much with the locations. They don’t overstay, except in the way that no content overstays. They just don’t really matter in any way.
Other details are abstracted. You can’t really talk to the kidnapped kids, or, lat least, the guidance on running them doesn’t exist. Likewise a fairy shows you the way to the undead ruins … a fairy with no name, description, personality or anything other than “ a fairy,” This is not assisting the DM. Is the party really unlikely to talk to the fairy?
GL01, the first room in the first dungeon is missing. It’s on the map but just isn’t in the text.
Look, I get what the designer is trying to do. But the bullets are just minimalism instead of interesting detail. A bullet that says “They attack when the party enters the room.” isn’t adding value. I applaud the attempt at being easy to scan, but I also want the content behind the scanning. It had an interesting thing going on with the fey queen and her no solution parley. But then it turned in to standard old minimal dungeoncrawl.
This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages and shows you several rooms. In fact, it’s mostly the first few rooms. So, great preview! I encourage folks to take a look at it and review the format used. It’s not a bad layout, it’s just the content that is lacking.