By Mark Ahmed, Sean Ahmed, Scot Hoover Axe mental Productions OSRIC Levels 1-4
Hidden below the Black Fen lies the fabled Hoard of Delusion.
This 117 page adventure presents a village, wilderness region, and fifty room four level dungeon. It’s easy to see what it wants to do, but is bogged down with not knowing how to get there. Good ideas marred by poor execution; this needs a full rework to be usable.
This is striving to be like the adventures of Ye Olde Days, the better ones anyway, with a village, a wilderness region, and a multi level dungeon. It’s built around the dungeon, with village and wilderness encounters supporting/proving hints to the dungeon. The village and wilderness have interconnections within thm, and a couple of sub-plotty/other shit going on things going on. There’s even a keep in the village. The idea of a village, wilderness area and dungeon environment supporting each other is great, it’s what adventures of this type SHOULD be doing.
Further, the dungeon environment has some good ideas. New monsters, and classic elements abound. Giant octopus, mimic-like things, a giant eyeball on a ceiling, cracks in the earth that mist flows from, a rope bridge, and brains in jars.
It’s marred, though, by being nigh unusable because of the description style used. And some pretty hairy encounters.
Level 1-4? Great! The area in the ruins, outside of the dungeon has a 5 HD hydra. The first room of the dungeon has a 7HD baddie with a gaze attack. 10HD black pudding? Toss it in there! A 12HD monster? No problem! I get it, OSR, you can run away. But the first room? And the dungeon entrance/ruins outside? This seems more like an issue of scaling.
Further, the treasure is low throughout. It notes that the wilderness areas can be used to gain levels/experience before tacking the dungeon. (You know, the one with a HD hydra outside and 7HD monster in the first room? The one with the gaze attack?) But the loot is low, WAY too low, for anyone to be doing much leveling. Not quite comically low, but it’s hard for me to see a party leveling to three, and two might be difficult if you don’t recover everything available.
The village is described incorrectly, of course, most villages are. The mundanity and backstory of the people, with little assistance on the subplots or a reference on where the party might like to go. Villages are not explored like dungeons. You don’t walk down the street looking in to every shop. You get directions to the General Store and go there. And yet, this is laid out like a typical dungeon.
And then there’s small map issues and other mistakes. No stairs on the map in the first room of the dungeon. Encounters left off of the wilderness maps. Just sloppy stuff.
But, the real issue is the encounter descriptions. As always.
The descriptions can be long. VERY long in cases. Page long rooms. No one can run a fucking page long room well unless the formatting and layout are par excellance. And they ain’t here. It doesn’t matter: village, wilderness, dungeon, the encounters are all done in the same manner and SO. FUCKING. FRUSTRATING. Ignoring, for a moment, the usual tavern descriptions and how everyone on earth feels the need to redescribe it, the rooms are a fucking mess. This room used to be. However frank looted all of the bodies. A paragraph of backstory. Important details mixed in to the backstory descriptions. Conversational, with no knowledge of how to organize a description. The inn has three or four tables and a booth. Great. A wonderful night of D&D was then had. This fucking shit is garbage. This is a bit hyperbolic, but: Does every fucking word of your description contribute to the ACTIVE adventuring environment? No? Then fucking cut it. And then, when writing a description, put the important and obvious shit up at the front of the description.
When the players open the door to a room I’m not taking ten fucking minutes to read the fucking room description to myself before conveying it to them. The fucking phones come out, and rightfully fucking so. I’d be a shitty shitty DM if I did that. But what other choices do you have? Ye Olde Highlighter, going through the adventure highlighting and making margin notes? Seriously? If you have to fucking do that then the adventure was not written well. It’s failing at its core purpose: being useful to the DM as a play aid at the table. Why the fuck is this so hard to grasp? People bitch a blue streak that they don’t use adventures because they are a pain and require prep, note taking and highlighting. They are fuckign right.
What’s all the sadder is that you can tell what this wanted to BE. The village, the wilderness, the dungeon. The interconnectedness. The classic dungeon elements. Iconic rooms that don’t feel like set pieces. But in the end none of that matters, because it’s 117 pages of unusable adventure.
This is $12 at DriveThru. The preview is 80 pages. That’s what I like to see! Take a gander at room one on page 58 of the preview/54 of the book. Good idea. Some useful imagery. One of the better rooms and MIGHT be salvage if all of the other rooms were as good ths this. Maybe.