The Dachshund Dungeon

By Nick LS Whelan
Level ?

Send your players to visit the cordial society of the Gentledogs. Presently they’re beset by a moral quandry: trying to live up to their own values while pressed on one side by imperialist forces from the Underdark, and on the other by a treasonous wizard attempting to engineer a fascist coup

This eight page adventure features a fourteen page dungeon described on one page. It’s full of intelligent dogs. Pugmire, then, I guess? But it implies it is not? And the dogs have guns? Anyway, it’s all Stonehell style, with a few intro pages and then a half page map with a page of keys. The key descriptions are pretty ok, focusing on what they need to. But I have to ask: why? And to what end? It feels hollow.

These little dungeons are always hard to review. Both from a size and a page count aspect, but, not this one I think. 

So … Pugmire, I guess? Pugmire is OSR now? I mean, the dungeon has a backstory, it’s full of intelligent dogs, they have rifles and pistols in a kind of 19th century England landed gentry kind of way. There’s no level range mentioned anywhere on the cover, description or product … It’s clearly D&D-ish with morale .. .but something else called the Hatespark? The backstory implies that the dogs were created by a wizard though just to guard the dungeon. So … I have no fucking clue what is going on here. Lets’ make them Mushroom-people with swords and bows and take care of the entire thing.

The backstory is a bit humorous. To quote: A couple hundred years ago a wizard who could feasibly be described as “good” defeated one who was “bad,” but could not kill her. This is the kind of DM writing I can get in to. It’s Just a few little enhancements to the verbange and punctuation and you bring so much more to an otherwise generic backstory. This is great, and it’s a good example fo what I mean by focusing the power of your writing and brining detail and specificity and colour without adding a lot of words. 

And then there’s the  hook-ish/intro to the dungeon. There’s a tunnel in the sewers. It’s long. No one knows where it goes. It takes two days to traverse it to get to the dungeon. Smarter than your average sewer adventure; the sewer is just the front door.

Five and a half pages in to an eight page adventure and we get a small fourteen room map on half a page. A couple of loops. A crevice running through a couple of rooms. It’s serviceable, not stellar.

And then the room keys start, all on one page … with room for art at the bottom. I’m going to bitch a bit about things left unsaid in this adventure, and I feel like there was some internal constraint that the room keys only take a page. Which is too bad; the problem with all one page room keys is that they are limited by their format. Basically the judgement comes down to “Is it good … FOR A ONE PAGE DUNGEON? The “for a one page dungeon” has to be added on to every statement. Why do that? The one-pagers are, essentially, performance art. Why constrain yourself if you don’t have to? (Says the six page dungeon man.) 

The room keys are pretty good though, at lest when it comes to conveying evocative flavour through terseness. The first room is “1. Metal hatch opened by a wheel. Pipes to the left and right expel sewage into the tunnel.” I can visualize that. I can run that. It’s at least three details: hatch, pipes, sewage, all in one line of text that takes us less than the full width of the page. Or maybe “Chugging water pump pulls water up from underground streams. Bedroll in the corner, dirty plates stacked beside it.” Short, terse. These could both be better, but they ARE a great example of how a terse room description can be both scanned quickly and be evocative at the the same time. It’s not really mundane detail. It’s not really trivia, or useless backstory. It’s focused on the meaningful parts of the room and at least an ok description of them. (Ok, of course, being a high compliment from me.)

Treasure and creatures, though, suffer from this format. They tend to be more abstracted. Treasure are described, such as “L: White lace hemmed with gold is draped along the walls. These curtains are delicate, religiously significant, and valuable.” That’s your treasure. For a generic adventure I’d say that’s pretty well, and given the dog-stuff and rifles, I guess not assuming a system is a good thing. It’s also feels abstracted to me, with the conclusions of the curtains rather than a description of the curtains, and I never like that. In addition the creatures are somewhat lacking in motivation. You get a half page or so write up on the races, but the specific creatures lack motivations. They feel like they wait in their rooms, behind a glass wall, for the party to look at. There doesn’t feel like there’s any tension. There’s one “baddie” of note, at the very end, but even he comes off like not having any tension. This could have been a dungeon that was a political boiling pot, ready to explode. Parts of the intro imply as much. But then, the rooms don’t do anything to help that along. Eight dogs discussion philosophy. Ok.  It reminds me of that chess room in Dwimmermount, where nothing happens.

The whole thing needs a good SHOVE. 

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $2. The entire thing is in the preview, all eight pages, which is GREAT. You might check out the room keys and jusge the writing for yourself. I think it’s tending toward the good side of the evocative spectrum, which, I also think is perhaps the hardest part of writing adventure keys.

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24 Responses to The Dachshund Dungeon

  1. Barf says:

    “trying to live up to their own values while pressed … by imperialist forces … and … a fascist coup”

    Yay. Someone dressing up their politics as a module. Shoulda been titled Dogshit Dungeon.

    • OSR Fundamentalist says:

      >Dogshit Dungeon.
      Raggi already trademarked that name for his next module in collaboration with Venger

  2. Dave says:

    The first comment illustrates a problem this site is acquiring. Bryce reviews an adventure with his normal high standards and unforgiving tone. So far so good. Then commenters seize on a line in Bryce’s review and shit on it further, without actually having read the adventure to judge the critique for themselves. So they’re basing their negative comments on what’s already a negative interpretation instead of their own reading, and there’s a downward slide in tone, and worse, an increasing separation of the invective from the actual content being discussed. The second stage in the comments adds nothing to the discussion except Comic Book Guy sarcasm and internet tough guy posing.

    *Is* someone dressing up their politics as a module in this instance, or is this a more benign instance of a Star Wars- or Man Who Would Be King-type empire/ruler theme? We don’t know, but the aptly named Barf is willing to assume. As several commenters have done in other reviews.

    • #1 Fan says:

      Agreed, but that’s who Bryce has decided is the core audience for his work. When you lay down with fascist dogs you get bootlicking and endless baying.

      • PrinceofNothing says:

        For clarification, the gentleman above is Lord Mark/Gus, not me.

      • Anonymous says:

        I only get my politics through ascendant TTRPG modules. Currently my political affiliation is 10 degrees to the right of Hitler because I enjoyed The Red Prophet Rises. Can you let me know when your next published adventure for Advanced Thirsty Sword Lesbians comes out so I can engage in polite society again?

    • Barf says:

      @Dave the moron: that text is directly from the author’s module summary on DriveThru. If he doesn’t want to give a politically charged first impression, maybe he should change it.

    • Robert, OSR Heretic says:

      Dave, this guy’s a troll. I’d just ignore him.

      It’s perfectly fine for people to inject their politics into their work, and it’s also perfectly fine for you not to buy their art if it runs counter to your values.

      (also, FTR George Lucas has stated that he based the Ewoks on the Viet Cong, so take that as you will)

      • Barf says:

        Not a troll at all – very sad that criticizing blatantly politically charged language triggers some of you so much. I don’t want “fascist” or “anti-fascist” material in a module. I’m not gonna buy something advertised this way and *hope* the interior is somehow less preachy. Some of us like to take a break from the lunacy when we play games.

      • Anonymous says:

        Correction: I called the ad text preachy lunatic dogshit because it is preachy lunatic dogshit.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Let’s play spot the fascist.

  4. Melan says:

    Would you buy a module written by Benito Mussolini?
    a) Yes!
    b) Hell yes!
    c) As a fan of enormous stone heads, YES.
    d) Only if Marinetti does the lyrics. Long live artpunk!
    e) Wait! Shouldn’t that guy be upside down?!

  5. Reason says:

    I’ll say one thing about gaming with Mussolini- at least his games run on time.

  6. oswald says:

    Modern politics are always an awkward fit for fantasy because the world is so radically different from our own. Sci-fi games can often be improved by throwing moon Nazis in there though.
    I’m an honest to god socialist so the idea of “Let’s punch imaginary fascists in the pretend world because we can’t do it in real lifel” seems depressing and infantile, a type of cope for feeling powerless.

    • PrinceofNothing says:

      I think anyone who does anything creative can’t help but put something of his own perspective into that effort, that’s to be expected. It’s the cringy larping as supposedly world-changing philantropist and (ironically) fascistic insistence that others do the same that engenders deserved contempt.

      • LL says:

        We’re all adults meeting over beer when our demanding jobs allow it, playing pretend in an imaginary world where our warriors and wizards use their superior wits and strategy to get filthy rich and powerful. If you look at your hobbies through the lenses of infantile coping mechanisms, everything’s going to look sad as hell. Really, you might as well kill some fantasy fascists while you’re at it. Or play fantasy fascists. That’s fun too.

        Also, there’s a massive chasm between “there’s a fascist faction in this game” and “I am a good person because I put fascists in my game, and they only exist so you can kill them, and anyone who doesn’t do otherwise is a bad person worthy of contempt”.

        • oswald says:

          I’m projecting a lot of my irl frustrations onto the hobby but anytime I’ve seen politics in a module it’s been something like “here’s a fat fetish npc, it’s progressive or something.” or it’s more concerned with the correct words or aesthetisizing marginality than any justice or equity.

          It’s frustrating. A hooverville’s growing down the street from me. I watched a man die in front of me once because he couldn’t afford a course of basic antibiotics. About 2000 rich pedos rule our civilization. I’ve had close friends become neo nazis. I don’t have ppe because the feds funnel it to private businesses that then crisis profiteer. None of this is relaxing to think about.

          I’ve met enough trust fund libs and neets to know many games are in fact infantile coping mechanisms. Gaming isn’t politics. The world is too fucked to pretend that writing a “progressive osr module” isn’t a way for the author to feel good while doing nothing about any of the injustice in the world.

          • Anonymous says:

            Dude, JFC! Here I was agreeing with your comment until “About 2000 rich pedos rule our civilization.”

            What the actual fuck? QAnon much?

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