By “Weird Dave” Coulson Cut to the Chase games DCC Level 3
Far to the south, on the borders of the Great Jungle, brave caravans of merchants, traders, and settlers have begun to colonize the frontier. For several years now they’ve cut into the harsh wilderness, but stand on the brink of destruction from unknown, terrible forces. Just as rumors of a lost temple have surfaced, those same forces seem to be on the move.
This 34 page adventure describes a seventeen page temple in the jungle. Long read-aloud, longer DM text and boring environments make this the usual sort of thing to be avoided. Oh, also, versions exist for 5e, pathfinder, DCC, S&W, and SnW, whatever that is. So, you know, it HAS to be good!
You go to this frontier trading post in Darkest Africa, err, I mean a jungle place, and get hired by one of three companies making the same offer: go talk to to some friendly dark-skinned natives, orcs in this case, and find some lost temple. You walk through the jungle for twenty ot so days, having some boring rando encounters, have a fest day celebration with the friendly native orcs, and go to the temple where you get bored before it collapses.
There’s only about ten pages of content in this, and that includes the friendly orc tribe stuff, the rest being appendices and the long, and boring, lead in and wandering monsters. All three groups that can hire you are essentially the same, with just some window dressing changes: dwarves, or humans, or … Then you get the walk through the jungle with your half-native guide. The guide is, at least, handled well. He’s got a little personality and he’s got some things he can relate to you if you talk to him on the journey, and they are easy to find and scan quickly.
This is in contract to most of the other writing in the adventure which is the usual terrible stuff, with a sentence or two of description being a brief highlight here or there. DM text is LONG. I mean, a column or more of DM text for rooms. The usual stuff, relating history and past purposes of the room, a conversational style, explaining why, all things that get in the way of finding the information the DM needs.
Not that you actually need much. I am not kidding when I saw that just about every encounter ends with words “They attack” and/or “They attack immediately”, or some derivation thereof. And the one that don’t end that way STILL have creatures that attack immediately. This is little more than a hack of an adventure. Go in a room, trigger the Doom monsters teleporting in, and then kill them. Except, of course, this is DCC so fighters have Epic Deeds. Except the rooms are generally boring with few features for the fighter to riff off of. LAME! These are the risks of a conversion adventure.
Read aloud is, of course, long, because why would it be otherwise. There is an occasional bright spot in the writing of the Read Aloud. If those sections were isolated and the rest of the RA ignored then the RA would be much better. It over describes, ofton, telling the players immediately what they see instead of leaving details for the players to follow up with. The walls should be described as having murals, leaving the party to follow up by asking what the murals are. Otherwise you kill the interactivity, the back and forth between the DM and the player, and there is no greater sin in an RPG.
Let’s see, in the friendly orc village they have a feast and go through the motions of some ceremonies. If the party doesn’t follow suit then they roll or get a faux pas point. Also, they get to roll some completely random faux pas checks during the evening. Fail three times, as a group, in total, and you get kicked out of the village without finding the next clue to the temple. There’s no guidance on where the take the adventure from here. Bad. Failed checks can cause complications, but they should not gate an adventure. Gating is generally bad in a published adventure. Make like tougher. Give the party boons for making rolls, but “No more adventure” is not the right way to go.
The read-aloud can be good at times. Here’s the description of a well: “A muted muttering
punctuated by an occasional scream drifts lazily up from the depths of the well, which appears to hold only inky blackness to an unknown depth.” That’s pretty good. I can take exception with over-sharing that comes before and after this, but the evocative part is down tight.
The interactivity in this needs to be stronger. Much stronger. More than just They Attack for creatures. Things the party does causing attacks, pushing your luck, and other mechanisms. The text needs to be GREATLY shortened, both the read-aloud and ESPECIALLY the DM text. The hooks/job offers in the beginning are nigh unrunnable because of length.
This isn’t as bad as I thought it was going be, having seen the systems it was available for, but that’s mostly because of the creative writing elements. The rest of this is just a hack, and I’ll go play Gloomhaven if I want to play tactical mini’s combat.
This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview doesn’t work. 🙁