(5e) Children of Dust adventure review

By George Sutherland Howard
Pond Strider Games
Levels 3-4

A village gripped by terror. A mother consumed by grief. A leader struggling to find answers. A deadly threat, waiting in the blasted hellscapes of the Badlands. […] Set in a brutal, sun-scorched wasteland, Children of Dust tells a tale of trust, powerlessness, love, grief, and selfishness. It asks how far a parent can be driven to save their children, how harsh a leader can be before they become a tyrant, and what difference separates love and insanity – if there is even a difference in the first place.

This 48 page suck-fest wants to be Dark Sun sooooo bad. It follows the standard adventure plot adventure template. Do not be fooled, as I was, by the enchanting cover. Nothing is inside but the usual overwritten text wrapped around a boring adventure.

This is set in DeadWorld. Defiler magic, ruined world, low water, deadly. Clearly an attempt at a Dark Sun setting. That’s ok, I like post-apoc. I just don’t like BAD post-apoc.

This adventure follows the standard template. You arrive in a village. You are treated like shit. You get to know the village. You are treated like shit. Something bad happens in the night. You are treated like shit and forced to look in to it. It’s a red herring. That night n the village something happens. You can’t stop the village. You go solve the villagers problem, ending in a confrontation with the bad guy. There must be an online generator that turns this crap out.

The safest thing to do, the safest thing to ALWAYS do, is just burn the place down and kill everyone. That’s always the answer. Weird house? Burn it. Mists? You’re in Ravenloft, time to burn .There’s a reason adventurers do this shit, because the DM treats them like shit. SOmetimes because the adventure treats them like shit.

You know the drill, arriving at the village forces the party to eat shit. Then you wander around getting to know people while the DM digs through their column-long backstories looking for pertinent information hidden in the overwritten NPC descriptions. It’s like people have never used an adventure before. I suspect it’s actually because they know their open adventures too well and don’t understand how hard it is for someone coming in fresh to run a column-long NPC. Whatever. 

Then something happens in the night, kids abducted. The usual. Characters beaten and arrested, forced to eat shit in order to play D&D tonight. Want to play D&D? Time to just accept you’ll have to eat mouths of shit in order to play. Ok, so, beaten arrested, forced to look in to the kid abductions. You get to wander in the desert, earning “tracking points”, one a day, maybe two, until you get six. While the DM wades through the column long wandering monster encounters. 

Yeah! You found the lizard men kidnappers! Except, they didn’t do it. At least there’s a diplomatic option offered. Back in town, that night, there are more abductions. The bad guy shows up and gets away. Of course. Because there has to be a climax in the next scene on a cliffside. Oh, before the climax you go look for an old woman in the village you was the first to lose her child.  Maybe you overstep and find her diary (arg! Diaries! When I become king of the world my only act will banning diaries from adventures. SHOW don’t TELL!) Blah blah, lost her kid, blah blah, sacrificing kids to bring hers back. Fight her on the cliffside if you don’t make your DC25 skill check.

Interspersed is long sections of read-aloud, in italics of course, because italics os easy to read. 

The usual adventure template. The usual treating of the party like shit. (And none of that “it fits the game world” bullshit either. Just burn the fucking place down, loot them, and move on with a better adventure.) 

Columns and columns of words. Every action and motivation explained multiple times. Everything covered. It’s fucking impossible to find what you need while running this at the table. 

This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview is sixteen pages. That’s enough to get a sense of what the writing is like. Once you skip past the overview, campaign world stuff you get to see the arrival in the village and the first night abduction. The entire adventure is written in this style. But more so.


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3 Responses to (5e) Children of Dust adventure review

  1. Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

    Ok, so, beaten arrested, forced to look in to the kid abductions.

    OOF. “We don’t trust you, we hate you, and we expect you to find our precious children because… uhhh… reasons…”

    I repeat… OOF.

  2. Knutz Deep says:

    If my good aligned PC were going through this “adventure”, I’d happily and willingly take the shift to evil and burn the fucking place to the ground.

  3. OSR Fundamentalist says:

    Ah, yes, when I want to play DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, nothing hits the spot like angsty child-murder capers.

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