City of Solstice: Evil Streets Home Invasion

By Charles Rice
Apocalyptic Games
OSRIC Level 1

You patrol the streets of the Gentry Quarter, a once-prosperous neighborhood, now a ramshackle mess of tenements, crime, and homelessness. Last night a tenement housing the working poor was the site of a massacre. Was this some dark sacrifice by the Star Society, or the work of a deranged lunatic acting on deadly desires no sane man can comprehend? From your base on the Wary Cog you have been dispatched to investigate this brutal mass murder and bring the perpetrators to justice. You are members of the Vigilant, a thoroughly corrupted effigy of a once proud guild, charged with keeping order in a chaotic city of 100,000 souls. You are not adventurers. But you have a duty.

This fifteen page city adventure details fourteen-ish linear events where the party take the role of the city guard in a corrupt locale. Great concept, some good local color, but the linearity and railroad nature, along with game design issues, make me question the way delivery on the premise is attempted. Setting? Yes. Adventure? No. Warning: I LUV me some city adventures.

The setting is one in which the party represents the city watch, or a small part of it anyway. Everyone in power has been killed recently, the city is controlled by the underworld criminals, there’s an old inept figurehead in progress, and the guard is corrupt and relies on press gangs to enforce and bulk up numbers when they need them. Great fucking environment for a game. You’ve got a boss, to give you assignments, and who takes bribes and lets people you catch go. You’re assigned gear at the beginning, blood-stained leather armor with arrow foles in it, falling apart, etc. Perfect setting of the tone. Your fat,overweight, corrupt guard sergeant wades in the the crowd, at one point, swinging his sap to crack a few skulls. There’s police and then there’s little people, as the movie says. The adventure does a great job, over and over again, in re enforcing this kind of environment. Corruption. Moral decay? Or maybe endemic crime just under the barest of pretexts of control? I don’t know. The irony of this being released, right now, is not lost on me. It’s also interesting, I think, in that the party is put out there, with no enforced morality, and just have to engage. They could be corrupt or they could change the system, I guess. Or try anyway. That’s a good job. Hmmm, I said “setting” earlier. I’m not sure that’s the right word. There might be a seperate setting book, I don’t know. There’s not much setting in this so I can’t really say the setting is good. Maybe I mean “the tone is interesting.” You get just enough background and flavour to get you in to the tone of the adventure and setting, but there’s really not much background data at all on the city. Which is fine, I guess, even if there is a separate setting book … or even if there isn’t. The tone makes the entire thing easy to understand where to take things, even if there are not supporting resources for the DM.

NPC descriptions are good. Short. A burst of memorable description, one sentence of background and one or two of attitude/motivations. Easy to scan, sticky. Easy to run NPC’s. Exactly what is called for in an adventure. The IDEA for an adventure, a bronx slumlord killing his tenants and burning down buildings so he can rebuild and remodel and flip for profits, is a pretty classic one, as anyone aware of Bronx documentaries can attest. 

But the entire execution of this adventure is FUCKED.

It’s a scene based railroad with the party going from scene to scene and interacting with it before the next scene happens. There no investigation as much as their is being told where to go. For the first “clue” I’m fine with that. The boss/sergeant tells you, with his experience, who may be involved based on the MO. But when that happens repeatedly, it makes one question why the party is even involved at all. Why play the adventure if the choices are thus limited? A sandbox environment in a fleshed out neighborhood this is not. One sergeant clue? Good kick off. Multiple? Nope. 

And then there are scene transitions that make no sense. You’re in “dingy central park” one moment and in another you’re walking down a busy city street, with no idea of how the transition happened. It doesn’t make sense. There wasn’t a clue leading you to the next scene. Its just you’re in the street now. In the street scene some dudes release a monster to attack you, in the crowded city streets. And they run away. And there are chase rules. But, presumably, they get a ten minute head start as the party fights a 3HD giant lizard? The chase rules make no sense to me. I mean, the actual advice on running the chase are good, but it doesn’t seem like it would get there given the headstart the dudes get? I don’t know, maybe they hang around until the party kill their monster and THEN the chase starts? Scene transitions don’t make sense in this adventure.

I’m also not sure of the actual game mechanics. Low trease in a gold=xp game is rough. You do get double XP for capturing people, and are paid off for killing people and monsters. Both of these are nice ideas, in concept, but the overall issue of handling the GOLD=XP issue isn’t really address. Low money, low magic, I’m good with. But you then need to balance it, XP wise. There is one story reward, 200XP, maybe, but I’m not sure the balance is there.

So, good setting idea. Good adventure concept. Good NPC descriptions. Poorly executed with some raised eyebrows about the mechanics of the game system decisions. 

This is $2 at DriveThru. There is no preview. Or level indication on the cover or in the description. Basic basic flaws, those are. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/314802/City-of-Solstice-Evil-Streets-Home-Invasion?1892600

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9 Responses to City of Solstice: Evil Streets Home Invasion

  1. Anonymous says:

    What are the best city adventures? I hear Skerples one is good. Lux did one I know. For sure not that Matt mercer joint

    • Knutz Deep says:

      Check this one out. Kellerin’s Rumble >> https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=4480

      • Malrex says:

        No shame….ugh…(thanks for the call out for Kellerin’s!) if you like Kellerin’s (its free)..then you may like the City of Vermilion, which is like a ‘mega-dungeon’ for cities and has x100 the action of Kellerin’s. Might be too ridiculous on the options, if I’m honest. It failed its first Kickstarter–barely, so, stupidly, I’m expanding it and making it even bigger and more complicated, because it’s a city and that’s the way its supposed to be damn it–maybe 1.5 years from now, as I’m finishing up 3 other projects (which will also be Kickstarters for the art coming soon–Palace of Unquiet Repose is coming next month!!). So could use some support for Vermilion one day, when the time comes. It’s my baby, so one day, it shall see the light, one way or another!!

        Karel’s “Statues” is really good, he states it below..trust him. And Melan’s Gont, Nest of Spies has some good stuff within as well. Also…Revelry in North Gate for Low Fantasy Gaming–some decent stuff to pull from.

    • Shuffling Wombat says:

      There are other Low Fantasy Gaming adventure frameworks you might try: Night at the Green Goblin; Den of Thieves; Cultists in Crow’s Keep; Carnifexium (Gladiatorial Games); Rooftop Rumble; It came from the Sewers; Delecartes’ Carnival of Wonders; Red Hooks Tourney; Warehouse Heist. A few of these are of the “Thieves Guild” type, so you might
      also consider Ebonclad, which has a substantial section of adventures. With a Little Help from my Friends is a classic WFRP short adventure, where you are asked to help a gnome modelled on Hercule Poirot to free a kidnapped child. A Rough Night at the Three Feathers is a real fan favourite (and the above listed Night at the Green Goblin is from the same genre).
      I share everyone else’s disappointment that an intriguing set up has not been capitalised on.

    • Shuffling Wombat says:

      The Lankhmar Dungeon Crawl Classics line might also be of interest: I have #1 Gang Lords of Lankhmar and #3 Acting Up in Lankhmar, and quite like both of them. I did ask Bryce for a review of the former, but he doesn’t love me any more; for the latter, as there is an excerpt from a play, the Prince of Nothing must be given the honour of the first review.

  2. Karel Hynek Macha says:

    I wrote several city adventures, one of which, STATUES, garnered one of Bryce’s coveted “The Best” designations: https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=3920

    A nice review of STATUES on Fear of a Black Dragon podcast:
    gauntlet-rpg.com/fear-of-a-black-dragon/statues

    THE LOST LUSH: RELOADED is a pub-crawling adventure in a city like medieval Prague

    HE WHO WATCHES is hot mess Egyptsploitation – my 1st module published – it kind of sucks and happens mostly in catacombs, but there is a city element and factions and events.

    All these are available at: drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/12243/Coiled-Sheets-of-Lead

    Through June 22, 2020, a bundle incl. STATUES and 40 other creators’ work raises funds for NAACP: drivethrurpg.com/product/316935/NAACP-Legal-Defense-Fund-1-BUNDLE

  3. Melan says:

    So damn frustrating. A GREAT premise that makes you want to start a new campaign right here and right now (in fact, if there is a Covid sequel, I might!), brought down by the execution. Such a sadness. There is tremendous potential in the concept:
    – episodic (“Case of the week.”) against a consistent setting
    – revolving cast (“Whoever comes to play, plays”)
    – morally ambiguous cloak-and-dagger stuff
    – you can mine cop shows, gangster movies and film noir for all they are worth
    Now I really want a trashy Hawk&Fisher-style fantasy police scenario. A good one.

  4. Stu Ordano says:

    There is a City of Solstice : Evil Streets setting book. Maybe it is better than the adventure?

    https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/309533/City-of-Solstice-Evil-Streets?manufacturers_id=6326

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