By WR Betty Rosethorn Publishing S&W Levels 3-5
[…] Every spring, two or three children go missing from the village, every summer a few animals disappear, every fall the harvest is plundered. The locals have begrudgingly accepted the fact that Hope Cross is cursed and wait in terror every spring for what they call “The Culling” to begin another year of horror. It is only through the short winter days and long winter nights that the people find any peace as they pray for the house to disappear as suddenly as it appeared.
This sixteen page adventure describes a two-ish level dungeon with 28 rooms in a classic folklore house of evil fey. Maezels in this case. They fatten them babies up and then eat them. There are some annoying discrepancies/things left out of the text and the writing could be more evocative, but organization is generally quite good. It has all the elements you need for a good adventure, but feels like it could use just a little more work to bring it up to Really Good levels.
The setting here is very folklore/fey, which I am fond of. You’ve got the bezels taking the role of the classic “goblin” type creature from folklore with real goblins serving as their slaves. They kidnap babies to raise and then eat, steal things from villages, experiment with stuff, much more Fairy Goblin Market type of fey than bestial stabby stabby humanoid in a cave type fey.
It’s got most of the support information correct. Good, in voice rumors. Wanderers are doing something and have some simple motivations. There’s non-standard magic items and treasure, and the magic that IS standard goes just one step more. So, a blue viscous potion of healing, for example. There’s a monster summary sheet. There’s a simple order of battle for the monsters to follow when responding to a party incursion. There’s a small table of Meazel & Kidnapped Child personalities. So, all of the minor stuff is pretty much taken care of.
The organization of the encounters is fairly good. General information up front. Bolding. White space. Things are laid out in the encounters in such a way that you can scan it quickly. There are also details thrown in, like a groove worn in the floor from a creature pacing for centuries. Specificity can create an evocative environment WITHOUT indulging in an overly verbose text. That’s good.
But it also has some REALLY dumb mistakes, mostly around what looks to be a Dyson map and how that matches up to the text. There are two room 27’s in the text, for example, and no room 28, as there is on the map. That’s pretty minor. But in other places there are trapdoors and grates and exterior doors … and it’s REALLY unclear where any of it goes! It’s not noted on the map and text doesn’t tell us the room number. It’s these pretty basic mistakes in, I don’t know, proofreading an adventure? That makes me say things like you should always have an editor. I think most editors are crap, but ta least you’ll have a second set of eyes on the adventure to prevent these kind of mistakes of oversight and mistakes of being too familiar with your own work.
It also fails, in places, to mention important room details high up in the text, throwing them later on. Again, I think this is oversight and sloppy editing by the designer (who is also the editor.) And, similar to this, it doesn’t do a really consistent job in providing an evocative environment. In one place there’s a cloth draped over a mirror, for example. This would have been an excellent opportunity for a great adjective or adverb to describe that cloth, one more word, or replace cloth with “burlap” or something. It’s something the adventure does in other places, but not in this example. Likewise, demonic visaged statues and so on. It just fails to CONSISTENTLY deliver that organization and evocative writing that I demand.
And you know what? It’s still not shit. I’t still better than 90% of the crap I review. It’s got a decent, if classic, idea. It follows through with the theming. It gets the support information correct. It just needed to be more consistent in its organization and evocative writing, and have someone proof it for bonehead logic errors.
This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is nine pages and show syou the wanderers, the rumors, the first 23 rooms … that’s a good preview! I wish every product did it like that!
A good and fair review. Thank you again Bryce. An editor has been your common refrain for Rosethrone adventures and I see clearly now what you mean. I will put your suggestions to good use!
Glad to see you read these! I believe Bryce comes at this from a love of the form in an attempt to make the art better. Thats rare in critics.
Bryce do you believe other using Dyson maps makes adventures worse as vision is filtered through a middleman? Love to hear your thoughts as you are often cool on authors using them
Starting with a Dyson map is ok, but I feel folks should also customize them/make them their own. No problem with someone else doing the heavy lifting, but folks go through awkward machinations sometimes to make them fit an adventure instead of just adding notations/features.
I am slightly predisposed to not enjoy the “lair” maps though; I wish people would also do things with his larger/more interesting maps. They provide a more enriching dungeoneering experience.
Just wanted to drop a note to say I’ve uploaded new maps for the adventure with text boxes indicating how all the grates and stairs and secret doors connect the levels. The only “exterior door” is the secret entrance, 1200 feet to the west. Hope the maps help clarify things.
RE: the descriptions. Well, maybe in the future we’ll do some revisions. If we do, we’ll sure try to use more evocative language. I’ll run everything in the future past at least one other set of eyes to, how did you put it? “… proof it for bonehead logic errors.” Yep.
Regarding the maps. They started life as Dyson maps, but they’re pretty heavily modified to suit the adventure, rather than trying to write the adventure around the maps. Again, thanks so much for taking the time to review so many adventures and for going to the effort to point out places where things can be improved.
Just throwing out there: what level of play-testing do you employ? It’s the surest real-time way of catching errors you just can’t see as you’re writing.
GB – Regarding play testing. Generally, not enough play testing goes into any of the publications – but this one had zero – and, as has been point out, it shows…
A publisher tag would be cool.
Keep of the Broken Saint: https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=5349
The Shrine of Fallen Angels: https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=4178
What do you mean by a publisher tag?
As a publisher, that would be great to see. But I think it’s a lot of work on your part, Bryce. If it’s not inappropriate, maybe we publishers could just link to previous reviews you have posted of our products. This is the sixth Rosethrone Publishing adventure you’ve reviewed. Here are the others:
Chantry of the Deepflame https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=6587
Shrine of the Fallen Angels https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=4178
Keep of the Broken Saint https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=5349 (The Best)
Palace of the King Under the Water https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=4292 (No Regerts)
Mud King of Stoney Creek https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=6297 (The Best)
Hope this isn’t a double reply… comment seems to have vaporized!
As a publisher, having a tag for our products would be great. But it seems like it would be a lot of work for you, Bryce. If it’s not inappropriate, we publishers could leave a link to previous reviews here in the comment section. This is the sixth Rosethrone adventure you have reviewed – two were named “The Best” and one got “No Regerts.”
The anti-spam system is wonky about URLs. Sometimes it detects legit posts with links, sometimes it doesnt