By Jonathan Rowe Fen Orc BlueHolme Level 2
- The haunted caves where Smugglers hide their contraband and the Undead Corsair whose tomb has been disturbed
- The Temple of the Rat God and the sinister secret society that has infiltrated the unsuspecting town above
- The ancient Pre-human City where a foolhardy Wizard unearthed something that destroyed his Tower, fifty years ago, and guarded by its own deadly occupants
This seventeen page adventure details level two of the Holmes sample dungeon and has 26-ish rooms. It doesn’t make me wish I was never born which, I guess, is a compliment? But it has some serious map issues and a genericism, combined with a lack of interactivity, that causes the finished thing to suffer.
Layout was in Word, I think, because it’s in docx format. It’s relatively complex though, so the designer must be quite proficient in Word. BUT … I almost didn’t open the document BECAUSE it was in docx. Don’t put your work in docx. Put it in PDF. Everytime I see a doc file I think “This is an attempt to infest my computer with malware.” There’s no wat around that; unless you’ve got a really good reason then put your work in PDF.
The dungeon map has three-ish zones and is one of the greatest disappointments I have ever seen. Not the map design, proper, it’s ok. Some details, not the worst layout possible, etc. But then it’s hand numbered. Or, well, lettered, since it follows the Holmes example of using letters instead of numbers. And the designer is using some kind of fancy fucking font, or added flair to the fucking letters or something. Little lines at the end of letter strokes, etc. I can’t read the fucking thing. Oh, I can make out a letter or three, but there are some that I just stare at and can’t figure out what the fuck room it’s supposed to be. It took me five minutes to find room ‘B’ on the map. It’s fucking bullshit. Is this really what you want my commentary on your work to involve? “The fucking thing isn’t legible; don’t buy it!”? No, of course not. Just fucking cut it out with the cutsy fonts, etc. If I can’t read the fucking thing then I’m going to fucking run it.
There’s a disconnect, also, between the text and the map. The text has some good ideas: sea caves, an underground water filled tunnel and so on. But it is displayed terribly on the map. The sea caves look like just normal dungeon rooms. The underground water tunnel is the same. You can’t tell there’s water, or that it’s a tunnel or anything else. Tunnel slopes and light are contained in the room descriptions. “Oops, that tunnel you just walked down was severely sloped. Sorry, guess I should have mentioned that sooner …” The logistics of the fucking map are TERRIBLE.
The read-aloud is … I don’t know. Generic? It overreavels, that’s for sure. Over and again it tells us things about the rooms that should be for the players to discover. “This room is storage for a pirates treasure.” or “This is a maze of caverns” or “The water extends under a wall down a long submerged tunnel.” How the fuck do the players know any of this? It’s for them to discover, as they interact with the environment with their characters. It’s quite bad. On top f it is the genercism. It’s like the read-aloud is a room note for the designer to expand upon rather than traditional read aloud. “This chamber contains only a deep pit. A prisoner at the bottom shouts and waves, desperate for you to throw him a rope to release him.” So, yeah, that’s iconic. But it doesn’t really have any life and it’s written in some kind of weird manner. I don’t know how to describe it, but I know it when I see it. Genetically iconic? Conclusions instead of environment descriptions? “This maze of caverns is made from an indestructible crystalline material that reflects light and images in dazzling kaleidoscopic confusion” It’s missing something. It’s like its abstract.
Interactivity is mostly fighting. There are some obstacles to overcome, the usual rope bridge over a chasm and the like. Every once in awhile there is a “solve a puzzle” or “bring item A to room b” type thing. It just isn’t very … exploratory? I mean, you do get to explore, but the amount and number of things you get to interact with, beyond combat, seems very limited.
I wouldn’t buy this. Which is good cause it’s free. But I wouldn’t run it either. There are far better choices that you don’t have to fight to use and are more interesting. Another vision unfullfilled.
This is free at DriveThru.