Reaping at Rivers End

By Ben Barsh
Pacesetter Games & Simulations
Level 8!!!

The town of River’s End has always been a quiet sanctuary for those outcast by society. These exiles share one thing in common: wither rot. This disease relentlessly withers the body down to a corpse in a short period of time. However, with the help of magical healing properties provided by the Ravenscroft River and an advanced mage named Mortimer, the people of River’s End have been able to create a fruit called Dragonberry. This fruit stops this ailment from running its course. However, Mortimer has recently fled the town leaving nothing but an ominous note of revenge. Without him interacting with the crop and river, the upcoming Dragonberry harvest will be incomplete leaving the people to once again suffer the full consequences of their wither rot. It is up to you to help the vulnerable citizens before Mortimer and this malicious disease successfully destroys the respite of River’s End.

This 28 page adventure uses about eleven pages to describe a two level dungeon with about thirty rooms. The writing is verbose, dull, and there’s not much interactivity beyond stabbing shit. But, who am I to tell you what to like? 

So, this is one of those “it’s a trap I use to lure adventurers in!” dungeons. Not a super big fan of those. It seems like lazy design. Like, I can’t think of another reason for all of this shit to work together so I’m going to just say it was on purpose as a test, challenge, etc. In fact, let’s discuss free will for a minute.

The people in this village suffer from a disease. Every year a local wizard casts a spell which allows the villagers to grow a fruit that staves off the deadly disease for one year. This year the wizard got pissy and left the village. You’re sent to stop him/bring him back/blah blah blah. It’s a little vague. Anyway … do the villagers have the right to force the wizard to cast the spell and/or expect him to? He’s not getting paid, there’s no vow of eternal servitude, etc. Further, what is the wizards obligation, morally, to the villagers? If he can save the lives for 250 people is he then OBLIGATED to, morally? What if it took a year off of his life? Or just an hour off of his life? Does he, in fact, have ANY obligation AT ALL to the villagers? How about with regard to the spell? Is he obligated to share the spell even if he doesn’t cast it? What are the implications as the price of the spell approaches (calculus wise) “eternal indentured servitude?” Have you stopped beating your wife? How about you, Mr Adventurer, acting as the third party agent for the villagers in this scenario? As a  villager, you don’t hire a private army and not expect to use it for some killing. What’s the point of having a nuke if you don’t use it? 

Ok, so, none of this is actually a part of the adventure. I mean, the wizard can cast the spell and if he doesn’t then the villagers WILL die. Oh, and, conveniently, he IS a poly’d evil dragon playing “the long game”, so, being evil, you can just stab the shit out of him. Not a super fan or orc babies, but this one kind of interested me. Rather than a potential future represented by orc babies, this deals with the free will of someone when others will, ultimately die. I think the adventure would be better for having a “good” wizard in it, instead of an evil dragon, and then just let things play out. As a GM, you don’t make ANY moral judgements at all. No alignment BS at all, just let the players do what they will. Actually, I don’t mind orc babies either, as long as they are handled in exactly the same way. Who cares what choice you make … I mean, beyond yourself and how you just defined yourself? 

Long time readers know that when I go off on a tangent like this then it’s because there’s not much to say about the adventure. And there’s not. 

“A sudden and loud noise comes from the forest. The sound of uprooting trees fills the air. As you turn, you see two trees-like figures uproot and begin an attack!”

“Unlike most dragons, they create a complex lair strictly to watch wanderers or adventurers suffer inside.”

This campsite was set up by an adventurer a long time ago. He stumbled upon the cave and rushed in when the treants attacked him. However, he was wounded badly and bled out. Mortimer already took his belongings, so there is not much of value on his person.”

“The shark tooth necklace is a magical item created by Mortimer. However, he is just beginning to dabble in the creation of magic items. The necklace functions just as a ring of swimming.”

The descriptions, as noted in the examples above, are full of “you do this” and “you do that.,” They embed history and backstory in them, explaining why, padding out the text. Interactivity is quite low, beyond just They Attack!

This is just another of the sort of plot based adventures that contain muddled text that make it hard to run and have little to intrigue a party. And it’s all a test, to lure in adventurers. *sigh*

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is only four pages but it does a decent job of showing you the writing and encounter style used throughout, so, good preview.

Why are you still reading this blog? It’s as empty as this adventure.

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11 Responses to Reaping at Rivers End

  1. Cricital DM says:

    Your blog is the best ever to walked this planet.

    It makes me realize that people write to much adventures and make draw backs on quality.

  2. At this rate Bryce is going to go Colonel Kurtz. in 5 more adventures. “The Horror. The Horror.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    Bryce said: Why are you still reading this blog? It’s as empty as this adventure.
    With respect, I call BULLSHIT.
    You might not see it but your blog brightens my day.
    I know I am not alone.
    Wake up, coffee and Bryce.
    Much love brother.

    • Anonymous says:

      Life gets hard sometimes, especially now.

      Your critical opinions are the most workable in the game. The number of authors made better from your work is untold. Just look at Red Prophet Rises, he read you, saw what sucks and made something awesome.

      Thats only one documented example. The new DCO? Imagine the authors have not told us they follow your princibles. Its untold, ultimatley, they read, they write, the art IS better.

      • Remley Farr says:

        Can confirm.

        He critiqued my adventure, Fishing for Gods in Strade’s Gallows, and was the only one to really give it a thorough critique. I later wrote Everyone Plows the Graveyard Farm following a lot of what he has been citing as good formatting/writing and his positive review of it pushed some sales my way.

  4. My heart sank when I read your lede paragraph.

    I thought the cover art was heavy metal and I liked that it was written for level 8 and S&W, so I actually read your copy-and-paste of the background story. Normally, I skip it.

    I really thought the idea was cool: mystical refugee town full of people who can’t survive without magic pharmaceuticals. The whole premise of having to labor to grow and harvest esoteric ingredients with a wizard’s annual enchantment as an unpredictable lynch pin sounded like *fertile ground* for emergent, player-driven OSR game play. No need to even screw it up with an “evil drought” or “mysterious windstorm” or malicious lumberjacks or anything.

    In answer to your final question, I read the blog and am a Patreon for a variety of reasons. Yes, when you rip one to shreds, it’s entertaining. However, that’s not all you do by far. Your genuine reviews do answer my most important question: which adventure should I purchase to actually run at the table?

    I am clearly your target audience. Stop me if you’ve heard this before . . . The reason I hate running pre-written modules is their difficulty of use on the fly at the table due to their verbosity.

    If I have to take notes—anything more than a highlighter or scribbles on the margin—it gets a big “nope” from me. I’ll just write my own adventure.

    It’s not an impossible standard—it’s not even a difficult one to obtain! You’ve covered many. The most recent, Tomb of the Frost-Walker, I purchased and I’ve purchased several others that you reviewed favorably by the SIMPLE metric: “CAN I USE THIS AT THE TABLE, MOTHERFUCKER? CAN I?”

    Stonehell with B/X is my current jam. Got between 15 and 20 sessions out of it so far with my only prep being “mix cocktail” and “poor pretzels into bowl.”

    Anyway, I love orc babies in all their many, many forms and agree wholeheartedly with your opinion on how they should be handled. Some players claim to hate “trolley problems,” but in actual game play, I’ve found them to be very engaging—the GM just needs to stick with OSR precepts and let happen what happens. The very worst is forced “alignment” play, like you say.

    “Long time readers know that when I go off on a tangent like this then it’s because there’s not much to say about the adventure. And there’s not.”

    It was when you started waxing and waning poetic about orc babies that I knew we were done here. And, I found that to be a shame. Wasted potential, like so many others.

    Then, I read it was $10 and I quickly remembered THAT’S EXACTLY WHY I READ BRYCE LYNCH’S BLOG. I may not agree with your every opinion (e.g., when you’re wrong and yes you are), but by God, I’ll know if I can run the damn thing at the table or not by reading your review.

    Thank you. Like most, this review was entertaining, informative, and saved me money. Well, it would have saved me money, but I would have never, ever, EVER have paid $10 on a whim for a simple 28-page “town and down” adventure anyway, but I digress.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I read the blog because it provides a lot of information about adventures:
    – if the adventure is good, the blog specifies how it is good, what part of it the most useful and also explains where it has drawbacks
    – if the adventure is bad, the blog reiterates and emphasizes what pieces of its design make an adventure bad; somehow every time it still looks to me like a fresh explanation, a somewhat different angle
    – if the adventure is mediocre, the blog often shows where the best idea of it is, and how maybe it might be fixes

    So, this is a good blog. Thank you for writing it.

  6. LL says:

    Damn, $10 for 30 rooms in 30 pages? Maybe I’ve been under-evaluating my work.
    A good premise – and a kickass cover. Shame about the execution.

    Thank you for providing this service to the community, Bryce. For almost every shitty adventure you review there’s a kernel of “what could have been” that’s interesting on its own, and that pushes me to give my projects all I can.

  7. Evard's Small Tentacle says:

    But if it’s empty, it’s full.

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