The Endless Tunnels of Enlandin

By S. Ballard Poag
Low Levels

Does your group have the nerve to explore the endless tunnels of the mage Enlandin? Many have tried and all have failed.

This 21 page adventure contains a three level dungeon with about ninety rooms, using about sixteen pages to do so. A classic basic dungeon with a decent map, Poag has an ability to write a little vignette scene without verbally running over. When it does that, it’s good. When the monsters wait in the darkness to attack the person who opens the door … well, it’s not so good. I’d say it’s on the higher-end of being a typical B/X dungeon.

Let’s talk The Art of the Vignette. If we take the unhold Bryce trinity of Ease of Use, Evocative, and Interactivity then when their powers combine we get this little burst of energy jabbed in to the DM’s brain in a flash that reeks of potential energy. A kind of sparkle in the DMs eye, a gleeful internal cackling, all obtained in just the split second the DM glances down on the page. Is this good D&D? No, but it FACILITATES good D&D. The DM is now as ready as they can be, running a prepared adventure, to lead their players in to Good Times(™.) One sort of room/encounter type is the little room vignette. When Poag is ON IT he is writing good room vignettes. “The very pale body of a dead elf is in the middle of the room, dressed in chain mail with a sword and longbow. Only two arrows are left in the quiver. Two giant ticks are clinging to the ceiling above and will drop for a surprise attack.” Oh snap! Look at what Poag did! He creates little vignettes in just a few words that describe a situation. I wouldn’t call this a masterpiece by any means, but it does deliver in an above average way. A pale elf corpse in the middle of the room. The party investigate … down come the ticks! Oh! The DM is cackling gleefully and the party all say “Oh shit! Obviously!” That’s a good encounter. When the surprise hits and the party says “Of course!” then you know it’s good. Another room has a grim reaper statue, with scythe, in the middle of a room along with a headless corpse. We all know the deal and we all know that we all know the deal. It’s glee! Unadulterated glee! Poag can do this.  Even in a shitty “they attack!” room he can do this. Zombies come out of the darkness in a room to attack. That’s not exactly perfect, but even this shitty “they attack!” moment brings a little extra, with them coming out of the darkness. Your mind should fill in that picture and even with it being simple I’m excited to run it. Another room has a halfling with a crowbar in the middle of opening a chest … paralyzed, while three giant centipedes are about to/are eating him. Oh man! Stick that in your fucking hat! These are not rockstar descriptions but they are significantly above average. They describe a scene with energy waiting to happen. They have a few extra words that add description to the scene, flavour. And they do it without taking a fucking column of text to fucking do so. Combined with the decent maps, I’d give this adventure a solid C+/B- and a No Regerts.

Well, I mean, I WOULD, if it were consistent. But, for every room that’s a little vignette there is another that is a straight out They Attack! Worse, they are waiting in ambush. The eternal ambush room. Orcs with bows wait in the darkness at  the other of the room, eternally, for you to open the door. There are multiple, multiple examples of this. Yeah, D&D has combat. And there’s a place for ambushes. The tick room is good and is, essentially, a They Attack room. But creatures on guard waiting to attack when the door is opened? No, not so much. There’s a good way and bad way to handle it and this adventure does both, in about equal amounts, I’d say.

Combined with the book treasure (which may, also, be a little light … IDK, feels like it, I would have to add it up) and an interactivity that TENDS to combat, then I would give this one a pass, but it’s close. Pits lead to the second level. Rooms rotate and there are simple puzzles. But it doesn’t feel like it happens all that often. It feels more like a heavy They Attack dungeon with a mixture of better stuff thrown in. Or maybe a heavy Room Vignette dungeon with a whole lot of boring/typical thrown in? If/then statements abound, and the standard room format is the simple paragraph. A well written one, organized, and, by keeping it short it remains functional. It’s right on the edge. 

This is an early dungeon, from the 70’s, rewritten, I assume, in the modern day. As such, it shows both the good and bad. WHen its good then its short and terse and evocative and exciting all at the same time. And when its bad it looks like a bad minimal key expanded. I suspect that the interactivity lack is from the 70’s. What WAS interactivity in the 70’s? It was this. 

I’m a fan of this, as an artifact. I’m a fan of where this adventure was going and the potential it showed. But, in a world full of billions and billions of adventures, I would probably pass this up for that hits more regularly. Compared to most of the dreck that comes out, though, it’s great!

This is free over at Dragonsfoot.

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20 Responses to The Endless Tunnels of Enlandin

  1. Anonymous says:

    This was recently revised for publication by Basic Fantasy RPG (Chris Gonnerman). Is that version any better or is it the same?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Shame, hopefully those folks can use this review to improve this. Seems like a d in the rough.

  3. Knutz Deep says:

    Sounds like a perfectly serviceable adventure to throw at low level PCs. May not be breaking much in the way of new ground but not every adventure has to be. I would probably spice it up with a few unique magic items, boost the gold, and switch up some of the more Hackish types encounters. Maybe even expand the level size

    Oh, and Bryce, it’s not levels 5-8, it’s 5-8 low level characters

  4. Anonymous says:

    BRYCE IN ACTION! Check it:

    Lets make this thing shine for the masses #FOSS4LYFE

  5. solomoriahbfrpg says:

    The adventure really isn’t for low-level characters; in fact, the second and third level are meatgrinders for low-level types. We’re correcting this presentation in the Basic Fantasy RPG version. Also, we’re pulling apart Stefan’s descriptions into player (boxed) and GM bits to improve ease-of-use. (If you’re the kind who tells me how much they hate boxed text, read my blog post on the subject before berating me, and then don’t bother with the berating because my mind is made up. The blog post is here: ) And yes, full monster stats in BFRPG format are provided, instead of the hit-points-only approach Stefan used. I’m not changing much, though I’ll admit to adding a few words here and there to expand what appear to me to be abbreviated descriptions. Anyway, yeah, I expect a nicer-to-run adventure to fall out of this process.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I really like Knutz Deep’s comments here. Some good comments for improvement.

    If more of the thew attack rooms can be replaced with gold like:
    “The very pale body of a dead elf is in the middle of the room, dressed in chain mail with a sword and longbow. Only two arrows are left in the quiver. Two giant ticks are clinging to the ceiling above and will drop for a surprise attack.”

  7. Anonymous says:

    Looks gone Annon?

    Guy question for you mate, how did you do Hyquous Vaults and provide feedback for quality edits without feel bass from contributors?

    It seems like volunteer or community efforts often devolve into my work is not bad it just might be to your taste/ preference?

    • Luckily most/all of us worked together before, with in-person friendships too. So we trusted one another. Also, I made the brevity goal clear from the start:

      For a community project, make your expectations clear, but remain flexible. Odds are, your “truth” really isn’t absolute.

      As much as I strongly prefer brevity (and believe most adventures have too much text), I also realize tens of thousands of DMs run verbosely written adventures every week. Maybe they absorb and use materials differently. Even if someone uses a module at the table, they use it other ways/places too. Who am I to say they aren’t somehow building play energy from the longer text?

      (Now lets see if I can post this without misspelling my name this time…)

      • chrisgonnerman says:

        There is, I’m sure, room for all styles. The Basic Fantasy Project creates adventures that are wordy, relative to your preferences; we’d say “complete.” Those who choose our adventures evidently like, or at least accept, the style of modules we produce. But ultimately, we make modules the way we do because they are the kind I like to run. I wrote a rule system compact enough that I don’t need to refer to the book much, and if the adventure includes details that I might otherwise have to look up, it’s that much easier for me to run. And we do “boxed” or “read aloud” text not just because some like that, but because doing so requires us to separate secret from non-secret information; this makes it easier for the GM to understand and remember what to tell the players, and more importantly what not to tell them (at least right away).

        • Anonymous says:

          Chris, I know you have your mind made up about boxed text and, as the head honcho of the BFRPG project, that’s your prerogative.

          Your motivation you give for keeping it is more about information design and layout, though, and that is one area of active innovation in the last few years: People have used different text (bold, italics, parenthetical), indented bullet lists, and white space to separate immediately visible information from information that requires a more careful look from hidden information requiring an exhaustive search.

          Some examples that immediately come to mind (i.e. things I’ve run recently) are the Necrotic Gnome’s adventures, and the Mork Borg sample adventure at the back of the book.

          • Anonymous says:

            Same guy as above. I want to give your sample text in your blogpost ‘Response to “Read-Aloud Woes”’ a shot. (-, ->, and –> denote different levels of hidden information. I can’t bold in here but all the immediately visible features in the room can be bolded for extra legibility.)

            – Two chairs (large, comfortable) and table b/t them at rear
            -> table has a small drawer
            –> dagger +1,+3 vs. undead in drawer
            – Bookshelves (overloaded, floor-to-ceiling) at back
            –> random magical scrolls among books: 10% chance (cumulative per PC searching) that one is found
            – Rug (large, ornate, somewhat moth-eaten)
            – Fireplace, many portraits on right wall
            -> depict Baron’s family members
            –> a safe behind Hilda’s painting, containing 122PP and ring of fire resistance
            – Huge mirror and two pastoral landscapes on left wall
            –> pushing protruding brick behind the right landscape opens mirror

          • Anonymous says:

            Ugh, should have said -, ->, and –> denote different levels of indentation of the bullet-point list.

          • solomoriahbfrpg says:

            I’m fully aware of how bullet lists work; I just don’t like them in this situation.

            Doing boxed text supports people who want and will use read-aloud, while simultaneously providing information separation as I noted. Bullet lists do the latter but not the former.

            Explain to me objectively how bullet lists are actually better, and we can discuss that. But I don’t need examples of what they look like… I’ve made them before, I know how they work.

        • Anonymous says:

          Sigh, not sure what to tell you, man. You don’t see the benefit of clearer and faster modes of information transmission, and that’s that. I think most people would prefer to be able to take in a room’s description at a glance over canned boxed text (even if one can also have both). But your game, your rules.

          (Couldn’t reply to your comment below so I’ll do it here.)

      • Bryce Lynch says:

        To cover Guy & Gonnerman …

        I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with boxed text, in general. In practice though a lot of it is badly written … just as most adventures are badly written.

        Guy is, I think, being overly generous in his “different strokes for different folks” comments. While tru, academically, it’s also true that almost every adventure with a lot of text is badly done. There ARE exceptions, and I’ve commented on them in the past, but, for the most part, long text blocks poorly organized detract from building energy. (I like that phrasing, Guy.)

        There’s no one size fits all solution. But … when the chief complaint against adventures is that they take too much time to prep and are hard to run, I think that’s where a lot of focus needs to be.

        I think, perhaps, “there’s no accounting for taste” is the polite response to anyone suggesting a well done fillet or 10 minute sea scallop is their preference.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Guy was talking about increasing gamability in modules
    I think you are simplifying what is said a bit Sir. I
    know you don’t like the way Bryce talks (with swears, typos and blutness)
    It appears Bryce rubbed people on your form the wrong way so maybe anything in relalation to him is a mute point.
    More than just wordiness and boxed text is my point.
    My group of 6 thanks you for Saga of the Giants we had a hoot and books that make the hobby accessable, thank you for being awesome

  9. Anonymous says:

    Been lurking here for a long time but had to post
    Look at what Bryce says without the stuff you don’t like. Written by not him.

    This is also re: Guys comments in more detail.
    I agree anonn its not just about box text and lenth.

    Heck look at P Stew and Deep Carbon Observatory. Thats purple and long but still great because it leaves room for creativly dealing with problems.

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