By Joseph Robert Lewis Dungeon Age Adventures 5e/OSR Level 1
Last night you went out to do your chores, or run your errands. Maybe you went out for a drink? Or maybe you went out to slit a purse string, or a throat? But this morning, you wake up shackled in a dark, filthy prison cell surrounded by strangers. A man outside says you’ll be sold to a slaver in a few hours. And slaves don’t live long… So you’d better start making some friends, coming up with a plan, and trying to escape from Fort Edgewild!
This eighteen page adventure describes a jail break scenario with the party trying to break out. It has about seventeen locations, with good NPC’s, descriptions, and set ups, but lacks a little in the SOMETHING department. If I knew what SOMETHING was I’d have used that word instead. Otherwise, it’s good. I mean, except for the ennui I feel. Can you write a good adventure and I still be full of ennui? Sure. why not, it’s 2020 and goes with the murder hornets.
You wake up shackled in a cell with six other people. Slavers will be here in four hours to buy you. Good luck! It’s a decent enough way to get a new group together, and as an alternative to a bar fight I’m ok with it. I’m usually quite negative about DM fiat types of things, like an adventure starting with you captured, etc, but at level one, to start a new game it’s a decent enough tohing to do. You gotta start with some pretext and putting the party together this way is fine.
Zo, task 1, get out of your shackles and out of the cell. There are some little tables to determine what you have in pockets (I got fingernail clippings!) and some notes about things you might find on the floor … only one of your hands being shackled to the wall. There’s also some extra NPC’s for the DM to scatter amongst the party to liven things up. Job one, use whats in your pockets and on the floor to think of as way to get out of your bonds and the cell.
As an aside, designer dude knows how to write a fucking NPC. Terse. Iconic. On the shit that matters. Emily is 25, curly brown hair, wild-eyed intense look. Cerlic of Gideon. PRO: Healing Magic. CON: Violent Zealot. Forcibly heals anyone/everyone. Nell, 30, red-hair, freckles, pale, depressed, hungover. Local addict. PRO: Medicine & Chemistry. CON: Severe depression. Same with the guards and all of the NPC’s in the adventure. You get these little snippets that make it easy for the DM grab on to them, remember them, and, better yet, add color to the adventure. WHich is what a fucking NPC should do. Otherwise, why do they exist? It’s not paragraph after paragraph. We don’t need to know Nells fucking life story. Just fucking addict part and the quirks she has. The rest comes to mind and we can make it up. Perfect.
Ok, so, you’r eout of the cell and now you’re down in some “dungeon”/jail. Eight rooms. Full of loud things that might summon the guards, who come by every hour anyway to check on the prisoners. Some more makeshift stuff, a few weapons, and the parties gear, ultimately. And those other prisoners. Loudmoths … so I hoped you freed them too. But, they are a pain also. What to do, what to do?
Then it’s out of the jail and in to a palisade compound, the other guards and other buildings, trying to escape from the inside, not be seen and have the wrath of the guards fall on you.
Descriptions are short and evocative. It’s well organized and easy to locate information.
But there’s something wrong in Muddville.
I don’t know what. This is an open-ended sandbox. The tools are there to run it as such. But, still, something is wrong. Too straight forward, maybe? That wouldn’t normally be an issue with me. Usually all you need to do is set up a decent situation (Which this is) and provide a decent environment (which this does) and then let the party fuck thing sup with their plans. I don’t know, maybe it’s the scope? The Fall of Whitechapel(?) did something similar, but that seemed more dynamic and interesting than this does. I think, maybe I’m feeling the constraints of size/length? It’s written for a single session, but … that can’t be it, can it? Maybe I wanted more? Well, yes, I feel like I’m wanting more, but … not in that way. I don’t know in what way. I’m left confused, something that rarely happens.
So, hey, this is a decent adventure. For some reason it feels like something is missing. All I can point my finger at is interactivity; its what the party makes of it. Do they cause trouble, come up with a wacky plan, etc.
I’m going to Regert this. But I feel wrong. I’m open to second opinions here. Buy it and tell me what I’m missing? Or, just check out the preview and do the same thing, the preview is long enough to get a sense, I think. But, you could also do worse things in life than throwing $2 at the Dungeon Age dude; he generally writes stellar shit.
This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is ten pages and shows you more than enough to make a good purchasing decision.
Your podcast came out! It was great!
I did a podcast?
YAS with Jupiter sanders
You should do more. Do you still do Robeson tried to click through for your voice but nothing
It sounds like this adventure needs real Death Magic. I know Lord Mark comes around here some times to peddle his brand of fake immortality, but let me promise that a real Death Magic caster like myself, Dr. Ogbifun, has certain understandings that a spammy vampire never could.
This product could benefit from my attentions. Whatever its workman like virtues, I, Dr. Obgifun, see what’s lacking. Hair color and a single predictable fact don’t make for a compelling NPC. A prison escape of the mundane sort (found even in Castle Cadwell) doesn’t either. Unless it has more. A death spell here and there, a bit of the profane or profound would perhaps go a long way towards making this sort of thing far better. I need not be too much, frightful or gonzo, but bright detail an memorable variety vitalize and transform the quotidian. Much as the death of your enemies by powerful spells can vitalize your life.
Bryce long time reader, first time commenter. Been into RPGs for years, more of a collector, but with this globalist crisis started a game with my chucklehead friends. Using OSE turned to you for the adventures, ran Hole in the Oak first and it was great, hadn’t GMed for 20 years but surprised myself how the faction play turned out. Then Winters Daughter, they solved everything and even took the shrooms so no combat. Moved onto Ragged Hollow Nightmare, well aware that they would try to dig in or climb the golden veil but used some intervention from Princess Snowfall at Dusk to push them into the sandbox. Have Castle Xyntillan lined up next, the wonderful Melan can’t get it to me in Australia at the moment but have the PDF. Sorry to rant but mate keep up the good work, I’m so glad you read this shit so I don’t have too. Thanks brother!
This is a really solid adventure. I have only recently started posting comments here but been reading reviews for a long time and I think there is one simple change in your perspective that would allow you to write better reviews, and that is comparing the scope of the adventure against the price to get an idea of the value. Of course count the value of time reading through the adventure and running it as part of the commitment cost.
A free adventure that sucks still isn’t worth downloading regardless of scope. However, a solid smaller scoped starter adventure like this one is a great value at 2 dollars economically. It’s also a great adventure for a newer DM or a DM who wants a way to start their campaign besides starting in a tavern. I realize that escaping together is one of the old standards but every DM and player hasn’t been playing TTRPG for 30+ years. I am curious if you could locate a better intro prison break adventure for any version of D&D for less than 2 dollars, or for more than 2 dollars but have the increase in scope or quality to be worth the extra cost.
Had to split post b/c it wasn’t showing Post Comment button with whole thing in one post.
Thanks for the kind words, Will!
Hmmm, I was just thinking about this and actually wrote something yesterday about that. It should pop in a week or so.
I’ve resisted, thus far, because I think my sense of value is off? But I do actually keep thinking about it.
Value is subjective, so your sense can’t really be off. Time and money both have value so its not completely about financial cost. Salesmanship can fool people into thinking they are getting value. Sadly, certain kinds of crap adventures sell b/c there are those who value them, usually the completionist, lore porn, tactics porn, crowds. Its complicated but the most valuable info i ever gained for running D&D was economics.
P.S. You should check out Zweihander, its new but its old, if feels classic but it feels fresh too.
I actually like this one. I bought it after liking the preview.
I think there is enough punch in the NPC’s & options that it works just fine for me. Then again, I like to run a fairly low magic campaign atm with occasional forays into LOTFP horror/supernatural, rather than everything supernatural all the time.
It doesn’t read flat/ennui to me. Everyone you come across is doing something interesting, has something to play with or reacts in a way players have a decision to make. That’s all fun- the guy with the broken leg who hops up to wave a sword in defiance at you (but gives up quick if not stabbed on the spot) is interesting, it doesn’t have to be +5 flaming sword he’s waving. It’s very simple but that NPC has- potential energy. Does a PC stab him & get a rep as a stone cold killer, do they like his moxy & drag him to freedom with him? (then make him a good swordsman who can train them). Potential energy with one line.
A guy flinging pans of hot grease in a wooden fort? It’s not magic but potential for explotation & disaster? You bet!
I think for $2 this is a cracking effort & well worth it. I’ll use it. I can look at it & tell I can run it effectively with a 10 minute skim read & that there’s fun in it.
If you DID want to add an element of the weird, or extend it to the campaign then you just drop in one link/clue to the next adventure or larger plot. A single element would do it.
Yeah Whitecliff is a good comparison point & for getting a whole mini-campaign sandbox in, then Whitecliff does a great job. But cramming all that into Whitecliff left the actual NPC’s/Rooms in many places a bit flat. E.g the start escape in THIS feels way more lively & fun & fleshed out & interactive than the first segment of Whitecliff on a room by room/area by area basis.
Both are good at what they do. This gets the first session right- has so many opportunities for clever thinking & interaction it encourages old school play without making anyone read a primer on it.
Glad to hear you liked it!
You read this blog? You are rocking, Byrce gives really good feedback
Me want to rare your books
Oh gosh yes, I’ve been a fan of Bryce’s blog here for a long time, I agree, he has great advice about writing and designing content for use at the table
Are you referring to this Whitecliff?
I was yes.
Bruce refers to it in his review but calls it The Fall of Whitechapel by mistake.
But given the “escape scenario” starting point & they both have quite positive Bryce reviews, they bear comparison.