The Curse of Buckthorn Valley

By Jon Aspenheim
Random Table Games
Relics & Ruins
Level 1

People in Buckthorn Valley are randomly becoming mutated, transformig with demonic features. In order to stop this curse the adventurers have to explore a 3 level dungeon, meddle in kobold affairs, trek through a mushroom forest and face the God-Fish-Snake-Thing. All the while trying to not become mutated themselves. It won’t be an easy task, but someone has to put an end to – the Curse of Buckthorn Valley!

This 33 page adventure uses fourteen pages to describe three level of a dungeon with about thirty rooms. It’s pretty basic. Like, remember how some of those B/X adventures were almost childish? Language, etc? This does that. Writing is unfocused, but it has some decent evocative ideas … it just doesn’t do so well executing them. 

So, descriptions. Here’s The Mother of Vicious Spiders: “She’s large as a dog. Dark green with red stripes. Purple goo is dripping from her mouth.” Not so bad! A little simplistic, but its trying. Likewise an entrance covered by hanging moss or “Old wet stairs lead downwards. Descending the stairs feels like you’re walking forever before eventually reaching the bottom.” When the adventure is doing this like this then it’s doing a good job, or at least a decent one. Writing evocative descriptions takes practice, but you have to START with an idea in your mind, and the descriptions here show that the designer has that, at least in some cases. Execution could be better, but that’s just about universal.

Alas, those descriptions are the exception rather than the rule. Far too often the adventure engages in Used to Be’s.  This room used to be this thing but not it’s not. That adds nothing to the adventure. All it does is distract the DM from the important bits, y hiding them in these unimportant bits. Noone cares what he room used to be. What is it NOW? How does it contribute to play NOW? This is not, as I said, a victimless crime. All of these extra words hide the important stuff from the DM.

“The water appears to be blue-green.” No, it’s not. It’s blue-green. The water is blue-green. This appears stuff is just padding. Rays book on Editing covers these sorts of padding words quite well.

Linear map. Joy. 

Long italics sections that are, because they are in italics, hard to read. Joy.

But, it does have a decent wanderer chart. A shepard is convinced someone in the party owes him 2SP and won’t let it alone. That’s great! Other encounters show the same type if idiosyncrasy that is required, specificity that brings the encounter to life without dragging out the word out to something cumbersome. Another regional site is with bandits in a ruined tower. A suspicious village mayor wants them cleaned out. Except they are just lepers, not bandits, friendly and want to be left alone. Fun!

It’s got a good idea. This kind of failing valley because of a curse (unknown to everyone) water source. Mutants/lepers wandering around, not evil, but pariahs.  And then there’s the dungeon. It’s just basically an also-ran. Mostly very little interactivity with basic descriptions that tend to the “kiddie game” D&D B/X genre from the bad 80’s adventures.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2. The preview proper is 8 pages, but you can of course download the entire thing for free.

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8 Responses to The Curse of Buckthorn Valley

  1. Robert, OSR Heretic says:

    I’ve noticed that when the intro blurb describes the adventure in third person, you end up with a crappy adventure. Designers would probably do better by coming up with something more engaging than “In order to stop this curse the adventurers have to explore a 3 level dungeon”.

  2. Anonymous says:

    On first glance I liked the cover and really wanted to play this adventure, but then I looked around the mushrooms and no other wee creatures or mysterious eyes in the dark could I see. Needs a bit more character I think.

  3. Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

    A shepard is convinced someone in the party owes him 2SP and won’t let it alone.

    That’s great, I would totally play this side development like this…

  4. Shuffling Wombat says:

    I don’t disagree with most of your comments, but I think you have sold this one short. I would say the dungeon is linear with branches, certainly not a gauntlet. And it is readable, despite some italics. The set-up and possibilities in the region are probably more interesting than the dungeon; I would like to see more development of whether or not the mutants can now be cured when the chalice is recovered; does the political landscape change? The situation in the tower reminds me of “The Colony” (of mutants) in “The Dying of the Light”, a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventure. Maybe the appearance of a witch/demon hunter character would enliven proceedings.

    • Ancient Basilisk says:

      I second this.

      I read the module (before reading this review) and enjoyed it quite a lot. It feels like it might be targeting new players (and younger maybe) rather than grognards.

  5. kenesui says:

    What is “Rays book on Editing “?

    • Jeff V says:

      It’s “Writing with Style: An Editor’s advice for RPG Writers”. If I put “Ray Book Editing” into this site’s search box I get it as the sixth result.

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