By James Embry Self Published Raven in the Scythe
Monsters lurk in the wilderness, mysterious caves hold unknown treasure to be found, and restless spirits haunt an abandoned manor house. It looks like Midshire is in need of adventurers.
This 72 page adventure uses about thirty pages to describe four small “adventures”. Oof, does it have issues.
First, it’s not OSR. It’s in the OSR section of DriveThru but it for some homebrew system. It looks vaguely D&D fantasy, but with different stats, combat, etc. Who knows why. Anyway, not a good start. But, I’m going to review it anyway for it is a good example of how to not do things with adventures.
Note the large page count, but, the adventure page count is rather short. That’s normally a sign something is wrong. This IS a regional type thing, with a town, etc, so we can make allowances for that, but it still is off. This indicates some sort of overinvestment in something other than usability/interactivity at the table. Only what the players will experience, and little else, is what an adventure supplement should generally be about.
In this case we have a small town at the beginning of the book. It is full of extensive price lists. The shop descriptions contain such descriptions as “A baker is someone who bakes bread into various forms such as loafs or even sweet pastries.” So …. Yeah. A chair is something you sit in. This s the definition of padded. I’m not sure what is going on here. A brief look at the RPG system seems to indicate its not explicitly targeted at children, which might be one reason to do this. Another might be some kind of misguided format that the designer feels they must stick to. There might be a Ghjsdfiuyd in town, and even old hands might not know what kind of shop that is, so, we get a little description, which is fine. But then, because we think we need to do that with EVERY entry, we get in to the padded text situation where we’re told what a baker is. This is of pandering to the lowest common denominator, or slavish devotion to a format is NOT OK. Designers need to leverage the DM at the table instead of pandering to them. This format countries with the wandering monsters “This is an encounter with a Black Bear” or in the dungeons “This room is a Kitchen.”, describing what we already know about things, padding them out.
Our four adventures consist of Rats in the Basement, Basilisk on the Prowl, A two level cave system, and a hunted mansion. None are good.
Rats takes about a column to describe. There are rats. The map of the basement just shows a map with things like “4 rats” labeled in the rooms. A text description notes two rooms have boxes and the retreating rats flee to the “7 rats’ room. Oof. Just fucking number it. Put in a room description. Try to do SOMETHING along the lines of evocative writing and interactivity other than combat? Cause that’s all this is: a video game grind quest of just killing rats. I can’t think of anything worse. Maybe if it were an old ladies house, maybe.
The Basilisk is, hmmm. Strange. People don’t really care that it eats their livestock, but, her, it would nice if this dangerous creature was taken care of. It’s this weirdly abstracted and generic description of things, the situation. It lives in a cave. Up a cliff. That requires an acrobatics roll to get to. How the fuck does IT get in to the cave? I’m not a super stickler for realism, I think it’s usually not appropriate. An appearance of realism, a grounding in it, sure, but I don’t care about the monster having access to fresh water” and so on. But sticking your monster in a cave up on a cliff, a monster that doesn’t fly? It’s just … like no one was putting two and two together. And the cave system … it’s full of slimes and fish people. Well, three of the rooms. I guess the basilisk doesn’t care? And the fish people don’t care about the basilisk? It’s just weird. And the text goes on and on for no real purpose. Room two in the cave take sup a quarter a page to tell us there are bats in a room with a wooden box. It’s just … I don’t know. Strange, how abstracted, padded, and generic it is. SImple, and not in a good way.
The haunted mansion just has super long room descriptions and little else, relying on wandering rolls for “atmosphere.” A column. A quarter page. To describe … nothing.
There’s very little evocative writing. There’s almost no interactivity beyond pure combat “the attack as soon as the party enters the room.” The encounters, proper, fully describe one thing before moving on to a another, making it difficult to summarize the room quickly.
This one just makes no sense at all. I mean, sure, you can figure out the adventure. But, the choices made for how to get there. I guess it’s better than being incomprehensible?
This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. It shows you a few pages of the town. “This is the bakery. They make bread.” A preview needs to show some of the adventure, so the purchaser can get an idea of what they are buying before they buy. This don’t do that.