Desert Angel Fiasco

By Joseph Robert Lewis
Dungeon Age Adventures
Levels 1-3

Today an enchanted flying ship, the Desert Angel, will attempt to cross the uncharted Great Sand Sea. The Vahid Trading Company has convinced enough merchants to fill its hold with silks and spices, as well as some other strange odds and ends.  But Master Vahid is very worried about the safety of his new ship and crew, as well as the cargo. He is looking for trustworthy mercenaries to provide security on the Desert Angel’s maiden voyage. Payment upon (safe) arrival!

This 25 page adventure is a delightful little railroad as you cross the desert on the trans-desert flying ship route. It has about fifteen locations/events to experience. Well organized, well written, interesting encounters that, for being arrayed like a railroad, give the party as much freedom as possible under the circumstances. A fun little romp.

So, camel caravans no longer! The first flying transport ship is ready to sail across the desert in record time, three days instead of three weeks and three times the cargo! And it needs some mercenaries to ensure it makes it and the cargo stays safe. Enter our level one caravan guards. Now, this is a caravan assignment I can get behind! It’s not just that it’s fantastic, but that it FEELS like something that will appeal to the players. I’d play it up all Trip to the Moon style, or at least the Tonight, Tonight version of it. A brass band playing. The mayor and town worthies in their finery. Dudes holding ropes to keep it down, banners and pennants, a key to the city presentation … that should appeal to the party! It is on donkey kong!

The adventure is laid out with a brief (very brief) description of the ship and a very simple sailing system; roll a d6 and add/subtract a few modifiers. Captain Alive? +1. Quartermaster alive? +1. Ship damaged? -1. Pretty easy. Then comes a few NPC’s. Captain, crew, merchants. Just a little note on their appearance and another on their mannerisms, in a format that’s quite to easy to follow and scan. If they have a secret then there’s a bolded SECRET section. Quite nice format and the NPC descriptions are interesting, evocative, and easy (and fun!) to imagine. And, really nice use of triple column layout. It gives lots of room, is easy to scan in the font size used. Good use of breaks, bullets, whitespace, sections … JRL has this format thing down. I’m not saying that this is the ONLY way to format an adventure, or even the BEST way, but it certainly does what it needs to do. Good job JRL!

The ship is sailing across the desert to another city, so, it’s a railroad. Kind of. The captain mostly listens to the party and what they want to do. So the party, or a sailor, will generally see something from the ship and then they can decide if they want to stop the ship or not. There are a few events and/or “random” encounters for the ship as well, but, for the most part, the party gets to decide if they want to stop at the huge pyramid made of solid gold. So, as much freedom as possible given that it’s a journey from point A to B. 

Speaking of that pyramid … it’s got a mummy inside. The walking, talking kind. And, she doesn’t fuck the party over unless they steal or lie. Nice lady, except for the dessication. The party can actually recruit her to join the ship; she’s interested in seeing the world. Another stop has an old hermit lady who wears a mask. She can cast warp wood at will, which can repair the ship. Yeah! She worships an elder abomination … but isn’t fussy/forceful about it. Wanna learn more? That mask hides a mouth full of tentacles; you’ll need a kiss. So … she’s a little crazy, but not in an evil way. And that comes across in an easy way, without mountains and mountains of text. 

Descriptions are great, short, terse and evocative. There’s a decent amount of interactivity, mostly from character interactions on the ship and some puzzle type things (like a laser trap in the pyramid … solved, in one way, by fucking with the white crystal at the top of the pyramid, for example.) 

It may be a bit heavy on the die rolls are times … or, maybe, it just seems that way. There are a lot of sailing checks to be made, to avoid hazards, and so on, and that can feel a little heavy sometimes. 

Otherwise, this is a nice solid little adventure. It’s as close to pick and play/zero prep as I think you can get. A quick scan of the intro page and you’re off! It’s a credit to the organization and writing abilities of its designer.

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is twelve pages and shows you the ship, the NPC section, and several of the encounters. I encourage you to check out the NPC’s on page 9 of the preview and the Day 1 section, with two encounters, on the next page. They are a great example of the formatting and writing style used throughout. Nicely done.

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7 Responses to Desert Angel Fiasco

  1. BACLF says:

    Mostly linear adventure… Caravan guard trope… The Best?!?!? Who are you and what have you done with Bryce?

    • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

      Graded on a curve perhaps?

    • Sandra says:

      I also used to throw caravan guard trope linear adventures directly into the trash bin but now I’ve found myself with this huge desert sandbox and I find myself more willing to put some caravans on there. There is already plenty of opportunities for sandbox play, encounters, many other cities to visit and tribes to interact with and so on. All I’d be doing is adding something, a particular caravan or expedition that the player characters can join if they wish, decline if they wish, or join for a while and later leave as they wish.

      That was the missing key all these years to all those adventures that were filling up my trash bin. They needed the OSR sandboxy techniques that create an actual playable game world and then they can be just a li’l optional spice on top that will be followed for like two sentences and then go off the rails completely and that can be worth $2.

      ??? all of that written before I’ve seen the actual text. It might still be awful. I’ll be back later!

      Also I really resent railroady caravan guard adventures being used as “intro” adventures. Intro adventures need to be sandbox. B4 The Lost City is the best intro adventure ever. LMoP isn’t half bad.

      • Sandra says:

        OK so $2 and 25 pages later:

        This writing and layout style is awesome.
        I also really love its approach to mechanics and dice.

        In the con column there’s a lot of linearity both spatially and temporally.
        The, (trying to be vague), “career wizard” always strikes on a particular day for example. Not overly fond of that.

        Also the obvious Q: what happens when the PCs steal the ship.

        I’m gonna try to address some of these issues but I do like it and I’m already running aQ so to add this in between, say, Ajayib and Qudra or between Halwa and Utaqa seems like a great fit. This makes me wanna check out more from this author.

        I had dismissed them on DTRPG previously because the name “Dungeon Age” came across as a cheap knock-off on “Dragon Age” but I guess there are only so many words you can rearrange into game names.

  2. Jacob72 says:

    It’s very well laid out and the text is short, sharp and punchy. Having read the preview there’s definitely a Dying Earth flavour to it, and the premise reminds me a bit of one of the chapters in Eyes of the Overworld or Cugel’s Saga. That’s not a criticism.

    it is also up-front about its linearity, which is honest. As most journeys are linear that is to be expected. I guess the encounters could be mixed up a bit and have multiple paths to get to the final destination. Eg: “there’s a big sand storm ahead – do you go left, right or through it?” would provide some choice.

    Finally I think that this adventure would work well as a prelude to Moldvay’s B4 The Lost City or the Jacquay’s Caverns of Thracia (reset to a desert not jungle).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Considering it’s a “Best”, you may want to correct the module title in your post header for the author’s sake, and so people can better find this write-up in searches.

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