Hunters in Death, adventure review

By Tim Shorts
GM Games
OSE
"Low Levels"

Hunters in Death is set in the Komor Forest. A place that’s consumed civilizations and birthed abominations. Yet there is a single outpost, Hounds Head, that holds back the darkness. It’s a beacon for adventurers. Silver and blood are promised. And delivered. Some adventurers return with sacks overflowing with coins and jewels, but most fertilize the forest with their blood. Adventure is only a rumor away at the tavern, a trusting resident’s plea for help, or by striking out into the forest to explore the many ancient ruins. There is no path to follow, no road less traveled. Forge your own path with steel and magic. Nature does not negotiate.

This 32 page zine digest is a small regional setting with a couple of things going on, notable a couple of undead dudes killing people in the forest. It does a pretty decent job of presenting interesting situations, with decent writing, but falls down in spurring the party to adventure. 

This is a small regional setting. There’s a small “village” of a few businesses and a countryside with a few situations going on. You use the “village” as a base and then, the idea, is that you branch out, getting in to trouble in the surrounding forest area and responding to a few requests for help. 

The village is brief, just six businesses described, with a note that “several homesteads are within a short walking distance.” The businesses are relatively terse, just concentrating on what an adventurer needs with some decent flavor text thrown in. For example, the inn has hirelings, but they are only allowed to stand along the outside walls, the tables are for paying guests, and “Some are grown children wearing pots for helmets, barrelheads for shields, and sticks as weapons.” Or, the bookshop that has a double roof so there will be no water damage from leaks. It’s not the silliness of it, which they do tend towards, but rather the specificity that grounds the atmosphere of the locations. The locations, and NPC’s get these little things and you know, instantly, from these little details, how to run the entire place. What frame of mind to get in to in order to riff and add more content on your own. That’s good, specific detail, without going overboard trying to describe every last thing.

Wanderers get a decent treatment, with them usually doing something, and many of the entries are cross-referenced, to one degree or another, to help the DM locate information. Perfect.

“1. Entrance. This is the original entrance to the crypt. The trapdoor is decayed and collapsed, allowing access. It drops 20’ to a stone floor.

A pool of murky water lies below the entrance. Bits of ceiling have fallen into it. The remains of a warrior dressed in rusted chainmail rest at the bottom of the pool. A broken spearhead lies a few feet away. Beneath the warrior is the glint of silver. There are 19sp in a rotten leather pouch.”

That’s the entirety of the room 1 entrance to one of the dungeon/adventure site locations. It’s a decent description. A collapsed hole in the ground, murky water, bits of ceiling, remains of a body. That’s a pretty decent description. I can imagine it easily, and because of that I can run it easily, and riff on it easily. The designer has pushed their idea for the room from their head, to paper, and successfully gotten it in to mine. That’s what evocative writing does.

Rooms occasionally have backstory in them, and the adventure is weaker for it. A sentence, here ot there, doesn’t really matter to me, but when the rooms consistently engage in it, or a room goes overboard on the the backstory, then the adventure is weaker. It’s harder to locate actionable play data when its hidden by this trivia that in no way matters today, when the party is exploring the locale. 

But, the real issue here is the motivation of the party. This is the primary sin of most hexcrawls and/or regional adventures. The party needs a reason to get going. To get moving through the first and hitting those wandering monsters and finding those adventuring sites and following up on those breadcrumbs. I’m not talking plot, I’m talking Inciting Events. Something to get them moving. This don’t do that well.

It;s got a little section in the beginning that talks about “jobs” in town, but that’s pretty simple, like, someone runs in to tavern saying their dad is being attacked by goblins down the road. But that doesn’t lead anywhere. Kill the gobbo’s and there’s nothing really to follow up on. Almost all of the little things are like that … nothing to really follow up on. Event ‘A’ doesn’t lead to the wider world. Again, I’m not talking plot, but the product would be better if there were some breadcrumbs to follow up on, so small things to lead to the bigger encounter areas, or at least get the party moving through the forest for some other reason than “well, it’s there, I guess hat’s what we do next …”

Still, a pretty good job. I’m not sure I would run this, as is. I’d REALLY prefer a kick in the ass for the party, or a better one, anyway. For a self-contained site though it does a pretty decent job.

This is $5 at DriveThru. Alas, there is no real preview, just a mini, that gives you no idea of the writing style. This needs a real preview, showing you a page of the town, and maybe a few pages of the actual encounter sites, so a potential buyer can make an informed decision.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/328232/Hunters-in-Death?1892600

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10 Responses to Hunters in Death, adventure review

  1. squeen says:

    It just occurred to me: no one wants to hear your CHARACTER’s backstory, *and* no one wants to hear your ROOM’s backstory!

    Somewhere there must be a place all the poor, unwanted backstories can go…perhaps a novel?

    Nah! I don’t think that’s even a good narrative writing style. Even Tolkien, with his endless pages of Simarillion lore, knew better than to shovel all that stuff into the Lord of the Rings.

    Shall we just line up all the backstories against the wall, and just put an end to their miserable existence?

    Oh, I know where they belong! In the author’s head — and no where else.

    Who was it that said, “After you’ve built the Cathedral, you remove the scaffolding.”

    I think writing, “This used to be a…..” is just lazy short-hand for “I don’t wanted to be bothered writing the proper visual clues to allow you to come to any conclusions on your own, so here’s the cheat-code.”

    • Twitchy Timmy says:

      That’s a great way to explain it… “After you’ve built the Cathedral, you remove the scaffolding”. I completely agree!

    • Mike Davis says:

      ‘I think writing, “This used to be a…..” is just lazy…’

      Yup yup. What it used to be is rarely important in a game. What it IS CURRENTLY is what matters.

      • Sevenbastard says:

        Everyone should watch Fury Road as a model for vuding adventures. Backstory is gained through play, minimal exposition, let your imagination fl in the blanks.

  2. Hey Bryce, thank you for taking the review Hunters in Death.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Granted this is the job of the designer. But! Dwellers of the Ten Foot Pole! What are events and btlreadcrumbs that would work well here?

  4. Dave says:

    “HWHAT’S MY MOTIVATION?”

    Really Bryce?

    Is there gold though? If there’s gold in a sandbox in an xp-for-gold game then I’m good to go. If my group do nothing but mill around town because no one’s willing to risk their character’s life in a hole in the ground without a quest to do so then we’re playing the wrong game or I’ve got the wrong group.

    I wouldn’t mind also maybe a rumor of a moderately powerful magic item that is really there, but buried deep enough it’s not gained immediately. That would be useful. Anything more involved than that in a sandbox would please some people but turn off others.

  5. Rob Conley says:

    Rooms with backstory? Not sure what you are talking about here with Hunters in Depth. The closet is the bridge in Hunter’s Crossing. It is central focal point for the supernatural cure the place has so I think using 160 words on describing why it is the focal point is merited.

    • squeen says:

      “This room used to be…” is its backstory — OR — it’s lazy writing. Pick one.

      That said, I once had an notion for a dungeon that existed in two different times with a temporal-gate between them. That way I could write: “This used to be…” for each and every room and then go on to explain all the actionable details that existed in the past that the player actually NEEDED to survive and return home.

      The whole point was, of course, to tweak Bryce’s metaphorical nose—which was insufficient motivation for me to get off my lazy duff.

      Easy to criticize. Harder to do. So, my hat’s off the author for his effort regardless of missteps.

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