By John Walts Dark Eagle Games 5e Level 3
A young girl has been abducted and the heroes join a posse to hunt the orcs who did it. But they face several terrible temptations while rescuing her.
This eight page adventure details elevent linear plot encounters in about three pages. It’s abstracted text, with lots of hemming and hawing in an attempt to not give details. The moral quandary is not really that tempting.
And the moral quandary is why I’m reviewing this. “Several temptations …” is something that caught my attention, in the marketing blurb. The deliciousness of temptation, the tension of making decisions, is one of the best parts of a RPG. I was hoping to see something that would really make the party sit up and take notice and really cause a quandry. One one hand you’ve got a hag who wants to keep the abducted little girl she is raising. You’ve also got an orc warlord that just wants the party to go away … that you are supposed to be killing to appease the hag. In both cases you’ve got an evil NPC asking the party to not interfere, and offering something in return. In theory, this is a great set up. I always like to say that you can resort to stabbing a monster at any time, but a little roleplaying first makes the encounter all the better (in general.) And this adventure is going down that path. But in both instances the offered temptation is not really enough to make it worth the party selling out. Save a little girl or get a chest with some furs and wine in it from the orc warlord? This being 5e, monetary rewards are kind of meaningless anyway, since they don’t lead to XP and they tend to be rather small … maybe 1500 gp worth in this case. The hags offer is a little better, she’ll add 50% to your lifespan if you just go away and leave her the girl. Both, though, are kind of abstracted rewards (because of the cash situation in 5e.) One day the hag will eat the girl, when she grows old and dies. Is leaving her worth the 50% more lifespan? These rewards are not enough. Sure, the DM can modify and/or it could be situational, the party might NEED that 50%, but in general the selling point of the adventure, the quandry, is not really a temptation at all. Even _I_ would go all Righteous Justification on those two, and I love me some NE playstyle.
The adventure, proper, is abstracted in a way that is not good. The designer notes this up front, saying that he prefers a more outline style of style instead of spelling everything out. In general, I would agree. The overwritten text of adventures is a thing of legend, and pushing back against that is laudable. But the designer goes too far in to the abstracted format. There is a mob of peasants forming to go get the girl, and a sheriff leading them, but the mob is entirely abstracted and the sheriff all but so. No real names, personalities, or flavour to help the DM out and add tension and memorable moments to the game. Now, I’m NOTT calling for overwritten text, but specificity is needed to ground a DM and get them headed in the right direction, a shove as it were, and that’s just not present here. That mob would have been a great place to have a paragraph or a few sentences on, but nothing. And this is a pattern that repats over and over again.
Up to and including the lack of maps. I don’t need a map, and certainly not a tactical one, but the text is confusing when it describes the battle environments and a map, even a simple line drawing, would have cleared that up easily. Further, it would have added, hopefully, some tactical options in places like two guard dogs outside of the hags home.
I’m quite disappointed with the complete lack of any meaningful description. The hag, the orc camp, the mob, nothing is covered in any way to lead the DM to a good encounter. There needs to be something, not a lot, but something, to spark those DM juices. Just saying “its a giant hag” is boring as hell. Generic.
[I will note without further comment the designers comments that this should be a storytelling game, and the DM’s goal being to elicit emotions and entertain the players, as well as noting tha the classic “5 room dungeon” format was used..]
It’s a generic outline of a linear adventure without tension.
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1. The preview is five pages and you get a good idea of the adventure from it, since it shows all of the encounters. There is one good moment, in a text box, but the rest of the genericism should be self evident from it.