By Christophor Rick, Michael Spredemann 2 Old Guys Games DCC Level 2
A magical map, a solemn pact, and the halls of a lost civiliation. Could these be the fabled lands of Scarnascis? The legendary civilization that incurred the wrath of The Lords of Order? Legends say that as punishment, the ground opened and swallowed its major cities, including its capital, thus ending a protracted civil war and restoring order from the chaos. What wondrous treasures could be had within? Can you stay on the path of Order and reach the precious treasures that surely await?
This 22 page adventure has a five room dungeon described in five pages.
“Hey, that’s not much of a summary Bryce.” Yes. Yes it is. Anyone with any knowledge at all is going to read that sentence and see two problems. First, 22 pages for a five room dungeon. Second, five rooms in five pages. These two items state mountains about the adventure and it’s completely obvious to everyone that knows ANYTHING about adventure and an absolutely meaningless statement if you don’t know anything. And, like all good trueisms, is not actually true. Sure, The Paris Review COULD publish an uplifting story, but we all know that’s not the case. And, a five room/five page/22 page dungeon COULD be good. But we all know it’s not. The page count ration, 22 to five, indicates that the emphasis is on things other than the adventure at the table. Effort was spent fucking with the other shit instead of the shit tha tthe adventureres would be directly interacting with. Yeah, sure, state blocks, new monsters, new treasure. Doesn’t matter. The effort is misplaced and misplaced effort almost always means that the actual product, the adventure the players will be in, was given short shrift. Now, add on the One room per page page count. This indicates that the dungeon is over-explained. Too much emphasis is being given to detail and not enough to leveraging the DM as a tool. Can you do a room per page and have a good adventure? Sure.; I’ve seen more than a few. But it’s usually not the case. And it’s not the case here.
The map does have some little annotations on it for traps. That’s great! You can see at a glance where things are from just looking at the map and consult the reference guide, the adventure text proper. Good job.
But the room read-aloud is in italics, and therefore hard to read, as all long chunks of italics are. Further, the read-aloud is both confusing and incomplete. “The room appears empty” is followed by a list of things in the room, like a blue crystal throne and corpse on the floor. Or, you’re told that your at the top of a long cliff … with a cave going in to it. Huh?
And the DM text is LONG, as the room count implies. It’s trap/door porn, with the (extensive) traps being poured over in detail, taking up large sections of the page to explain the mechanics of them. Clarity is missing in the text, one room describing a pole in the center of the room and two holes … suddenly telling the DM that the staff puzzle is … wait, what? There’s a staff puzzle?
And there are hallway and door traps. Without warning. These generally suck. The designer notes that one, on stairs, made playtesters angry. No shit. You arbitrarily told them they died. The RA, or the DM text, should be hinting at traps, to give the players queues to search, poke, etc. Just putting a fucking trap in the middle of the hallyway/door, etc does nothing but slow the game down. “We always search everything” is what invariably comes out of the parties mouths next. Resulting in a lot of rolls. And an arbitrary trap spring anyway when the party fails one. Just roll some fucking dice at the start and tell people they are dead before they play the adventure; it will save time and result in a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
There’s nothing here. Some DCC fights in otherwise empty rooms. (This is the DCC equivalent of not putting in enough gold to get XP from in a Gold=XP game. The Fighter needs some shit in the room to do Mighty Deeds with.) Walk in a room. Maybe get in a fight. Get a couple of hidden traps sprung on you. Go in to the next room and face other arbitrary things.
WHich is too bad. The blue crystal throne, a flooding room, a room full of wind coming up from a giant pit to fly over … these are good concepts. They are just poorly implemented, not described in a very interesting way … and, ultimately, a bad value.
This is $6 at DriveThru. There’s no preview. There should be a preview of a few dungeon rooms so we, the purchasers, can get an idea if it is something we’d like to buy before throwing our money away. There IS a layout JPG inline to the adventure description page, which shows some section breaks, but you can’t really see what is going on with the text or tell how bad the writing is. (Or, good, but that’s not the case here.)