Abnu’s Children, D&D adventure review

By David Henley
David Henley Productions
Level ?

Here are some tags/keywords to get your imagination going. Fugitive Heretics, Cursed worshippers, Ancient shrine, Jungle, Dust, cobwebs, and artifacts Abnu’s Children is written for Agoth-Agog a new campaign setting in development by David Henley Productions. It is a short dungeon crawl in the classic style and playable with any game system. “Beware the children of Abnu, for they bear his curse…”

This seventeen page adventure describes an eight-ish room abandoned shrine with some cultists in it. It explores an interesting concept in presenting the rooms, but fails by being generic, abstracted, and not really having anything other than combat.

This thing had me worked up, in a good way, at first. It presented an old shine off the beaten track. Jungle to be hacked through to get there. Cursed people in the woods hanging around outside, looking for salvation at the shrine, harrying the party to protect what they see as the salvation to their curse. This is all done in very quick hit sentences. “Vine choked paths leading to and around the area”, for example. Then it follows that up with a format that has the room diagram at the top of the page, followed by some bullets, and then a heading for Objective or Threats. One room per page can be an interesting way to present encounters, with lots of room for clear formatting, etc.

Except the adventure falls down at nearly every opportunity. Starting with the map. It’s unnumbered. The designer tells us that: “Locations aren’t numbered so that there isn’t a feeling of the right path.” Uh huh. Except there is very clearly an entrance, and many, may adventures use a numbered key and don’t have a right path. What this does is cause the DM to have to annotate everything to get a numbered/keyed entry. THis is NOT ease of use. THis makes things substantially harder to run at the table as you dig through the adventure pages looking for the little picture that matches the room on the larger map. Just number the fucking thing. Sure, there ARE cases where room/key isn’t appropriate. This ain’t it.

The room text is … vague? Inaccurate? Lacking? Padding? “”This room is empty except for …” or “In fact this is a …” This sor of text does nothing but pad out the text. It needs to be tighter. Ray’s books addresses this in some detail. Then some of the room descriptions are inaccurate. The first room is listed as 10×15, when in fact it’s not, it’s larger, according to the map, if we use standard 5’ or 10’ squares. 

More importantly though, the rooms lack specificity. The descriptions are abstracted and use inconsistent words. There’s a wood carving in a room. The text then refers to a statue. This is not conducive to scanning the text and had me scratching my head for a bit. Did I miss something? No, they are one and the same. In another room it mentions that the rooms objective is to descend the crumbling stairs. Except there are no stairs? In the room or on the map? No. That wood carving, it’s just a wood carving. A statue. Of a young man, Anu. What position? Anything notable? Anything specific AT ALL? No. Just description after description of this abstracted text. Specificity is a good thing. It anchors the mind and in doing so it lets the mind run wild. But no.

This extends to what little (non-combat) interactivity there is in the adventure. To open a door make three arcane checks. Weeeee! It turns out the answer IS on the character sheet after all.

Threats are usually monsters, and not listed in the room description. SO a room full of heretics gets a boring old description and then, later on, maybe on the next page, it mentions Heretics under threats. (Yes, it’s not ACTUALLY one page per room. Which turns the format from promising to TERRIBLE.) People? In the temple? I guess there’s an order or battle or how they react to the party? No. Not present.

“What you came for is behind this door.” Sigh. No real treasure to speak of. Not real magic. No real loot. Are you sure this is an OSR adventure? Margins are wide, room names are generic. There was A LOT of room here to add flavour without expanding page count or expanding the text to an unusable extent. 

“Objective: Explore the room.” That’s original. I thought that was USUALLY the objective? A salve to format is never a good idea. 

It’s too bad. The initial overview had me worked up and excited. But the execution shows all of the classic signs of generic OSR content and writing that plagues the marketplace.

This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages. You get to see the overview, that got me excited, on page five and then two rooms, showing the general layout/style of writing. So, at least in that regard, it’s a good preview.


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8 Responses to Abnu’s Children, D&D adventure review

  1. Gus L. says:

    “I have removed the stats, names and descriptions from all monsters and NPCs in this adventure so that they will remain mysterious to the players.”

    Wonder is hard to get right, mystery, a sense of the numinous, spooky stuff — great in an adventure, but not easy. I don’t know the trick to it but it’s not obfuscation, its not Undermountain style detail and its (sadly) not matrices at the starr of each key. Not sure if this is an experiment that quite didn’t work, decent execution marred by a lack of imagination or formalism crushing decent writing?

    Why are j7ngle adventures so hard? Has there been any great ones since X1?

  2. Anon says:

    If you are looking for jungle adventure, check out «Throne of Gondira» here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/m/product/322051

  3. Johann says:

    I haven’t run it yet, but Swordfish Island a.k.a. Hot Springs Island looks excellent.

  4. Reason says:

    Xoth runs a website which is probably the best Conan/Hyboria resource on the web, imo. Xoth.net

    They’ve published a few modules, I bought “the Spider Gods Bride” collection for a Hyborian Age campaign but never used it yet.

    Really good setting-wise & broadly plot-wise if you want to run Conany things but generally need a bit of rework to run or make it sing is how they usually roll.

  5. Anonymous says:

    ‘The designer tells us that: “Locations aren’t numbered so that there isn’t a feeling of the right path.”’

    Wow. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in quite a while.

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