By WR Beatty Rosethorn Publishing S&W Levels 1-3 (in a pigs eye!)
First there was that storm. Old Gorby says he ain’t never seen such a fuss kicked up, and he’s near a hundred years old. So many lightning strikes, trees burning in the woods for days. If it hadn’t been for all the rain that came, sure there’d be no Hope Cross left today. Then the sheep ran off, and that’s ain’t supposed to even be possible, what with the Witchwoman’s charm at the Shearing Shed. Then that… stranger came to town. Said he was looking for something in the darkness. Came at full noon, he did. Probably mad. No one was unhappy to see him leave. And now Adam Shepherd is missing.
This 39 page adventure features a small village, its surrounding region/hex, and a twenty one page dungeon described in about six pages. It could be thought of as a home base, or a lot of supporting information for the adventure, proper. There’s also little way in hell this is for firsties. The adventure is fine, and the rest a little wordy. One of the weaker Rosethorns, but still pretty decent.
What this adventure is is A LOT of supporting material for a small dungeon. There’s a hole in the ground with an evil dude in it. It’s near a village. So we get the village described. And the region around the village also … because you’re likely to end up both in the village and in the region around the village as you go exploring for Alan Shepherd. (Who is, indeed, a Shepherd.) Along the way you get some NPC’s described, businesses, and a few local monsters … most of whom are just fey or neutral and not really hostile. There’s a secret or two to be discovered, but nothing very interesting.
I can go a couple of ways on this. First, having the surrounding region to explore and follow up on is a great thing. Actual overland exploring (with decent wanderers tables, as are present here) is great. Walk around, see the sights, talk to people, get some clues. It’s good. The entries are just about the right length to support this “here’s a big place with a general overview of it” type of description. The town … well, it’s got some local color, well described, if a bit lengthy for the amount of actual play you’ll get from it. A little too MERP’y for “Your standard middle cl.ass inn”, for example. But, when it’s hitting, it’s hitting well. For example, Gire’s Tavern is “a hole in the wall, a large taproom with dirty rushes and stinky dogs on the floor, rodents running freely, and flies buzzing all around. Drinks are cheap and watered down, the atmosphere is smoky, food is suspect. Still, Gire’s is the place that the farmers, herdsmen and fishermen congregate so on most nights the main room is full.” Good job for three sentences. The wide number of locations in town and the region to explore/that are describes reflects that appeal to naturalism and the parties propensity to explore more than hard core game content. Descriptions are kept high level, for example with the local worthies manor, when appropriate. And, like that famous Keep, there’s more loot to be had by hitting the pixies/tax collector/worthy than in the dungeon proper.
The dungeon rooms have a fair degree of interactivity with things to break in to, look at, play with, and explore … at least for a 21 room dungeon. It’s got a potential ally in it, as well as being STUFFED FUCKING FULL of 3HD, 4HD, and more, creatures. A few Shadows, in particular, come to mind. And a saving throw every round or be compelled to be drawn to the mini-boss fight room of the Avatar of Darkness, in total darkness, in which people with a CON <13 don’t get to act at all. The Rosethrown Highlands series reminds me, in more than one way, or Kramers Bone Hilt, including how fucking tough they are. Multiple visits and using strategy instead of tactics is likely to win the day. And that regional format/expanded town certainly supports a multiple visit playstyle. Still, levels 1-3? Maybe 3-4 or 2-4 with a good party.
From memory, this feels more expansive than I recall Rosethorn adventures of this size. The surrounding countryside, specifically. And yet it also feels a little looser than I recall from the products. The writing not as tight. The entries a little longer, or less specific and less evocative. On a ten point scale, Rosethron seems to hit between a 6 and an 8 most times. I’m going to slap this one down in a 7, putting it in the Regerts category.
This is $3 at DriveThru. There’s no preview. Naughty naughty WR!