By Joseph Robert Lewis Dungeon Age Adventures OSR/5e Levels 1-3
Everyone says the world is dying. Today you meet a stranger who has already seen it happen. She has traveled back through time to save the world…but only if you can save her! An eldritch woman from the future begs you to save her from her sister, who wants to drag her back to her own time. To close the time portal, you must climb down through the buried corpse of a kraken. The prize? A giant diamond worth 10,000 GP…if you can pull it out of the portal!
This 28 page adventure features a dungeon in a fossilized kraken with about 22 or so rooms. It has a kind of airy, dreamlike thing going on. Mythic, but not in an epic way, you feel like you’re somewhere else. Excellent writing, interactivity, and all the rest combine to create something that you’re excited to run and share with your players. Dungeon Age seldom disappoints.
What is “good”? This is one of those things I like, even in real life, that drives the people around me crazy. See a movie with the girlfriend and she asks “Did you like it?” and I respond “What does like mean?” … in all seriousness. This thing, though, is clearly good … whatever that means. 😉
It has this kind of mythic, airy feel. Almost dreamlike. Not EPIC, although the set up could be construed as that. Not a dream, but this otherworldliness feeling even though it is, essentially, a dungeon. It’s a combination of the elements used and the style in which they are presented that deliver on it all.
A cracked mud flat. Delicate blue flowers with tiny red crabs, a tower leaning dangerously askew. Three huge grey tendrils wrap around it. A flash of blue light from an upper window, whisps of violet smoke, a woman shouting in anger. This is the opening scene. The ground floor, a cloud of violet smoke, a dream-fox, barking at you to not interfere as it climbs a stone tentacle to the upper floor. Blue light flickers, the ceiling booms, dusts rains down on you. A weird woman, tale, golden, with small tentacle begs for your help. Her world, the future is ending, and she needs you to close the portal below, wedged open by a diamond as big as your head, to keep her sister from hunting her down while she tries to save her own future. WHich, the adventure notes, doesn’t matter. Dreamy. Ethereal. You KNOW shit is going down. And yet, the stakes are minor, it’s impossibly far in the future. You’re not actually saving the world, not in the way trope fiction would have you.
The format is three column, about one column per room. A small read-aloud, easy to grok, a quick hit of a few sentences, quite evocative. Words are underlined and then those words have their details explained in bolded bullets below. It’s easy to scan. And, in the less is more category, the imagery is strong Strong STRONG. You KNOW these places. These things.
Creatures are well described, interesting, with interesting new effects. The dream fox, when it dies, looks you in the eyes and describes the time (soon) and place (aweful) of your death. [DM Note: this is always false.] Oh, but what a wonderful effect for the party to deal with!
Magic is new and interesting. The Remora’s Necklace is a seahorse pendant and makes you invulnerable whenever you are asleep. The drowning flare is a candle that only works underwater and goes out when removed from it. Described. Interesting effects. Described in terms of what they do, not in terms of mechanics. The way a fucking magic item should be! Mundane treasure is prevalent and hard to remove, but maybe the logistics benefit organizing a way to get all of those pearls, or obsidian …
“Knowledge, wealth, power!” whisperers her sister … ready to give you a Wish if you will just bring her sister to her … there’s no right answers in this adventure. It just IS. Oozing with evocative descriptions. A format that makes it trivial to run … I dare say without even reading it (which, while not a requirement, is testament to how clear it is.) People to talk to. Things to do. Creatures to hack. Temptations to explore.
I’m flaming out on this review, the way I always do when something is really good. This is really good.
This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is sixteen pages, showing you everything to need to see to make a buy decision. And, it’s only $2? Pffft.
Keep up the good work Mr. Lewis! Your body of work is super solid, I want to read your books now.
Do you have a home game? If so, what is it like?
For 5e Kelsey and Dungeon Age is where its at. If players insist on supes why compromise.
Thanks so much!
My home game is a campaign called “Nemesis Queens”, you can read about it on my blog (www.josephrobertlewis.com). I’m using the whole campaign as a playtest and will publish the material when the campaign ends (hopefully late next year). It’s pretty grim and low magic, set in my Dungeon Age world of Harth, in a Siberian wilderness. It’s lots of witches, vampires, and Slavic folklore creatures.
And I’m about to publish a Dungeon Age novel called “Wayward Magicians” which is an homage to Jack Vance set in my world too.
So the content of the module came from outside your campaign?
I am super interested, of the Dungeon Age material you have published. How much goes to paper first, and how much out of the player/ your home game?
There must be overlap because it sounds like the players are in your world and that of the books.
My Dungeon Age content (home campaign, published adventures, and novels) gently intersects at the edges, they mention each other but they dont overlap too much, so it all paints one big picture of a world but it all stands on its own too
I will have to look for Easter eggs! Have your players in the home game played any of your published modules or do you go elsewhere to playtest adventures?
I playtest all my adventures as one-shots with my home group when they want extra games or when we don’t have enough players to continue the campaign
Just started reading this; well written and concise. I like it. I really liked the Pacifist Vampires and also how you give space for players to be murder hobos.
Thanks! I try to set up scenarios that can be interpreted lots of ways by my players so that always have choices (and often dilemmas!)
I did not know you had a blog! You should get on https://campaignwiki.org/wiki/Planet/Please_join!
Its the best RPG blog planet IMO
Actually my blog has been on RPG Planet for a while now, I agree, its great!
Oh man. I really hope there’s enough room in the market for two Siberian settings. 🙂
Seriously, I’m a big fan of your adventures and look forward to seeing what you do with the region. Does it incorporate anything from the non-Russian cultures of the area? That’s been the focus of my work and campaign and researching it has not been cheap.
Hi Brandon, thanks so much!
Actually yes, I am drawing on Slavic/Eastern European cultures as well as Mongolian/Kazakh cultures for Nemesis Queens. I’m trying to capture a wider swath of central Asian elements.
But as you say, I suspect there is room in the world for more than one RPG adventure in this region!
Quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers!
Thank you so much!
It weirds me out when Bryce feels something other than despair or rage
Spoiler: I was secretly hired by Bryce’s cardiologist to help manage his blood pressure. If it weren’t for that, I would only publish 100-page modules that describe a single encounter with three standard goblins with no treasure.
EVERYTHING IN ITALICS
in red text on dark grey background
I grabbed a copy of this. I’m intrigued and the price is certainly right. Worth a look at the very least
I’m doing a couple simple battle maps for this one, intended for roll20 or similar. The first one (the giant eye that the eye-monsters come out of) is up on my blog here:
Thanks for the great review Bryce! When I run it I’ll see if I can do up a play report 🙂