Blackacre Orchard, adventure review

By Tyler Thompson
Sad Fishe Games
Zweihander
Level ?

An estate improperly acquired, an orchard besieged by vengeful spirits and decay, a labrynth of trees and a haunted house.  Blackacre Orchard was once the producer of the finest apples and cider in the Marches, but no longer- now it lay abandoned, with foul beings prowling its tree rows and manor halls.   The estate much be purged of such evils, or the evils appeased with the life of the one who wronged them, if the cider is the flow freely once more.  Whether the new owner, Tostein, or the widow of the prior owner, Amalia, survives the night depends on the actions of the player Character, but either way a warm cup of cider awaits them once the job is done. 

It’s the New Year! Let’s start it off right, shall we?! I see a lot of Zweihander flooding my feeds … for the past fucking year. Let’s take a looksee!

This 28 page adventure details a haunted orchard and cidery with a dozen or so locations. Abstracted. Devoid of interesting writing. Engaging in the typical issues with writing. I wish I wish I hadn’t killed that fish.

I don’t even know where to start.

The map to this is half numbered. Meaning that dude took a Dyson map and numbered about half or so of the rooms and then, rather than numbering the rest, tries to describe them in the text. “The smaller room on the floor is a …” Why people do this I don’t know. It’s fairly easy to throw some numbers on a map. And some numbers WERE thrown on the map in this case. But not all of them. Which leaves the DM to number and highlight themselves or try and navigate the text during play, hunting for the room descriptions in long paragraphs of text. I’d love to fuck know why people do this.

Some dude wants you to take care of ghost/curse problem in his orchard. There’s no reward mentioned AT ALL. IE: a lack of care on the designers part with not even the basics being covered. The dude is gruff, short with the party. Hesitant to describe the events on the property. What the fuck? Why do designers do this? Ok, dude, Fuck You, I guess we won’t go investigate your orchard if you can’t be bothered toat least be polite to the people who are doing the job, evidentally for free.

The descriptions are abstracted, everywhere. “Local authorities” or “local leadership” is mentioned several times. Just give thema fucking name and three words of personality! “The nightmare phylactery is above the staff in the loft.” What is the phylactery? Fuck You, that’s what it is. No detail. None at all. Instead we get sentence after sentence of “The guesthouse was once where …” and then “Unfortunately much time has passed and now …” IE: the adventure is focused on telling a literary tale, creating a setting guide, rather than actually being an adventure to be used at the table. “In each bedroom a Tenebrae resides …” and that’s it. No description. No Ghosts of the Sins of the Past. Just generic monster shit. This is what drags horror adventures down, especially. Generic ghost instead of a realized PERSON that can bring horror to the encounter. It’s just fucking abstration. And there’s nothing good about abstraction. 

To get to the house, at night, you have to endure a maze of orchard trees. Roll on a 10 entry table until you get a 10. If you get a 10 within the first five rolls, then ignore it, we are told. About six of the ten entries are monsters. So, just fight random abstracted baddies in the orchard until boredom threshold is reached. Why? WHY?

There’s little in the way of interesting writing. I think only one thing I found interesting. The widow of the former owner is now a drunk, in town, and will accost the players. SHe will get increasing agitated with them. Having encountered persistent people with increasing agitation before, I can tell you that THIS encounter is a good one. The entire adventure needs more evocative writing, less abstraction, more actual play, and some thought to the actual adventure mechanics. 

Instead, get a single rat buried in the middle of a wall of text paragraph.

Such is life …

The preview is the entire thing, which is good. But you don’t get a level range, anywhere in the product, which is bad. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/330906/Marchlands-Pocket-Adventure-Blackacre-Orchard–Adventure-for-Zweihander?src=newest_community&filters=45582_2110_0_0_0?1892600

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12 Responses to Blackacre Orchard, adventure review

  1. Robert John Douglas says:

    Zweihander is a variant of WFRP 2e, so you have careers, not classes and levels, I believe it has three career tiers: Basic, Intermediate, Advanced. Put roughly, the idea is to keep the power range equivalent to say levels 3 to 6 in a TSR D and D game. You can certainly convert WFRP adventures into TSR D and D stats, and (more likely) vice versa. With this particular offering, why would you want to?

    • Ynas Midgard says:

      Still, an adventure for Basic characters ought to be different from one for Advanced characters – the ideal “tier” could still be mentioned somewhere. Even WFRP 2E adventures talk about it (sometimes in terms of XP if I recall correctly).

      • Shuffling Wombat says:

        Absolutely correct; moreover the conversions can’t be exact, as (for example) WFRP 2e has fundamental differences to TSR D and D, e.g. there isn’t a charm person spell (but there is a charm skill), clerics can’t turn undead, etc. And it is sensible to think in terms of XP as you can make sideways career moves and pick up useful abilities. However the ballpark comparison is still useful I think.

  2. Evard’s Small Tentacle says:

    I get tons of promo for these guys too. The previews look pretty uninspired and rote though, and this review confirms that impression.

  3. Can confirm the power disparity between Basic and Advanced, and even Intermediate characters in Zweihander is considerable enough to warrant a mention while designing an adventure.

  4. Gus L says:

    From the name I can’t see much of a hook here, given that it’s arguable the haunted orchard paid its rents in produce, not so much value there. One wonder if this will be followed by The White Acre Rents, The Secret of Greenacre Farm, and in a now overly complex hypothetical — The Beast of Brown Acre?

    The main achievement of Zweihander seems to be relentless promotion, but that’s most well regarded RPG things these days — it’s unfortunate if this is the quality of adventure it brings. Blandness is blandness, underealized NPCs standard, but that “roll on a table 10 times” is the sort of overly complex ‘OSR’ design that serves no point. Have 10 encounters (also bad, but clearer) and put them on a damn map. A map you drew, or had drawn by a paid cartographer. Stealing Dyson maps ’cause you want something slick looking to sell is typical of the RPG scene, but sad.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Zweihander is so bad. Just play old WFRP or Ten Dead Rats.

    Its essentially Warhammer 3.5 with all the rules bloat. Heck even worse because of a lack of unified mechanics.

  6. Mimir says:

    I keep seeing Zweihander adventures thrown around all over the place, but I never understood what made it OSR to begin with. It’s got some of the same grim relentless “you’re just a little guy trying to make do” attitude, but it’s based on an entirely different set of core rules that never had anything to do with D&D mechanically.

    Am I missing something or is the whole thing a con?

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