Mount Saint-Mikkel, D&D adventure review

By Tollkraft
Dondrobat Productions
OSR (5e?)
Levels 4-6

In a secluded corner of the countryside, on top of a hill stands Mount Saint-Mikkel. An ancient power awakened there and since then, the region has been subject to raids by the undead.

You have been assigned to solve the problem… Baron Solreigh was surprisingly honest when he recruited you: if he offers a pouch of gold to whom will end the troubles that afflicts the mount Saint-Mikkel area, it is because it’s very dangerous. He has not received news from any of the two groups of men — one of soldiers, the others composed of its five best knights—he successively sent there. And if he’s going to lose more men, he’d rather they not be his own!

Reports mention an ever-growing troop of the undead swarming the villages around mount Saint-Mikkel—an old priory and pilgrimage destination long declining— leaving only death and ruin in its wake. Listening to the call of adventure and your lust for gold, your group of Adventurers is on its way through the countryside. After a few quiet days, you can finally see the lonely and age-old silhouette of the priory sitting at the top of the hill through the morning mist…

This 26 page adventure uses six pages to describe sixteen linear encounters in a “dungeon” with undead. It’s ok for something linear like this; the encounters don’t overstay their welcome. But, neither are they particularly interesting (with two exceptions.) I wouldn’t Hate Life(™) if given this to run five minutes before a con game. Nor would I EVAR go out of my way to run this though. 

For the rest of this review let us assume a minimal level of competency by the designer. Descriptions are not too long, some ok use of bolding, etc. Nothing to write home about or change the existence on earth, but doesn’t make you hate life either. Great, now we can ignore that boring shit (that is usually the easiest to fix, hence my harping on it.) Also, this isn’t really an OSR adventure. It’s written for some French RPG, but essentially converted to 5e while being labeled OSR. The linear nature (and forced combats) would therefore make it more 5e than OSR.

The adventure does two interesting things. First, it occasionally handles a skill check well. In one notable example, you find a cave if you are following footsteps … OR you can make a PER check if you are not. That’s how you handle a skill check in the OSR. If you search you find the fucking trap, otherwise you fling yourself to the fickle hand of fate. There’s also a read-aloud or two that is done right, noting that a roof looks unstable implies donger when exploring the room, for example. Hints in the description to the player are what develops true player skill, not the min/max CharOp bullshit that passes for player skill.

There are also The Knights Who Went Before. You end up meeting three of the five. The first, in a cave, a broken man who you can bring out of his misery, perhaps. The second, a ghost, who tries to possess a party member so he can continue his oath to defeat the evil. The third, currently possessed by The Demon (and thus the big bad) can actually be saved by separating him from a cursed sword, and keeping him separated for an hour or two as he regains his senses. This is so much different than the usual “corrupted forever” or “just fight and stab stuff cause thats the part of the game were in” dreck that usually happens. There’s more nuance here. It FEELS more real because of it. It’s not just a pretext for a combat. That’s good design.

It makes some of the usual mistakes. Long sections of italics in the read-aloud. The read-aloud says things like “you are startled” and “you see”, both using a “you” perspective and telling the players what their characters think/feel instead of writing something that MAKES the players feel that feel. You have to make a STR test to walk up a hill. It uses a fancy illuminated font for the keys in the text, making it harder to find the associated key.

A couple of things of special interest. First, the maps here are … interesting. Rather, they kind of LOOK interesting. There’s a decent overland map (that I think is probably never used?) and a detailed dungeon map. Both of which are essentially illegible. Too dark, not enough detail, or, perhaps, the pertinent detail is lost in the colors. You just can’t make out what is going on, where the cliffs are, etc. Which is too bad, it looks like it could have been an interesting complimentary map. I mean, if it weren’t a linear dungeon.

Then there’s the handwaving. I saw this in the context of the page count. Six pages for the adventure, recall. And yet certain parts of the adventure are handwaved, essentially everything but the room keys proper. Asking around in villages gets you that undead block the road and that there are mines under the monastery that you can use to get in. It’s literally handled in one sentence, also verbatim for what I typed there. And there’s nothing about the region around the monastery, the undead on the road, etc. If your party wants to try that there’s nothing there to support the DM. GO DOWN THE LINEAR DUNGEON BECAUSE THATS WHAT THE dESIGNER WANTED YOU TO DO. A page, to cover rumors in the village and/or the region around the monastery, the undead attacks, etc, would have been great. Just a fucking page, for context. To add something for the DM to run and support them. But, no.

So, is it offensive? Well, no, not overly so. Is it something that I would ever want to run in a million years? No. Not at all. The knight thing can be stolen for a better adventure, but that’s about it.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1. The preview is ten pages and you get to see the map and the first three or four rooms. This gives yo ua good idea of what you are buying, so, a good preview. Take a look at that map; looks interesting, right? And the formatting of the room keys is ok also.

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4 Responses to Mount Saint-Mikkel, D&D adventure review

  1. squeen says:

    Looks like the maps were pasted in directly from a computer program/game.

    Sadly, this will probably be the trend as the hobby moves from the table top to the tablet.

  2. Hello Bryce,

    I’m Tolkraft, the guy behind Dendrobat Prod. I’m French, 40, and I have played RPGs for 8 years now.

    I kinda stumble upon your review by chance (on BGG, and it never occurred to me that BGG has an RPG section ?), and I wanted to thank you for your honest review! I’m just a bit sad to discover it only now.

    “Mount Saint Mikkel” is my first written Fantasy adventure and started as a small One-shot to introduce people to Talespire (the software used to create – and play within – the 3D maps). As all groups had a blast playing it, I decided to release a published version, with 2D maps (basically, screenshots from Talespire), along with links to the 3D maps to play with Talespire.

    So yes, you are right, I designed the adventure as a simple and straightforward dungeon, and did not think of expanding the area and context.
    In my mind, “Mount Saint Mikkel” is designed for rookie GM and players, hence :

    – the linear layout (there is only one possible fork in the pathway),

    – the read-aloud sections (thank you for your clues on HOW to improve them, I’ll try to take a good note and use that!),

    – the start almost right in front of the entrance of the dungeon,

    – and the handwaving : As it was intended as a 3-4 hours OneShot, I wanted players to venture straight in the dungeon, and not design clever and circumvented ways to resolve the solution.

    Yet, you are right, in the published version, I should have offered more information and freedom of movement. Beginner mistake ?

    Thank you for your compliments one some of the ideas and elements I designed right. I try to avoid or twist the usual ‘clichés’ and tropes of fantasy adventures, and offer a world in shades of gray instead of B&W.

    I’d be honored and delighted if you were willing to review my next two adventures, with the same degree of exigence and honesty.

    “The Bloody Cliff” is way more “open” in its possibilities, and probably more of what you’d expect from an OSR adventure. I wrote it for experienced GMs.

    “The Burnt Church” is a small and short adventure, centered on a unique location, so you can place it easily in your own worlds and adventures.

    Thanks !

    (PS: Oh! I just checked your profile after writing all this and discovered you are the guy behind tenfootpole ! I’ll crosspost there as well. It explains the level of accuracy of your review ?. Thank you for your precious work !)

    @Squeen : Yes, the maps are made with Talespire, a 3D Virtual Table Top. As I cannot draw, that’s the way I found to make maps. And it may not look like it, but it is not “pasted directlly from a software”. Each map is a composite of 6-10 screenshots, meticulously stitched together with Photoshop.

  3. istallri says:

    Hello Bryce and Squeen,

    Having made the map in TaleSpire, we do know the 2D version is too dark, somehting we tried to improve on other adventures.
    BUT and a big but, is that those can also be played directly in 3D in TaleSpire and then the map become a whole other beast!

    here is a trailer to it if you want to see how it look slike ‘in the real’:

    As Tolkraft said, thank you very much for your honest review, we’ll improve!

  4. squeen says:

    Sexy looking software.

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