By Rob Alexander Medium Quality Products OSR Levels 2-3
In Claine Forest near Padduck Village there has appeared a pit. No-one knows where it came from, it just did. It is not so deep that you cannot see the bottom, but people fear it and avoid it. No-one who has climbed into it has come back, having been dragged beneath the surface by unseen hands. A necromancer has come to the forest, seeking the pit. She does not quite know what she expects from it, but what she hopes for is protection from death.
This 26 page digest adventure details a search through a forest for a mythical Dead Zone pit. It pours out flavour in nearly every word, creating delicious situations for the party to interact with. And the give-away was this is labeled for levels 2-3. This designer is not on auto-pilot.
We got a village, two rival groups of adventurers, a weird-ass forest, and somewhere in the forest a pit, your final destination. From this, joy is made. Each one of those elements has their component parts well done and, because of this the whole is a wonder. Really, it’s pretty fucking simple. The village has some people in it. They are well done. It has some short rumors. They are well done. The forest has some wanderers. They are well done. The forest has atmosphere. They are well done. The forest has locations. They are well done. The NPC parties have goals and character. They are well done. Thieving everything together is a simple timer. It’s all just basic basic shit. The core elements to an adventure and the core components to those elements. But here, they are well done.
The villagers, and indeed all of the NPC’s, are great. They have some key personality aspects, bulleted for easy finding. 50’s, grey-haired, stooped. Perfect! (and terse!) Has terrifying visions of war and turmoil Takes herbal remedies. A soldier that has seen too much … who gives negative advice to guide you, ultimately, not in to what you are trying to do. A guy who wants to be a soldier but if afraid of leaving the village. Virile. A reputation for bravery … but it all stems from killing a wolf once who was after some sheep. A dude that wears too many plates on his armor. The hangers on for the rival necromancer are not just generic thugs. Oh no! They are all sick, and want a cure from the necromancer. “Threadbase hangers-on, attracted by the promise of cures.” This frucking shit is all based on REAL human needs, wants and desires, not come cartoony generic villain shit. And it SHOWS. You can grok this shit IMMEDIATELY and it resonates so much more because of that. THis is some shit that you can REALLY sink your teeth in to as the DM.
The vibe in the forest is right out those long quiet dreamy shots in Stalker, maybe mashed up with some Blair Witch forest stuff. “Shallow pit full of squirrel, rat, and stoat skeletons. Freaky forest shit, blair witch” Fuck! Yes! More! Please! It’s got this weird vibe to it. One you can’t quite place. But it is one of the most haunting things I’ve seen, without ever really trying to be so. One of the wanderers is a dog “The front “half” is alive but its spine and ribs snake off endlessly out of sight. Follow it, and it will lead you (eventually) to a cold hell where a bird-demon on a rock will offer you 500 xp to murder each of three people who have loving families that depend on them.” So fucking much in such a small package! Oh! Oh! And the fucking “Manimals!” (Props to the 80’s!” demorfed animals with gaping mouths that they pull their jaws and olips back over their heads to swallow big things. Bloated shape, disgusting gait. Sweet!
And, just like that dog wanderer, the encounters are a joy of delicious decision making. Take a stone tomb you run across. “A heavy stone tomb contains an upright glass coffin. A tall man in a dark robe is propped up in there; he has a rather lumpy complexion but is otherwise well-preserved. Behind him are placed a wand, an earthenware bottle, and a leather
money bag.” You want that fucking wand, don’t you? Let me tell you, your fucking MU wants that fucking wand. You’re gonna fuck with it, ain’t you? That’s it! That’s it in a nutshell! The friendly ogre wearing the jeweled crown! You WANT it. Are you willing to tempt fate to get at it? Oh, those are wonderful D&D moments! And the dude? He’s not necessarily evil. Or, at least will attack you outright. Nor, it turns out, the Necromancer. Even if she turns herself in to a lich.
The only caveat here is to somehow communicate to the party ahead of time that hte journey is the destination. The pit is not a dungeon. You don’t go there and THEN do something long. The forest thing IS the adventure, and while the pit is interesting, and things happen there (just like the wish room in Stalker) it’s the overall thing that’s important. A party expecting otherwise would be disappointed … and I thin the adventure could do just a tad more to set that up.
Pay what you fucking want and two fucking dollers. Please! Worth much more than that!
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2. The preview is three pages. You get to see a page describing a rival adventuring party, and some wanderers. Maybe one of the forest locations would have been nice also, but you can CLEARLY get an idea as to the quality from those NPC descriptions and wanderers. Not gonzo. Just GUD.