By Bill Petrosky, Matt Sisk, JP Fridy Minor Realm Games OSRIC/5e Levels 2-4
Join a cast of ambitious, fledgling adventurers as they stop if in the bucolic backwater of Blackwyrm on the road to the capital of Herlivik. Intending to make a quick stop to rest at the local inn before resuming their journey, the intrepid travelers realize that things are not what they seem in this odd little town, and their pit stop spirals into a full-blown adventure as they’re drawn in to investigate a growing peril threatening Blackwyrm’s people.
This 45 page adventure describes a few combats in a town. Railroad plot in dysfunctional wall of text with emphasis on A Reader rather than play. Yet more meat for the grinder that is the modern adventure market. If only there were a way for the general populace to not suffer through first efforts.
An adventure made to be read and not played. But first, one nice thing.
At one point you are exploring an old church, rumored to be haunted. A tapestry can kind of fold back upon itself and a spectre emerges from it. Or … “then the tapestry will mystically form fit to the shape of a body, at once, emanating a chilling green ghastly glow from underneath of it.” This is a pretty decent way to handle the appearance of the undead, especially a spectre. When I talk about inspiring the DM to greatness then this is one of the elements I am referring to. It’s about putting an image in their mind and then letting them leverage that to greater effect. This isn’t a great example, but it’s on the right track, certainly. It’s also a rather isolated case from an otherwise poor adventure.
The first encounter of the adventure is a good example of what’s wrong in the adventure, and most adventures. It’s five long paragraphs. The first one reads “The party hikes the rustic byway of Roland Pass in the center of Western Zearus. A crisp autumn air chills them as boots meet the firming soil, with the smell of the pine and the sycamore setting a fragrant, comforting tone for what could be the most exciting time for a new unofficial clan of young adventurers.” This isn’t read-aloud, but DM text. It is clearly written as a novel. It’s using crisp autumn air and so on to create a novelization of an adventure rather than an adventure. The other paragraphs go on and on this way. “The party walks this trail as modest adventurers seeking acclaim in the north and a bit of coin in a journey filled with both heroism and self-exploration. But of course, they’ll also be seeking some fine ale and good times along the way!” This is text without purpose. It’s background information. It’s the writers guide for a Tv series or shared world. It’s not writing that is directed at a DM to help them run an adventure. It’s just allpadding, irrelevant. The last paragraph describes three hooded individuals coming out of the forest and coming straight for the party! All of this lead up. All of this build up. All of those irrelevant words … and the one part that SHOULD get a few notes is nothing more then three people in hoods walking out of the forest and attacking. Where is your spectre tapestry now? Now nuance. No build up. No tension. Just They Attack!
And this is the commonality to the adventure. There is all of this build up, background, motivation, related in the text. And then the actual encounter is just an afterthought. This is not the way an adventure is to be written. It should be written to be run at the table, not to be read. I know, I know, all adventures are written to be read. The industry has done a poor job of providing examples.
Ignoring this, and ignoring the long sections of italics (which are hard to read and should never be done), ignoring the first quarter of the page count which is a travelogue, ignoring the long read-aloud, and ignoring the fact that a major town with a 500 foot tall clocktower is called a bucolic backwater …
There are at least two major adventuring sites with multiple locations. Neither gets a map. This modern design trend to not include maps is crazy. You have to fight the fucking text to try and figure out where things are in relation to each other. I THINK it’s all just a linear thing (but not the haunted church?) but a fucking map would have dispelled all of this. It’s NOT designed for ease of use. It’s not designed to make the DM’s life easier. I don’t know what the fuck it was designed for.
And the adventure design, proper, is a confusing mess. A woman wants you to find her missing son. But, just as with the bandit attack, the ACTUAL thrist here is handled as an afterthought. You’re supposed to go to the church to search for him. There’s no tips on other places, or running the search. There’s no how to get the players in to the church that is handled in any meaningful way, just a “get the players to the church” note. That’s the fucking adventure! The search and hunt for the kid! But it’s handled as an afterthought. Not to mention why a local is turning to strangers to find her kid …
At one point the adventure presents “Adventure Path A” and then later “Adventure Path B” … without any idea of how or why one would go down one path instead of another. Where is the turning point? Is it meant to be a turning point? Who knows.
In another place you’re meant to follow a group of town guards taking a dude to jail. AT least, that’s how the linear adventure is written, as if you sneak follow them. But there’s no hint that this is the case, or that’s what you should do, or what happens if you DONT do that.
There’s no support for the DM, just endless text for a person who buys it and reads it, never to play it.
This is $10 at DriveThru. There’s no preview available. There should always be a preview, showing the potential buyer a few meaty parts of the adventure, so they can make n informed decision about to buy it or now.