Clock Strike Zero, D&D adventure review

By Bill Petrosky, Matt Sisk, JP Fridy
Minor Realm Games
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.

This entry was posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Clock Strike Zero, D&D adventure review

  1. Anonymous says:

    Bryce, I can’t believe that the authors are trying to get $10 for this crap and that DriveThru is allowing this to be sold on their site! DriveThru should have a peer review process BEFORE an adventure is placed on their site! DriveThru could easily create a Bryce the Best and a Bryce No Regrets sections!

  2. Anonymous says:



  3. Anonymous Too says:

    Peer review didn’t stop the field of Psychology from a 25% replication rate. It’s a bad system. There is already a normal review system in place that should alert people when crap is overpriced but the customers are either too polite, too lazy or too happy eating crap.

  4. Gus L says:

    Perhaps the issue of mediocre elf game content being sold for money isn’t something that is to be solved by replicating the academic or scientific establishments gatekeeping efforts? Not only would such plan be doomed, but low stakes and the hobbyist nature of game design is part of its appeal.

    Instead maybe it’s worthwhile to examine the hobby’s tendency (or our culture as a whole’s) to lionize the commodification and sale of everything we produce.

    You can relentlessly monetize your hobbies or art, make every step towards learning how to do things better into a hustle for a few dollars. Some may have to? Should you if you don’t? Does doing so have a negative impact on you and the hobby community at large? Who am I to say. I will say we should judge professionally priced products by much stricter standards.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      ” The logic of war seems to be if the belligerent can fight, he will fight. That leaders will not surrender until surrender is academic. How is a national leader to explain the sacrifice of so much for nothing? ” – Frankie Goes to Hollywood

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with you! That said there is something non capitalist about what you are saying. Capitalism and art is bad! To which, I agree!

      Disney is the worst, who needs art when you have communities and fans.



    • squeen says:

      Some of the appeal of the Lake Geneva TSR crowd products is that it was clearly not produced by Madison Avenue. It’s hobby/DIY nature inspired us to try our hands at it too.

      Really visionaries like Walt Disney, Gary Gygax, and Steve Jobs who also had financial success in addition to artistic are a small few. But, as when Job was kicked out of Apple in the 90’s, and again with today’s post-Jobs Apple—we see time and time again that those who seek primarily to make money, only succeed in making money for themselves (and nothing else of lasting value to the world).

      So what drives the artists? Why put oneself through the wringer to mass produce, if not to earn a living? A perpetual paradox.

      Gus’ point is a good one. This is your hobby. Notionally you aren’t in it for the cash. So don’t get too wrapped up in the business side—it’s orthogonal to why you started playing and started creating in the first place. There’s been some comments over at Gronardia about how important Business Gary was for to us all to be playing D&D—granted. But business eventually overwhelmed him, such that his creative output dried up. It had started happening even before he (like Jobs) was ejected from his own company.

      • Anonymous says:

        Good post! Its so hard to make money in RPGs and it means people are in it for the love.
        I dig that. I don’t think low yield industry is a bad thing.Also agreed, anyone who knows history sees how bad Gary was at bussiness.
        TSR would still be a company if not for idiots.But you know what, I don’t mind at the end of the day they made Barrier Peaks and G1.Art man, thats life

Leave a Reply