Barrow of Sorn, D&D adventure review

By Mason Waaler
Self Published
OSR
Levels 1-2

The final resting place of Sorn is a crumbling ruin; a barrow mound of piled stone and dirt. A forgotten tomb from a previous age. Locals are wary of it, their dreams haunted by a stone coffin and a skeletal king.

This twelve page adventure features a twenty room “tomb” dungeon. It’s got some decent writing in it which takes more of the more tried & true tropes and uses them in a decent way.It fumbles about from time to time but is, generally, a decent tomb dungeon. I generally start with the positive, but I’d like to start with the negatives on this one, understanding, that, I’m going to give this one a light recommendation. 

The read-aloud is in italics. I LOATHE long sections of italics. It’s hard to read. Also, I’m not sure it’s read-aloud. It’s formatted kind of like it’s read-aloud, but it might just be a DM overview of the room. I say this because many rooms start with “Dry, Cold, dusty” or “Empty & Cold” or some other really brief hit of an idea. This makes sense for DM information and is a little weird for read-aloud. So, I’m gonna call this “Read-aloud”, for convenience purposes, but I’m pretty sure it’s just an overview of the scene aimed at the DM.

So, anyway, italics. It also seems to be trying too hard in places. “Chiseled ruins mar the floor …” Ok, so, yeah, mar is a word and it is better than nothing. “Three pillars guiard the western wall and three guard the eastern.” Yeah, I get it. I get what the designer is trying to do, and I’m happy they are trying. I do, however, take exception with the specific word choices. It doesn’t look effortless. It instead looks contrived. “Loom over the western wall” or “tower” or something else would have probably been a better choice. This is a common problem in this adventure. Yeah, I’m a fucking asshole. But, it is absolutely coming across as contrived rather than evocativly imagined.  On the right track though, absolutely. DM text can also get a bit long in places and has bouts of “[the skeletons] are implacable, unfeeling, and dedi? cated in a way only the dead can be.” Which, to be fair, is true and cool, but I’m not sure adds a lot. An off hand comment here and there is fine though.

On the plus side, it gets most things right. For example, wanderers are doing something. A spider is dragging a corpse along in a web. A red wraith weeps smoke. Similarly, the monsters themselves get great little descriptions. A wraith made of crimson smoke and a shadowed cowl. Gleaming green-black glaives. Howling, whirling and quick. Or skeletons with red script spiraling across their brows. Spiraling, isn’t that a great word?And crimson? In contrast to the “Read aloud” the monster descriptions are great and don’t seem forced at all. And, the magic items are sufficiently different to be interesting!

Other details are great as well. Those dreams of a skeletal lord in a casket? The local “wearily remark …” when questioned. It’s fucking great! You IMMEDIATELY get the sense that they have lived through this shit forever and are both tired of it and tired of explaining it to n00bs. The crypt proper? It belongs to the King of Ghosts, from when the Last Lich ruled the world. Nifty mythology! Barely glowing runes CRACK when you kill something like skeletal guards, providing a nice cause/effect thing for the party to observe. Wraiths flows from ruins. A mosaic on a wall has an eye made of an emerald … with a button behind it. It’s this kind of stuff that really marks some high points of the adventure. Parts of it make sense and FEEL imagined rather than constructed. And that’s a sign of good design. Likewise the sulky ghost who refuses to talk to you if you break in to the room where his body is stored … that you should do in order to free his soul. (For certain definitions of “should.”) 

There’s a little too much “emerging from hidden alcoves” in parts of the adventure. There’s also some conclusions thrown about instead of descriptions, like a mural depicting a wight beheading a kneeling man. This should be a description, not a conclusion. 

A decent adventure. It’s not going to win any awards, I don’t think, but it does bring a certain competence to the table. There are things to improve upon, but there usually are. 

This s $1 at DriveThru. The preview is the entire thing, so, Nice Preview! You get to know exactly the sort of content you are buying! Check out the new magic items on the last page, like The Wraithstone. Or, check out page six of the preview, the first page of keyed entries, for a sample of the room. Nice job!

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/344994/Barrow-of-Sorn?1892600

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