The Shifting Sands, D&D adventure review

By Joseph Mohr
Old School Role Playing
OSRIC
Levels 5-7

The desert sands of the Jural Empire are a dangerous place to visit. The sands are deep and are constantly in motion. Recently a sand storm uncovered an ancient pyramid that may be a thousand years old or more. It is believed that this may be the tomb of Emperor Nkuku who was a rich and powerful ruler long ago. What dangers and treasures might be discovered?

This 38 page adventure uses about sixteen pages to describe about eighty rooms in a five level pyramid. It is exactly what you would expect if I said “minimally keyed pyramid adventure.” It’s 5:43 am and I just put some Beam in my coffee, leftover from my weekend 44 cup coffeehouse adventure, to combat the ennui I now feel. 

I don’t understand minimally keyed adventures. Obviously. It SEEMS like someone has put a lot of effort in to this. I mean, it’s almost forty pages. There are dyson maps. Someone typed the entire thing up. There is some amount of effort that goes in to something like this. Some major effort, I’m guessing. And yet, it just feels … empty? Hollow? Like, what’s the point? 

Here’s the wandering monster table:

1. 1-4 Mummies

2. Dun Pudding

3. 1-4 Mummies

4. Dust Devil

5. 1-4 Mummies

6. 1-4 Mummies led by a Priest of Raal

Are you inspired, now, as a DM to run an awesome game? Is this something better than you could have written on your own? Does your mind leap at the possibilities of a table with “1-4 Mummies” appearing repeatedly on it? Are you excitedly planning how to introduce those mummies to your party? 

“This area is empty except for a trail of very old wrappings. They nearly crumble at the touch.” The trail doesn’t go anywhere. It’s just window dressing.

“This area has three guards standing upright against the north wall. Two hold a weapons. The third does not need weapons. All are zombies but each is a monster zombie of a different type of creature”

“All along this large hallway are murals depicting the god Raal and the Emperor Nkuku. Scenes of great battles seem to dominate the work.”

“The hallway is dark. The walls, floor and ceiling are made from sand stone. The desert wind can be heard whistling in the halls.”

“Pedestal – Resting upon a pedestal here is a golden crown. The crown is adorned with sapphires, fire opals and emeralds. It is worth as much as 25000 gold pieces”

“The doors to this room are locked. This is Nkuku’s work shop. He does experimental research here and is working on creating a new type of golem. Parts of this creature standing upright in the room. Right now it only consists of a torso and a pair of leg bones. What kind of golem is being created is a mystery as it looks like none the adventurers have ever seen or heard of. On a small table here is a large tome. It is a Manual of Animation”

The fucking experimental workshop of an undead pharoah. “Parts of this creature standing upright in the room, a torso and pair of leg bones.” I guess I should be happy that I got “leg bones” instead of “legs.” 

I don’t really know how to describe something like this. Let’s say you went to the grocery. You see a 6” by 6” by 1” lump of grey color in plastic wrap. It’s labeled “meat.” It’s $3. What exactly is the point of such a thing? It’s not for date night. I mean, I hope your date has more self-respect than to date you if you prepare something like that. And it’s not for you to eat, I hope. I don’t want to come off elitist, but, there’s more to life than Krusty Brand Imitation Gruel. 

Everything is just so … bland. Why would you select something like this to fill your evening of gaming with? Are you proving how macho you are? Are you distinguishing yourself from those upstart kids with their spires of iron and crystal? Under what circumstances do you see something like this and get excited about it?

It’s a recently uncovered pyramid. It will be covered by sand again in 2d6 days. Is there a point to that? Thinking about that artificial timer, does it actually work in a case like this? I get it, its supposed to represent the shifting sands of the desert … but in an actual game? Is it going to come up?

It’s a hundred miles from nearest town, the text tells us. It’s only one mile from the nearest oasis. It takes five days to travel there. I guess that’s from the nearest town? Is that right? A hundred miles in fives days in the desert? The green smoke that the interior text tells us rises from the top of the pyramid … it’s not mentioned anywhere else in the adventure when you approach it. 

I don’t understand these things. It feels like work. It feels like drudgery. It feels like mechanically chewing some grey “meat” without regard to enjoyment. 

This is NT going to help the DM run a good game. Sure, it’s terse Mr Bathwater, but where’s the baby?

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $3. The preview is six pages, with the last page showing you the first two rooms. Rejoice in the preview of a minimally keyed adventure.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/346792/The-Shifting-Sands?1892600

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9 Responses to The Shifting Sands, D&D adventure review

  1. Artur says:

    People are selling they low prep adventures and not adventures for someone else to run.
    Minimal keys and one page dungeons are good things for your own sessions but are trash for a product design aproach.

  2. Grützi says:

    Honestly though… I would replace the dun pudding on that table with something more thematically fitting… like 1-4 mummies or something like that.

    Come on Bryce..can’t expect the designer to do everything for you…
    You know these tests were a word is intentionally left out so youhave to insert the grammatically correct form? You gotta approach this from that angle… see how much fun yousuddenly have with that adventure…

    “This area is empty except for a trail of very old cheetos wrappings. They nearly crumble at the touch.”

    “This area has three guards standing upright against the north wall on top of each other. The bottom two hold a weapon (the same one actually, a Giant “Go Steelers” Foam finger). The third does not need weapons. All are zombies but each is dressed up as a monster zombie of a different type of creature”

    “All along this large hallway are murals depicting the god Raal and the Emperor Nkuku completely naked with guniea pigs strategically placed to cover their genitals (and strangely Raals’ left eye). Scenes of great battles seem to dominate the work.”

    “The hallway is dark and dry. The walls, floor and ceiling are made from sand stone (dry). The desert wind can be heard dryly whistling “Singin in the rain” in the halls.”

    “Pedestal – Resting upon a pedestal here is a golden crown the size of a walnut. The crown is adorned with sapphires, fire opals and emeralds the size of grains of rice. It is worth as much as 25000 gold pieces the size of sandcorns. So like a quarter of a gold piece or something. make it 3 silver pieces and call it a day”

    “The doors to this room are locked. This is Nkuku’s workout shop. He does experimental fitness research here and is working on creating a new type of personal training golem. Parts of this creature standing upright in the room. Right now it only consists of a torso with a random energy drink logo on it and a pair of leg bones. “never skip leg day”, is written on the legs in common. What kind of golem is being created is a mystery as it looks like none the adventurers have ever seen or heard of. On a small table here is a large tome. It is a Manual of Animation (hand signed by Tex Avery)”

    Oh the fun.. you see Bryce… gotta look at the bright side.

    • “This area seems nearly empty except for perhaps a whiff of dried mouse droppings. They appear to nearly crumble at the touch but are actually quite robust.”

      • Stripe says:

        I take the suspiciously-robust fecal matter between the tips of my bare first finger and thumb, pinching it, taking note of its girth, length, grit and texture. Particularly, I inspect the dung with an eye for composition, looking specifically for tiny pieces of bone and gristle.

        I hold it to my nose and take a deep whiff as if I were smelling the cork of a wine bottle. I then flick my tongue out like a snake, licking dried stool sample’s solidified tip. Afterwards, if not too unpalatable, I take a tiny nibble with my front teeth, like a rabbit.

        What clues or secrets do I learn from this mouse’s droppings? From the flavor, do I learn any details about its diet, perhaps if it has eaten any flesh—maybe that of a *human?* (I can roll if needed—I have several applicable skills and a high WIS modifier.)

        From wafting its aroma to my nose, do I get any sense of its motivations? Its emotional state? Was it injured? *Possessed?*

        Could this mouse be one of the dastardly sorcerer’s squeaking servants?

        Oh, dear, sweet summer child GM, I have you now! I know your plans! This mouse dropping shall be your entire campaign’s undoing!

  3. Gnarley Bones says:

    Looks like he used the font from The Desert of Desolation series.

    After Pharoah and Gygax’s Necropolis, any Egyptian-themed adventure has a high bar to cross.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Really? I consider that Hickman one too be bad. I6 sure, but that one is the start of dragonlance terror.

    Jaquyes as best Egypt writer?

  5. Anonymous says:

    >Everything is just so … bland.
    Yep, it’s a Mohr adventure, alright

  6. Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

    You see a 6” by 6” by 1” lump of grey color in plastic wrap. It’s labeled “meat.” It’s $3.

    I dunno, Bryce, that’s a really good price for tripe. Damn, now I’m jonesing some mondongo, and I’m not even hung over.

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