By Horos Self Published MSX, FMX, Moments, B/X, BECMI, Rules Cyclopedia, AD&D, 5e, DCC, OSR, and other major OSR rulesets!
Enter the Dread Tower, a gate to the underground fortress of Bhaligund, one of Skandir’s most treacherous sons. Fight deadly creatures or be clever and try to run away from them. Find secret passages, remove traps, solve puzzles, and overcome obstacles that will challenge your players’ skills.
This eight page adventure uses three pages to describe six rooms in a dungeon. It is the pinnacle of design … if design is defined as abstracted descriptions and mythical but irrelevant backstory.
Yeah! You made a thing! Congratulations! I sincerely mean that. It takes a lot to overcome your own self-loathing as a creative and produce content for others. And, you put some nifty art in it; nice cover. The actual adventure, though, needs some serious work and I might say that it exemplifies perfectly several points of designing for publication.
“Roll 1d6 to find out why you are at this place” the adventure tells us. “This place” being some frozen tundra at the base of some mountains. You could be lost explorers, or giant hunters on the trail of giants, or survivors of a massacre. I’m not sure what the point of this is, or why it’s random? The descriptions are only a few more words than I’ve typed and leave the DM with nothing to build a pretext upon. Any why random? That doesn’t make any sense at all, except in some spring of OSR “random tables” design elements. This is not how you use randomness in an adventure.
Our first encounter is with four vordaks guarding the tower. What’s a vordak? I don’t know. We’re not told. I’m willing to overlook this, a bit, in case they are in some kind of monster manual or setting guide. But, there’s also no description of them. Four vordaks, in rusty armor with rusty weapons. “You meet four things to fight. Roll for initiative.” *sigh* And the rusty stuff? That strikes me as an attempt to prevent/nerf looting the bodies in an adventure that is otherwise pretty devoid of treasure. A ruby worth 500 silver pieces is in the adventure … but it explodes for 6d6 damage if you remove it, so … no, that’s not actually treasure.
The design is full of backstory. In the armory you can find Khez’s dagger. There’s no description of the dagger. Just a dagger. But, we do get a backstory for it! “Khez was a murderer from Zimbar who was unsuccessful in trying to loot the tower with her comrades.” Kind of interesting, actually. So is “Here, the traitor sentinels who allowed the wandering sorceress to enter Bhaligund’s fortress were imprisoned.” Nifty! Of course, the party has no way to know this and it has no impact on the adventure at all. They are just “Now, these creatures are just six skeletons and four corpses that stand up to attack intruders.” Great.Not even an interesting description … again.
But, let us find an interesting description! Romo three tells us that “A huge horrible aberration is hidden in this deep pit. It attacks with its powerful tentacles any creature that tries to cross the room.” So, pit, tentacles come out of it. Can you get by the pit? Is there a ledge? Do the tentacles or beast get a description to help the DM out? No. Nothing at all other than the description I just pasted in above.
And so it goes. Nifty little name drops with no descriptions of substance to fire the imagination. And no, the art doesn’t fill in. They seem to just be random pieces. There’s something that looks like a squid, a little piece. Maybe that’s the tentacle monster?
You have to create interactivity in your adventure. You have to have things for the party to explore and fuck with. You have to create interesting description. They don’t have to be long. They don’t have to be verbose. But you have to have SOMETHING other than “you are now fighting four creatures.”
This is $2 on itch.io. This being itch, there is no preview. I can haz sad face? 🙁
Hmmm. As a chap with a recent-ish itch.io production of my own, I see that I could provide images offering a preview…..but they would change the layout of the product page, not necessarily for the best. More of a problem on high-end products, I suppose, but maybe something to address.
Looks like vordaks are some sort of undead from the ‘Lone Wolf’ setting. Is there a d20 Magnamund tie-in?