The Sleep of Reason, dungeons and dragons 5e adventure review

By James Hanna, Brett Sullivan, Isaac Warren
Fey Light Studio
5e
Levels 2-4

The towns of Bassu and Inloc are at each other’s throats. But behind their mutual loathing lies a threat greater than either knows. A fiend in the form of a nighthag invades the sleep of the town leaders night after night, haunting their dreams and transforming them into nightmares.

This 54 page adventure uses 32 pages to describe about 24 encounters, the vast majority of which are social. The designers had a vision, but it fell far far short of that in implementation, leaving you with something that is nigh unrunnable in its present form. Which is too bad, the basic idea is decent. I’m considering changing my life goals, after reading this, and adding “beating in to people how to use skill checks” as a new project.

Two houses, alike in dignity in fair Ver … oh wait, no. This thing has the elements of adventure that I like. Or, at least, it claims to have them. A hex crawl exploration of the wilderness. A strong social element as you work the factions and NPCs within two towns, rallying them to your cause! Who wouldn’t like that? A little intrigue, a little social, a nice crawl, and then stabbing the shit out of something and looting some fucking treasure! Well, that was the promise anyway. No doubt the vision of the designers. That’s what made me leave my nice safe little bubble of shitty OSR adventure and venture once more in to the land of shitty 5e adventures. In practice, its garbage, of course.

I have now said just about everything nice that I will about this adventure. Good concept. There are a couple of VERY nice art pieces, by Tithi Luadthong and rangizz, that seem out of place. Not tonally. They work for that. But it’s like Aya Kato did your Get Well Soon card for a coworker that you feel apathetic about. Conceptually, there are a few decent ideas, like the hag living in a dead and rotting GIANT snake in the swamp. The descriptions are shit, but conceptually its good. The recruitment of allies, again good in concept but shitty in execution. There’s a hint, here of there, or decent writing. At one point if you mention “The Maiden”, a swamp ghost-like apparition/myth, then the guards and their goats both shift uneasily, the goats bleat softly, and the captain says something like “Nothing good comes from that swamp.” in order to twarn the party off of The Maiden. That’s fucking great! That’s what I’m talking about when I mention specificity and detail. No the color of the fucking innkeeps trouser buttons, but things that add to the actual game experience. 

The back cover contains the marketing blurb while the drivethru description is just bunch of little JPG images, with no text. Well, the images have a few words of text. WHo’s fuckingidea was that? You’re burying your marketing blurb on the back cover where it will never be seen and essentially nothing NOTHING about it in the actual storefront? I’m not a fucking expert on this shit but that seems counterproductive? In the extreme?

It’s full, FULL of shitty skill checks. Which is weird because they claim to have a system of “social moves” for you to use which, no doubt, turns the heart of D&D, roleplaying, in to even more of a dice fest and rules mastery then it already is. This thing is LITTERED will skill checks. I guess because it’s a social adventure, or thinks it is one? And I’m pretty sure that nearly every single one of them is implemented badly. Every one. Every single one. There are about twenty rolle to continues in this adventure. Twenty. These are places where you can’t continue the adventure unless you pass a skill check. In practice, this never happens. If you fail then the DM fridges and the game moves on. So why the fuck do you have a roll to continue? You’re forcing people to make dice rolls for no reason other than making a contest against a skill check. It doesn’t make fucking sense. The outcomes are all the fucking same. It’s unreal.

Try to use your intimidation skill? Roll a 24+? (Which I’m pretty sure is good …) then the DM is told it doesn’t work and the NPC works around it. What the fuck man? Why? Becusa it will break the designers vision for the fucking adventure? Jesus H … let the fucking party enjoy their fucking success! And, those eighty gazillion skill checks you make? They are essentially meaningless. Just little window dressing bits of information for the most part, teasing out descriptions and tone. Which, again, works against the fcking adventure. You WANT the tone out there. You WANT the details out there to set the tone. Don’t hide the heart of the fucking adventure behind a fucking skill check. 

It starts with combat. Lame. “STart your adventure with a combat to get the party going” says all of the bad old advice. Pfft! You bring the body to the nearest town. The gate guards say “Hello strangers who have just admitted to killing one of our town members. Please come in and enjoy yourselves!” What the fuck! Seriously?! 

NPC descriptions are bad, long and hard to use. The hex crawl has like one sentence for each hex, most of which are just boring “asps attack” or “roll a DC19 to avoid hazard” types. No detail. Nothing interesting. 

The actual format is TRYING to be helpful, but has gone COMPLETELY overboard with boxed and offset text. The page is COVERED with it, so much so that you can’t actually tell what the fuck is supposed to be going on in the encounter. Why are we here? Whats the line of path to follow? It TRIES to tell you that, but its so seriously broken … I know I mention putting this stuff in a lot, but, there’s a fucking limit. It’s supposed to help you find and run it, not obfuscate the game. 

The hag is an actual monster instead of an old women. Lame. The snake description, the sum total of it while inside, is “Within the snake, its ribs curve around to create a grim hallway illuminated by green glowing orbs along its length. The floor shifts slightly underfoot, pressing into the unspoiled viscera below.” The viscera part is good, but, fuck man, we’re inside a giant snake, how about a little more? Oh! Oh! And the subplots?! They are LITERALLY in a place called the Town Quest Center. Seriously. The questgiver gives them quests. Well, it’s a townsperson, but thats how its referred to. If you do enough fetch quests then you unlock the plot quests. Ug.

So. Good concept. It knows what its trying to do. It has just made every single bad choice possible to get there.

This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview doesn’t fucking work.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/347134/The-Sleep-of-Reason-adventure-only?1892600

I leave you with this screenshot of one of the scenes. I dare you to figure the fuck out what is going on here and how to run it. I dare you. Go ahead. You’re running the game. The players are sitting the fuck in front of you. Right now. They are staring at you. They glance nervously at their phones, ready to pick them the fuck up if you stray for thirty fucking seconds. Run this fucking encounter.  Where the fuck is the actual plot to this encounter? I know where, but you have to fucking hunt for it. Seriously, you get … five seconds. Set up a time. Starts it and then glance at the page for five seconds then tell me what the scene is about and how to get it going well. And, I’m being GENEROUS in giving you five seconds. I really think it should be less than two. No fucking cheating!

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13 Responses to The Sleep of Reason, dungeons and dragons 5e adventure review

  1. Anonymous says:

    Monday!

    2 minutes here!

    That last bit XD

  2. squeen says:

    Brilliant Bryce. The posted page…:)

  3. Sevenbastard says:

    I didnt time my self, but talk about low stakes and zero player involvement. Roll these dice in this order. Real Players: “hmm steep cliff, i send my familiar to fly down and grab some tea leaves”

  4. Anonymous says:

    SO…MANY…BOXES…

  5. Commodore says:

    These always make me sad. I’m pretty sure I would have a really fun time at Mr. Hanna’s table playing this adventure, even in 5e. I feel like there is a desperate need for an in-depth analysis on “how to convey your vision” for this whole hobby. Paizo and WotC are aggressively unhelpful on the matter, but I don’t feel like going back to old TSR modules would exactly help either.

  6. robertsconley says:

    I couldn’t resist.

    Gran’s Special Tea
    ————————-
    One way to turn Gran into a contact and ally is obtain some Dim Rose tea. Dim Rose tea is made with Bassuvian tea leaves and it is grown locally by Huma the Ranger (Location X)

    Locale
    ————————-
    Huma’s home is located near the gulch known as Clayburn’s Folly. It consist of Huma’s two room hut with a thatched roof, wooden shed, and another shed used to dry tea leaves.

    Characters
    ————————-
    Huma
    A wood elf ranger, Huma has been living here for over a century growing and harvesting tea plants. He plans to spend the next couple of decades here honing his skill until he is considered a grandmaster among his people. If the player visit Huma within two weeks of arriving in the region, he could use their help with his latest harvest. See the following section Help with the Tea Harvest.

    What does Huma Know?
    He is aware of the rising tension between the two towns. He seen disputes flare up over the past century but this is the worst he seen it get. He was thinking of looking into it as he beginning to sense there something more going on rather than the typical disputes about boundaries, sleeping with spouses or crop damage.

    If Vilak is mentioned or his death. Huma will not he was his distant relative. They hadn’t talked in a while. Knew he was missing and was disturbed about it. This incident was the start of his suspicions that something more was going on.

    Help with the Tea Harvest
    ————————-
    This section is no longer relevant if the PCs visit Huma more than two week after they arrive in the region as harvest time for these plants is over. If the players arrive before then it is the middle of harvest time for Bassuvian tea leaves. This variety only grows at the botton of Clayburn’s Folloy a nearby gulch and it is during the rainy season with its unpredictable flash floods.

    Huma may enlist the help of the players to harvest the tea under two circumstances.
    1) During the visit, roll 1d6, on a roll of 1-3 storm clouds start gathering on the horizon and Huma ask for the player’s help. He will invite them for a feast that evening and will be glad to provide six serving of the tea for their help.
    2) The players ask for some Dim Rose tea for Granny. Huma will be glad to give them enough for six servings if they help them with the harvest as well as feeding them dinner that evening.

    Huma will then show them the type of tea bush that needs to be harvested and assign the players to a section of the Clayburn’s Folly. He will be working on a another more difficult section.

    The Harvest
    ————————-
    The process of harvesting is straight forward and requires no special skill rolls. If there is time.
    If for some reason the players are pressed for time, like an impending flash flood, then they will need to make either DC 12 Nature check or a DC 15 Survival check to gather an entire basket load in a short amount of time.

    Entering or exiting the gulch.
    ————————-
    If not pressed for time have each player roll 1d20 when they exit or enter the gulch. If they roll a natural 1, they had bad luck while climbing down into or out of the gulch. They fall 20 feet for 2d6 damage. If they are pressed for time, like during a flash flood, then they need to make a DC 12 Athletic or Acrobatics check to exit without falling.

    Flash Flood
    ————————-
    If they begin harvest while there is a storm building then they need to make a DC 12 Nature or DC 15 survival check to gather an entire basket load of tea leaves. Even if the players fails they gather some tea leaves. How much depends on how high the roll is. Generally a result less than 5 means no tea leaves are gathered.

    oduces a tea with with an extra kick. One serving will remove a single level of exhaustion after drinking it due to the higher level of stimulant in the leaves. A DC 15 Alchemy Tools/Nature check will allow a character to identify this property of the tea.

  7. robertsconley says:

    Some of it got cut off
    Flash Flood
    ————————————————-
    If they begin harvest while there is a storm building then they need to make a DC 12 Nature or DC 15 survival check to gather an entire basket load of tea leaves. Even if the players fails they gather some tea leaves. How much depends on how high the roll is. Generally a result less than 5 means no tea leaves are gathered.

    If they begin with the weather clear then roll 1d6. On a 1-3 storm clouds starts building around halfway through the harvest. In which case gathering the remaining half of the harvest requires a DC 7 Nature check or a DC 10 survival check.

    If the players opt to remain to the last minute then the above gathering checks are made with advantage. But they they have to make a quick exit out of the gulch (see Entering or exiting the gulch). If they fail to exit the gulch not only they suffer the 2d6 damage but get hit with the flash flood as well.

    If the players are caught in the flash flood. Then they needs to make three saving throws. A DC 10 strength save to hang into rocks or trees in the gulch. A DC 12 Dexterity save to keep from being ducked under water repeatably and a DC 10 constitution save against the cold and being battered against the rock. Each failed save results in the character suffer a level of exhaustion up to three levels. If any save is failed the character swept down the gulch and find themselves a mile away where the stream widen to a pool where they swim for short.

    Clue (Blighted Leaves)
    ————————————————-
    While harvesting the players noticed that the leaves in their section of Clyburn’s Folly are blighted. The appearance of the blight is the same as ones on the trees next to the field in Taking Stock. More evidence of Crumtilda’s growing grip on the land and its people.

    Dim Rose Tea
    ————————————————-
    Soaking the dark green leaves with pale green pink striations produces a tea with with an extra kick. One serving will remove a single level of exhaustion after drinking it due to the higher level of stimulant in the leaves. A DC 15 Alchemy Tools/Nature check will allow a character to identify this property of the tea.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am Huma! Tell me where Vilak is and give me ALL your tea leaves! If they are blighted I will flood you with my arrows! Rawwrr! *pushes PCs off a cliff*. Did I nail it?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Three easy saving throws, each giving you a chance to avoid a single measly level of exhaustion. We are very far from the lands of save or die, Toto.

    (That climbing skill check says DC 12 but a bad thing happens only if you fail by 5 or more. So… it’s DC 7 then?)

  10. nerrrval says:

    Last time I gave some ‘special tea’ to a ranger I got charged with possession with intent to supply.

  11. Evard's Small Tentacle says:

    All this for getting some tea and loot…yeesh…let’s make it something a bit more addictive and illegal and more $$$, add some drug lords after it, perhaps some monster addicts…

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