The House of the Hollow, adventure review

By Dylan Mangini
DAMM Design
Mork Borg

In The House of the Hollow, players will investigate a mysterious moonlit manor, home to a retired adventurer in the midst of a terrible transformation. Even before they encounter the moon-bound horrors lurking between the walls, navigating a decrepit house on the brink of collapse provides the players a significant challenge. A haunting revelation awaits travelers who enter the mansion, along with a powerful artifact ripe for the plucking.

This twenty page adventure uses about fifteen pages to describe fourteen rooms in a manor home. It’s using a format that tries to be helpful but comes off a little clumsy, with the text descriptions having a similar problem. I would call this a very simple adventure that is fine for those people who only eat California Rolls.

Yes, thank you, I know it’s Mork Borg. But they keep telling me that the sample adventure is a decent one. Besides, the cover is ripping off Spirited Away and its supposed to feature the moon as a theme and I luv Diana, she’s my fav.Also, do they not put fucking challenge levels or character levels or XP or anything Mork Borg? Are all adventures suitable for all fucking levels? Because the designer has not noted, anywhere, what level this adventure is suitable for. PUT THE FUCKING LEVEL RANGE IN. This, gentle reader, is a clue: I’m going to hold this one to one a much higher standard than other adventures. Because this one is trying to do good things. From the interactivity, to the descriptions, to the format used for usability, it’s clearly trying to do things right. It just generally fails at it. This is educational because you can’t just mimic the forms and succeed. Oh, I mean, you can. I’m going to give this one a No Regerts [I lied, I’m not.], so, you CAN mimic the forms and succeed to a certain degree. You’ll write something that is not an absolute horror, differentiating yourself from 95% of other adventures. But if you want over the hump you need to focus. The form is not the goal, the end state is. So, for an adventure that tries to do everything right I’m going to make an example of it while at the same time saying It’s Fine.

The encounters here, the rooms of the manor, generally take half a page, with some stretching to page if a lot is going on. It’s digest, with a lot of section headers, bullets, whitespace, etc. This things tend to indicate, and I wouldn’t say, it’s overwritten, as most “2 encounters per page” adventures would be. 

For most rooms we get a RoomKey and name, which is the right things to do. This is followed by a short little room description of about a sentence. Then you get these big black bolded sections that list things in the rooms, with some keywords that describe them. In theory this is a good thing, and it’s a format I tend to like. Tend to. Here’s an example:

Room 6. Laboratory (Secret): Sour, sulfuric vapors waft through the air. Laboratory Contents: Scattered (tool & bone fragments) Glowing (vials of liquid.) Specimens: Rare (Dead insects) Dissected (animals) Masses (or hair and teeth)

There’s some bolding and white space formatting in there, I’m just listing the descriptions for this example. But, let’s take that description. Is that a good description? You can see some hints of good writing and inspiration. Sulfuric fumes. Masses of hair and teeth. But the overall effect, I would suggest, is one of abstraction and Yet Another Boring Lab. Dissected animals. Glowing vials. Tool and bone fragments. This comes off more as a laundry list of things in the room rather than something to hang your hat on, for interactivity and evocativeness. Each item gets, I think, too much attention. A full sentence for fumes? That would seem like “Sulphuric fumes waft past …” … something else. Dissected animals would be better with an example, and scattered tools and bones as a secondary, like the fumes.  A lot of little things that add up nothing, the focus on the minor secondary items rather than a primary thing. And all of the descriptions are essentially like that; some ok ideas but used wrong with little MAIN focus, either in interactivity or evocative description.

And the format. In theory, a good thing, but in practice … it’s too much for the content present. I get it, separate ideas, keywords, bolding, bullets, whitespace. Normally I’d be all over it. But in practice there’s not enough content to justify it. It comes off as overly expansive, taking up too much space for the content available, and, I think, detracts from comprehension because of it.

There are some decent things in this. The wanderers are ok, there are allusions to things like a bridges of moonlight and moonlit vibrational lullabies. But that’s never explored and the moon theme isn’t really there at all, or moonlight for that matter, except for maybe two or three sentences. 

The thing lacks impact. Interactivity is staid, a highlight being a grandfather clocker with the number 13 on t that you can set to 13 to open a secret door. “Stitched Mutt: Stitched aberrant dogs with extra limbs and eyes in all the wrong places.” Yeah, sure, ok I guess. Abstracted, not specific. And abstracted content is boring content. It generalizes and does nothing for the DM.

So, it tries for interactivity but comes off in a VERY basic form, for things like the clock. The descriptions are note evocative and focus on secondary rooms things rather than primary things. The format is probably overwrought for a fourteen room dungeon this simple. It’s abstracted description and abstracted content. De rigueur. So, better than a poke in the eye but not something you’re excited to run.

You can follow the forms and get to a certain quality level, but after that you have to DESIGN. Imagination must be primary focus, with the forms just bringing comprehension to the vision.


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5 Responses to The House of the Hollow, adventure review

  1. Anonymous says:

    Two reviews in one day? Luckiest girl in the hundred acre wood right here!

  2. Edgewise says:

    Ah, Bryce saw my comment on the DriveThru page.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is this the first MB review that didn’t explode in the comments? We are improving!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Asks for level range. Doesn’t realize Mork Borg doesn’t have levels.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The designer eventually added a preview.

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