A Simple Dungeon, adventure review

By Micah Anderson
Self Published
Generic/Universal

Seven rooms filled with traps, magic, monsters, and treasure. Fight a Troll! Help a Halfling! Defeat an Undead Curse! For the Bastards. RPG system, although easily converted to any game.

This sixteen page adventure features seven rooms in a tomb as well as a page of hex encounters. It does have some decent descriptions in places but it suffers from its art house focus, simplistic interactivity, and treasure abstraction. It suffers, mostly, from not knowing what it wants to be.

Someone asked that I review this so I picked it up. Then the designer said my name three times while standing in front of a mirror and I said I was going to review it.[EDIT] Maybe it’s an ego thing? I would certainly understand that, mine being fragile enough. I may wallow in shit all day but it’s MY shit.

I say that this adventure doesn’t know what it wants to be. This gets to the core point of what an adventure is supposed to be: a tool for running a game at the table. Let us say I make a crowbar. It’s a beautiful crowbar. Perfect in every way. Except for the fact it’s made out of tinfoil. Useless as an actual crowbar but fine if you just want a coffee-table crowbar. Or, perhaps, if it brought me joy in making it? There’s certainly merit in that. But, then, I sell it as a crowbar, to be used as a crowbar. Now, lets change the material the crowbar is made out of but stillkeep it a damn sext coffee-table-worthy crowbar. Copper. Glass. Iron. Steel. Hardened railroad steel. There’s a spectrum here. At what point could we generally consider the crowbar useful to most people in most common situations?

There’s a large segment of the diy/osr/indie scene that likes to make beautiful things. That’s great. I don’t need an ugly crowbar in my life. But, it does have to actually be useful as a crowbar. Doesn’t it? Any none of this “but it’s useful to ME” stuff. It has to be useful to 80% of crowbar users. There’s really no difference between Paizo, DMSGuild and the DIY scene, they all are focusing on something other than the actual fucking adventure. 

And that’s how you get sixteen pages for a seven room dungeon. You do wide margins. You do digest format. You use large font sizes. You fill it with art. You do an abstracted map with fun font. That’s all great, none of it is bad. But, at what point does your creation become performance art? Because performance art is not an adventure to be used at the table. It has its own merits, but not labeled as “adventure.” (A trap a lot of one page dungeons fall in to, especially the contest ones.)

The map has a list of omens on it.  “Cackling” , “Chitterring”, and so on. They just exist as window dressing, adding nothing at all to the adventure. There’s little there to riff on. Why not, instead of perfunctory dropping it, add more to it to make it come alive and help the DM? Why say “place a treasure here” instead of actually listing a treasure to engage your creativity? Or “he knows d3 spells”? Why not list them? Why not engage totally with the creative process? 

Because when the creative process is engaged in then it is good. “Ten foot pit trap long ago sprung. Flimsy, rotten boards cover it. Corpse inside has dissolved into a grey jelly, will attempt to schlorp out and drag in interlopers feebly.” That’s great content! When I talk about specifics THATS what I’m talking about. Already sprung, boards over the pit, the ooze is an actual dead body. THATS good! It’s like the grells in Many Gates of the Gann. An extremely tall skeleton a mostly gilt free throne” Krom is the gift that keeps on giving. A lead coffer IN THE MUCK at the bottom of the pool releases a paralyzing MIASMA and contains a random treasure.

You can easily see the quality there. As well as bullshit like “a random treasure.” 

But there’s not enough of that. That lead coffer interactivity is lacking. Sure, there’s decent fighting. And there’s decent talking to things (thank fucking god.) But the other interactivity is rather low. It’s more watching things happen than fucking around with lead cofferrs buried in muck releasing paralyzing miasmas. And the writing FORMAT could be more solid. “Conspicuous sword upright in front of skeleton, actually lead painted gold.” This is a short example, but note that an important feature, it’s GOLD is in the second clause. Conspicuous GOLDEN sword upright in front of skeleton, actually lead.” would avoid the cognitive load that putting the descriptor in the second clause. The sword can turn one metal to another … Cool! That’s a good treasure … the kind that is lacking in this adventure.

The final room is the one that is the worst, the treasure room. Beyond the abstracted treasure, the main description is “The chapel built in to the tomb.” That’s the extent of your description. Well, a small amount of loot piled up, let’s call it 1000gp on average. “Piled with hoarded treasure” is an image that is in opposition to “1000 gp.” But, there’s no chapel description at all, which is not cool.

And the hex encounters range from good to poor. A bandit camp UNDER A FALLEN TREE. That’s good. HOSTAGE SITUATION. Thats good. Maybe could use, literally, one or two words more, about the situation. That’s a very good encounter. But dense trees and spiderwebs? Or surly wizard under a stuffed alligator? Ruined fort with valuable eggs? There’s no potential energy in those, not in the way of the bandit camp. You need an energy. That’s what interactivity brings. 

This is PWYW itch.io.  Yeah, I don’t know how much it was before. $4 maybe? Or maybe free? I can’t remember. I’m gonna try and talk with the designer and see what’s up. Also, please put in a good preview of your adventure. WIthout a preview then the only way of know what we are potentially buying is to either buy it or buy in to the marketing, which is always puffery. The preview helps us make an informed buying decision. You can support that, right?

https://micah-anderson.itch.io/a-simple-dungeon

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42 Responses to A Simple Dungeon, adventure review

  1. Anonymous says:

    If I was the author I would love this review . This is helpful Bryce. I cant wait to see what the author does next!

    • Edgewise says:

      Yeah it sounds like there’s some inspiration here that just needs to be yoked to what Bryce is calling “potential energy”…I think that’s a good term for something I always strive for. Not just moving parts, but moving parts with the possibility for interesting friction and diverse outcomes.

    • Anonymous says:

      According to Twitter, he would rather be shot than have Bryce review it….hopefully he is ok.

      • squeen says:

        Yes. I read the back and forth. Bryce is bending over backwards with kindness here towards someone with a very aggressive on-line persona.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Monsters and Manuals is right about Twitter

  3. samurgybri says:

    Great cover and I love that encounter with the already sprung trap. Great idea. Traps are often presented as “before”, waiting, passive. I could add a trap being sprung and something getting mangled to telegraph how deadly it is and well as giving hints as to how to disarm it. I’m now interested in making some sprung traps more interesting, as well.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is junk. You understand that this is junk right? A child who would come up with this would maybe earn an approving nod if it was his first effort.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Itch.io is a landfill for the imaginations of the terminally unimaginative.

  5. Anonymous says:

    They have better content creator payment policies vs DTRPG

  6. Seneca says:

    The Twitter profile tells the whole of the sordid tale; amorphous, almost gelid bone-structure, and thick fish-like lips, the Innsmouth look. Tiny beady eyes burning with hostility, not ennobling defiant rage but rather a quietly simmering resentment that never abates. Two passions only; A dislike for Fascists, the second an even greater dislike for Introspection. Strong support for Cancel culture replaces the father-figure that was never around. A human being stripped of all endowments of reason, virtue and dominant genetics and reduced to a wretched sub-animalistic state.

    • Measurehead says:

      tenfootpole.org … comes for the reviews, stay for the eugenics.

      The adventure and its author might be drips, but this place has really gone to shit.

    • Seneca says:

      This comment tells the whole of the sordid tale; the prose is lumpen and imprecise, the sentence structure barely coherent, indicating lack of fine motor skills and a diminishment of broca’s area. The vocabulary reeks of the cthonic, the primordial, the proto-linguistic. The three dots likely represent some sort of vowel the human speech organ is no longer able to synthesize. Is it possible the commenter is some distant troglodytic ancestor of mankind, having come up from the foetid depths to which it has been consigned in some distant neolithic war of extermination? If so, what terrible change have the long centuries of inbreeding, malnourishment and lack of sunlight wrought upon this once noble ancestor of man?

      • Anonymous says:

        Put down the thesaurus and touch some grass you absolute pussy

      • Seneca says:

        It appears my discovery has brought with it an unforeseen complication; The creature’s mate has emerged from its lagoon and is now attempting to seduce me via an intricate display of hooting, chest-thumping and bearing its prodigious genitalia. Though the reaction is only natural I must not accept! Is the natural temperance and modesty of the scholar proof against the unbridled savagery and inexorable rhythmic homo-passion of the Antediluvian? I…must…not…accept!

      • Anonymous says:

        hey buddy im trying to get into writing. how did you go about it?

      • Seneca says:

        1) Read rich works with beautiful language. Milton, Eddison, Dumas, Peake, Hodginson, Wolfe, Tolkien, Lovecraft etc.. Avoid modern trash.
        2) Write often. Blog. Stories. Whatever. Even if you are only trolling in a comment section, challenge yourself. Practice makes perfect. Don’t forget to have fun while doing so. The reason the Troika guys are doing poorly here because you can easily see they are upset and take no joy in this.
        3) Avoid twitter, news websites, social media etc. A sewer for the excretions of the perpetually outraged. That Nietzsche part about gazing into the abyss is true.

  7. Remember, when you release any rpg splats, you need to include the full contents of your product in a preview or it makes the osr piss itself in rage even or maybe especially if it is cheap or free.
    Doubly so if you say “fuck off don’t review me you absolute asschild”
    Every morning you should wake up, look in the mirror, and pray to the Void That Will Consume All for the self-assurance of a mediocre white many in the OSR.
    Bryce Lynch is why I took down all the previews on Drivethru.
    Bryce Lynch also doesn’t know that previews on itch are in the form of screen caps you can clearly see on the product page and/or dev notes.Bryce Lynch
    Imagine thinking that Bryce Lynch is the kind of reviewer we need for OSR and adjacent materials.
    I honestly don’t give a fuck is Bryce Lynch reviewed me because I’ve seen the quality of a Bryce Lynch review ad naseum, even for people I don’t much like.

  8. Hello my name is Ian Wooley (one L). I am a white ex-ranger who spends his days shouting and being angry. It is my favorite thing right after beahing my wife. Domestic abuse allows me to cope with my PTSD. I don’t work, I’m retarded. I like to write chapbooks for troika (I call it chapbooks because zines are gatekeeper grog bullshit like that guy GUS L). Im into anime too. The girls in mecha-idol anime Macross Delta fill my heart and penis with pumping, throbbing blood.Anime girls don’t have to go to war, they only have to sing. Nobody wants to collab with me on new projects. Not because of my bad sideburns or hot body that I like to show off in skimpy women’s clothes. It is my personality and lack of talent. It could be seen as toxic masculinity but I identify as enbie (they/them) so I can’t be blamed for it. Can’t do much about the talent though.

    Tell me Gus, why won’t you play my sentient condom Troika background? Daniel Sell, why do you never approach me with a project? You give work to Brian Yaksha and Jared Sinclair but not me? Why is that? Taylor Lane, why do you have so many more followrs and friends than I do? The OSR is filled with chuds and I am (not) one of them. So why am I so lonely. Ah, gotta go to my wife now that I’M LLA HEATED UP.

    This is what you sound like Ian.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Savage. This comment section needs a higher CR.

  10. Nobody cares other than if your product is any good and as an author is what should be primary, and critical feedback is important in that endeavor.

    • Anonymous says:

      So I should take being misgendered and insulted by chuds in the comment section in exchange for “feedback” that is vomitted forth by a racist boomer? You are a transphobic and part of the rpoblem

      • Anonymous says:

        Trophies for everyone?…….

      • Anonymous says:

        You act like a five year old on the internet, and when someone, with infinite kindness, gives you what you deserve, you throw a tantrum and lie about them and try to get them fired. You are the victim of indoctrination and you hate your own people, the only society that would not cast you aside mercilessly because you are so useless. The only thing you will respond to is cruelty and force. You are a slave.

  11. Anonymous says:

    White woke rage is a coping mechanism for white guilt.

  12. Commodore says:

    I like to think that 90% of these comments are just Bryce sock puppets.

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