By Chance Dudinack Self Published B/X Levels 1-3
There’s a dragon in the woods. Those friendly dwarves were the first to go, the poor things. And now the beast has been killing and eating the people of Brandonsford. No-one wants to leave the town’s walls. With the humans out of the forest, fairies have taken over, and now the goblin king Hogboon seeks to claim the entire forest as his new kingdom.
This eighteen page adventure, featuring an ALMOST whimsical wilderness, is perfect. No, seriously. It’s good.
All I’m ever going to do, from now on, is review Chance Dudinack adventures. That’s it, the blog is over, until Chance writes another one I’m done. This adventure hits every mark I’ve ever wanted. Every page is loaded with good fun.
Yeah, yeah, I’m predisposed to liking this. It’s got just a tad of whimsy in it. A dragon, dwarves, a barrow, a giants house, a faun grove, a witch. Even that cover art. What is it, watercolor? It’s actually good. (Oh, he’s famous. Duh.) This thing SCREAMS The Hobbit, y a mi me gusta El Hobbit. You’re gonna have to decide, after reading this review, if I unnaturally like this because it seemed tailor made for me to like it, or if its actually good. But, this sort of ALMOST whimsical setting, with some hard edges, combined with a kind of beer & pretzels element, at times, is exactly the sort of thing that I like to have fun with. And it’s well written, evocative, has things for the party to do, and is only eighteen fucking pages. Hey, you, with the face, encourage Chance to become more and pump out more of these.
It looks like Chance has done some one-page dungeons. While the format is limiting, I think its positive aspects show up in this. The writing is tight, with a huge percentage of the words contributing to gameable things. Our local NPC’s in town, the shopkeeps, etc and hirelings the party is likely to run in to, get descriptions like “Gentle face, freckled, one red curl hangs out of her coif. Generally patient and well-meaning, but in combat her fight-or-flight kicks in. Usually fight, with lots of threats and screaming.” or “White beard, boney, uncomfortably friendly. Will do anything to keep new customers. Snaps at the mention of the Clumsy Fox. [ed: the other inn in town.])” Fucking perfect. Memorable but not over the top. The town reeve, troubled by the dragon “Portly, mutton chops, purple rings around the eyes, visibly stressed. Spends much of his day in silent, wide- eyed thought.” The shopkeeps are memorable and their quirks make sense. The hirelings are memorable and will add a lot of fun to the game. There are little subplots scattered about, that all generally lead, one way or another to the main dragon adventure, with diversions to the witch, the goblin king, the fey, or the like. It’s not really a “get the red key to open the red door” but more a trail of things to potentially follow up on, and there are alot of them. Not all adventurer things. The smith find cursed talismans on his door each morning from a fey haunting him. Turns out they are love letters and hes illiterate and their from the town alchemist, who has trouble expressing her love for him. Ha! And that eventually leads somewhere to do with the main adventure. Not in a “shes crazy” way, but in a way that makes sense. Everything makes fucking sense. In a fantasy world fll of fey and giants and a fucking dragon, everything makes sense. And that’s a VERY powerful thing. No easy “she crazy, he’s a cultist” throw away shit. Just a couple of words on the human condition that makes everything so much more relatable. No misery porn, just fucking immersion of a type that VERY seldom makes an appearance in games. It’s fucking perfect.
Those dwarf brothers? They found a fantastic treasure. And one was overcome by greed and killed the others to keep it for himself. And that transformed him to a dragon. Of course. OF COURSE that’s where dragons come from. That’s some fucking Dante shit right there. Wearing the ring of the goblin king makes you the goblin king. Duh. And makes you the target for a bunch of fey who want to be the goblin king. Adventure. Follow ups. Perfect.
I don’t know what to say. This thing is great. Boxed off text sections, bullets to highlight information and bolding to call attention to things, great use of whitespace, most major locations taking half or a third of a page to detail in an easy to read, scan, and understand format. A couple of dungeons present, including the barrow, with a more traditional explore element. Good wanderers, up to something. Treasure that is both book inspired (+1, +3 vs) with a little description, just a touch of backstory/context in a few words, more than a few of which have some kind of follow-on or hook that can be attached.
How about a dragon description? “The beast moves like a fat alligator, dragging its bloated belly along the ground with each lumbering step, but with the potential to strike in an instant. Strings of spittle hang from its teeth, thick with foul poison.” Fuck. Yeah. Dragon.
I want every adventure to be this good. To have great description. Relatable things. Good layout. Enabling fun without trying to FORCE fun.
A couple of notes:
The barrow dungeon has a floating skull that laughs all the time. It would have been nice to put a note about laughing on the map, or up high in the adventure, instead of in the creature description, as a kind of hint/foreshadowing/atmosphere thing. The map for the barrow is a little crude, using simple 10’ square shaded boxes. It’s not bad. It does what it needs to do. But if the designer were looking for a way to beef up their skills in their free time then producing better maps would be it. Basic maps are all an adventure ever needs, but more advanced maps DO add something to an adventure. Creating maps is fucking hard.
This adventure seems effortless. Effortless. That is a very hard thing to achieve. Most adventures seems forced, or strained. The text, the interactivity, the format, the design, you can tell that they were strained activities. But not this. It just Fucking Clicks in a way very few things in life do.
This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is eight pages and shows you the town and wilderness and some of the “subplot”/breadcrumb stuff. You can get a great sense of the writing and design from the layout. Maybe one of the forest location pages would have been good to include also, to give a complete picture.