By Ben Gibson Coldlight Press OSR/5e/Pathfinder Level 2
Warm autumn sunshine filters through the harvest’s dust. The singing of the women threshing grain and the lowing of cattle makes it hard to hear the muffled thumps at first, but the screams of alarm clue you in before long. Coming around the hill…is that Old Leuro’s windmill? Why is it groaning? And…moving?
This thirty page adventure uses four pages to describe a windmill moving across the land toward a city that it will destroy. It’s a pretty basic scenario that falls short in expanding on a few key points. You know what they say, when you make a simple dish every component must be perfect because there’s no place to hide.
This is a One Session Kit, to the page count isn’t quite a bad as made out. In addition to pregens, you also get little stand up paper counters to use as the baddies. The concept being that you print it out and you have everything you need to play D&D tonight. In the PDF world where page counts are free, the addition of these elements is a nice touch.
A woman collapses off a horse in the town square saying his kids been kidnapped by the miller and his windmill is heading to the town(!) to destroy it. The merchants guild offers 1000gp, on the spot, to stop it. At this point a few things pop in to my head. What is evil millers were a long running thing in a campaign? A kind of Freemason thing. Didn’t people already dislike millers, thinking they were cheating them and being jealous of their wealth? Also, riffing off of Gone Fishin, I probably would, as the designer/DM, have a made rush of townsfolk running out to stop the windmill to get the 1000gp, a treasure beyond belief for most of them. Up to and including a quadrapalegic pulling themself along. But then, I like a little farce in my games and a mad villager rush, ala a DCC funnel, would add a lot of extra content to the adventure if that thread had been followed up upon. Also, the woman eclaims “Oh, the monster!” which of course should always be “Oh, the humanity”!
It’s a pretty basic adventure. You encounter some bandits fleeing the windmill, who were hired by the miller, and then arrive at the windmill, which is indeed moving, to find some bandits hired by the miller manning the wrap-around balcony. Getting inside you fight some giant cogs, deal with explosive flour clouds, and the miller and kidnapped kid. Pretty basic. Nothing wrong with that for a single nights adventure, but, agin, I point out that a basic dish must be executed to perfection and I find a lot lacking here.
It’s all pretty generic. Our cogs are just that, cogs. Even the paper minis just show some gears. Some modron style arms, legs and eyes would have been in order, I think, to help bring them to life. Perhaps with some unique attacks like arm grabbing/crushing, with a penalty to little hands that get in to them better? 😉
The bandit encounter, in the wilderness, is similarly given short shrift. They are simply laden with goods they’ve pillaged, know that they were hired by the miller and ran when the windmill started moving. Nothing more beyond that. A little personality, some specifics in the laden nature, a brief expansion of the encounter … all of that would have helped bring the encounter to life. As is, it’s just some bandits, almost ot the point of saying “4 bandits” and leaving it at that.
At some point the miller may use the boys life energy to power the windmill, if the party mess up the gears. THis is be accompanied by the wail of the boy and the remaining bandist fleeing. Again, not really expanded upon in any evocative manner. Again, a missed opportunity. Most of the adventure is this way, with just very brief encounter description, almost abstracted, given no specifics that would breathe life in to them. Does the windmill have legs? Does is just scoot along? It seems like a pretty simple thing but no advice is given. I don’t need a simulationist thing in here, but something would have been nice.
The page count does include a column explaining what a One Session Kit is, wasting the word count in what could have been included in the marketing blurb. I can’t help but think that this would have been used to help breathe more life in to the encounters. And thus is goes with these short page count adventures. Constraining by page count you must work with what you have and it is, in many cases, much harder to produce something good when you limit yourself artificially to just a few pages, the one pagers being the platonic example of this.
There is a little backstory here to the local merchants guild paying the miller less and less each month and having him beat up if he sells to other towns, and him charging the farmers more, which causes them to go elsewhere, etc. It’s a nice twist … “oh, the victims brought this on themselves and were working for some questionable people!” It’s told, not through a journal or diary, which is almost universally bad design, but through the millers ledger and the entries therein. Again, a nice little design detail and, while still written, a good departure from backstory through a diary.
It’s an interesting concept, all parts of it, but it feels half formed. Or, rather, not expanded upon.. Like these were the notes and now it needs the specifics added to it. With those specifics you’d have a nice little One Session Kit. 🙂
I would not also that the conclusion is pretty well done. The townsfolkd treat the party as heroes, free room and board, discounted wine, friendly smiles, claps on the back and so forth. The woman gives the party her entire life savings, 30sp, for saving her kid, if they did that. And the boy, to quote “He will have his vengeance upon artificers and all windmills, this he swears upon his name: Alonso Quixote.” And you thought we’d get out of this without a Cervantes reference? I think not! 🙂
The one session supplemental material doesn’t trump the quality of the adventure though.
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1. The preview shows you the four pages that actually make up the adventure, so, god preview for making a buying decision fromit.
This has been episode three of “Bryce reviews everything on his wishlist, in order.”
BONUS FEATURE! – Fast Locations – Silverfish City!
On my wishlist but not really an adventure. I like city and town locales so I picked this up. It’s nine pages, but the first two are the cover and title page. The last page is the credits page and there are two pages of a poor map. One of the remaining pages is only half a page. That leaves us 3.5 pages of content … not much. It’s just generic town text. “Tavern “The maket’s bowl”, economic place in which most people with enough money eat during the long days of work at the market. It’s cheap, but not bad.” All of the entries are like that, aggressively generic and abstracted, nothing specific, nothing really going on. There is one city hook, about a dungeon nearby and the effects of the people who have gone looking, that is well done in a naturalistic way without being overly long. Quite an interesting hook idea, but nothing beyond that. Quote the disappointment.