By Matthew Evans Mithgarthy Entertainment B/X Levels 1-2
Responding to a flier promising payment for kobold heads, the party gathers in the town of Brink. From there, they set out on an expedition to the Crimson Caverns, a known kobold lair. After proving their met- tle, the PCs will be hired by the Church of Erm to recover a needed artifact from Fallsbarrow.
This 24 page adventure features three dungeons with multiple levels and about seventy rooms. It’s got a clean three-column format, but is essentially minimally keyed with just a hint of a few extra words. It’s also going to be hard as all fuck for level one and two hobos.
Our action starts quickly. The column read-aloud details the party having a meal in an inn, getting taunted by a local worthy, and then traveling to a cave full of kobolds to stand outside it … there being a reward for kobold heads. No real fucking about here and, I must say, my preferred way of starting a level one campaign. Short to no time in town and lets play some fucking D&D man! The additional of the taunting by the local bravo is a nice touch, even though he and his friends are found dead in the very first room. Nice detail AND a missed opportunity, all at the same time.
The rooms here are essentially minimally keyed. “Bones from a few different creatures litter the floor beneath the drop here. Otherwise this area is empty.” or “Two ghouls sitting on the floor rise to attack.” That’s not much for a DM to go on. I get it, minimally keying is a thing and I would certainly prefer it to the text onslaught that most adventures seem to suffer from. It does allow for putting fifteen rooms on just two pages, with the extra text mostly being things like details like “ghouls paralyze creatures of less than an ogres size, make a save blah blah blah” … rules notes that offer little. However, it’s 2021. A little extra room description would go a long way. Something to create an evocative environment, or even a creature description. This can be done without a significant amount of extra text and in most cases can replace the notes on “make a save to not be paralyzed” and so on that pad out this adventures text.
A certain number of rooms do receive just a little bit more text. “The two statues in the north and south are made of green marble, and are of previous patriarchs of the church. The eastern statue is made of crystal and depicts the goddess Erm. All other niches contain sarcophagi.” So, fact based and not a lot to get the DMs juices going.
The maps are mostly simple star and branching things. One of the systems does have a shaft with three level exits, which provides some decent variety. The first kobold dungeon has two levels, while the second dungeon has one level, then you go to the “shaft” caves to get an item and return and use the item to open up the second level. This is good. A little non-linear play and at least the fetching of the red key for the red door, or the statues missing gemstone eye in this case, is at a secondary location.
The homebase doesn’t overstay its welcome, only being a page long, but it really add nothing to the adventure … it could not be there at all and you’d not be missing anything. Well, anything except the level fourteen cleric in town who gives you the mission for the second dungeon. Eeek! Why doesn’t he go do it? I guess because he’s 60? And he offers raise deads for about 1500 gp at first level … that whole thing doesn’t make sense at all. He hook for the second dungeon is that his apprentice is cursed by an evil object and he wants you to go to the second dungeon to get something to cure her … with no real mention of the thing that cursed her in the first place … a sure miss since the players are sure to inquire and want to follow up on it. Still, level 14 … How about we put him in a cart and wheel him around and act as his bodyguards while he cures, turns, and stuff?
And I say that because the poser levels here are crazy. Decently sized groups of 2HD ghouls, a 5HD queen ghoul, a 6HD bone golem. That shaft dungeon? It’s main shaft is 100’ long and is full of 2HD vines that fuck up the party. I get it, OSR and all that, you can run away. But a star with branching off hallways doesn’t give a lot of tactical options. This just seems beyond what even Run Away offers.
There are other nits. If you bargain with the priest and roll less than an 8 on 2d6 then there will be no adventure for you. That’s a lot of fun. Some rooms say things like “the sounds of battle in the next room attract the monsters here.” … which should really be in the room with the sounds of battle, or noted on the map or something.
It’s basic, nothing wrong with that. When you combine this with minimal keying a little effort at evocative writing, well, maybe you’re in to that. I’m not. There’s a bright spot or to, like exploring down the long shaft full of vines. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself what sort of value you expect to get out of an adventure. Rooms with little more than a monster standing in it, with little to no descriptive text … Meh. I got better things to do with my life.
This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is thirteen pages. Pages six and seven show the kobold lair, so, from that you can get an idea of minimal keying and decide for yourself if its something you want in your life. So, good preview!
This is episode Oh God How Long Can This Go On of Bryce reviews everything on his wishlist.