By Fiona Geist, David McGrogan, Zedeck Siew, Adam Koebel Free League Publishing Forbidden Lands
This eighty page booklet has four adventures from four well known designers. I’m going to review this one differently, doing one review post per adventure, in an attempt to give their fair due, something that I think is missing in my previous anthology reviews. This is this second installment, and the general comments from the first, regarding publisher style, still apply.
The Firing Pit of Llao-Yuyuy (McGrogan)
This dungeon uses thirteen pages to describe a 21 room cave complex that’s used by an (evil) dude to make magical pottery stuff. It’s lacking in much interactivity, beyond combat, and is fairly straight-forward, reminding me more of a lair dungeon in tone, if not in size.
Okey dokey, so, same italics in the read-aloud, same iso-metric map bringing a more evocative vibe to the mapping sphere. And, well, more of the same of everything.
The complex is mostly a just an adventuring site, with a couple of off-hand remarks up front about integrating it like “the party is just passing by” or “several villagers have gone missing.” Nothing wrong with just an adventuring site, but, I think the adventure would be stronger to leave them out rather than just have a throw-away sentence. Or, perhaps, use the space of the throw-away’s to expand the “missing villagers” thing by just a few more sentences to add some depth to it.
The map is is in the same great iso-metric format as the first entry, adding life to what would otherwise be a pretty plain “a couple of chambers with connecting twisty passages” map. There’s a water feature or two and good little vertical piece, complete with pulley and bucket to get to the top/bottom … always a fun time! It’s more simplistic than the first entry in the volume, which is one of the reasons why I compare this to the simple lair dungeons so common these days. Larger in number of rooms, but still as straight-forward as they tend to be … and I don’t necessarily mean linear. And … one room is missing a key on the map; a dreadful oversight of our erstwhile editor.
Read-aloud is … well, I’m not actually sure it’s meant to be read-aloud. It’s in italics (and long. Boo!). It’s formatted like read-aloud. It reads like read-aloud. Well, mostly. Until you reach the entry that says, in the read-aloud, that there are d3 treasures in the room. Editing error? Or, is this meant to be some text for the DM to give them a brief overview of the room? That would explain the over-detail of the read-aloud, destroying the back and forth between the players and the DM … because then it wouldn’t be over-detail. But, counterpoint, the creatures are never mentioned, which would be be something you should put in the DM focused text. So, I stick by my initial assertion: it’s read-aloud. In italics. Too long. With DM text mixed in. And using boring words like large and small instead of more evocative ones. And, of course, the over-detail. “It is guarded by a golem called the Child” says the read-aloud. Which both over explaines (The Child) and tells instead of shows (golem.)
DM text is added to fuck and back. “These were painted eons past by the primitive peoples who lived in the region.” Which has fuck all to do with the adventure. “They leave this room unguarded.” You mean, like, the description says? Or the fact that there are no monsters in the room? No shit sherlock. Look, ok, that’s an over-reaction on my part. A child could squeeze in to a crack. Or, the text tells us, a dwarf, halfing, goblin or other small humanoid. SO … something child-sized, you’re saying? This is just the typical padding that I would expect in an adventure … expect in a not very focused and/or well edited and written one, I mean.
Which is not to say its all bad. “A large black hole in the side of the mound, below which is a steep slope of scree. Strewn all over the slope and in a huge pile at the bottom are shattered fragments of pottery and clay dust.” There are little bits like that are not too bad. Large and huge are pretty boring, at least large is, but not bad.
Oh! Oh! Another padding tirade! We do get a over abundance of DM text, a lot of it coming from padding and repetition. For example, a watchpost has the usual “dozing watchmen” in it, but we’re told this in three separate places: lazy servant is posted here at all time, the details of the lazy servant mechanics to see the party/be dozing, and then “Since nobody ever approaches the mound duties are treated laxly.” … an explanation and/or justification of the encounter. This goes a long way to padding out what should otherwise be a shorter amount of DM text. But, hey, it reaches the required page count. This room, in particular, also exemplifies the house style … never really mentioning the servant, beyond those oblique references, until the end, noting “Creatures: one servant” at the end of the room description.
Over and over again this shit happens. When we do get something good, like potters who can’t walk and shuffle about on their fists, it’s done in a way that they DONT shuffle about on their fists. And, ultimately, it’s just going in to a room and seeing a human servant or some humanoid golem. One or two of the golems are mechanically ot descriptivly interesting, but theres little enough to the variety or interactivity to make it interesting beyond this.
I’d rate this far weaker than the Geist entry in the anthology.
This is $10 at DriveThru. Preview doesn’t work.
I honestly think free league has a bad standard for dressing and laying out books. They need to re think this. See italics and bad layout. The Milton adventure could be way better for example. More flowchats and at table design for the dm
I wonder if you’d object to sans italics as much as serif italics. Looks cleaner.
IMO it wouldn’t matter. It’s the italicization itself that is the problem. Can’t speak for Bryce though. I have not yet added Brycewhisperer to my many titles.
What kind of fonts do people usually use nowadays? It seemed like TSR and other publishers were going for fonts that emulated handwriting. I’d give a hard No to that.
I am rather sloppy in my language use; the issue is purely one of legabiliry, and the grey zone of Ease Therein. If you can italics and it not be hell to read then Forget Boldly Forward!
Why not just use bolded text instead of italics?
Requires more space on the page: it’s both taller and wider. Usually adventure writers are fighting to save lines.
Most adventures these days are vastly overwritten. I don’t know of any recent adventure where anyone was running out of space. Rather, most people are padding it out all sorts of nonsensical and useless information. They can certainly start there than font use.
I’m looking at the page layout in the preview—they are not concerned about wasting space. Garish headers and footers + ginormous margins!
And Byrce is right, reading those italics require a serious level of mental commitment to visually decode.