By Andrew Sammler Self Published 5e Level 8
With the continual darkness still overhead, adventurers embark on a journey to deliver Good Mead supplies to some of the Ten-Towns to lighten the mood and allow people to blow off steam. On the journey, the characters will be providing joy, light, hope, celebrations, competition, honey wine, and baked goods.
This 35 page adventure uses about fifteen pages to describe a couple of combats (three?) and a few skill challenges, the rest of the page count being the appendix monster stats. It strikes me as a 4e AL adventure: a pretext and then a [fight or skill challenge.] With logical inconsistencies that tear at suspension of disbelief, I guess it’s fine if all you want to do is roll-play.
Your level eight characters get to escort a wagon full of mead barrels to two towns. Escort mission. Of beer. As level eight’s. It’s not magic beer or anything. It’s just mead. Because the two towns haven’t had any for awhile and it will make them happy. I don’t know man, maybe it’s a thing in this setting that level eights deliver beer. Oh, and the quest giver is an asshole, f you ask questions he starts to get rude and impatient and berate you. I’ve never understood this. “Ok, fuckface, how about you deliver your own beer? Maybe you haul it in your asshole since I’m about to start shoving these barrels up yours!” Yes, I do want to play D&D tonight, why do you ask? Ok, yes, I suck it up “we will deliver your beer Mr ungrateful asswipe. Please, pretty please, allow me to go on this adventure and play D&D tonight.”
On the way to the first town a blizzard starts. This if course means that you are about to be ambushed. And you are, by undead. Who form ranks with the rear rank shooting arrows at your mead barrels while the front rank protects them. I must say, this pretty much robs the undead of any wonder or mystery, treating them like the robots in the prequels. Nothing really undead about them, they just act like die rollers, which is what everyone in this adventure is. Flavorless die rolling. Oh, and, there’s a dude sneaking up behind you. Afterwards you can track him. Even though there’s a blizzard. I don’t know. Hang on, I’ve got a call from my wife, I have to go home. What? Why, yes, I am divorced for a couple of years now. Oh, I misspoke, I meant to say it’s a spam call and I can keep playing D&D.
When you get to both towns you are given some busy work. “Were gonna have a party tonight, I need your help.” Trovus suggests that first thing in the morning the characters clean up and prepare the warehouse space for the battle of wits tomorrow, which would include dusting, straightening tables, lighting the torches, preparing the dragonchess sets, etc. Slow news day I guess. Then starts the party and our friendly D&D players get to make a series of skill checks. Want to play dragonchess? Make a series of skill checks. Want to do the riddle contest? Make some skill checks. Want to participate in the handstand contest? Make some skill checks.
The issue is not the festival. This sort of party participation shit has been around forever. The issue us the abstraction of the game. There is NO detail to the contests. Just make some skill checks. No “And Frenkie performs the Rubinate hook moving his platinum dragon to Huma-well 4!” No drama or local colour. No favour of any type. Just make some skill checks. This is the worst sort of things. Roll dice. *YAWN*
Oh! Oh! I forgot! The dude who sabotages your mead barrels in the ambush? If captured, he won’t give up his employer. Because, I guess, “sabotaging some mead barrels” is the crime of the century even when compared to the fire & toture that the party will bring down on him. Th real reason is, of course, tha the designer wants to have a climactic battle with the bad bad, complete with reveal, at he end of the adventure and finding out sooner would spoil that.
Did I mention that there’s an assassin in a little hut you visit, trying to kill the person inside, and the MASSIVE FORCE OF UNDEAD waits out back, because, that’s what you do as the big bad; when you have a massive force of undead 10’ away from your victim you instead send one lowly human to do the job. For that matter, the entire adventure revolves around a necromancer wanting to make the town unhappy, and thus sabotaging the mead delivery. A necromancer that seemingly has a bajillion undead at their disposal. Why not just fucking kill people and burn their crops, houses etc? Why fuck around with “sabotage the beer delivery?”
Because that’s the adventure. A pretext. Written for the wrong level. A pretext. An excuse to roll a bunch of dice in combats that make little sense. A pretext to have some abstracted skill challenges. It reminds me, for all the world, of those terrible 4e RPGA games I used to play up at Winter Fantasy in Fort Wayne.
Sure, it’s formatted nicely enough. But at some point you have to recognize that you’re playing Warhammer and not D&D. What does it even mean anymore to say “I like playing D&D? What does that mean?
It’s 11:11am and it’s time to drink.
This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is fourteen pages; more than enough to get a sense of the writing style, formatting, and what you are buying.
Nothing says epic adventure for 8th level PCs like caravan duty for beer barrels. They should have drank all the beer and then gone on a bender in a local town not unlike rowdy cowboys in some old black & white western. This is seriously what passes for the type of game modern D&D players actually want to play? No tomb raider/indiana jones type exploration/looting? No bloody sword & sorcery carnage? No delving in that forgotten underground delve filled with ancient magic and gold? No evil cultists to slay, or join if that’s your thing? Not even a little bugbear/ogre/giant bashing in a local lair? YAWN!
And just what the F exactly is “The Light Of Hope?” How does the title relate at all to the…
Sometimes, Bryce, I feel…oh, I don’t know…I guess “sorry for you” is what I want to say. Sorry that you are subjected to this misery. Then I remember that you’re reading these so that we don’t have to, and I feel a sense of gratitude.
Have that drink pal. You more than deserve it.
Maybe Hope is the brewery and the PCs are escorting a few barrels if their Hope Lite? (With a hoplite carved on the barrel, obviously)
Should have been titled, The Light of Hops
“Your level eight characters get to escort a wagon full of mead barrels to two towns. Escort mission. Of beer. ” Full of mead barrels, or beer barrels? Not that it matters which it is for the quality of the adventure …
The equivalent of 8th level D+D characters in a warhammer fantasy roleplay game would be near the top of the power ladder, and would own the caravan (and more besides). And the adventure would be about trying to pass off coloured spring water (or something worse) as a new refreshing beer, and possibly doing a deal with the necromancer to provide victims, whilst selling him out to the authorities at the same time.
Wow…was this a WFRP adventure? I completely missed that! Now it totally makes sense!
For that matter, the entire adventure revolves around a necromancer wanting to make the town unhappy, and thus sabotaging the mead delivery.
Sounds like the villain of a Rankin/Bass holiday special. Was the Burgomeister Meisterburger unavailable?
Oh I know how this can be improved. Nazlgruss is a lazy drunkard who also happens to be a necromancer. He sends the undead after the booze, not to make the town ‘unhappy’ but because he wants to drink it all. So now they’ll all be skeletons and zombies that he sent, and we’ll get rid of the assassins. I’d like my $5 now.
YES! I am the terrible and ghastly necromancer. Tremble in terror as I reanimate your dead loved ones!! errr, no. I did that last week.
Bask in my dread presence as I conduct wretched experiments on townfolk!!! errr, nah, too predictable.
…….uh, how ’bout I…. uh…….uh……I got it! I will use my appalling and horrible rights that are an abomination to all that is good and decent to RUIN YOUR MEAD SUPPLY!!!!!!! That’s it!
[evil laugh] muhahahahahahahahahaha! [/evil laugh] followed by crashing thunderclaps and lightning
While I love reading Bryce burn this offal into a smoldering cinder, when it’s 5e, I just don’t care. It’s like going to an insane asylum and pointing at a drooling imbecile writing in excrement on the wall and saying, “No, no, ol’ chap! You’ve got it all wrong!”
The review is wonderfully written. Gives great advice. It’s entertaining. Informative. If this were for OSR, it would be why I’m a Patreon—but it’s for 5e. It’s a different sport. It’s a like a soccer coach telling a baseball player to kick the pitch.
It’s like telling a five-year-old that shark song (Baby Shark?) isn’t good music.
All they want to do is play a video game with paper and pencil. Let ’em, I say.
The instant they bill this chum as OSR, fire up the ol’ rage furnace. Nuke ’em from orbit. Fire and brimstone. Until then, leave this trash in the dump where it belongs.
Just my two farthings.
(I know OSR is slim pickings. And, I’m not really all that serious. Review 5e all you want. It just feels like I’m reading Mike Tyson is picking on a sixth grader. However, I do usually skip the 5e reviews.)
Bryce has given several 5E adventures ‘The Best’ ratings. Being for a non-OSR system is no excuse for selling a crap adventure.
There’s crap and there’s *crap*. And *crap* is bad whether it’s 5e or whatever. There’s universal aspects of design that apply to 5e as much as they apply to OSR, Warhammer Fantasy or whatever.
Discarding this as “Ofc it’s bad it’s 5e” undermines why it’s bad.
I personally don’t care about what edition this is for – because I don’t need to. This book sucks ass and what game it is for is the least of our concerns (all that does is provide us perspective on “level 8”, which leads to the amusign idea of level 8s protecting mead).
OSR is a mindset, not a rules set.
I didn’t say “Of course it’s bad.” You missed the point of my comment. To paraphrase, I said, “Of course it’s not OSR.”
5e does not precipitate the OSR mindset (e.g., “Rulings not rules.” “Play worlds not rules.” “The answer isn’t on the character sheet,” etc.).
Thus, when it’s bad—by OSR standards—I don’t care to read about it. 5e *isn’t* OSR and it’s not trying to be. Pointing out its faults is like pointing out the sky is blue or the water is wet.
That’s why I skip 5e reviews. I don’t care. Not because it’s 5e—because it’s not OSR.
I’ve read all the 5e reviews that have gotten “the best” (and every other review Bryce has written since ’19 and most back to ’17) because they were good—by OSR standards. Again, OSR isn’t a rules set. It’s a mind set. If an adventure has the right mind set in spite of the rules it uses, good for it!
100% this! The culture has promoted bad adventure design or at least said this was good when its crap. NO EXCUSE KEEP RECIEWING WHATEVER BRYCE
Look at Oswald thats 5e. Tomb of the black sand, Kelsey dionee and dungeon age
5e IS NO EXCUSE
WRITE BETTER ADVENTURES
WE WILL BE THERE IN SUPPORT OF YOU
TAKE MY ENERGY
That’s some awesome grammar right there.
TH UHASKJDHOIW KNSF AHSDLKAHLDHASDJ:H KJH ASDLKH
This strikes me as an adventure I wouldn’t want to play, but I have to think it sounds like a typical 5E adventure. 3 fights and some skill checks, NPCs with simple abrassive personalities of the OCs to push against.
Is it good or bad as a 5E adventure? I don’t know? Likely still bad – bad writing is bad. The review criteria though don’t really address 5E. I’m not a fan of Saturday morning cartoon plots for fantasy superheroes … but tons of people are, most D&D players apparently. It strikes me that those of us who enjoy classic style design don’t have the terms or design theory to approach 5E adventures properly. Does this thing have properly structured CR? Do the set pieces have high tactical interactivity? Do the skill test scenes allow for OC spotlighting?
I don’t see anyone reviewing these things (so many of them – yeech) critically based on thier own terms so any review is good, but until someone can wrestle with these in the context of the play style they are written for I can’t see the GM’s Guild quality improving. I’m not saying Bryce or I should do it, but someone in 5E land should.
Hi Gus. Can you recommend a good review site to me? I am looking for one with a real review culture. The extant ones are either run by, or have comment sections with, trolls. I don’t care about the actual quality of the reviews as long as both the reviewers and the authors have the exact same political beliefs as I am. Thanks.
“I’m not a fan of Saturday morning cartoon plots for fantasy superheroes … but tons of people are, most D&D players apparently.” If all they have is a hammer (Critical Role), everything looks like a nail
Yeah, I understand this is a different play style. I don’t understand the appeal but I acknowledge that it is the dominant play style today, and has been for quite some time. I think you can get to about 80%, in a review, regardless of the system involved. That last 20% though is style dependent. Is it a good exploratory adventure, or is it a good plot-based adventure, and so on.
It seems to me that the 5E zeitgiest goes a bit beyond plot or location based. Ravenloft is clearly better then Curse of Strahd but 5E has changed even since that came out. When I look at contemporary 5E stuff it reads like something entirely new.
While obviously some of the elements are similar, bad writing is afterall bad, 5E has grown strange in the light of fast food promotions and 1,000 streamed games. Dramatically weird in a way that seems new. I wish someone out there would help me figure out what exactly I was looking at.
A Knight at the Opera recently mused about where 5e sits Vs the OSR, and The Alexandrian is a good source for 5e reviews that take its playstyle into account while remaining critical.
Having read this, it focuses on the rules rather than the mindset. And while I firmly believe that rules contribute to the vibe, that’s not the core issue.
I think the weirdness is really from the departure in 5e conceptually from “our” fundamental shared framework of reference (i.e., Appendix N). The 5e reference is really latter day fantasy and fiction which can take all kinds of crazy flavors, is drastically not gygaxian (though it exists), and is much more character story centric (in ways different from 2e, and even 3e) and i think anime influenced as well.
Character-story centric is an interesting way to put it and I think much closer to what’s going on. Character Arc vs Emergent Arc may be a central pillar, but I’m still not sure that explains the plot vs exploratory breakdown, unless exploratory is too deadly and destroys the arc, therefore it must not exist? The plot arc for most appear to be “1. Investigate. 2. 5 Room Dungeon.” The extreme episodic nature, with some two-parters thrown in, appears to be the norm. And that’s not the explanation either. It’s something else, or a combination of things working together to be something else.idk
5E’s aesthetic to me seems firmly rooted in Gygax’s. As you say chewed up, swirled around by pop culture for 40 years and spit back out. Gnolls are still doggy beast men, not Dunsany’s torture obessed gnomes. As far as can tell, the aesthetic is there mixed in with newer works (anime, marvel movies, crpgs) that themselves build directly on D&D.
I agree it’s character driven, its main adventures generally emulate a filmic story arc and it almost exclusively assumes simple heroic motives for the players. I don’t think any of that is aesthetic though, pure playstyle and culure — it doesn’t even mechanically support genre emulation/narrative very well. Gray corridors full of grunting pigmen won’t make a 5E adventure classic. The expectations and goals of the players and GM, the locus of play and the design principles all would need to change radically (oh yeah, also mechanics – 5E combat is too tightly tuned and time consuming for random or asymmetric encounters).
It’s simply not a game that appeals to me, but it’s stll steeped in Gygaxian vernacular fantasy.
Good post – updoot
TO GUS L
I saw your Thracia review! Nice work. Someone has to have made a good isometric redrawn map for it! Or after the post hopefully someone can.
If someone does one or you find one can you post it?
Its similar to your maps for DCO or stargazer they are super helpful for play
Ok, I got it. I finally made the connection. I know what new D&D is.
New D&D is Paranoia, but without the paranoia or Friend Computer. You’re troubleshooters, doing whatever fucked up thing you’re told to do, and just blindly accepting shit and going along for the ride. Which is linear. Official 5e is Paranoia.