By Marcus Lock Parts Per Million Worlds Without Number/OSR Levels 5-6
No movement, No sound, barely a wisp of air. The village appears empty, with no sign of struggle, no violent death, in fact, no sign of the villagers at all. All there appears to be is an empty space as if the people were teleported away and, in their absence, in the time they have been gone, strange shapes seem to have almost sprung out of the ground. Growing upwards getting bigger, the shapes are familiar, but the size is wrong. Mushrooms just don’t grow that big. 6’, 8’, some as big as trees, almost blocking out the sun. Multi-colored and grouped together around the village. The strong earthy smell of growth is almost overpowering. There is a mist filtering through the tree-sized mushrooms…
This thirty page digest adventure features 15 “locations”, using six pages to do so. It makes me question all of the life choices I’ve made to bring me to this point in my journey.
Look, I’m a happy go lucky kind of guy. Live and let live, Bryce always says. You see that hill over there? That very next one? Right behind it is a shining city under blue skies. We merely need to stretch our legs and walk the distance and we’ll be there! Rage, my cynic friends! Rage against the dying of the light!
A magnificent adventure today! Look at that cover! How could there not be a shining city under it?! Blue skies await!
Look at that product description! Joy! Oh, no … wait, it’s not joy. Hmmm, it’s pretty much telegraphing what is going on. I mean, the villagers turned in to mushrooms, right? That’s obvious to everyone? It’s not just me? So … it’s going to be obvious to the players just as soon as they step in to the village … or even see it from a distance? “No signs of life in the village, no dogs or fires or anything, but there are clusters of 6-footish tall mushrooms scattered around in clusters.”
What follows is a study in tedium.
Essentially, there are no encounters in this adventure and there’s nothing to do. I’m not counting fighting. There’s plenty of fighting. The DM text does say “role-playing within a village environment”, but, I don’t think we’re using a common language at least as far as it applies to the term roleplaying. I’m cool with other play styles. I mean, I don’t want fuck-all to do with them, but, hey, if you like them then engage all you want. But I despair over is the loss of meaning. “I like to play D&D” means nothing any more. It could mean literally anything. And this adventure is NOT my definition of D&D.
Basically, you walk in the village and get attacked. You fight some mushroom people. You can look around in some buildings, but, they are all empty, with minimal descriptions. “Roberts family, 4 children.” a great many of them say with a generic description above them all of a dusty building not lived in for quite some time. There’s no specificity. And it wouldn’t matter if there were because there’s nothing going on in the village. Some giant mushrooms to look at. “Giant mushrooms.” is about all the description you get for them and there’s no interactivity. Get attacked by some mushroom people. Yeah! Find a hole in the ground. Great. There is absolutely NO interactivity in the village. No mystery to solve. Nothing to find. Nothing to explore. And then the “dungeon” starts with it’s eight-ish rooms. Again, no interactivity. You can go right or left. If you go right you find guard mushrooms and the hive mind aggros all mushrooms to your location. If you go left you find mushrooms that attack you and the hive mind aggros all mushrooms to your location. Each location is essentially just a description saying “There are X mushroom people of type Y at this location.” with a long stat block then mixed in and a note at the end reminding the DM to agro all of the mushroom people.
There is no treasure.
The hook is that the rumors are that the village is empty. Or a merchant hires you because no caravans have come. And the village is at a cross-roads. But no one has explored it all. Cross-roads is not out of the way. But weeks of dust, and un-looted general store implies that it is. Giant trees spore you once you get close. Maybe. Or maybe they don’t? They take weeks to develop. The text says hey are not developed. And then it says they spore the party. None of this shit makes any sense.
Wandering monsters contains such evocative entries as “small pack animal” and “herd beast.”
This is D&D. This is what a large number of people think D&D is. Because it IS that to those people. Just like Critical Role. That IS the definition of D&D for a great many people. The majority, now, I assume. Or D&D is “the DM is telling a story through the adventures” bullshit. Or D&D is mini’s combat and combat-as-sport. But this isn’t D&D. You might have fun doing one of those things. I’m genuinely glad you do. But, at some point, we must agree on the meaning of the word “egg.” If you offer me poached eggs and serve me dried maggots for breakfast then I think it’s fair to assert that I have a right to be disappointed.
I find adventures like this so perplexing. How do you put something like this together, with the obvious quality in layout and art, and NOT know what a D&D adventure is? Surely you’ve seen them before? But I guess not? I mean, otherwise, why would something like this exist? Do people care so little for what they attach their names to? I mean, I’m an asshat and too much of a perfectionist, having attached my name to nothing, but this is the other side of the spectrum.
Day after day. Week after week. People who don’t care. On a good day I’ll tell myself that they just don’t know what they don’t know. I don’t understand how they don’t know it, but, it’s clear they don’t. Why else then?
Because there is no shining city just over the next hill. All the clouds are grey. It’s just people. People muddling through life. Doing the best they can. Which is substandard 99% of time. And no one really gives a shit, one way or another. There is no hope for a brighter tomorrow.
And yet, we must imagine that Sisyphus is happy.
This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is the entire thing. So, at least there’s that.