The Child Thieves

By R.J. Thompson
Appendix N Entertainment
Levels 3-5

Several years ago a piper happened along the poorest district of the city during the midst of the plague of rats and with his magic flute rid the people of the rats. Every year since the rats have come again, and so has the piper. In recent years the price of his services has risen, but the money of the poor has not. This year they could not pay. The angered piper left the district, cursing its residents. The next morning the people woke and found the beds of their children empty. Large rat-like tracks were found in the district leading from the homes of the missing children to the storm drains. With so little to offer for the return of their children, will the people find anyone to attempt a rescue?

This 27 page adventures uses nine pages to describe two levels of a sewer system with 22 rooms. It’s heavily rat themed, in terms of monsters. Lots of rats, giant rats, and were-rats. Surprise! It’s a daily non-offensive thing, doing nothing really interesting or overly bad. I guess it’s boring? Sure. It’s boring. 

Oh, the jaded reviewer, pity him! Dwelling in his pile of shit. Eating his pile of shit. Seeing the same thing time and again. Oh, why can’t his icy heart appreciate the thing for what it is, now, in this moment, and not make the comparisons to all of the joys of the part, president, and possible futures to come? Because I don’t want to run a boring game, that’s why.

There is a joy to D&D. In it’s best moments a mirthful glee to the situations the party find themselves in. The world is straight man to the characters, but you need to give the party something to work with. You need someone asking who’s on first base. That’s the adventure. And an adventure without those opportunities gives us less room to create that unbridled glee that is D&D. 

So, rats in a sewer. A million billion adventures written about rats in the sewer. And, here’s another Rats In The Sewer adventure. Of course, there’s wererats involved. No doubt there is some portion of my literary education that is missing, that which will make all D&D designers obsessions with wererats make sense. So, the towns kids are missing and the tracks lead to the sewers. The same sewers that, yearly, a horde of rats come out of. *sigh*, ok, let’s go down in to the sewer. Why is there a sewer? Who knows. Is there any “sewer” like things in the swerve, like grates to the above? No. There’s some water 3’ deep. 

And a lot of rats. A LOT of rats. Like, encounters with 50 of them. And then giant rats swarming out of holes in the walls. And the required wererats, who never alert anyone else and just wait in the rooms to die. There is, in the back, an art piece I thought was cool. It had a sewer place and some wererats in combat and one of them was holding a revolved at the ready! Cool! Then I saw I misread the art piece and it wasn’t a revolver. *SADZ*

Map has some water on it. Map has some loops. It’s not a bad map for what it is. I mean, it’s not good either. One room mentions a pile of dung sticking out of the water, and that’s not on the map, so, you don’t get major room features like that. Or, only rarely do you get them. 

There’s a water valve puzzle, because all sewers have those. Like, I don’t know, twelve possible combinations? Including them drying out a room that you already have to be standing in in order to get the treasure in that room. So, leave someone behind in that room while you go elsewhere to work the vales. There’s no real indication of what the valves do, other than going back to look at all the rooms to see what happens after each time you make a change. This seems tedious to me? Like something I would handwave. 

I don’t know. At one point a trap drops a bunch of staves on the floor, which has a sticks to snakes spell on it. I can’t stand this kind of rube goldberg type traps. Just fucking drop some god damn viers on the party. Like a carboard box full of them. Why the shit with the staves and “the floor has the spell on it?” 

I’m just bored. Bored of going in to room after room and fighting rats. What’s in this room¿ Oh, more rats. Nice. Said no one ever. Maybe two thousand copper coins also? 

There’s a kind of D&D drudgery here. An ennui, as an adventurer, that makes you wonder why you are doing it all. I mean, yeah, saving kids. That’s a reason, right? I mean, the parents didn’t even try to save them, so, youknow, if they don’t give a shit … And, you know, infant mortality rate in towns was pretty high already. I guess we’re going down in to the sewers, again, because we want to hang out with our friends tonight and play D&D. But, really, what’s the difference? Sitting home alone. Playing boring D&D with friends. Same thing.

No, I’m not a member of the cult of the new. And no, I’m not overly attracted to gonzo. And no, I’m not a jaded reviewer. I just have absolutely no interest in things like this. Things that all fight Fight FIGHT. Yeah, there’s a time and place for combat, Mr 4e, but it’s not all the fucking time. There need to be evocative places of wonder to explore. And the descriptions of the sewers don’t bring the filth required to qualify as a place of wonder. Or even a place of Mild Interest. There is essentially no interactivity, other than the valve puzzle and talking to a giant turtle. The designer has also “Made the adventure replayable” by giving you five different locations the children could be. Seriously? Who the fuck does that? Replay an adventure like this? 

It does, to its credit, do an ok job with mundane treasure. Holden bracelets with opals, a silver tiara, a gold pendant in the shape of an oak leaf. Note that is my threshold. It takes almost nothing to impress me and yet here we are. Again. “Silver tiara” gets a nod from me. It also has some little rule about rumors, where a 13 WIS, and a divine background, lets you know which “cult” rumors are false/true, etc, and something similar for INT. Pretty common sense stuff ,but nice to see it called out. 

So, it’s an adventure. I guess you could run it. If you had nothing better to do with your life. Like watch the paint peel or take up coke or shitty Italian aperitifs. Want an adventure? Here’s one. God, nothing about this would make me come back again to a DM who ran a session like this. Is this really how people play D&D?

Gavin’s OSE has now ARRIVED; the market is flooded.

This is $5 at DriveThru. Two ratings, both five stars. The preview is six pages. Only the last one is any good, showing you the first five rooms. Oh, and the fourth one has that rumor shit on it, if you want to see that mini-rule.–S1?1892600

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12 Responses to The Child Thieves

  1. Jonathan Becker says:

    Huh. Reading this review makes me want to try my hand at writing a rat-themed adventure, just to see if I have anything interesting to offer.

    I don’t think I’ve ever done the sewer/rat thing before. There were giant rats in Tower of Zenopus (a great encounter, where they start coming through the walls while the party is trying to loot stuff), and the damned colony in B2 (which often ends in a TPK), but I’m hard pressed to think of any other big rat attacks over the years. I’m not a fan of rats…not in real life, not in adventures. Not even were-rats, really.


  2. Reason says:

    Normal sized rats with red eyes who are intelligent. The ride & use giant ratipedes (they grow them in a creepy chamber from a vast, obese broodmother- which yes, the little rats have to impregnate)

    They are kidnapping children to try and produce rat changelings- where by a rat can chage into human form- but only the human form of one of these stolen kids.

    Rats pouring down like rain from above through sewer grates.

    Creepy kids who are actually transformed rats (a puzzle to solve, who can you trust).

    Hideous ritual of transformation. Involves being held down by a thousand rats while the rat which wants to be able to transform into you must take your face (tiny bite by tiny bite).

    Real kids, terrified who have seen a ritual that should not be seen.

    Now faceless (dead?) victims- either still living but frenzied with fear or raised by the pipe if you choose that option below.

    Rats have a pipe which summons – the dead to life (under their control so long as they keep playing) – hideous water monster/weird- giant amphibian centipedes…

    There you go- a more interesting rat adventure in 5 minutes.

  3. Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

    No doubt there is some portion of my literary education that is missing, that which will make all D&D designers obsessions with wererats make sense.

    That’s easily remedied, old chum!

  4. Sevenbastard says:

    I saw a genie adventure review that I didn’t finish but it disappeared now?

    • Tamás Illés says:

      I hear ye! I can still see it on blogger’s reading list. It haunts me. Probably it wasn’t finished and was posted by accident.

  5. Tamás Illés says:

    “No doubt there is some portion of my literary education that is missing, that which will make all D&D designers obsessions with wererats make sense.”

    Lankhmar or Warhammer’s skaven.

  6. ????? says:

    YLDOLL ?????????????????????????

  7. Dick says:

    “No doubt there is some portion of my literary education that is missing, that which will make all D&D designers obsessions with wererats make sense.”

    Gee, I wonder, could it be because it’s almost impossible to get through your childhood without encountering one of the countless adaptations of The Nutcracker & the Rat King? Far more of a universal experience than either Leiber or Games Workshops.

    I’m deeply disappointed this isn’t an adventure where the bad guys are actual child thieves, in the thieves-that-are-children sense. Have them led by a bunch of borribles. Hell, maybe they’re all borribles. The party gets hooked into things by the last few surviving adult thieves in town begging/paying for help against the “young knives” and their bloody purge of the underworld. You can still have your ratmen if you really want, throw in some Rumbles. Or maybe the kids/borribles have framed them for their own killing spree and the party winds up finishing off the ratties for them, just before the inevitable betrayal.

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