By Jesse Davenport & Matthew Neff The Strange Domain OSR Level 1?
Evil has descended on the sinking village of Myre. As deaths and disappearances increase, whispers of demon possession spread and townsfolk eye their neighbors with growing fear. At the heart of this nightmare is a mysterious young woman, desperate to dispatch this evil before it is too late. Will you be the saviors of Myre, or just more bodies lost in the bog?
This 36 page adventure is going for a creepy/spooky vibe as it describes a few NPC locations in town and a swamp and abandoned city. It’s abstracted content, for the most part, but it generally works … if you’re in to that sort of thing. I think it could use more structure and be longer.
This is a rough one to describe. It has content, and that content tends to the evocative side of the spectrum, but it’s structure is more story gamey … without going fully over that side of the game/not-game line.
You’re on your way to town when you have an encounter with a spooky ghost lady, pointing to the town. It’s described well, in that it lends to a spooky vibe. Coming to the town you see a funeral procession being led by a young acolyte. Turns out its the high priestess … the same one that sent a letter to the baron asking for help, which got the party involved. Asking around town or talking to the acolyte gets you the same info: a demon haunts the village and someone is dying each night. Seems each night someone gets possessed and tries to kill the acolyte. She tells you its a demon and she can put it to rest if prayers are said in the old church in the city in the swamp. You could also learn that and old hermit, in a different swamp, has a spirit box that can put the demon to rest. There are a few NPC’s (miller, shopkeep, merchant, mayor, blacksmith, innkeep) but, it’s pretty likely that the players just talk to the acolyte, I suspect.
You go through the swamp, having a number of random encounters, and then enter the lost city, which is also abstracted in to a couple of random encounters.
These encounters probably make up the bulk of the adventure. It’s of the “roll x times and/or have six encounters and then you find the destination you were looking for” sort of mechanic. And this is, primarily, why I say that this leans heavily to the story game/plot side of the D&D adventure line. It’s not my favorite mechanic as I think it tends to remove the agency from the players. It’s more “ok, time to have an encounter” sort of thing, which gives the party little control. Environmental hazards and creepy non-dangerous things are heavily weighted on the table, so it’s not all combat.
In the church in the city you find a bunch of dead people, 20, who attack only if you fuck with them, a fresh body on the alter, and a yawning portal behind it to the Upside Down. There you can (or have the acolyte) say some prayers, or use the hermits demon box, or just stab, the evil demon thing. Adventure over.
The demon thing is described as “Only a glimmer, like the shards of a shattered mirror, betray this near invisible death. Its voice is like acid in the ears.”Ok, so, creepy words, for sure. And, probably more than enough to run an evocative encounter. Most of the descriptions are like this, hinting rather than saying. I don’t hate the descriptions, but I do think they are getting close to that. Essentially, you can take “evocative” too far. This doesn’t do that, but it does get close enough that, combined with the abstracted travel, I start to raise my eyebrows. It never goes fully in to that territory though.
It’s a pretty short adventure.
An unusual amount of real estate is spent on the town. The NPC’s, rumors, and someone dying every night. It’s well supported, with a great little “how the villagers react to stress” table, as well as a paranoia mechanic for the villagers as the deaths increase. If they do. Like I said, one death a night and the path forward seems pretty clear to me: talk to the acolyte immediately and go to the church in the lost city in the swamp. It’s not that the village is bad, it’s actually very well supported, especially for an adventure brining the creepy vibe. It’s just not clear to me that it’s going to get much use. A nice snag though for another creepy village you’re running. Who’s not up for an impromptu wedding because of all the grief in the village?
Items are good also. The hermit has some magic beans (bring on the folklore!) that when you plant them in a corpse grow a vine with weird fruit. That turn out to be healing items. That’s probably the most involved item, but, a broken silver dagger rumored to have slain a werewolf might give you a reason to visit the blacksmith, and so on. There’s a non-traditional aspect to them that I dig a lot.
So, creepy vibe. Nice advice to create creepy villagers when they are possessed. Nice village, if no reason to fuck around there. Abstracted randomness, misplaces, on the journey through the swamp and in to the city. (I’ve said this before and will not doubt harp on it in the future: why are you inserting randomness randomly? Just create some fucking encounters, fully fleshed out things, and insert them.) . The backstory is overwrought, takes up too much space, and is essentially irrelevant.
Short and creepy. Maybe, 2 hours of content? It’s interesting, as a design type. It’s use of abstraction and weirdly descriptive/abstracted text to create a spooky vibe is interesting. Academically interesting. To me. It needs to be tightened up and expanded in to a full adventure.
This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is the full thing. Yeah! You CAN make an informed decision. I’d check it out, even if you are not interested. Check out the “Grim Tidings” table for the village, or the intro scene with the ghost lady, pages 11 and 13.