Frankenstein

By Daniel DeFazio
B&W Media
Generic (no stats)

Ingolstadt, Bavaria – 1799 Elizabeth Lavenza is searching for her fiancé Victor Frankstein. Cholera has taken the lives of many citizens of the city and the streets are crammed with fear. Amidst the chaos, bodies of victims are going missing and a creature stalks the rooftops near Victor’s laboratory.

This twenty page adventure, a re-telling of Frankenstein, exemplifies all that is wrong with late 90’s role playing adventures. 

Todays review is charity work. Someone suggested that this designer is A) popular in the new world we find ourselves in and B) needs help. So, I’m jumping in. Both statements are very accurate. The designer has their own website and runs a decently popular youtube channel. And they have no clue how to write an adventure. Since the fucking fanboys are sure to show up, let’s make this clear. This is not a moral judgement on the designer, or a reflection of them as a dungeonmaster. This is a statement based on their inability to have the skill of technical writing, or at least to recognize that adventure writing is technical writing. The purpose is to help the DM run the adventure at the table.

First, let us examine the subject matter: Frankenstein. Another offering is MacDeath, clearly a riff on the play. Both well known works and essentially retellings. At least Frankenstein is. Let us ask, why? Why not original IP? The recognizable IP no doubt appeals to non-RPG players … but, again, why? You gonna play this instead of How To Host A Murder? Ok. There’s not enough in this for a newbie DM to use. And if you’ve got an experienced DM then they are gonna barth before running this. It’s some weird middle ground choice of how much information to present, and how. 

The primary sin, here, is the retelling of the story. The characters in this essentially have no agency. Very little of their actions matter. Oh, what’s the Vampire adventure whos name I always forget? You know, the worst adventure of all time where the party doesn’t get to play, they just get to watch ancient vampire monologue at each other? This is that. This is not an adventure inspired by Frankensteinm it WILL be the Frankenstein story, all the way to the end and the designer WILL ensure that it works out that way. When the party first meets Victor he is behind a locked door and nothing, come hell of high water, will result in the party getting in through that door … because that’s not where the plot is yet. It would ruin the STORY. Yes, the fucking STORY. This is a fundamental misunderstanding in RPG design that many new designers have. The story is not the designers. The story is not the DM’s. The story is the players. I don’t give a fuck what shit you dream about at night, and how it might unfold. All that goes out the window when the wrecking crew meets it. You write the fucking thing with that in mind, and I don’t mean by preventing things from happenning.

Likewise our ending. There MUST be a showdown in Victors lab. The create and Dr MUST meet and fight, with flames. That moment MUST happen …the adventure dictates it. Possibilities in the decision tree that do not result in the few laid out by the designer are NOT allowed … and in this case we mean supported. “Oh, a designer can’t support everything Bryce …” “ Fuck you N00B”, I say, the designers job is to present information for the DM to riff on, in that way many outcomes CAN be supported. 

About 80% of the text is read-aloud. Specific read-aloud generally laid out in a somewhat bulletish manner in a Q/A format. So, if the party asks Frank about X then read this long section of monologue. Embedded in this is the personality of the speaker, the scene, and a lot of backstory. This works against effective running of the adventure. You can’t riff on a monologue. Ideally, you want a brief personality snippet, in a few words, and a general outline of information to be conveyed in a way that’s easy for the DM to locate and add their own flair to, reacting to it and changing it as the parties actions dictate. The format selected herein, along with the plot really force this adventure down a “watching the movie unfold” kind of thing. Which is not roleplaying. And fuck you, new readers, for thinking it is. Yes, there can be a great variety in how games are played, but taking away the agency of the party is not one of them.

So, it’s the most extreme railroad kind of plot-based adventure, combined with a format that actively works against riffing on and focuses on monologue. Pretty much exactly a late 90’s adventure and everything this blog rails against.

Finally, let me state that I get the generic/no stats thing and am supportive. But, man, throw in one page for some stats for a system or two.

This is $7 at QuestGivers.com, the designers site.

https://www.questgivers.com/product.php?p=38

Hello. This is the Bryce Emergency Review protocol. Bryce writes about three weeks ahead and has not written a new review in about three weeks, so this script has snagged an emergency review to post instead. Bryce has also been emailed and told to get back to work instead of engaging in whatever delight he is currently using to manage ennui.

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27 Responses to Frankenstein

  1. Anonymous says:

    OPEN THE POD BAY DOORS

  2. Anonymous says:

    HELLO BRYCE EMERGENCY REVIEW PROTOCAL

    What are your prime directives

  3. Gnarley Bones says:

    What is this?

  4. Anonymous says:

    “Oh, what’s the Vampire adventure whos name I always forget?”

    Gotta be the Giovanni Chronicles.

  5. Anonymous says:

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD6ERRdXrF2IZ0R888G8PQg

    Is the channel. Authors stats and view counts are very solid

    • Reason says:

      There’s a lot of people who have different ideas about how/what roleplaying is.

      The guy is not pretending to be osr or whatever, he’s just got a very limited view/understanding of the genre.

      I think they are missing out. They probably have a great time (I hope). But it does sound like all the worst adventures I’ve read.

    • Anonymous says:

      Enjoy watching his videos, he has some pretty solid advice. His “core” game seems to be a bunch of houserules combining modern dnd and the OSR so he isn’t a purist.

      That being said, I think his regular group generally favors more story heavy modules and since he’s grown up on such modules, it rubs on his own adventure writing.

      His favorite CoC module is Beyond The Mountains of Madness so I suspect that formula of a railroaded finale is his taste.

    • Anonymous says:

      I like some of his videos but when he goes on his OSR tangents I just have to tune out. It’s kind of odd that for all his posturing his adventure is just a read aloud railroad though.

  6. Anonymous says:

    He is not noisms or what have you but he does talk about OSE and Questing Beast way more than most.

    I would say I play old school 5e or O5R

    Old school adjacent at the very very least

  7. Anonymous says:

    Five Torches Deep
    DND 5e Hardcore
    Runehammer

    Look at runehammer recently the lines are getting blurry indeed
    Always were?

  8. Anonymous says:

    He also wrote for TSR during the 2nd edition days, so the fact that this is an overwritten railroad fits.

    • Shuffling Wombat says:

      This seems to be the same guy who wrote Is There an Elf in the House? (Dungeon 32), Unhallowed Grounds (Dungeon 54) and Jigsaw (Dungeon 61). Bryce’s reviews of these seem accurate to me.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This author wrote for 2e? I never heard him talk about TSR. Wild times I bet

    • Anonymous says:

      It sounds like he just did a handful of freelance things for Dungeon magazine so it’s not like he’d have a lot of stories of the old days.

  10. Alex says:

    I’m glad the cover shows Frankenstein’s monster since I have no idea what he looks like

    • The Heretic says:

      You mean I wasn’t the only one thinking “Dr. Manhattan” when I saw the cover?

      (but also that’s one of their best songs. Good for you)

      • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist says:

        I wasn’t even thinking about Dr Manhattan, I was just on a 70s NY scene kick after, no joke, an article about the 40th anniversary of ‘Christmas Wrapping’ by the Waitresses informed me that Billy Ficca of Television was their drummer. That being said, the Dolls’ first album really stands up, with not a single dull track.

        Strange how the internet allows such cognitive peregrinations.

  11. Anonymous says:

    This sounds like a story arc adventure and not a sand box based adventure. Are the problems with this adventure stemming from this design choice? Or is it possible to run a story arc adventure with out railroading?

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