The Dungeon Near the Shadow

By Jason Wardell
Phantom Funeral Press
Low levels

The persistent suborbital occlusion sits writhing in the west. It dropped from the heavens, some say, or maybe it bubbled out of the ground or burst out of the space between air, three years past. Some call it the shadow for how it negates the light, drowning everything it covers in opaque darkness. The sun no longer sets in the west: it disappears into the shadow, and each evening you can hear prayers at every hearth that it returns unchanged the next day. Most things that enter the shadow do not return, and if they do, they are seldom unchanged.

This sixteen page adventure details a dungeon with ten rooms. It’s trying to be creepy, brings a little in the into, and then fails to convey that in the room descriptions. I can haz sadz. 🙁

Okey doke. That fucking intro rocks, doesn’t it? Hey kids, who wants to go to that place that causes the sun not to set? You do?! Me too! I wonder if we can find any men at arms to go with us for 1sp a day? Might a rough sell …

There’s a town, it’s well and terse described, as are the people in it. Casidy, an apprentice blacksmith and former guard at The Dungeon (it was an outpost of the Tyrant King … before The Shadow swallowed his entire kingdom whole …) has this to say for herself “We weren’t all bad. Some of us strove to make things better… Not all of them deserved to die. Many did, but not all. I should have done more.” You’re still getting stabbed Casidy, as a minion of the Tyrant King, but, hey, I appreciate your introspection. JK! No reason to stab her. Which is the BEST reason, of course! Anyway, NPC’s in town are good and so is the rumor table. It sets everything up as very creepy. ““Those people, those changed things in the shadow look creepy, but they’re harmless. Mostly eat bugs and moss to survive.” Nice rumor! Very in voice! 

What follows is a long section of text about The Shadow, or, more proper, the Miasma that impacts you if you’ve been in The Shadow too long. Save for effects, they build up over time, and … well … this is the first sign of trouble. The entire thing, all of the effects, the timeline, everything, is presented as, essentially, two pages of text in paragraph form. NOT. COOL. This is not a table that you can reference easily. This is a book that you must read and memorize, or, worse, highlight. And that’s not fucking hapenning. Ok. so, it sometimes happens, but, it has to be a pretty stellar product for that to happen. And this ain’t it.

Because of … the rooms.

Every ten minutes and every time you enter a room you roll for a wanderer. That seems a bit excessive to me. Almost as if we’re mashing up encounters rather than pushing the party along and getting them to stop wasting time.

Further, and more seriously, the rooms are … less than creepy and more … disorganized.

Basically, each room is a mass of text paragraphs, one or two usually, that is some weird combination of text that could be read-aloud or could be DM text or could be … something else. I don’t know. There’s second-person, so, some “you’s” in there. Which makes me think it’s read-aloud. But then it also gives away information like it’s DM text. It tells us that statues are of the Tyrant King, that would be DM text instead of read-aloud, or that a doorway was barricaded by Carl … which is absolutely DM text. The descriptions are abstracted and not very evocative, as opposed to the dream-like descriptions that teased the adventure in the first place. “The armory is mostly picked clean, save for a large set of Imperial Armor? and several days worth of lantern oil & torches.” That is not a picture painted. That is abstracted fact based text with the words “picked clean” inserted. 

There are a couple of interesting wanderers in the dungeon. A shadow beast and a shadow man, both of which seems fairly interesting, or have the potential to be so, but are not used well at all. No real support in their descriptions (maybe that art piece in room four is it?) and not really any good supporting information on interacting with them. What could have been a magical mystery comes off as a stat block with a sentence of “he attacks you if you killed anyone” text. 

Efforts like this are disappointing. It’s a good idea. The creature concepts range from meh to excellent, but the dungeon is poorly implemented, for the most part, and everything comes off as “meh” because of the blandness of the actual adventure and descriptions. 

This is $4 at DriveThru and I don’t see no preview. Boo! Boo I saw, Sir! Give us a preview so we can determine what we are buying before we buy it!

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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6 Responses to The Dungeon Near the Shadow

  1. BACLF says:

    Presents world-altering, kingdom-swallowing threat…

    For low levels…


    • SolCannibal says:

      Well, it CAN make some sort of sense if working from a “this is the tip of the iceberg/border of the lands of terror /entrance to the megadungeon” perspective, the adventure as mere beginning-aperitiff for the main course, with tips on expansion by the GM to get by and teasing of upcoming modules in the future.

      But yeah, not going to bet my money on that either….

  2. Yora says:

    Well, at least this is a concept idea that I’ll happily yoink for an adventure I’ll make myself for my campaign.

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