Dust & Stars (No Artpunk #5? #6? idk)

Number SOMETHING in an eight-part series. 

This is a compilation of the best eight entries from Prince’s recent No ArtPunk contest. Basically, you had to use published monsters, magic items, etc, with one unique allowance allowed in each category. Settle in, I’m reviewing one adventure at a time. Also, I admit that an orgy of women, wine, bread, circuses, and self-absorbed loathing kept me from reading Prince’s commentary earlier. So I’m going in to this blind. Let’s see what “winning” entries look like, shall we?

Dust & Stars
Levels 9-12

This twenty pages adventure describes a tower with about thirty locations. It’s got a cohesive backstory that makes you want to know more and does a good job placing monsters in an intelligent fashion in a high level adventure. It’s also single column and could use an edit.

The Space|Time War. The fleets of the Eternal Empire. The Star Pump. Cosmo-port. A dying god. A river of dust, fine as silt. Celestial Cult. That’s how you write a fucking backstory man! Taking up most of a page, it offers no real explanations of what the fuck is going on but you just star at it, trying to take it all in, wanting to know more. It’s exactly the kind of “Don’t Explain Things” that I’m talking about when I mention that topic. It makes the mind race!

If you say the name of the tower, outloud, then something weird happens. Why the fuck doesn’t this happen in more adventures? Especially high level ones? Because of COURSE thats what happens when you say the name of something powerful outside. ANother room in the tower has a creatures name on a door “Frank may not pass!” Of course! These elements FEEL right. A trapped man turns in to a bodak. An elemental, over time, turns in to a mud pool … which is handled like a black pudding. Because that’s how to handle this shit. It is an imagining of the environment FIRST, and then an attempt to figure out the D&D mechanics shit later. This is the cure of the sad old tropey D&D. The D&D that only uses the book shit. Or, rather, uses it first/. “I need a EL12 encounter. I can use four of creature X. They are in the room. Yeah! Next room!” No! From the books came evil in to the world! Or, rather, STARTING with the books brings evil in the world. And not in that Good Way that we all secretly look forward to. The books are the death of imagination. They allow for someone to not try at all. But, this adventure (and, it could be argued, the entire contest) is push-back against that. You start by imagining a thing and then you find something in the book to make it D&D-able. Or, at least, you snake it SEEM thats what happened. 

A tower full of high level enemies, traditionally a monster-zoo type situation. This solves that, a bit, with solid reasoning behind things, that doesn’t overstay its welcome. One sentence on why creature X is here. A little relationship chart to show who they like and hwho they don’t for a little extra talky talky fun. 

The format is single column and the editing could use another pass. It’s approaches wall of text territory, and the language use needs to be tightened up for scanning.  “An iron cage once existed, covering the walk from the entrance door to the spiral staircase. It is rusty, broken and destroyed.” Once existed it the key here. And, while it seems like such a simple thing, not something to worry about, it’s the repetition of the concept that drags things down. A rusty, broken, destroyed iron cage covers the walk from the door to the spiral staircase.

I’m a big fan of this, in concept. This is one of oldest of the old adventures that you have to dig through and grok and work on to get in to your brain. I also suspect this is a side-effect of all high level adventures. They are complex. Given that complexity more time needs to be spent to ensure that they are clear. And this needs that. Taken out of single column, put in two, some sidebars, better formatting of the text, cleaning up the text with some editing, and so on.

But, still, a good example of how to write a high level adventure and make it challenging without simply resorting to writing a low level adventure with high level creatures in it.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $10. Proceeds are going to the Autism Research Institute. A subtle dig?


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6 Responses to Dust & Stars (No Artpunk #5? #6? idk)

  1. Settembrini says:

    Thanks for the review & suggestions for improvement.

  2. Shuffling Wombat says:

    Good review. I agree with an editing pass (it is very difficult to edit your own work) to make it more succinct; however I find the layout very clear and easy to read (with nice maps). Some thoughts regarding this fine adventure:
    (i) Rakshasa by the book xps are ridiculously low given their abilities, especially defensive immunities; more might be said about how these abilities should be deployed in combat (and also for the erinyes);
    (ii) Making the magic key the only option for opening the door to the star pump level makes sense to me, but it does contradict “no attempt to limit PC skills and items”; (no disintegrations, transmuting, passwall?);
    (iii) Is there any implied meaning to the use of the name Deryabar (which has Arabian Nights connections)?

  3. Settembrini says:

    Thanks for reading! Glad you got something out of it!

    As for layout, I am in love with the old JG single column layout, but I will try 2 column (and more bullet points) in the future. Some errors in the final pdf are due to Libreoffice/word conversion mishaps taht I did not spot. The text could have used another pass after translation, definitely!

    (i) Monster XP are relatively miniscule anyway. The Rakshasas spell abilities are open to interpretation, if one wants amore boring and balanced Rakshasa, Hackmaster provieds one, with matching XP.
    (ii) you reach the Star-pump through the dust-river without any key. The Sentiserps do so all the time. How to survive the dust is left to the players. A mantle of Celestian would do the trick, but you would need to bring your own, whereas usually you will find them only afterwards in the module. But there is no set sequence for a heist/raid.
    (iii) I just like the sound of the word for a mysterious, lost city. I think I got it as wee one from a Sinbad movie or somesuch. The city itself in my campaign has more background to it, but it is not tied to the Arabian Nights beyond that

  4. PrinceofNothing says:

    Would you say you have no regerts reading it?

    Asking for a friend.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Actual lol

    God effort dog under dinner table

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