By Jordan Boschman ATypicalFaux System Neutral "Low Levels"
A labor dispute at a valuable mine reveals the horrors that preceded it. The fossils of a little-understood ancient plant, glowing the color of a dragon’s fruit, are crushed to a fine powder and diluted into a rare, luxurious, and intoxicating spice with unknown consequences. A monastery of a small but influential religious order harbors a dark secret. A hapless group of adventurers will face the potentially far-reaching implications of these intersecting arcs and decide what will remain hidden and the shape of the conflict to come.
This 35 page digest adventure features a dungeon with around 24 rooms with a mine/monastery/StrangerThings theme. And none of the themes really comes through very well. I get what the designer was going for, but it don’t come easily.
So, there’s this mine. The people running the mine are all CompanyTown/ HearstFromDeadWood, forcing miners to work to extract some fossils, that they then powder and sell as a drug. There’s also some kind of monastery with monks. I think it’s in the mine? It’s not clear at all. Or, maybe, I mean to say tha the mine is in the monastery? The “monastery” section is absolutely there. As are the Aliens caves beyond the monastery, full of UpsideDown monsters. The idea here is that you get involved in the miner dispute thing, then transition to finding the overrun monastery, then transition in to the Aliens caves.
This is all, I think, because of the map. The map starts with caves, transitions in to some worked halls, and then transitions again in to caves/tunnels. So to make the map work you’ve got a mine (I think?) and then the monastery and then the caves beyond it.
But the mine thing never really comes through. There’s actually a trigger warning in this for “Anti-labour massacre.” But, there’s not really any support for that. The whole thing is supposed to revolve around the miner thing. The hooks begin it, with people pooling money, the poor and underclass, to get the party find their loved ones. Or mine guards pooling money to get the parties help with the anti-labour thing. It’s actually decent, the extra few sentences for wach, fleshing out something. The asshole want to hire you because they are being pushed too much and need one little thing done …
But the support for the miner part ends there, at the hooks. There’s no local company town, or anything about the guards or the put upon workers or their families. There’s nothing to bring this aspect home and make it visceral and make the party care. It’s just “hey,. Here’s the dungeon now,” A dungeon with no real mine, in spite of it being centered around a mining dispute. There’s no real signs of mining and nothing to bring that home. TO the extent that I’m not even sure this is MEANT to be the mine; it may actually be meant to be elsewhere and this, this dungeon, is just meant to be another location. Needless to say, not supporting yor core premise, either on the map or in town/setup, isn’t a good thing. The other two sections don’t feel right either. Like, why is the monastery being caves? Or why are the caves behind it attached? It’s too small. Everything is too small. There’s no room to breathe. But, I guess it matches the mixed-up map (a decent one from Dyson that I think I’ve seen before) so … lets shove stuff in until it works?
The format is trying. It’s basically just paragraphs of text, with a bolded word ot phrase here or there to call it out. But the wrong stuff is bolded. It leaves things out. It bolds that the entrance room is dark … instead of bolding that you can see a light up ahead. It doesn’t bold a bridge you can see ahead. It’s trying to keep things in their own paragraph and use the bold to call attention to it, but, it’s not really formatted to work that way well and instead you just get a lot of text that you still have to dig through.
It IS trying though. A stairwell choked with bodies has some good imagery in this. But, the alien nature of the tunnels beyond the monastery, or the monastery being overrun doesn’t really come through in the descriptions at all. The focus is in the wrong areas, in the text descriptions, now being evocative or painting the picture of what horrors are unfolding. There’s potential in it, even given the confusion, but it just doesn’t deliver on the core concepts.
This is $6.50 at DriveThru. The preview is nine pages, with the last two showing the format for a couple of room, so, decent preview.