Trouble Came to Blackwood

By S.E. Bischoff
Self Published
"Basic Tier Characters"

A beast from ages past plagues the village of Blackwood, hunting the population under the light of the full moon. For the last six months, many have tried and failed to stop the monster, but every attempt has met with death. Desperate for salvation, the villagers of Blackwood have concluded that what this beast wants, and the only thing that will save those still alive, is a sacrifice conducted by the beast’s very own worshipers. As luck would have it, the arrival of the PCs has provided a fresh supply of sacrificial lambs.

This seven page adventure details the usual “village cult captures the party” scenario. I’m using “details” mildly. There are good things that the adventure does, but it suffers from the usual inability to transfer information to the DM well, as well as setting up what I think is a no-win situation. More help for the DM in that area could have been done. Still, it ALMOST get the level of details right for a village/cult sandbox. 

I didn’t notice this was seven pages when I bought it. That’s enough for an OSR adventure, but not enough for a “two session” adventure for a non-OSR game. I mean, it SHOULD be, but nothing published ever works out that way for a non-OSR game. Still, I was moderately hopeful at the start after seeing the NPC section.

This is the usual thing for a cult village scenario. Party arrive sin village. Village cult kidnaps party, hold them for a bit, then ties them up in the center of the village for The Beast to come eat them, as a sacrifice. It’s been done a bunch. Has it ever been done well? Meh. Is it done well in this? No. It’s not terrible, but it’s no where near good either.

It’s got a few things going for it. There are more than a few relatable situations in this. The inn owner, with kids, who just wants to be left alone so the rest of the villagers go pick someone else other than her family. The zealot priest, complete with gun in hollowed out bible, leading the villagers. The peasant mob, led by some hotheads. A broken down palisade, with destroyed house, from a previous attack. A hunter, maybe on the parties side, with four hunting dogs … two untrained. You just KNOW how that’s going to go, right? A village meeting in the church, with the party not let in to it. You can kind of piece things together from this. The very relatable NPC’s, with their motivations and archetypes, and the trophy little scenes, like the destroyed house/pallisade and village meeting in the church. 

But it’s not nearly enough. There are minor things and bigger things.

The NPC”s, while having relatable motivations, are not done in such a way as to make them usable by the DM easily. You need to read an entire paragraph and pick apart people they know, quirks, and motivations, scattered about in them. The village is supposed to have a “center” where the sacrifices are made, but its not obvious at all from the map what that is. In fact, I’d say the ,ap is more than useless. It’s basically just some squares representing houses, along a river. There’s nothing about it that would facilitate the adventure. The “palisade” around the village is only shown on one side … what about the other sides of the village? There’s an island in the middle of the village, with houses on it, and no way to reach it? That’s never mentioned? Nothing on the map makes sense, even for a map that would be more evocative/arty than true mappy reference. The hooks and rumors are all just lame throw-aways, but, nothing new there, right? The “beast” doesn’t really get a good description. Oh, it gets one, I guess? In a long paragraph at the end of the book n the new monsters section, where you would expect it. But the actual physical description is scattered throughout the paragraph. Like, line of description, line of BS, line of description, line of BS, and so on. Monsters descriptions should be up front, the lead thing, in a monster entry. That’s almost always the first thing the DM needs to know about the creature, so make it first in the entry and puti it all together. This is all part of the “making it easy for the DM to run/scan the adventure and use it philosophy. And you get three corruption for killing the leader of the mob?

A timeline embedded in the church entry. The location descriptions for he village are about the right size … except when they are not … like there are no clues in the ransacked house or palisade.

But, really, the adventure is short and weighted towards the village, which might be realistic but not fun. I’m not sure how this is supposed to go. The mob comes after the party. The party runs off?  The mob chases and then the adventure is over, maybe? Or, the party is captured and held? Then there’s no guidance on for the DM on holding a jail break and making that fun. There’s just “you’re taken to the village center and tied up” for the beast to come and eat you at night. Gee, that’s fun. There’s no “chaos as the party escape when the beasteats the villagers instead of the party” or anything else to help the DM handle the breakout, the beast attack, the party escaping, or being given a fighting chance. I don’t see how the beast showing up ever happens as a gameable moment. The party either runs off when trying to be captured, or are captured and sacrificed … in which case the DM monologs the party death. If they escape they run off again, right? Or they kill everyone? But, and this is my point, there is no scenario in which they are tied up as sacrifices in which the beast showing up is anything but a monologue.And, the party is meant to be captured, like, two days before the beast shows up? That’s a ong time. And a long time to be captured. It seems like a prison break is in order … but it is completely unsupported. It’s this lack of support for what should LOGICALLY happen, either the breakout or the sacrifice … and even support for the mob capturing the party. More village vignettes up to the start would be cool also. There IS support for tracking the beast back to its lair, but, again, I don’t see how that happens given the timeline, unless you have a very aggressively do-gooder party.

This is $1 at DriveThru. There’s no preview. How can I know what I’m buying without a preview?

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7 Responses to Trouble Came to Blackwood

  1. Anonymous says:

    “How can I know what I’m buying without a preview?”

    Well, it says Zweihander on the cover so you know it’s shit.

  2. “How can I know what I’m buying without a preview?”

    Well, it says Mork Borg on the cover so you know it’s shit.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “How can I know what I’m buying without a preview?”

    Well, it says Troika on the cover so you know it’s shit.

  4. Austin Holm says:

    How do you choose what you review?

    • Reason says:

      He buys random OSR labelled stuff. Or takes reader recommendations (below).

      If it’s been sent to him by an author without him buying it himself (unusual but not unheard of), he’ll let you know.

    • Reason says:

      Austin, you can request reviews up at the “Bryces to do list” links through the “about Bryce” tab.

      Basically he buys adventures himself, if they are advertised as OSR. Often, he’ll get around to ones suggested by readers on the aforementioned links. I don’t see much of a pattern or process behind what he picks. Pretty much a grab bag aside from the Dungeon series or returning to past “hit” writers occasionally.

      If he has been sent one by a reviewer or someone he’s professionally associated (rare) with he’ll the readers know in the review know.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am curious about what makes Zweihänder adventures bad in general. Honest question. Are there just too many of them out there, and therefore proportionately the bad ones are bound to be more? Or is the system promoting a specific type of writing that tends to be bad?

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