Chaos at Crossriver Span

By Timothy A Sayell
Fantanomicon Press
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 1-3

Crossriver Span has been seized by the Iron Tusk Orcs!  A desperate Baron hopes to save his town from imminent attack and sends the Player Characters to repel the Orcs or dislodge the bridge.  But this is no easy quest–the Orcs are tough, smart, and have a new Chieftain with a few surprises of his own!

This 22 page adventure features an assault on a “spans a gorge” twin tower/bridge fortress full of orcs. It’s pretty minimal, with brief notes on how many orcs are in a room and some order of battle notes. Exploration, this ain’t. Sneak around and hope you don’t alert the orcs, while killing room after room of them. Pretty boring.

My notes for this one are pretty short … because there isn’t really anything of note. We get mini-maps in the single-column text, which helps the DM run the various rooms,  The orcs are pig-faced, and wear garish yellow tunics, a nice touch. Everything interesting has now been covered.

Ok, so, there’s this gorge. There’s a tower on each side of it and a bridge connecting the two. Go root out the orcs. There are some guards on top of the near-side tower, don’t let them see you . Either sneak in via a tunnel or learn the secret knock to get the oones inside to let you in, hoping that the random number generator doesn’t let the ones on top see you. 

This is one of the exciting room entries “This area is wide open. There are two open casks

of ale here.” Also, that room has five orcs in it. “This area is wide open” is another exciting description. As is “the floor is covered with the debris of smashed furniture.” You get the idea by now? The exploration elements, the evocative text, the tricks and traps that make D&D a sense of wonder and mystery … those don’t exist in this. This is a 4e assault. You go from room to room and kill orcs, most of who don’t try to alert anyone else or hear fights in the next floor. Every once in awhile you get a tactical note, like, the orcs see you characters on a roll of 1 on a d6, or “make a des check if hit in combat ir fall of f the bridge.” 

Two shattered chairs lay in a pile by the north wall.

The rotted remains of a table lay in the center of the room.

I guess people play D&D like this? I mean, that’s the stereotype, right? That you smash in a door and kill the monsters and take their stuff? Isn’t that even the tagline/marketing line of a couple of the newish publishers? But that is bad D&D. Yeah, that’s fucking right, I’m gatekeeping. That isn’t the D&D I know and love. That’s not the mystery and wonder, the magic of the unknown. The wonder of discovery. The fear when confronting something new that might eat or face .. .or grant you a wish. This is just boring.

I get it, there needs to be pacing. Empty rooms are a thing. A set piecey-thing or two is fine, not every room has to be a thing of beauty and joy to explore. But, man, there has to be SOMETHING. This just strikes me as drudgery. Like, drudgery for the DM to run it and try to breathe life in to it and drudgery for the players to explore it and work their way through it, facing room after room after room with nothing in it except something to kill or maybe an arbitrary trap that’s not telegraphed at all. Oh, look, another room full of orcs to kill. I want something to fuck with. I want  lever to pull or a pool or green water to fuck with, a statue that rotates, or bozarre crystals. I want the adventure to be ALIVE. I can sit at my desk all day and play with spreadsheets. I’m bored to death most of the day. Why would I want to be bored to death while playing D&D also? There’s just NOTHING HERE. And, now, I’m depressed about it. Ug. That’s not what I need tonight. “It’s Sunday night ennui! :et’s watch Precious and The Road and then play Chaos at the Crossriver Span!” That will leave you depressed as fuck at 11pm tonight and weeping for a future that is not meaningless. So, great. Thanks Crossriver Span, now I get to contemplate the meaninglessness of my own existence, thanks to you! I don’t need that tonight. I wanna have dinner in a blanket fort and make out with cute girls on a Sunday night, not wonder what the meaning of it all is, in despair. 

Why do things like this exist? Seriously? Why? Do the designers not know what an adventure looks like? Are they making the things they want to play, and this really IS the type of D&D that people want to play? I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong. It seems wrong to me though. Like, everything I know says that this sort of D&D is boring and empty. Like, I think the same thing, mostly, about plot D&D, maybe with a few platitudes thrown out for fun time with friends in an adventure thats not a complete throw away. But, even more than most, this just seems boring. Empty. And not in a We Must Imagine Sisyphus As Happy kind of way. More like imagining his as unhappy kind of way.

“This room is littered with ruined furniture and dust. Nothing of interest is here.”

Nothing of interest, indeed!

Some drink to remember. Some drink to forget.

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages. You get to see part of the first room.; That’s not enough to make an informed purchasing decision … although you might be able to intuit what’s to come from the intro text.

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6 Responses to Chaos at Crossriver Span

  1. Anonymous says:

    This reminds me of the vast majority of patreon 5e publishers (dmdave, adventures await etc). Their adventures are basically room with monsters x10, a minimal hook and that’s it. But they are really successful which makes me think that a big number of players like this.

    These adventures only serve as means for dms to get an idea or two and insert them in other adventures. So perhaps that’s what people pay for? Ideas? Because this thing is not playable or worth it’s money for an adventure. And as idea provider it’s way too expensive.

    • Yora says:

      I am convinced that people “like” published adventures as they are because they can’t imagine that something better could exist.

      • Anonymous says:

        I feel like there is a large group of people who buy any adventure available for a certain system, or some other “collecting” guide line. In this case, people are buying simply because it’s OSR, or maybe more specifically because it’s for Labyrinth Lord, or some other more inane reason.

    • Anonymous says:

      The notion that adventures are meant to generate ideas instead of being things that you can actually put down and play in your own game has done immense damage to the craft of writing them.

  2. squeen says:


    You get a lot of grief from people for stating your opinion (loudly) and sticking to your guns.

    To you I say: The message you are sending is a valid one. Please don’t stop.

    Many thanks for all the hard work over the years. You are doing the Good Work.

  3. Dave says:

    “Why do things like this exist? … Are they making the things they want to play, and this really IS the type of D&D that people want to play?”

    People sit down with the goal of “write an adventure.” By the nature of it, whatever random thing they set down on paper or screen will be fulfilling that goal. Then, having written an adventure, they upload it to drivethrurpg and hit publish, and voila. Instant gratification – they’re a published adventure author. Sometimes at least they’re drawing on GMing experience, but even that’s not certain, some write them as a substitute for GMing.

    I’ve read a draft copy of one of these. Sent to me by a non-GMing player, newish to the hobby but enthusiastic and committed. And you used to see it talked about in blogs pretty openly, although at least many of those had games.

    Related, I’ve long been convinced many or most published adventures aren’t playtested at all. Then of those that are playtested some count only by virtue of having been run once as a home adventure, and the GM writes down either how it went or how it was supposed to go in their notes (but often these are the same). But that gets into a different class of bad adventure.

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