Jeff Simpson Buddyscott Entertainment Group B/X Levels 1-3
Delve deep into the Mountains of Fire to solve the mystery of torturous screams echoing across the valley. Within the depths you will find kobolds, slimes, and the dying quest of a long-lost paladin order!
This thirteen page adventure details a town and three level dungeon with about fifty rooms. Good maps, some interactivity, and a terse verbiage create a pretty well rounded product that feels like a pre-AD&D adventure. You could run a game with this! Although, I would prefer a bit more in the way of evocative writing and interactivity.
The map here is fairly interesting. The first level is fairly simple, with a few features, like a tunnels underground and s could of very simple loops. They are all hand-drawn, but with computer lettering on it, making for an exceptionally clean look that is easy to follow. Levels two and three are done the same way, but with more rooms than one and with more features like loops and “in room” features. It’s a fairly impressive map effort given the size. We’re not talking Gygax filling the page, but, a level with thirty rooms on it is a pretty decent level Same level stairs, one-way doors, and locked doors near the beginning of the dungeon that you must eventually return to provide some real value.
Thirteen pages, three levels and over fifty rooms … WITH a town attached! That’s a designer with focus right there, folks! This thing manages to pack in about ten or so rooms per page, which means that it’s keeping a tight hold on its writing. And this is both a blessing a curse. When you’re really focusing the text you need to bring your A game to get a terse but evocative room description, especially if the room is bringing extra interactivity beyond “stab the monster.” The terse format of the rooms here allows the DM to effortlessly scan the room descriptions; I heartily approve. There’s not much wasted in the word budget here; the extra conversational padding or bullshit that so many adventures revel in is not seen at all here, or, close enough to that for it to be true.
What we struggle with, in these terse room descriptions, are evocative language. You’re not going to get a fully formed image for a room, and that’s, say it with me, O K . What you’re looking to do, as a designer, is to shove an idea seed in to the DMs head. To give them enough, in the word budget, that their brain will grab hold and run with it. And there come to it, the fuzzy line. What’s enough? Did the designer write enough, put enough in, use the rights words … to bring the room alive … at least enough for the DM to run with. Well, no, not really. But, maybe?
The room descriptions here are brief and generally have one idea and that idea IS enough to run with. If you want to. But, I’d argue that, as presented, I’m not excited to run them. I’m not talking set pieces or nifty gee wiz bango rooms. I don’t FEEL the rooms, in a visceral way. “Outer Parlour There are two acolytes here discussing the worship of Zoray. They are intoxicated and get a +1 on reaction rolls.” So, with that I can run those dudes. A couple of drunk clerics talking about the worship of their god, man Can you dig it? Sure. I can. I can run that and it’s a situation that is better than most fucking garbage that is published today. Terse, and a situation, perfect. . But it feels to me more like a basis of a room description, like the designers notes for a room description. It feels like the descriptions could be tweaked to more fully bring it alive. I’m going to reuse a phrase I sometimes turn to, but this time in a different context. It feels like a fact based description and I think you want to convey a mood based description. Two wasted priests enveloped in a cloud of opium smoke from a hookah philosophize over the finer points of ooze-based worship” or some shit like that.
Another example is “Door Carved into the door is the image of a demon being pierced by a broadsword.” Sure. And again it lacks that little extra oomph to bring it fully alive. It’s a concept, or, notes for a concept, that need to be developed. Not necessarily with more words but with a different vibe being conveyed.
Interactivity is a mixed bag. There’s some lip service being played to some factions on the first level. Certain kobolds are a supporter, or not, of their leader Kurtz. But that’s all you get, a brief note every time a room has kobolds, on if they are supporters or not of their leader. Can I do something with that? Sure. But it’s the basre fucking minimum.
More traditional interactivity is a bit light. While you CAN murder everyone in the start village (the adventure makes a point of noting their treasure, just like in B2, to tempt the party …) the more dungeon based interactivity is a bit light. You can get tossed in a bronze bull, or explore a dig tunnel, which is good. One more the more set-piecey encounters is “Study A hooded medusa sits in this room and offers to play chess with the character with the highest Charisma. That character must roll equal to or under their Intelligence on 3d6. Failure results in losing the game, at which point the medusa will remove its hood and initiate a gaze at the character. If the character wins, the medusa will give them her treasure which consists of 4 anklets. They are golden and worth 3600gp” Soo … ok. But, also an exception rather than a rule in the dungeon. The first level, in particular feels more like a B2 lair cave … a vibe that continues throughout the other two levels to a slightly lesser degree.
It does, however, FEEL like a basic adventure, or, rather, an adventure from pre-AD&D days. The more … whimsical, or looser, nature of the dungeon comes through loud and clear. This is Basic/OD&D and I love that fucking vibe.
I’ve bitched more than a little about this one, and it could absolutely be improved. It’s also a nice little dungeon that you can actually fucking run that can bring the basic vibe … if you’re willing to maybe read it first and really visualize each room and make some liner notes to help you bring it more fully to life. Almost a No Regerts, but, I’d also sign up for the designers newsletter … I want to know more and see mroe from them.
Bonus points: there’s a dragon sleeping on a bridge on the third level. Rock on!
This is free at DriveThru.