By Stephen Grodzicki Pickpocket Press OSR Level ?
In the skies above Vorngard, a winged beast is causing trouble, killing messenger ravens and scouts that wander too far west. Scouts say the monster lairs in a fallen tower, once home to a long dead sorceress. But if that’s true, what’s causing the glow in the highest window by night?
This twelve page adventure describes about eight locations in and around a tower. There’s one big bad and some minor creatures floating around. The situations in this are pretty good, and while the writing tends to the long side, and flat, a highlighter solves that. of course, I won’t do that, but maybe you do?
This is a relatively basic adventure that could, I suspect, be done in one night. There are some garbage hooks and backstory that take up more than a few pages, but, basically, it’s a ruined tower with a manticore in it. There’s a short overland journey to get to the tower, with a decent wandering monster table. The wanderers are not just a monster listing but rather a situation. Some are creatures, like a band of barbarians camping or a”dessicated husk of a dead beastman with yellow warpaint on the ground. Several days old and laden with grubs. In the high trees are a phase spider, hoping to ambush the outermost part member that stops to investigate.” Just a couple of sentence that give the DMs brain something to work with. This is exactly what an adventure should be doing: giving the DMs brain something to work with. You need JUST enough content to get the creative juices of the DM going, but not so much as to overwhelm their ability to scan and absorb the information quickly. The designer is relying on the DM to fill in the rest, as all adventures do, but doing it in such a way as to add significant value by giving the ol noggin a hard shove in a certain direction and letting the DM riff from there. I’m a big fan of the one page of wanderers, ten in all. I think it’s the right page count for the right number of creatures, and the encounters tend to be situations.
Ok, you’re now near the tower. Turns out there’s a band of barbarians camped at the base of it. A group of exils that have banded together led by Malmogg the hulkig young teen, bald, skin covered in battle scars ,exiled for seducing the chief’s second wife. Again, perfect amount of content for the kid. You get a few keywords and that describes the dude enough for you to riff on it from there. The exiles serve the manticore in the hopes it will go eat their former tribe … but might let the party pass with a bribe if he thinks they are weak. Great! More personality!
Also outside the tower is the place where the manticore eats his prey .. .not wanting to get his bed dirty in the tower. A clifftop blood stained, scattered with bones old and new and skeletons at the bottom, overgrown with grass and other plant life. Pretty good scene. And some giant worker ants picking over the bodies. Who are fine with taking a live human back to the nest. And if you kill them then in an hour or so some soldier ants show up to swarm the area. Perfect! It makes sense! That the ants are there in the first place and that the soldier ants eventually show up. It’s what SHOULD happen.
The tower has a few floors, like, four or five, and as many rooms. Maybe. I say maybe because there’s no map. We get a small map of the lands around the tower, showing the relationship of the bandit camp to the tower to the feeding grounds, along with a small river/creek to help with the inevitable sneaking plan. But we don’t get a plan of the tower. There’s a sideview of the outside, noting some features like a large hole in the side and windows (and some advice inside for gaining entry that way) but nothing about the interior. It’s just described, textually. Yes, I suppose that theoritically this can work. But, just include a map man; it’s a thousand times easier.
It’s pretty basic inside. A bathroom with giant worms in it. A storage room with animated armor. The manticore, who is open to some Smaug-like talky talk Maybe that happens. Or, maybe, he’s not in the tower and the party has some time for an ambush and explore before he comes home. Either way. Nice.
And then there’s the “extra” encounter. One floor has a ghost on it. The sorceress that once lived here. She’s the usual ranty/moments of clarity ghost. Except … if someone agrees to stay with her … she remains mostly lucid. And les them go eventually. And even bestows spell power on them … but she touches them to do it … aging them! Nicely done! We turn a minor also-ran encounter in to something that could hang around the campaign for a long time and also speaks to the essence of what a ghost encounter is. Another nod to the way things SHOULD work, things that seem like they fit, or are realistic. Not just a throw away encounter. Perfect!
It should be obvious I’m pretty enamored with the situations in this. And the advice to the DM, on gaining entry to to tower and where the manticore can’t fit, for example, is spot on what the DM needs to run the thing. The things that don’t work here are relatively minor.
Treasure is f the “roll once on the loot table in the rulebook” variety. Not cool. Add some colour and flavour to your treasure man! And, there’s a curse on the tower that makes approaching it very difficult … I’m not sure about this. Basically, if you fail then you try to keep your friends from going in to the tower. “Its doomed, an we will be also! You’re my bud and I can’t let you do that!” Pretty good, actually, but in practice I’m not sure how its going to work over time. Two factions of the party? And on return visits? This could be the major holdup in the adventure … and thus a few more words of advice would be in order.
It IS wordy. We’ve got some “This room was once a … “ text going on. The text, while not full on conversational in style, does trend in tha direction. We’ve got some if/then statements. Combined with the textual description of the levels, insertions of motivations and so on, then we’ve got room entries that are trending to half a standard page or more. And that’s not something you can scan easily without some extra bolding, whitespace, or so on to help the DM orient themselves. You either gotta be terse or do the heavy lift of the formatting and layout to help with DM scanning … and this doesn’t do that.
This is a decent little adventure. Decent enough that, being three years old, I may check out some of the others in the line to see which ones are better and which ones worse.
This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is only two pages, with one of them being the cover. It does nothing to help you make a purchasing decision.