Lighthouse at Shipbreaker Shoals

Thick Skull Adventures


Level 1

The blazing beacon from the lighthouse at Shipbreaker Shoals used to be visible on every cloudless night. Just above the horizon line, the brightest star in the sky, a sleepless eye, slowly winking on and off as it rotated between Sagewood and the sea. After weeks of fog and rain, last night was clear… and the lighthouse was dark. The town council of Sagewood meets and decides you must go to the lighthouse and discover what’s gone wrong! There are portents that someone—or something—wanted the light- house extinguished. It is up to you to uncover the mystery and see what has befallen the residents at the lighthouse at Shipbreaker Shoals.

This sixteen page adventure describe about fifteen locations in and around a lighthouse is nigh impenetrable with the amount of text in it. Massive italics text and useless DM details combine to form an adventure that even my mother could love.

The adventure is in two parts. First I guess you walk around town and talk to people and then you go to the lighthouse and kill shit. The town portion is the more interesting portion, both for details and for critical commentary. You don’t get a town, you just get a series of NPC’s listed, a couple of pages worth. Each  has LONG sections of read-aloud in italics. This is both a blessing and a curse It’ eschews a traditional keyed format, which I’m supportive of in situations like this, but, the NPC’s are just listed by name. Instead of “drunk in the inn” or “mercantile woman” you get a name … and have to figure out on your won that this is the mercantile woman. You don’t want that. You want things easy to find and reference. You’re going to the temple so you want “TEMPLE” and the main entry, maybe with the character name following in case th party seems out “Priest Frank” from another dialogue. 

What you absolutely DO NOT want are sections of long read0aloud. People don’t listen to this shit. Yes, I know, you want to convey information and you want to convey the character of the NPC. But you do this with a couple of words describing them and some ideas, aimed at the DM, at what they will say, maybe with an in-voice sentence for something key, which would also help convey character. But, multiple paragraphs of read0aloud? No. 

Nor do you want it in italics. Italics is hard to read. Use an offset box or some shit. You can use a phase in italics, or a sentence, maybe, but more than that and italics becomes an eye glazing afair.

 It’s the designer job to convey information to the DM in an easy to use manner that also is evocative … and it does a decent job of the evocative in town (and in some sections of the lighthouse.) We get brief snippets tha are good specificity,like the rumor that the lighthouse keeper ate his own leg when he was shipwrecked once. Or, the rambling s of the dunk in the inn with his “you ae all DOOMED” speech. Most frustrating are two younglings tht follow the party out of town and try to join the party. You get no personality or anything, in spite of the fact that thOSE NPC’s will most likely be the ones tha the party will spend the most time with … and thus are the most important convey some sense of their charatcre beyond being a swinherd and innkes daughter. 

The lighthouse is more of the same. There’s an occasional bit of evocative test in the read-aloud … a giant SLAB of fatty grey steam cought on a root in a sinkhole … with the putrid smell of rotting fletch coming from the sinkhole. Note the use or slab, and purtid. Not boring words, but specific, that conjure an image in the mind that’s good.

Less good are the MASSIVE amounts of DM text. Sometimes a page per room, in order to describe something like a normal kitchen. The read-aloud over communicateds, destroying the back and forth between the players and DM. The DM text conyers useless information about the mundane or irrelevant to the adventure “Her husband dies at sea and her sons moved to Malmo, one weeks walk north of Gielo. Well, fuck me, its a good thing I now know that! 

And thus we get another lame adventure. I mean, it’s sgot some flavour in places, but its the usual “sometime crawls out of the sea” thing, even though, as a DCCadventure, we get decent creatures. And the environments don’t generaly support the DCC playstyle … in particular you need a decent environment for githers to mighty deeds off of things … and a flat field don’t help much with that.

It’s ok, if quite quite basic, but it would NEVER make it to my table, given the amount of text there is to wade through.

Keep your adventure descriptions, ead-aloud and DM text, terse. That helps the DM scan is quickly to find pertinent information. Supplement that with strategic bolding to help find sections. Cut the useless drivel of backstory and explanations WHY, and focus on evocative writing that is curt and to the point. This don’t do that

This is $6 at DriveThru. There is no preview, alas. How am poor little I to make a purchasing decision if I have no hint at whats inside?

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2 Responses to Lighthouse at Shipbreaker Shoals

  1. Beoric says:

    For the curious, the designer wrote about her design process – including contributions from here editor – here:

  2. Anne says:

    Hi Bryce,

    Thank you for the review, and your thoughts about both what’s strong and what you think could be improved. I appreciate you giving it a read and sharing your honest impressions!

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