By J Blasso-gieseke 21st Century Games OSE Level 2?
Fear the tides! For upon the ocean’s black abyss rides a keep of stone on the broad shelled back of the mighty dragon turtle Greth.
Fear the tides! For unbeknownst to the fisher families of Stonewave the tides have turned against them.
Fear the tides! For this night, the vast body of Greth will beach itself upon the shore and a score of Iguanamen will be disgorged to raid the town for fresh human flesh.
Can the party fight off the Iguanamen raid in the night? Can the party reach Greth in time to rescue the captives before he dives into the deep?
This is an entry in my Wavestone Keep adventure design contest. Which I held to combat the crushing ennui I feel when reviewing too many bad adventures in a row. The challenge was to write and short adventure, eight pages, inspired by the concept and marketing tagline of the Wavestone Keep adventure. Now, to combat my crushing boredom, and the perfectionism which prevents me from working on larger projects, I’m going to review the entries!
This eight page adventure details about thirteen locations, including a keep with nine rooms. It’s got some wonderful use of language, good treasure, and a fun “raid” mentality with a cool little mechanic. I’m a fan!
Generic vs Vanilla comes up all the time. Generic is bad but vanilla can be delicious! This adventure features two classic tropes that, finally(!) are combined in to a delicious vanilla. First, we’ve got the classic Dragon Turtle with a building on its back … with the threat of an impending DIVE! DIVE! DIVE! Second, we’ve got a sea raid by humanoids. Both of these have been to death … or so I might have previously said. As always, the classics are classics for a reason and, when done well they show you why. And this one is done well.
You’re asleep in the inn when shit hits the fan. A nightime raid from the sea by humanoids! They are dragging people off! You see some inside the inn and deal with them, run outside and see a guy standing there saying shit like they just ran off with the Potters kids! You go down to the docks (cause you’re fucking heroes! I usually deride this kind of thing, but, it works here, I think, because of the frantic nature. More on this later.) Ol Yurtle is about to head out to sea and you board him, maybe by rowing out if you were slow, and get on his back to raid the keep to free the people taken hostage. And, maybe, if you were very good little adventurers … find the treasure room before the turtle dives.
Also, this is gonna be one of those gushy reviews where I fanboy out.
Everything in this works perfectly together. The writing is evocative and descriptions terse by favourful. “A bloated corpse bound with iron kelp. 1 iguanaman glutting itself.” Bloated. Glutting. Fuck yes! Not to mention, the use of iguanamen itself father than lizardmen or bullwugs or some shit. Noice! When you run out of the inn for the first time you are greeted with “Johann Sparr, a simple, but powerfully built fisherman in his late-40s, will be standing barefoot on the cobbled street in a soiled night dress and cap wrestling with his conscience to go after the raiders.” That’s fucking perfect. Soiled, wrestling, barefoot on cobbled streets. I can run this entire scene, and, indeed, the rest of him since he’s an NPC that may stick around. Further, he don’t stick around and become troublesome, he can show you the way to the docks so you find them faster and pick the fastest boat to chase the turtle, which is probably out to sea at this point. Then, after reaching the turtle, HE GOES BACK TO GET HELP AND MORE BOATS TO TAKE THE RESCUED PEOPLE BACk!!! A fucking useful NPC! And, it gets rid of him before he becomes an escort mission. And, it makes the fuck sense! Nice!
It’s using a great 2-column landscape formatting to great effect, stuffing the pages full of text, but also using bullets and indents and highlighting/bolding to great effect to make everything pretty easily digestible. Oh! Oh! And you’ve got a little “check off” box for the iguanamen raiders and the hostages … cause some of those fucking people ain’t coming back “On the sea slick floor of the dragon turtle’s shell, 2 Iguanamen are hastily devouring a pair of corpses.” Ought oh! Better mark off two hostages! I love it! Good shaded boxes for monster stats also.
We also get a Time Unit Tracker. A hidden chart, the DM marks off Time Units based on combats, fucking aruond, if the party has help from the fisherman, etc. It’s fucking tense as shit! Seriously, this is the first time I’ve seen a “race against time!” adventure that actua;ly FEELS tense! “Any time the party desitates, mark a time unit.” Fuck me! Gahhhh! I might put this up on a whiteboard or giant paper behind me and mark them off in BIG letters. It’s also recommending an egg timer, but it’s use is less clear. Anyway, this is great! Eventually the turtle dives, over three time units, giving the party time to escape the flooded keep on its back to, hopefully, the waiting boats. Or the one boat they took! Fucking tense, I love it!
Treasure is great, including a conch that summons a ghost ship! That’s all there is and that’s all the fuck I need! I havent decided yet if its just a ship, ala folding boat, or like full of undead pirates, ala Horn of Valhalla, but I’ll figure it the fuck out … whch if the fucking way I love my magic items. Mystery! Wonder! Joy! Mundane treasure is good also, with things like a mother-of-pearl gorget. Everything is just a line or two, and the vast vast majority of the treasure is in one room in the keep … and you’ve probably found most of the hostages before then … although you don’t know that … Push your luck at its finest!
Specify is great. The hostages all get names, which should add to the roleplay fun, and the fisherman says something like “Some sort of lizardmen! I seen them carrying off the Potts’s kids!” when he’s encountered outside. That’s fucking great! That’s specificity! That brings the game alive so much more than just generic “they are abducting people!”
I think I have only one suggestion for this. I might add, up front, that the turtle will dive soon. I don’t think I want to SHOW on the chart, when the turtle dives, that’s too immersive breaking, but, I do think I want the party to KNOW he will dive soon, to add even more tension. Some NPC yelling something about it always diving in an hour or something like that, just to get that across to the party up front as I’m marking time units publicly.
Our designer, here, claims to have just discovered RPG’s in January (a year ago, I think, not two months ago?) and claims to have NEVER played an RPG before. They just read and learn. God, I love them so much. Hey, asshat readers, let’s find out where the designer is and some of you non-sucky people run a game for them!
The designer doesn’t have a site yet, so here’s the adventure, with their permission, for download.