Jacob Hurst Self Published B/X Level 3
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!
Long ago, when the world was new an elf king was banished from his kingdom and tossed into the sea. His hatred was so great, and so cold that it froze the water into a tall spire and he was cursed to drift forever bringing Winter to the world. But sometimes, he hungers for the blood of bad children. And on nights, when the fog is thick, and the ice piles up in jagged sheets upon the shore, he sends his wives to steal away crying babies, and the kinds of children that fight and do not do what they’re told. So beware sweet voices in the fog, and stay close to the fire, or you might be carried off, howling to the frost spire.
Well, Fuck you all, Picasso entered the jr high Art Fair.
This ten page adventure features nine rooms in a tower off the coast. This one has a fey theme, with the Winter King abducting children. The use of language and image is masterful, with the entire thing only have a few minor flaws. Great job of channeling that Fey energy.
As i sit here, drinking too much, smoking too much, fucking too much, and not paying enough attention to work, family, or other trivialities, preparing for another sybratic weekend, I ask myself, well, where does that highway go to? My god, what have I done? Not yet halfway through, I think … and to stumble upon this!
I want you to reread that intro blurb again. “He sends his wives to steal away crying babies …” What an interesting framing for the elf king, banished and cursed to forever bring winter to the world. That just FEELS right, doesn’t it? The wives thing? I mean, the entire intro is written like it’s a REAL thing, like it IS a fairytale, or some Hollywood hacks spent 5 mil to write up the intro scrawl for a movie. It’s real fucking writing! I botch, a lot, about failed author writing. Inserting flowery phrases and hack fantasy phrases in to an adventure, in to the fiction piece, the intro, the read-aloud and DM text. There’s a time and place for that shit, and the fucking marketing blurb is ABSOLUTLY the place. This is the place to get inspired. To set the framing in the DMs head. To preload that frontal cortex for that stimuli to come. Mythic. Folklore. A fairytale to come. Who’s ready for some fey action?
And Lo, this is not the end! For while the flowery shit comes to an end, the great writing does not. But it shifts, to where it needs to be, to DM focused to run the game. And every paragraph, almost every sentence, has something REALLY great in it! “Large, impossibly fast growing holly sprouts outside the home of any child marked by the Winter Court, and in the fall and winter it hangs heavy with berries of crimson so deep they’re almost purple.” Hanging heavy. Berries of crimson. No, not flowery shit, but great imagery! And so it goes, on and on and on again. Line after line.
Concept after concept. For if the writing lacks then the IDEAS it communicates does not! “On the first night fog rolls in thick and cold and does not leave” That’s some fucking omen level shit right there man! “A village near the sea.” The populace is completely shellshocked. Last night, 10 children vanished. Women are weeping inconsolably. Men are burning a huge pile of holly bushes in the town square.” I can run that fucking shit! I know what to do with that! I need no more! That’s what I fucking want! Inspiration! A scene, set, and primed, ready for me to go. Fuck you and your pages long village description; all I need is that short paragraph. There are nice little other hook-ish things, like a troll bargaining for his life, selling out the Winter King because he didn’t give him the children he was primoosed for dinne. Or a hedge witch who has figured out the holly bush thing, but no more, and is hounded by villagers and the local lord. Or a harpy, flying flowy overhead, struggling with a heavy lumpy sack, thes pounds of crying children clearly coming from it, heading towards a distant bank of heavy fog. Yeah man! Adventure Fucking Time!
Following that are a hort series of encounters the DM can insert in to the fog. “A father (Dylan) walks alone in a heavy fur coat, carrying a sword and lantern. His boots ripped and he can’t feel his feet anymore, but his daughter has been taken and his wife died in childbirth,” Uh huh. Thta’s kind of fucking grim. A merchant and a keg of ale, a woulded elf surrounded by wolves. The fucking shit is GREAT. It cCOMPLETEELY sets the tone for whats to come, setting the players minds to the correct framing for the content its to receive. A couple of adventures have done this, providing some context for the tower vibe to come, and I think they’ve all made good choices in trying to do so. It really does help!
The ice tower has a couple of approaches to it, none easy, a few easily seen, blue lights coming from a cave with a dark fog rolling out of it. The entrances, obvious, are not easily gained and there’s no provision to make it easy. You’re level fucking three poindexter, figure it out.
Inside the encounters and imagery continue to be great, but transition to the Room Format that Jacob uses. A room title, a short sentence, some bolded keywords about major elements and a few words in parens to describe them, followed by some DM text. I like this format, terse and scannable. It’s the les sis more approach, just highlighting the important bits to get you in the mood and the important elements for the adventure and letting the DMs imagination do the rest, leveraging it for the players benefit. I will not, that, it seems a little less effective here. Something to do with the layout, perhaps? It’s still good, I think, but it is taking me just a little more time to figure things out and get the big picture Maybe another edit? Idk.
Inside the interactivity is strong. A thick blue bonfire, burning bones, a sword in the middle of it, bones in piles in the room, dancing rainbows on the ceiling from refracted light. The environments are magical, fey0like, from ice cave to forest walkway. A sleeping polas bear cuddles a skeleton wearing an ornate helmet of bright bronze with a plume of red horsehair. Shiny! Who wants to risk being eaten for it?! I fucking love push your luck shit.
And the NPC’s, well, there are a couple of things to just hack, but, also, the ones you can talk to? How about a witch inside challenging you: “And just what will you do good adventurer? Return this babe to a hard life in a rundown hut of frozen dirt? A forgotten 5th or 7th child? Please, tell me again how untrained magic users benefit these lands?”Nice job witch lady! You’re making a compelling case! Akso, the winter king could be your patron and provide a moving base of operations “if they have a certain level of … ambivalence.” Ha! I fucking love it! Of course, the true answer is “Who appointed you CPS bitch?” STAB STAB STAB. But, of course, the truer answer is XP XP XP. 🙂 Still, great job making the PLAYERS lives a little bit harder. I love that tone. Have the gobbo beg for mercy and then stab the fuckers when they do it.
I’m not really communicating the interior vibe, but, it includes staring too long at ice sheets, seeing long dead relatives. (not dead, LONG dead. The overloading of the phrasing brings so much more to the imagery!) And the, staring longer, having your own looks transformed to look like those long dead relatives. Because that’s what SHOULD happen in this circumstance, right? I mean, it FEELS right. And that’s what this does, over and over again. The encounters, the writing, it all FEELS right.
Yo, you need one paragraph on how the enemies react. Also, harpies? I mean, yeah, ok, But, like, emphasize the frozen wife aspect more so they are not genero?
Snag a copy at: