Christopher Lyons Big Budgie Press OSR Levels 3-4
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!
Beware the fruit of the Truelife Tree! A fearsome pleasure barge laden with terrible cargo floats and lists, its passengers numb to the wide world outside. Sinister magic permeates the ancient timbers and tiles, ensorcelling all would- be treasure-seekers and scavengers.
This six page adventure features four partial ship decks full of weirdos and loot. A little bit of a museum trip combined with a casual looting give rise to the question: what challenge, Horatio?
So you’ve got this giant ship. The top deck contains The Tree Of Life, with fruit that convey immortality … if you stay on the ship. The ship breaks in two, etc, and the back half, with the tree, winds up on a beach, side profile showing. On board are four levels, including the top deck with the tree. Various rooms contain treasure and some wacky NPC’s.
My issues here are many and varied.
First, the map. We’ve got four different little maps, one of each ship level, but with no real keying or notations on it. Various rooms are labeled, in the text but not on the map as “Rathgars Room” and “Study”, but that’s all you get. I am not amused. I don’t like the cognitive burned of looking at the map, and the textual description of a room, and then trying to place it on the map. And, inevitably, making notes on the map to do what the designer should have done.
The challenges faced by the party in this adventure include three electric eels. That’s it. Seriously. Ok, ok, no, I’m not being fair. I’m in a pissy mood this morning. There’s also a wandering monster table. That includes a crab swarm and some lizardmen raiders.
Other than this, the main challenge is not getting caught. The barge has some wacky rich folk onboard, who are immortal, right out of the City of Rapture playbook. The notes say that they are 20-24 of them, with about four being named and having personalities like “wont anyone think of the children” and “that shirt is soo last season.” So, good, decent, short NPC descriptions then, at least for those four. The other 20-24 don’t show up again in any mention except in the Roleplaying the Passengers section. Basically, they don’t do shit except be annoying, unless the party harm the tree of life or try to steal shit, in which case they attack. Also, they are immortal and regen, the only way to stop them being throwing them off the boat in which case they turn in to dust.
So, you wander around the boat, looting shit until you get caught and then chucking a body off the boat, I guess? Also, no real stats for the passengers.
The rooms themselves are decently described, just as the NPC’s are. A short little couple of sentences up top to orient, that could double as read-aloud, and then some bullets underneat with some bolding to help draw the DMs attention. They run a little longish, but, that’s mostly because each of the items in the room get a couple of sentences, in bullet form, and there are four or more things in a room to describe in more detail … usually some sort of trease. A treasure map, an old book, a chest, a person, etc.
So, what’s the deal here? I think I’m objecting to the NC heavy adventure without a heavy NPC focus, along with the unused page count. A column of additional NPC’s would have been nice, and then some more intrigue … granted that’s hard to do with the limited room count available. AT most, one of the NOC’s wants to perform in front of the other ship passengers and get applause. We need more along that line, a more involved situation, and some reason why everyone just doesn’t gak the party when they start stealing.
I want to be supportive of this adventure, but, It’s just not hitting for me. Is it a loot? A social adventure? It’s not a crawl. It’ doesn’t seem to know really what it wants to be, and thus the text is having trouble concentrating on those elements.
You can snag a copy here: