Heart Stone of the Wave Keep

Seven Bastard
Self Published
5e
Level 6

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!

Terror grips the coast. Tavern boil over with rumors of mysterious reptilian reavers raiding fishing villager and sinking merchant vessels. But these are no ordinary pirates, they op0erate out of a floating tower that appears out of the night and moves against the tides. This impossible story is make even more improbable as it is said the tower is topped with a great ghostly eye that rains down fire upon its foes.

This eight page adventure features a tower … full of raiding lizardmen! It’s got seven levels, walks around on giant War of the Worlds legs, is trying hard to be useful. It comes out a little confused, in the formatting, and, somehow, make me think that something is missing from it?. A stronger vibe, maybe? I’m left wanting more, or feeling empty .. it may be the formatting getting in the way. 

I can kind of see what is trying to go on here. The core of this adventure is the tower full of raiding lizardmen … this time in a tower that has mechanical legs and walks around in the ocean. (Kind of … it’s also a little broken and can blow up is OUT of the water for awhile. Cooling issues and all that …) There’s also a couple of pages in the rear about a slightly larger game world … a little mini-hex crawl with a few locations on it. A destroyed village, a tribe of humanoids and so on. Its a good way to use the extra spare pages the designer had (which is saying something, since they are already pushing the content in the tower proper. More on that later.) Anyway, we’ve got this extra content in the back and …

It’s linked in to the adventure … kind of. At times. I want to cover the humanoid tribe. A band of ogres. There’s a ruined ogre steading and also a makeshift camp a few miles away with the remains of the tribe, a hundred or so, but only about twenty adults. They got no chief or wie woman anymore, and most of the adults are dead. A parlay says they got raided about eight days by a giant stone creature with one eye that shot fireballs. Ouch! SUpporting this is a rumor from the local tavern “The north Gryphons claw is home to a tribe of Ogres called the Heart Eaters. They ain’t friendly, but they mostly stick to themselves. Uneasy truce with the locals. Still they killed Young Bill Blackbeard a few years back over a “poaching dispute” as he was taking furs from what they saw as there land.” I can quibble some with this but it FEELS right. A poaching dispute, traditional friction areas, and a named person. Along with “might not be outright hostile.” And then, in the tower, proper, an ogre held captive who can join the party. He could use a name, and a couple of words of personality, but, you can see how the different parts of the contant work together to form a more cohesive story without actually having to TELL that story. A rumor, that is actual tavern talk (though it could have been implemented better) and how that turns in to something more for the smart party.

The tower, proper, is a bit of a let down. It’s got some great support with a cross-section diagram and some notes on climbing different parts of it to get to the top … the part above the water. And how the great Sauron eye on top reacts to various subterfuges the party might employ. Then we get inside. The verticality of the tower is nice, with a unworking grav chute in the middle of it to get between levels. The map does get busy at times with all of the extra markings on it. It we imagine a kind of “battle map” mentality, then the creatures locations are noted on the map. This could either make it busy to grok or exactly what you want, depending on the degree of tactics in your game. I think it’s busy for what it’s trying to accomplish. Also, this is not my playstyle.

Evocative writing is adequate. It’s nothing special, but, also, I believe this is a EASL issue and I’m not going to blast someone for it. I think it gets the message across and is trying to keep up with the spirit of evocative writing even if it’s the best. “White symbols have been written in a neat pattern from floor to ceiling. Stacks of gold coins litter the floor.” or “Swirls of white paint and what looks like giant walking fish are drawn on the wall. Piles of different kinds of cloths tied into knots fill the floor of this room.” I think you can get the vibe the designer was going for, even if it doesn’t spring to mind the way I’d prefer. The knot thing, in particular, could be quite interesting. I note, though, that the designer seems to know what they need to do. For example, the monsters get descriptions! The reptile men get described as “These gray scaled humanoids stand between five and five and a half feet high with round heads, bulbous eyes, pointe ears and a mouth full of hundreds of sharp pointed teeth. Their hands and feet are roughly twice the size of a mans and multi ridged with extremely long fingers and toes.” That’s not a bad description and, the fact that the monsters get a description AT ALL is great!

This is mostly a raid adventure, so the interactivity is not going to be a lot more than that. The raid is, though, well supported. The climbing notes for the tower. How the Eye of Sauron reacts to weird clouds of fog and darkness in the ocean. (It shoots fucking fireballs at it! I appreciate it’s dedication to its ‘Look’ 🙂 and, especially, to the fractions notes in the tower. What they do if they suspect an incursion and what they do during an active incursion. I’m not sure that sound travelling/run to alert someone else is handled well, but, once that is taken care of the rest is well supported. Up to and including a guild navigator wrecking the place through overheating it on dry land if the party gets too close … and don’t pull him from his goo tank in time. Other interactivity includes rescuing people and fucking with the machinery of the place. And a big fight on a RoboRally floor, with conveyor belts, pistos, buzz saws, etc going off. 

I’ll note in passing that the “busy” nature of the map extends, I think, to the text. Underlines. Bolding. Words running around images, different colored text for alert levels. Offset boxes. I get what the designer was going for, and appreciate the attempt to bring clarity. I think, though, that it just didn’t out the way they wanted it to and instead sows a bit of confusion. It maybe have been better with out the smaller maps on each page since then the text would be normal justified instead of justified around the images. I don’t know for sure, though. 

So, Not terrible, and you can see what the designer was going for. As a raid, I like it more than most!

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is the whole thing. Yeah!

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/392881/Heart-Stone-of-the-Wave-Keep?1892600

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1 Response to Heart Stone of the Wave Keep

  1. Sevenbastard says:

    Thanks Bryce

    I wrote this from scratch so I was up against the time crunch. I made the mistake of going all in on a throw a way joke of calling the tower a “hex crawler” and then realized making hexes in Gimp was a lot harder than I thought and the map sucked a lot of my time. At the end I just had to send as is or miss the deadline.

    The version on Drivethru is one that went through about 4 to 5 more edits and formatting passes. It includes the full map of the Hex Crawler in both a player and DM version each on a single page. That version also includes names and personalities for the prisoners that I couldn’t fit in in the first edit. Lots of other small changes to tighten it up, add content, and the formatting is still busy but better.

    It also updated the compiled monster stat to include shortened spell descriptions. The idea being that you can print the compiled stats and run the raid without page flipping. If you play 5e the monster stat page is a god send to speed play.

    Also Bryce doesn’t note it, but all of the magic items are original, no book items here.

    In the end I liked the idea of a walking mechanical tower, but wasn’t sure how to add interactivity and some roleplaying into the small room count and a vertical structure, so I just went with a raid. I’m not disappointed on how it (the version on drivethru) turned out but I agree it maybe lacks something. I tried to stay faithful to the challenge and probably should have taken more risks. For my first published adventure I am ok with it.

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