Ben Gibson Self Published OSE Levels 3-5
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!
“Fear arrives on the waves as the terrifying tower, the Sea’s Stone, unleashes a tide of lizardmen upon the unsuspecting coasts.”
This four page adventures features nine rooms in a flour level ziggurat. It teleports in to the ocean in the morning and leaves again at sunset, with lizardman raiders coming out in between to abduct villagers. It’s got some great situations in it, real gems. It’s also got some lackluster evocative writing and just feels a little … short? For nine rooms.
The strength here is in the situations that the party is put in to. The kind of realized vignettes that they then get to work through. There’s a couple of “on the way to the tower” encounters that really highlight this. In one we get: “Punished Captive: Agonized and twisted moans echo through the mangroves. If investigated the moans come from a half-eaten young blacksmith left in the mud. His eyes, nose, one ear, lips, fingers, feet, and most of his large muscles have been eaten along with half his liver, it is a testament to his vast fortitude that he remains alive. If he senses anyone coming, he’ll beg for death through his mangled lipless mouth. If promised death or regenerative magic he’ll try to describe a raiding party’s composition. If healed somehow, he’ll seek to join to kill all the lizardmen.” This is great. It’s a fully realized little scene that the party finds themselves in. You can run this, for, I don’t know, twenty minutes? Just based on the text provided. This dude got a personality implied. There’s a kind of mythic quality to it as well. Another situation on the way to the tower has the party running in to a trapped lizardman, under a boulder, who can reward the party for their help, even though he doesn’t really speak common … with the allusions to all of the fiction and myth and folklore that that situation brings with it.
There are other instances as well, shorter. The enormous chief who considers himself tactful and will treat honorably if confronted … but also marking the most delicious character as a meal he must have. That’s fun! A little playing around with that, maybe some creep in to another adventure session or two … great times! And then there’s the fact that the tower teleporting is done by human sacrifice precisely at dusk … creating that most famous of race against time scenes from media. And then reappears … “ in a flash of golden light heralded with the sounds of ghostly sibilant chants at the precise moment of dawn the next day.” Yeah man! That’s the way this shit is supposed to work!
Otherwise, the adventure has some issues. Writing is a little weak in the evocative department. “Sleeping Nests: Formerly a stately statuary hall, now stinks of lizardman musk as the rubble of three of the four statues that were here has been rearranged into nests where the lizardmen sleep in piles.”
And then, also, it could another edit pass. There’s indications to “roll for encounter” with no encounter table (although a decent mechanism for upping the frequency is included.) And, traps like a poison dart thing are a little confusing. Lizardmen duck, which I assume means a tripwire, I guess, but nothing is mentioned? I’m generally ok with some kind of implicit assumption, or leaving it blank and up to the DM, but in this case it’s kind of a half included case … which I’m not ok with.
So, a short four page single column word document adventure is a short four page single column word document adventure. It’s got some interesting concepts but needs a lot more work to turn it in to something more worthwhile.
(Which, I think, Ben said as such in his submission email)
You can snag a copy here: