By Sean Sexton Self Published 5e Levels 5-6
I’m only doing 5e content by special requests these days, so, this was a special request.
Nearly thirteen years ago, a powerful magic gripped the Darkside Brewery and sealed its doors. No one went in. No one came out. A few days ago, those doors reopened, releasing a silver mist that temporarily aged all it touched. Yet nothing else emerged. What happened to all the workers and visitors within? What could have caused the silvery mists? How could the doors have remained sealed for so long, and why have they reopened? Do you have the courage to figure out what happened within the Darkside Brewery? Gather your allies and find out!
This 24 page adventure features a brewery with five rooms and about twenty features to interact with/explore/kill, etc. It’s modern D&D. Read-aloud is a bit long and the formatting is trying a bit too hard, but, overall, not a bad adventure if you’re in to that type of thing.
I’ve come to a realization, while reviewing this. Modern D&D is actually a Supers game. It’s set in a modern era, with modern stuff, but with fantasy trappings and being driven by a “fantasy” rule system. This thing is set in a brewery. More modern world trappings. They use a water elemental to create the pure water for their brews. Uh huh. It’s an escort mission with a renowned alchemist to go in the brewery. There’s restrooms inside the brewery. There’s a couple of magical brooms & mops that clean the place. You work for 100gop, or, maybe, a potion from the alchemist. Or you’re just a do-gooder. This is the modern world, but with a fantasy vibe. I fucking HATE magical renfairre, and I hate supers. Makes sense.
Also, three kobolds in a coat show up. That’s so great, right? It’s supers. Ok, so, I’ve got to get over my “the bad guy left seven priceless paintings in order to test intruders” biases and do an objective review of this thing, though I loathe the setting.
So, five big rooms. Each one has multiple “things” to interact with in the rooms, so about twenty or so things going on in the adventure. Room one is a good example of this. It starts with a couple of “DM notes” sentences giving a little brief overview of the room. Then there’s a LENGTHY read-aloud. Finally, there’s a small section of DM notes; “the goal is to escape this rooms …” and then an overview of the various room elements … in this case a couple of pages of NPC’s. Then, finally, there’s a little bit of advice for the DM.
Our main read-aloud over-reveals. The FIVE PARAGRAGHS should make that obvious. We get various descriptions of NPC’s and what they are doing. This is wrong. I get it, you want to set a scene, show the party the chaos of what’s going on. But a long read-aloud is not the pay to do it. I will never ever ever ever pay attention to long read aloud, as a player. I will zone out. People complain all the time about lack of player attention. Pulling out phones. Because the content is not focused on them. You make your read-ahort and snappy, giving an overall impression … and then follow that up with information for the DM tto respond with when the party starts asking questions. “What are the people doing?” “What do I overhear?” What’s going on with thoe doors. Etc.
Ignoring the half elf reporter and three kobolds in a coat, we turn to the NPC’s. It’s clear that theyere is a strong attempt. Little brief description. Someone is a bit yelly. What they want and what they know. Not bad. Given the number, could use a summary sheet in order to run it.
I do, though, appreciate the DM notes in this section, or, rather, the advice for the DM. We’re presented various room elements and then the DM advice, at the end, is what ties the room together. We learn in the room contents that there is a door guarded by three dwarves, that goes deeper in to the brewery. The advice section, though, tells us various ways the party can get through the door … which then ties in to the NPC’s. If you’re gonna stick a large open-ended challenge in an adventure then putting in a little help for the DM, for how you constructed this thing to go, is a helpful thing.
The formatting, though, is trying a little too hard. There is, again, clearly an attempt to do the right things here. Boxes. BUllets, font sizing, bolding,e tc. I’m not MAD at it. But I do think it’s ineffective. Ultimately, all of the formatting, and different colored boxes and other attempts to bring clarity end up resulting in a more confusing mess because of all of it. This is a common mistake in overcorrection. Trimming the text up should help quite a bit, and calming the various color schemes for the fonts and boxes. You want something that is easy onthe easy to grok, but brings clarity to the text. This format is complex and causes the brain to fight it.
I know, right, damned if you do and damned if you dont?
A decent enough first effort for this designer. The core adventure is the standard 5e stuff, but the interactivity and setting embraced. If you’re gonna go, then go all the way, and this designer does that.
This is $3 at DriveThru.
Sounds like a sprinkling of “magical ren faire” crap -the water comes from an elemental, the place is cleaned by magic brooms- sprinkled with Saturday morning supers cartoon cartoon (reporters, kobolds in a coat).
Is it D&D written by people raised more on Marvel than Conan? Probably unfair- this adventure would slide right into a 2e adventure anthology.(possibly 3e too, I tuned out at that edition)
It’s D&D written by people raised more on Disney than Conan
To be fair, the Magical Renfaire tradition commenced with 2E, circa 1989. It has its own stories, yet infamous, traditions
The Disney analogy is more apt than Marvel. After all, Marvel did produce Conan comics for many years. It is true that magical renfaire can be traced back to 2e. Sadly, a lot of crap can be traced back to 2e
I actually quite like the kobolds-in-a-coat idea. There is a place in old-school gaming for gonzo and amusing. Judges Guild “Rat on a Stick” (wherein one’s PCs can purchase and operate a dungeon-based restaurant franchise) hails from 1982. I think the difference between Old-School Gonzo (hereinafter “OSG”) and Magical Renfaire is that OSG *commits* to the weirdness, whereas the Renfaire must deflect and come up with wildly tortured in-game explanations for the oddities.
I seriously appreciate the review. I’ve been working on this for a bit to long. Started as something I just ran for friends for Cinco de Mayo, then ran again, and again. I really appreciate this criticism, even if it’s not glowing. Especially since it’s not. Gives me something to aim for in the future.
And next time, maybe I’ll get less renfairre stuff you seem to be hating. I’m learning. One step forward at a time.
Some of us dislike the “magic as technology” trope- YMMV.
I’d say the long read aloud is an easy fix to make it more interactive- short evocative description (just enough to interest the player= players either grab onto & investigate & you reward them with detail THEN, or they ignore it & go do the stuff they are interested in. Difference being they EARNED whatever clues they got by following up rather than having it read _at_ them.
Way to take the hits & keep coming Sean. C. Sexton. I’ll be more interested in what you’re doing next now.
This is a perfect attitude to have! Took it on the chin, do better next time. Cheers!
The idea is amazing and the execution is very good!
People having problems with kobolds in a coat would sure be upset with most of Sir Terry Pratchett’s writing. Keep it up and don’t let people doubt your genre of choice. <3
Thank you for the kind reply. I do love Sir Pratchett’s novels, and maybe that shows in some of my silliness. I’m definitely learning from this. Good criticism is invaluable for improvement. The next adventure is already shaping up much better as a result. Formatting is somehow an eternal struggle.
I am glad you enjoyed the Brewery. The Tower (coming soon) is going to be even better!
I ran an OSR-modified version of it today. Hit me up on E-Mail to get an actual play if you want to 🙂
I hope, we’re going to run part two with the party to conclude the outcome and venture forward to the dungeon under the tower (which is coming soon).
The address is JM † memorici † de, the Discord server of “OSR, Quickly” is https://discord.gg/657u5kFKCS
I think the idea of a cursed industrial building that becomes accessible after several decades is really cool.
Might use that for a completely different adventure.
You only have to see 5th-level characters in action to realize 5e is a supers game. “Superheroes in Dungeons” is just what I refer to mainstream D&D now.
Out of curiousity: have you seen 5th-level 3E characters? I agree with you completely, but that’s absolutely not unique to 5E.
I think most of the crowd here avoided 3e for exactly the same reasons (among others).
I have, and 3e doesn’t have the same grandiose power structure that 5e has. When I stopped playing 3e it was 2006 so the game looked a lot different. Maybe with a lot of the supplements it’s possible to min-max characters into superheroes, but I think that is essentially what Pathfinder became (3e superheroes).
artisinal orcs with neck beards