By Jonbar Merciless Merchants OSE Levels 5-7
Shipwrecked upon a deserted island the party soon realizes they are not alone. Populated by intelligent and savage red haired apes, the heroes must fight for survival and find a means for getting off the jungle island. These hungry apes are eager for the taste of man flesh and are ruled over by something not of this world that thrives on hunting and terrorizing intruders within its domain…
This 39 page adventure details an island with an evil ape. And a pyramid. And a volcano. Alas, no tribesmen. I’m left with an overwhelming sense of “meh” as I review this. I’m not excited about it. It’s seems staid. Maybe that’s because the formatting and writing style remind me of those middling days of TSR, beyond the wall of terse and just prior to the Shit Fest it became. Those days of Meh.
Ok, so, island, 20 by 30 miles. Tropical. Yeah, it’s fucking Dread. I’m not sure anyone can do a tropical island anymore without Dread coming up. Yeah, it’s got an evil ape, this time a demon ape. Yeah, you’re not really there for any reason (which is cool, I guess? Islands seem like work. Maybe I don’t grok the cargo carrying capacity of ships?) Besides the evil demon ape that most things on the island revolve around, there’s also a giant cro, a stone pyramid, and a small cave/tomb, each with about ten-ish rooms.
Ok, so, good things. There’s a huckster selling a map as a hook. ““Look, why wouldn’t you want your own island that you own? Eh? For 5,000 gp, I can give you this deed to that island. I even got a map straight to it! Imagine….beautiful sands, the soothing waves of the sea, jungle birds and friendly monkeys? You just need to build your dream home…or perhaps a castle for heroes such as yourselves. What’s not to like? What do you say? 5,000 gp is a screaming deal…..” Sold! American Tobacco! I’d be in. That’s the way you say We’re Playing D&D Tonight Bitches! Your soul has to be dead to not swallow that hook. In fact, I’m gonna say that’s my litmus test. If you don’t follow that hook then you don’t get to play in my D&D game. The notes tsay that the deed is fake. Pffft! _I_ think it’s real, and saddling the players with a disease ridden island full of carnivorous apes, disease, pirates and the like is great! Level 5-7? Sure, we can start some domain play! The other hooks are blah blah blah hire the party shit. LAME!
The island is … meh? I mean, 20×30 miles, with like three features on it. I guess you can see them from the ship if you sail around it? I don’t knoow. DOesn’t say. But, it’s also not a hex crawl. Sweltering Jungle Island doesn’t come through in the island description or wanderers, but whatever. Also, the evil demon ape is supposed to be kind of omnipresent onthe island, but I don’t think that comes through on the thing either? ROll a ‘1’ on a a d10 for a wanderers, and then get a 12 on a d12 for the demon ape? Meh. I don’t know. The whole island just doesn’t seem to be a place. Empty With No Place To Go And Nothing To Do is the impression I’m getting.
Descriptions are … Long?I don’t know. I guess I get what they are going for. It’s not uncommon for them to be half a column, with multiple things going on in each room. But it comes off as busy. Here’s the first paragraph of one of the room: “The groaning and rumbling stone sound begins to echo away as the platform settles into the center of a square chamber, creating lazy dust swirls. Pillars stand on either side of passages that lead into darkness set in each wall, decorated with pictographs of various creatures (apes, colorful birds, snakes, etc.) that live on the island. Huge blocks, covered in hieroglyphics, create the walls and floors; the open shaft the only escape from the surrounding oppressive stone. Stone ledges along the walls hold vials, urns, decanters and other implements and tools organized neatly upon them with a layer of dust. Writings are engraved overhead of each of the four exits.” So, yeah, get it? Groaning stone. Lazy dust swirls. But, also, I’m bored. I’m not excited. Length? Writing style? I don’t know. I just really don’t give a shit. At All.
And I don’t mean that in a “Oh my god, every moment of this adventure must be the greatest moment of my life!” sort of way. Not set piece after set piece trying to top each other. That would be fucking lame. But the entire things just leaves me Not Excited about it. All of the encounters are just kind of there, and present, but nothing more. And not in a Regerts kind of way.
Which is a good transition. Best Of generally means I’m excited to run this! And Regerts gets close to that but generally has some flaw. This. I don’t know. I mean …
Here’s the description of the evil demon (literally) ape: “hulking and shaggy haired ape beast, with rusty colored fur and gray mottled skin. Long muscular arms end in wicked claws and the mouth has large, sharp fangs framed by curving horns. The legs are short, but powerful, and are able to grip limbs of a tree or grasp prey. Their stench of their matted unwashed bodies is almost overpowering and their eyes burn baleful dim intelligence.” I mean … meh?
Props for taking one demon front the MM and making an adventure surrounding it. Good idea. But it just doesn’t come across in any way as an active adventure. Or something that you want to run.
Or something that you want to play in.
The PDF is $10 at DriveThru. Le Preview is fourteen pages. The last few show you most of the encounters on the island, with just the three mini-dungeons left out. It does a good job of showing you the writing style, for the most part. Also, I just fucking didn’t care for this thing AT ALL.
Too-wide eyes- dart from fire source, across each man present & his weapons. (show don’t tell)
Shaggy limbs casually nudge over trees or dislodge boulders underfoot. Fanged jaw juts apelike forward. Stands upright, walks on knuckles, forearm sized claws bent underneath. (make it more active)
Stench- biting fermenting ammonia. (specifics)
3 rules to more evocative writing.
It’s probably time to let boring OSR dreck for a while and tear apart some boring 5e crap.
5E ENTHUSIAST, GET YE GONE
I’m a masochist….requesting another from this lot… Bryce please do “Peril in Olden Wood
From The Merciless Merchants”. From the preview the map looks solid and the keying usable at the table. come on…you know you want to……..
Merciless Merchants also published The Red Prophet Rises and Palace of Unquiet Repose, both on “The Best” list. So don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Doing a bit of PR work here:
Bryce has so far reviewed 10 offerings from the Merciless Merchants –>
6 times “The Best” and one “No regerts”
It is very good. Prince has done a review:
Merciless Merchant products fall in the good to great range.
In all these years, shouldn’t you have developed a sense for which adventure is going to be shit? Better put a spotlight on the worthwhile ones because 90% can be assumed to be garbage.
No castaways? I was getting old timey tv show mashup vibes.
Review of your your review – *yawn* – you are just repeating yourself over and over with nothing new in your content – highly predictable – with no preview offered
Overly harsh review, this could be a lot of fun in play. One point with which I agree is that you need to keep Gyllagoon an active antagonist, much like Strahd in (I6) Ravenloft. After the first encounter I suggest rolling 1d20 instead of 1d12 for random encounters with all 12 or more results indicating Gyllagoon. (Rerolls of encounter 10 with shipmates could also involve Gyllagoon, with red apes having a sailor feast if no alliance was reached.) You might also want to track resources, although any party with a cleric should avoid hunger or thirst as OSE does have a Purify Food and Drink spell; The addition of possibly friendly tribesmen doesn’t make much sense to me, as surely the apes will have devoured them; and there is already a “Ben Gunn from Treasure Island figure” in the form of the Nymph. For me the premise makes sense, the hooks and rumours are properly linked into the adventure, you have some investigating and problem solving to do as well as fighting.
The main hook is to find a way off the island. You nailed it with the “Strahd” antagonist.
For sure you want to find a way off the island. But the hooks I am referring to are reasons for why you decided to sail there at all.
I saw it as more of a mishap adventure rather than a goal oriented adventure with just some optional hooks to help a DM make it the prioriry spot if they wanted…but your comments above nailed what the adventure was geared for (Strahd) but also with a mix of A4 (use brains to get off island). -Malrex