Something is Rotten in the City State of Dennmarsh

By Benjamin Palmer
Adventures Await Studios
Level 1

There’s been trouble brewing in the city lately. A foul smell has begun creeping up through the storm drains and the water in homes and businesses has grown rank and sickening. The Council of Nine, the ruling body of the city, have put out notice of a reward for anyone who can purify the city’s water source and deal with the horrible stench. The worst of things seems to be centered around a particularly wealthy part of town. Some believe that something in the sewers is causing this. Perhaps an otyugh or some other manner of filth creature. At least one adventurer has gone into the smelly depths, but he hasn’t yet returned. Maybe you’ll have better luck?

A request!

This nine page sewer adventure features six rooms. It has led me to new beliefs about 5e D&D.

Ok, ok, hear me out! I know, i know. I know I said it was a Supers game. I’ve changed my mind. Supers sucks anyway. It’s boring. But, I found a way to make 5e fun! You see, you have to play it like it’s a Paranoia game! No, no, seriously, follow along, Brave Troubleshooters!

Oh no! In this giant city there’s a foul stench from the sewers and no clean water all of a sudden! Aiiii! Aiiii! The Dark Lord of the Pit with a Thousand Young! Or whatever! SO, the town council pays you 100 coins to go figure it out! Indeedy do they do! I mean, no one else can, right! None of the cities poor would want to do it, after their very public call for Troubleshooters! I mean, the read-aloud actually starts with “Welcome brave Troubleshooters!” Uh, I mean “adventurers!” So, anyway, the Troubleshooters go off to Vale Garden, the richy richy sector of the city where things are worse.

Along the way the troubleshooters see the deserted city streets. Now, it doesn’t mention it, but I’m suer this adventure would have been improved by having large piles of vomit everywhere. ROll a DC to avoid slipping on it. People throwing vomit out of their windows. Vomit collectors yelling Bring Out Yer Vomit! Right?! Just fucking push it! DO it! The entire thing is bullshit anyway, and the way you solve bullshit is to lean in to it! Just fucking GO man! 

So, anyway, in the richy rich portion you see six houses. That’s it! Whatevevs, right? And four f them have signs up saying they are now longer at home because ofthe smell! Time for some thieving, right?! Uh … no … that means that you are supposed to ask questions in the other two houses, for whatever reason! Righto! You know the deal in 5e! You just make some talky talky rolls and the DM regurgitates information! THis time all of the information is DRAKE related. Every fucking piece of information is about a DRAKE. From both houses! LIkie, lean in right?! The houses and shrubs arein the form of drakes. They have drake costumes on. They love drakes. EVery other word is DRAKE. They use it like cool. Drake on man! 

Outside there’s a flood of sewage! Ohs nos! Get uyp on the high ground to avoid it coming out of the sewers! Again, push this shit (literally) man! Go for it! Shit boats! Piles of shit! Lean in to the piss kink of your players! 

After it receeds, Look, a manhole! Gee, a sewer adventure! Who would a thunk it! And in 5e?! Make a DC14 check to open it! Can’t open it?! No adventure for you! Everyone can make a DC14?! THEN WHY THE FUCK DID YOU BLOCK THE ADVENTURE BEHIND A DC CHECK?! In we go!

Giant rats! Rats swarms! Ohs nos! Adventures! 

Oh, look, a gobln/kobold village! Guess how they talk! “We’iz no scared of you! You’s in ours’s city now! Turn arounds and leaves’s! You’iz no welcome here!” Alchemsts as the enemy continue the anti-science trend that society is currently in the middle of. Cultists as enemies betray a nasty anti-religion sentiment. (Says the avowed atheist. Lighten the fuck up on the dumbasses, as long as they are not telling you what to do.) And, there is, no doubt, some kind of anti-immigrant sentiment in the cartoonish portrayal of the noble goblin/kobold. See how did that kids? Next fucking level trolling right there. 🙂

Blah blah blah. Simple six room linear map. Blah blah blah. A room with a bridge that you don’t actually need to cross since the door out is on the same side of the bridge. Blah blah blah. A rooms with webs in it that has the valve needed to open the door also in the room. Oh, and a giant spider. 

You find a valve, open it, and it cleans the sewers. A week later the sewers gets clogged again and you’re sent back in. This time to fight a drake in one of the rooms you were in before. I’m not sure if that’s clever or not. I like the return aspect, but, also, ther’s a little quantum nature in that the drake is NOT there, inthe dungeon, the first time, in about 50% of the cases. Basically, if you do a trap puzzle in one room then the drake is not present. If you run through the room then it is present. 

Did I mention that, in a room with an obvious valve, you can make a DC14 INT check to determine that turning the valve will clear the same room of the gas thats in it? Are players this fucking dumb? No. Designers are.

It’s a padded out, baby adventure for four year olds. Yeah, it’s ok to run. It’s clear enough. If you ignore the 5e meme shit, like making skill check/challenge shit, then, yeah, it’s an ok 5e adventure. Where ok 5e adventure means “Dumb as fuck.” 

This is $3 at DriveThru. No preview, so gooo fuuuuuck yourself.

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18 Responses to Something is Rotten in the City State of Dennmarsh

  1. Evard’s Small Tentacles says:

    5e is the dregs. It’s influencing gaming so negatively. In recent times I have been told the following by 5e players:

    – We don’t want to make choices, too many choices, just give us a railroad
    – Why aren’t all encounters balanced for our level?
    – why can’t we control everything that happens?
    – just tell us what to do…

  2. Melan says:

    Seek out the rot, find the rot, get disappointed by the rot. ‘Tis the circle of life!

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is just a shameful excuse for an adventure! Bryce someone is trying to torture you!

  4. Gnarley Bones says:

    I remember hearing that 5E was going to be the second coming of 1E. I will concede that I haven’t read any myself, so the pool of adventures I’m seeing are those that Bryce is reviewing – but goodness, what the hell?

    • Dave says:

      *what the hell?*

      I blame Adventurer’s League adventures, at least in part. Meant to be idiot-proof for both the players and the GMs, guaranteed to finish in a few hours, and if there is a broader plot arc they’re a part of then it’s even more important they come to the right conclusion at the end of each session.

      I speculate these have been taken as the template for what an adventure is supposed to be, by designers and the player base alike.

      But I haven’t followed it since shortly after release, so if anyone wants to blame Critical Role or some other factor as well, go ahead.

      *second coming of 1e*

      I never heard that exactly, but there were early conciliatory nods towards the OSR, and exploratory play got name-checked in one of the books. And before you really saw 5e in play you could squint at the book hard enough to say “well, slow level advancement overall while including xp for gold in some ratio, plus make short rests mean overnight and long rests mean a week camping or a day and night back in civilization.” The problem with that is, why bother, when older games do it better anyway.

      • Evard’s Small Tentacle says:

        I don’t think it’s a system issue, but more a playstyle evolution where everyone wants to be in a “heroic epic” which has been narrowly interpreted to end in a given “epic finale” with “heroic deeds” that true player agency would cause to go awry.

        • Mithgarthr says:

          It absolutely is tied into the system. The problem is, no matter how “old school” and “not heroic” you *want* to play, when you have a system that never puts your PCs in any real threat of danger, you end up playing as super heroes whether you meant to or not.

          • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

            The system definitely has a hand in it. It may not be the only cause but it’s a contributor. WotC built the game to support this style of play.

  5. Jonathan Becker says:

    Entire comment erased because it was even more negative than the usual comment I post after reading one of these reviews that demonstrate the absolute collapse of the hobby.

    I’m sorry, Mr. Palmer. I can offer nothing constructive at this time. I am fatigued beyond endurance.

  6. Artem of the Floating Keep says:

    Dreck like this is what gives 5e a bad name.

    Yes, I’m saying that unironically.

    I’ve myself made a stab at writing a 5e investigative adventure with a human face. And even made a Bryce review request (to no avail, sadly).

    If anyone’s interested:

  7. UngathoLord says:

    This is (or was) available for free on the author’s website. The adventures that this author has available for free tend to be a mixed bag – some aren’t very good, some are ok. Their initial hooks/brief descriptions are pretty interesting. I’m running a campaign of 1 shots where the players select the next adventure based on a brief description and how much reward is offered for completing the adventure and I’ve included some of these as options on 2 occasions. Both times, the players picked one of these, much to my dismay. One was the Feylight Festival, which was pretty lame. The other was the Duelling Knight’s Fungeon Dungeon, which was a nice concept about a magically harmless dungeon used for entertainment at a restaurant that was malfunctioning and had become dangerous. Unfortunately, it is a poorly designed, linear dungeon. One of the rooms in that was just a bunch of doors of different colors with mixed effects, good and bad, when characters opened the doors. No info for the characters to make informed decisions. I spent a while tweaking that by writing out hints in front of each door – I couldnt bear to run it as is.

  8. squeen says:

    I have heard many times from some seemly reasonable folks that 5e is not that bad, and with a few adjustments can be made to work in old-school fashion.

    Invariably, when they go on to describe the (improved) 5e games they run, I think to myself (because I am so polite) “I have zero interest in ever playing what you just described—it sounds awful.”.

    This has happened many times.

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