By Lucian Correa Antigona404 OSE Levels 1-3
Once upon a time, long before the heyday of the plains folk and the inevitable fall of their empire, deep within the forest, there was a mythical creature that stood upon all the others. Some of the old and forgotten tales, only remembered by the eldest roots, refer to this creature as an implacable tyrant who ruled with an iron fist. There are songs that birds keep secret that speak about the benevolence of this colossal presence, who supposedly wandered through the forest transforming every inch of soil into blooming life. Truth is The Giant King didn’t seem to welcome the arrival of foreigners, and soon enough, a war happened.
This 32 page island has about six locations, each with about six places at them. It’s myconid heavy, and a little weird without being gonzo, with a fairytale lean. It’s ok, with strong strong anchoring elements in most locations, but a little abstracted for my tastes. You gonna Wing It a lot … in a hex crawl kind of way.
The core of this is an island, surrounded by fog. Once on you can’t get off. Somewhere, on the island, is the body of a mythic giant, dead a long time. His rotting body has caused a lot of myconids to pop up, with their goofy society. The island has six pretty iconic location. A town built from wrecked ships, a wizards house, a ship cemetery, ancient ruins, the cave that has the giants heart (and a cult) and a fairy wood with essentially an ent. These each get a little three sentence summary that is pretty good. “The only town on the island, built from whatever finds its way on the shore.” or “A cursed seashore where Fog Spirits mourn their past lives, wander- ing the wreckage of their stranded ships. The vessels come from different places and times,” Not bad fo a kind of foundational framing of the various locations.
Each location then gets its own little section of a couple of pages, enough for around six places at each, give or take. And, each of these generally has a little detail that you hang your hat on. In the meeting house in town we get “Clathrus the Shaman lives on the second floor, surrounded by old roots that contain the history of his people …” Sure, old roots and a shaman. Or, in the tavern, a weird foods table “two stone floating on wine.” or a gray mushroom covered in moss. (It is, after all, mostly mushroom people in town.)
It’s the iconic locations, a ship graveyard, the myconids, the town of leftover parts, that give it the kind of fairytale bend. And then there’s the wizard. On an island full of mushroom people and faeries there lived an wizard. An evil wizard. In his own hut. Doing his experiments. Feared by all. Who wants to live forever. Yup, hitting all of the checkboxes, in a good way! Likewise the magic items are a little unusual, well described in a terse but evocative manner, and come with limited charges, usually, and some mythic way to recharge them that is both unusual and not impossible.
The only real downside/problem is the wanderers table. A little short, at six entries, and mostly a “they attack” theme. Wandering around the island will get you repeats and the encounters themselves are boring. This could be beefed up. A lot. For any setting which you are traveling you’re gonna need some wanderer variety. And, hopefully, more than just “they run at you and attack”, which, while not entirely true here, is the energy the encounters are putting out. Oh, also, the level range is not in the product description or on the cover. Don’t be a tool. Put the level range somewhere obvious.
But, the main differentiator in wanting this, I think, is going to be your feelings about hex crawls. Do you like a hex crawl? To be clear, this ISNT a hex crawl, but the level or description for the various locations, both the major ones, like the town, and the minor ones like the sixish places in town, are at a hex crawl level, with hex crawl energy.
A little open ended in a way that is unusual for an adventure but de rigueur for a hex crawl. Let’s look at an example, the gate of the wizards house:
A wall of sharpened branches blocks the road to the house. A living vine entangled in the gate asks for proof of the wizard’s presence to enter. It can be easily destroyed or burned, although that alerts Uprix in his quarters.
• Following the wall into the woods leads to a tunnel into the fields, dug by starving Moss Beasts
Maybe not the best of examples, since gate is pretty sparse place. Hmmm, lets just use that as an example of the descriptive syle/format, which is generally good and at least a little evocative. Ok, how about a wrecked pirate ship, The Bloody Heart: “An old caravel trapped in the seashore since a long time ago. There is a rope ladder that goes up to the deck, and a hole full of eels in the hull that leads to the Captain Quarters.” and then a couple of bullets about some fog spirits guarding the deck that don’t know they are dead and a half-closed rusty door to the captains cabin.
It’s all got a very … abstracted kind of vibe. But not in a generic way. There’s always something there to inspire, much in the way a hex crawl description (a good one anyway) should have. Kind of a Heres a very general description of something and something weird to kind of base riffing this encounter off of, but, also, nothing overly specific about the place or whats going on. And that’s totally a hex crawl description.
And I’m a little put off by it. It’s not what I was expecting. It’s not what I want in an adventure like this, one that contains some specific rooms? Sure, for something like a tavern, or the stores in town, I can get behind this. And for a kind of summary of location “this is what the caves are like” then, also, I can get behind it. But, when it comes to “the first floor of the house” or “The pirate ship” then I get a little … perturbed. I’m expecting a location based thing and instead of a cave encounter I’m getting a more abstracted cave thing. I’m not sure I’m in the mood?
I feel shitty about this? Usually I’m ok with slamming an adventure. Hey, you write a bad thing. But this isn’t exactly a bad adventure. Except maybe for the wanderers, it’s not bad, when seen through the light of one of a “hex Crawl Adventure But Not a Hex Crawl” framing. There MUST be room in the taxonomy for something like this. It’s not your typical location based adventure and not a hex crawl and not a setting. A small region, maybe, with adventure sites? It’s enough of an adventure for me to be ok calling it An Adventure, but energy is hex crawl. And that has to be ok, as a specific type of product. It’s just that type of product is rarely seen and thus can come as a surprise if you are blind buying this. But, as long as you know that and are ok, then, absolutely, Have At Thee!
This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview is broken. I can haz sadz 🙁