By Sean Morris Galfinor Art OSRIC Level 1
The village of Exile is starving and desperate. Can your heroic characters save their village from ruin by braving the terrors of Castle Agremoth and plundering its riches?
This 28 page adventure features a ruined castle, with dungeon , with around thirty rooms. It’s your standard Gamme World intro adventure, but in fantasy form. Which is kind of charming, in a 5th grade kind of way?
So, what’s the Standard Gamma World level one adventure? You start as fuckwiths in your local dirt farm village and the village elders send you out in to the wide wide world to solve some problem as your Rite Of Passage. I don’t know when, where or how the Rite of Passage things became a thing, but it certainly is. The whole thing is a bit surreal. A bit like the Giver series of novels. A moron, gaining knowledge of the world. Which is weird, cause I kind of like the post-apoc genre. It’s one of my favs. But, man o man o man, the Rite of Passage adventure is a rough one.
Your village is starving. It starves every year. So, every year, before winter, the village edge sends a group of kiddos out to the ruins of the local death keep to collect some loot. You need to grab at least 1500gp worth of loot and bring it back. Then the village can sell it to get the supplies they need to make it through winter. Sending your kids to the death keep seems weird. Especially since the DM is encouraged to send them with just the most simple weapons and armor. Leather and hide armor. Look, man, I don’t want to criticize, but, maybe sending your kids off to die every winter with shitty gear isn’t the best sustainable model for the future? If your village is so wretched that you can’t make it then perhaps there are some structural things, from a societal standpoint, that could be done? I mean, also, if you don’t run out of kids then one day death keep will run out of loot? Or, someone will loot the entire keep and therefore remove it, ala overfishing, from the resource pool you can harvest?
Also, did I note that the villages name was Exile? Our village home is described as “The village consists of a mix of races and peoples of many backgrounds. It was founded several generations previous by a small group of people who were looking to start a new life, away from the politics and greed in the larger cities. It is a point of pride that they do not turn away anyone in need, and over time many wanderers seeking a peaceful life have found their way there. The village is run by an Elder, current Alfred the Crooked (on account of his bad leg) and a small Council chosen by the villagers.” Look, man, I’m pretty liberal, but, when the official political philosophy is that the old send the young out to die then maybe we can rethink a few of the base assumptions we’re making in our self-governance? Likewise the whole Prove Yourself to the Gods things. Have you heard about the new guy? Yeah, seems chill. Kind of like the old guy but doesn’t require us to sometimes kill our kids. I was thinking of checking him out this Sunday …
All righty! Let’s dig in to the adventure!
With a three paragraph read-aloud. *sigh*
We get a pretty decent castle grounds, with a few ruined buildings to dig through the rubble of, as well as an actual multi-level keep and some towers. And a great gaping pit in the grounds …. Rumors, from the table, say that “No one who has gone into the keep or the pit has returned to tell the tale.” Sound slike my kind of guy! There’s a kind of throw-back charm to this map. The completeness of the castle grounds being include, the towers, and so on, with a few extra features like the pit or rubble to dig through. This charm extends a bit to the monsters. The skeleton bros are in rusted and decrepit armor, armed with rusted axes, spears and short swords. But of course! Giant rats, spiders, snakes and beetles. And a Mounted skeleton on a skeletal warhorse. You get it right? Something out of 78 or 79. And this extends further to a monster summary page, with all of the stats on it that you probably need for everything you’ll encounter. Almost like an old Judges Guild adventure was used as inspiration.
DId I mention the woods? The castle lies in the woods. The Wailing Woods. “A perpetual fog
surrounds and fills the wood. Under the dense canopy, the fog dims the light, and makes it hard to see clearly” This is the way. The entrance to the mythic underworld.
Ok, so, I’m done being nice. The rest of this is for a ten year old.
The wanderers tell us, in a wolf encounter with 1d6+2 wolves, that “If the party is very unlucky, the encounter may attract the attention of a dire wolf, as a number have made their home in the Wood.” I think, perhaps, it is the designers job to help us do that, though? And the designer does not.
The read-aloud, ever present, reveals too much. Like “Inscribed into the table is a map of the area from when the castle was still in use.” This is not how we do read-aloud. Read-alou dis a teaser. It is meant to get the party going and invite further inquiry and investigation from them. To ask the DM questions. “Oh, I look at the table” “oh, what is carved in to it?” “oh, does it look like this castle?” Not telling us everything there is to know about a room.
A typical room is “Sitting Room. There is a writing desk, a chair and a table against the walls. The floor is entirely covered in mouldering fabrics. It appears to be a pile of sheets, clothing, and tapestries. A rat swarm and a giant rat will be unleashed from the piles of fabric if it is disturbed.” So, some padding there“it appears”, but generally just a sentence or two, sometimes over revealing. It’s all pretty straightforward. “Sitting Room. This is an empty room with two closed wooden doors. If the doors are opened, they will close on their own.” Nothing to see, move along, move along. It’s a long, slow burn. A crawl and investigation the like of which is seldom seen, with the usual book monsters.
It is, I think, both charming, in a throw-back kind of way, and also simultaneously uninteresting. It’s not exactly well done, for the year 2022. The descriptions are rather basic and while not overly padded, it doers tend to the minimalistic side of the description spectrum but a fair bit … the side of minimalism that is not A Good Thing(™.) You could, I think, turn back time and go look at a dozen or so products that do essentially the same thing as thing one, but do the descriptions better and perhaps set up a few larger things on the grounds/castle without is becoming a burden. So, not bad, just nothing to distinguish it.
This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages. Only page six and seven show actual content, and none show encounters, so, not a very good preview.