By Cameron Shanton Shanton Productions OSE Level 3?
Beneath the paved roads of Kargeviste, a great staircase bores deep into the endless labyrinthine caverns of the Underworld and punctures through the very roof of Hell. Miles above the burning eternal lakes of flame, there is an empty warren. Almost all find their end there on the damp stone bathed in pale blue fungal lights. A creature, 40 feet in length and covered with tumorous sores from which tendrils burst and flail, has earned a name amongst those who escape it: Lazhir. Mountains of treasure, taken as meaningless nothings by Lazhir who seeks the greater prize of flesh, are rumored to be somewhere within the monster’s lair. A local merchant has sent word that he seeks brave adventurers, so that they might slay the creature and secure a delivery that never arrived.
This twelve page adventure contains about seventeen rooms in a pointcrawl dungeon. It’s got some interesting encounters in it, suitably bizarre for an underworld, but suffers a great deal from the usage of a pointcrawl rather than a traditional dungeon map. An updated map would probably fix most of the problems and turn it in to something interesting, but the cognitive burden currently present isn’t something I wish to tangle with.
Fair Warning: this adventure uses the house OSE style. Some people (Yes, you!) do not find this style as impactful as I do. It should come as no surprise, or maybe it does, that I don’t really care what the style is. All I care about is that it can effectively convey information to the DM in a manner conducive to running the adventure. And, as with all styes, it depends a great deal on the designer and their ability to make their format do that.
The house OSE style uses bullet points and keywords and bolding. An initial description may be something like “Collapsing Causeway – Elevated Bridge (cut stone, crumbling pillars into darkness), Vault Door (torn asunder and tossed, boken 60’ wide entry). Damp (stagnant lingering humidity) Blue Light (dim, pulsating, radiating from fungal growth)” and then some bullet points, again with the first word bolded, to help follow up on the more pertinent and interactive portions of the room. It follows the less is more philosophy, letting the DMs mind wander and fill in the gaps, and I’m a big believer in that, either by this format or a more traditional one.
Interactivity is ok … within some constraints I’m going to point out later. We’ve got a Flesh Gate to deal with, and a bone golem living inside of it … nice use of that golem type given the mass of flesh it pulls itself out of. Made of piled, rotting flesh with digested faces, some connected, and reaching arms, skin falling from meat. Groovy! The bone golem works well here, just as the Beak monsters did in Gann. There are a number of hazards, like crumbling bridges and rivers to cross, as well as gas pockets and the ilk. And the creatures, even the undead, are not always immediately hostile. And, for a change of pace, I’m not upset with having the room exits in the descriptions since they tend to provide hints like “you can hear rushing water from the eastern hallway” sorts of things.
I am, however, notably disappointed with the map. To a degree that I seldom am in an adventure. I have railed against not having a map and using the room text to “Describe” the map. That’s fucking bad. Or rooms without numbers that the text tries to describe. BAD! In this case, though, I’m going to complain about the very format, the pointcrawl.
It sucks shit. Or, maybe better, said, it does NOT work with the OSE format … or at least the OSE format as implemented here. What we get for the map is a series of circles connected by lines. Black and white with no detail beyond that. And what this means is that the OSE house style, with evocative rather than factual descriptions, is used to try and describe the layout of a room. A room with a river in it, for example. Is it the river flowing out the other exits? Does the river bisect the room? How does crossing the river work … in terms of DO we need to cross it? And this happens over and over again int he adventure. Any but the most BASIC of rooms leaves you with trying to puzzle out how the fucking thing relates, spatially, to the other rooms on the map. It fucking sucks ass and, I think, is essentially related to not having a map at all. One of those adventure that doesn’t have one and just tries to describe the layout. But, in this case, it’s trying to do that with the keyword style. And it is the OPPOSITE of Clear and Easy to Understand. I’m sure that in the designers mind it all makes sense, but, I’m not the designer. I’m trying to figure out the layout and spatial orientation through a textual keyword format. And, as most of you know, I’m a fucking idiot.
So, are you will to tear throgh the map and keys and maybe make your own map, sketching things out, to a format in which you can understand at a glance? I’m not. And, on top of that, I would suggest, perhaps, that the keyword descriptions could be a bit more robust. They get a little long in a few places, with phrases, and the things selected to highlight don’t make the most evocative sense in terms of inspiring the dm, who translates to the description, who then feeds more to the players. A weakness of this style, I think, is that the keywords, playing such a key component, have to be fretted over a bit more, I think, than a normal textual description.
So, no joy from me on this one. IF the map were replaced by a decent one that made fucking sense then I might bump this up to at least a No Regerts level, if not higher. As is its an abstraction on top of an abstraction. Quick! Call the Pragmatic Squad! And the magic items are book. Bleach!
This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages and shows you lots of the rooms, so a good preview thats you decide if you want to buy it or not. But, no fucking level range anywhere, in the blurb, cover, etc. Not cool dude!