Imperial Vault 19

By Jospeh R Lewis, Harper Lewis
Dungeon Age Adventures
OSE/5e
Level 3

A grieving widow in the forest begs you to save her baby. A hedge witch has taken the infant down into an old imperial vault where she uses the child’s Chaos tears in alchemical potions. And who knows what old treasures might still be hidden in the vault? Unless it’s not that kind of vault…

Okey doke fuckers! This is part of my new leaf! No longer do I review only terrible ass shit with a surprising turn now and again when something good somehow drags itself hulk out of the cesspool of DriveThru. No! Never again! Now I attempt to review good things! This adventure is good. Ok, that’s done. I can move on to my next project … hmmm, learn photoshop. Hmmm, ok, time to write more I guess …

This eleven page adventure uses four pages to describe eight rooms in a linear pointcrawlsish type dungeon/cave thing. Good formatting. Good descriptions. Good interactivity. And good friends … ahhhh! But, no seriously, I wish more people were not a problem and write shit like this.

And what is it? Just a shitty little adventure. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. Sure, every adventure in the OSR (and, this is a duel adventure, two versions, OSE and 5e, so … ) should be great exploratory things with The Unknown lurking behind every corner and all of this looping design map shit and all that jazz. And I know full the fuck well that is NOT how people play D&D. You fucking boss and teh customers have been asshats all fucking day long and the group is coming over in an hour to play and you need an adventure NOW. So you jot down some notes and it looks a lot like one of those little lair adventures that every fuckwit on earth is writing and publishing and you play some D&D tonight and people drink beer and stab the king 137 times in the throat and everyone has a good time.

And that’s what the fuck this is. Eleven pages. But, really, only four, with eight rooms on it. And there ain’t really no fucking map. Just like a little pointcrawl thing, with each location leading to the next location until you find the baddie at the end. And that’s fucking fine. Do you know why? Because this adventure doesn’t have its head up its ass. It’s eleven pages. A couple of intro pages, a licensing page, a couple of new monster pages a new magic items page. It’s not ten pages of backstory and a one page dungeon and its not using eleven pages to describe three rooms. The balance here is about right for what it is. If you gonna do a little pointcrawel then make some new monsters and new magic items and make it good. And Joseph R Lewis/Harper Lewis do that. (Are there, really, two of them now? Do they even exist as people? Has anyone every met a joseph R lewis or gamed with them or even seen a message on a forum from them?)

Ok, so, first fucking line of the adventure: The ancient world of Harth withers beneath its dying sun…but it’s not dead yet. Yeah? Fuck you. Fuck you to EVERYONE who has ever writtem more than this to describe their game world. I can run that fucking place. It full of possibilities. It’s full of imagination. Ancient world. Harth. Withering. Beneath a dying sun. A thousand literary allusions. But, it’s not dead yet. Pick up that fucking sword, Thomas; I attack with a rage the dying of the light! 19! Do I hit it?Fuck, it’s my dad. FUCK!

Line the second of this fucking adventure: A grieving widow in the forest begs you to save her baby. A hedge witch has taken the infant down into an old imperial vault …”Absolutely! Ab-so-fukcing-lutly! This is absolutely what has happened! A fucking woman in a forest, on a path, blood on the front of her fucking shift at the crotch. Fuck it, maybe she still needs some fucking placenta hanging out, and, I don’t know, maybe she’s holding some kind of kitchen knife. In shosck and going to get her fucking baby cause aint no one else gonna. Fuck yeah! That’s a fucking scene motherfucker! Fuck you and your your “I got hired by the local archeology guild to go map the vault and blah blah blah blah blah. “  That ain’t a fucking adventure. This is a woman on the worst fucking day of her fucking life. That’s a fucking adventure! 

And it’s a fucking witch! You know why it’s a witch? CAUSE THATS WHAT A FUCKING WITCH DOES! Witches steal your fucking baby and do shit with it. I seen that movie The Witch. I know what the fuck they do. This aint no kindly old misunderstood widow in the woods with her fucking healing herb crap. That fucking cunt is gonna fuck your husband AND steal your fucking kid! Better start some fucking gossip! But, no seriously. Yes! Thats what a fucking witch does. It FEELS right. Its what SHOULD happen. I don’t know what the fuck this call, in the Bryce Taxonomy of Everything Design, but it’s fucking important. And it fucking happens here … IN THE SECOND FUCKING LINE OF THE ADVENTURE.

Format is good. It’s the Dungeon Age format. Triple column that still FEELS easy to read and consult. Bolded words, underlines, more information later on. If I were writing  a book on styles (and, I am …) I would use this as a perfect example of a good format. There’s not a right way, but this is an interesting format and worth looking at and stealing from. Principals if nothing else. It’s easy to fucking scan and find things. 

And the entries all start with a nice little evocative description. Short, not overstaying their welcome. “An ancient stone road carpeted in moss runs down through the dead forest to a sluggish brown river.” Ancient stone. Carpeted in moss. Note the word choice. Dead forest. Sluggish brown river. Are you using words in this way? No? Fuck you then. You suck. 

Hey, how about an NPC description? You want a couple of paragraphs so you can roleplay it? You want their eye colour and what their dads job was? Fuck you. You’re not getting that shit. You’re instead going to fucking get what you actually need to run the fucking adventure. That fucking witch it “Intellectual. Cruel. Selfish.” A couple of keywords. You’re a fucking DM. Figure it the fuck out. Cause thats part of the fun of being the DM! 

I’m tired of writing. The undead skull of Sir Arkivald, a bold knight of old, has a 1 in 6 chance of knowing your enemies weaknesses. “By jove, give him what for!” Kick. Fucking. Ass! How about that dragons tooth dagger. Yo uknow what it does? “This dagger can pierce stone.” That’s your fuckign description. No fucking mechanics. Pure flavour. That’s what magic items are bitches! Wonder and majesty and full of possibilities! 

And on and on it goes, calling like a distant wind.

Hey, you, with the face! You wanna play D&D tonight? Go buy a fucking Dungeon Age adventure and play D&D tonight. This is everything that all of those shitty little publications want to be. All of those micro adventures and one night stands and little pamphlet things. THIS is what they are trying to accomplish. 

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is the full eleven pages. Because JosephR Lewis and Harper Lewis are not assholes. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/407365/Imperial-Vault-19?1892600

FUNGUS. The Mycotic Sprawl (intelligent, seductive). Throbbing, glowing, warm. Psychic whispers: “Join us. Sleep. Dream. Forever. Just breathe… breathe us in!” Highly flammable.

STONE ARCH

[ IN THE RIVER BANK ]

An ancient stone road carpeted in moss runs down through the dead forest to a sluggish brown river. Bone fragments litter the ground. In the river bank below a creaking black willow tree, the road ends at a scorched stone arch framing two black doors.

One day there will be peace. The Hous eof Saud and the Thousand Nations of the Persian Empire will hold talks. There will be food and homes for all. The rivers will run clean and the air fresh. And the major fucking publishers will stop publishing crap and instead people like Jospeh R Lewis will get the attention and laudations they deserve. Joseph R Lewis: Not a fucking idiot.

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22 Responses to Imperial Vault 19

  1. Thanks Bryce! Harper is actually my 10yo daughter. We play D&D a couple times a month together. Last month I asked her to help create a little adventure, so she came up with all the monsters, like the Wolf Monkey and the Jaguar Anaconda, and some magic items, and the dungeon, and she created the villain/conflict (a witch steals a baby to make potions), and I just wrote it up. Glad you liked it!

  2. Glenn Robinson says:

    And now in my downloads folder. Thank you Harper and Joseph! That sounds like it suits my style.

  3. PyroArrow says:

    For a moment I though someone switched out the oregano on Bryce’s pizza with some Marijuana! Oh and Bryce, try learning the Affinity suite of software, instead of bleeding cash to Adobe every month!

  4. Point crawl dungeons need to die in a fire. Draw a fucking proper dungeon map.

    • LOL! I love a great hand drawn map, or a grid map, but I thought this little dungeon was simple enough that it only warranted a point crawl diagram

      • Ken McKinney says:

        Your writing and design sounds fantastic and I’d make my own map for this if I needed this type of adventure. But, I’d still have to make my own map. A servicable map — even something taken from Dyson’s site would be fine — would make this adventure even better.

        • Can I ask a question? Would you create the map for yourself as the DM, as a reference tool? Or would you create the map for your players, as a combat map?

          • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

            For me, the map would be a DM’s reference map. In old school D&D, players don’t get a “combat map” whatever that is. When you say combat map are you talking about a 3e-era battle grid type map? In any event it doesn’t matter, the players don’t get a map handed to them. They map the dungeon themselves as they explore.

            With regards to point crawl maps, they can work in a hex crawl environment both above and below ground but an integral part of any dungeon adventure/module is the traditional map showing the dungeon complex.

          • Christopher says:

            In my case, I’m pretty visually oriented, so I would make a map for myself. But we also use a battle mat, so I guess I would technically also create a map for my players as a combat map.

          • Beoric says:

            Unless you are familiar with page 69 of the 1e DMG. Then you might still have a combat map. :p

          • Michael Bacon says:

            Specific dimensions are part of play all the time for oldschool games. We typically don’t use battle maps though. Do you play 5e?

          • Michael, I’ve been playing and running 5E for about 5 years, and I just personally find the combat punishing. The grid, the measuring, the redoing the plan to maximize some ability’s math, the slowness… I know some folks love working those angles and I wish them well, but I’m a theater-of-the-mind person at heart

  5. Arparrabiosa says:

    It’s always fucking great to see when you had a fucking good time reviewing and fucking good adventure.

  6. Oh gosh, and I promise I’m probably a real person, I am minimally active on a bunch of Discord servers (OSR, NSR, MCDM, TOA, etc). And I post monster doodles on Instagram @josephrlewis

  7. 3llense'g says:

    This review is violently, aggressively positive

  8. George Dorn says:

    I’m not really into strictly linear 5RDs, but there is something very pleasant about the simplicity of the adventure otherwise. It’s not a complicated plot, there aren’t any huge twists trying too hard to be clever, and it leaves a ton of room for improv. The lack of a twist is sort of an upside – how many adventures do we need where the NPC in distress turns out to be the BBEG?

    Regardless of my feeling on the linear dungeon design, this module is a masterclass in layout and usability. I could sit down with this and run it cold with no prep, just taking five minutes while the players are getting settled and clearing the snacks off the table to skim it. Professional module writers are getting shown up real hard, here. Every room starts at the top of a page, every interesting thing in the description is underlined and has a corresponding detailed entry below.

    The only improvement I’d make to the layout is some sort of color or icon hint about underlined keywords that aren’t right under the room description, for entries that are in the monster or treasure section, e.g. the ‘fangs and horns’ are treasure items and don’t have a corresponding bolded all-caps word to scan for. It’s a very tiny thing and I probably wouldn’t be thrown by it, but if you wanted to 100% the perfect module layout achievement…

    The main thing that’s missing is some mechanical notes on how to adjudicate some minor details. They’re small things, like the fragile railing, the drakes attacking a backpack, the tripping hazards, etc. It goes to the OSR’s emphasis on rulings not rules, but there’s space to add a phrase or sentence or so to give a suggested ruling. Again, a very minor quibble.

    All in all, this is excellent and I’m looking into Lewis’ other works to see if there’s something that might fit my game better.

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