Return to Wavestone Keep

By Kevin Conyers
Flooded Realms Adventure Press
Levels 1-3

Fear the waves, the tides and the sea itself! A fearsome tower of stone roams the oceans, delivering its deadly cargo of lizardmen wherever it happens to land!

This eight page adventure, written in three weeks, features nine rooms in a floating keep full of lizardmen. It’s a pretty standard affair, with little to either recommend or condemn. Meh.

Wavestone Keep keeps on giving! We have a late context entry here … from the designer of the original Wavestone Keep! And the verdict is: it’s meh. Which is good news! That’s a massive improvement! This is the kind of adventure that I find the hardest to review. Nothing really to gripe about or praise, so I narrow in on a few points. And I’m going to do that here. I wouldn’t run this, but, if it appeared in one of the Lair Compendium adventure booklets I also wouldn’t go out of my way to slam it.

So, we’re going to take a look at a couple of the room entries. Here’s the first one:

“The twin towers which flank the entry door. The are each 20’ tall and manned by two lizardmen guards. The guards stand on the roof of the tower. They are each armed with a throwing spear and a club. They have a 1in 10 chance to identify approaching ships as not belonging to their tribe, and a 4 in 6 chance to spot intruders approaching along the trail. Each tower has an alarm bell which they will ring, alerting their companions in room 4. After ringing the bell, they will attack intruders on the trail with their throwing spears before running down the stairs for melee. The entry hall is made of finely carved wavestone, and engraved with idyllic depictions of the sea, fishing vessels and sailors.”

It’s padded up. The first three sentences could be one, trimmed down. And then we’ve got a kind of reaction text that is also padded up. FInally, we have the description at the end. Normally, I want to see a description up high, first thing, but in this case the first thing the party is going to encounter is going to be the lizardmen, so they make sense to come first. Trimming up the text we could get to something like:

“Twin towers, 20’ tall, flank the door, with two lizardmen on top with a javelin and club. They spot intruders in boats 1 in 10, and on the trail 4 in 6. They ring an alarm bell, summoning room 4, then attack.” We’ve lost nothing in this, and it’s much easier to handle at play during the game. The final line, the description, is trying to be evocative but comes off a little bland. This is, I think, the hardest part of adventure writing, creating a terse but evocative description. The current one is a little abstracted and it could perhaps be improved with an actual description, using more adjectives and adverbs. (I note this is a theme here. Room two is “finely carved wavestone, and engraved with scenes of great navel battles between ships and sea monsters.” Again, abstracted.)

Room four is labeled as Barracks, with the description “Originally a barracks for the noble’s personal guard, now used by the lizardmen as a sleeping area. It is a roughly hewn room, containing a 9 sleeping mats. Kelp Tail sleeps in the section to the north, where the guard captain was supposed to sleep. At any time, there are three normal lizardmen here asleep. Kelp tail only sleeps here at night, else he is in 9. The door separating Kelp Tail’s area is made of a giant oyster shell. When sleeping, he keeps his Staff of Striking under his cot.”  Again, note the padding, through repetition of the room use, and a description of “what it used to be.” Trimming this up we could get something closer to “Roughly hewn with nine masses of rotting seaweed nests. Kelp Tail sleeps in the north section at night, with his door made of a massive opalescent oyster shell. Three lizardmen are half buried in their nests, asleep.” Shorter, more evocative. I did this in five seconds; I recommend agonizing over the descriptions and working them to death to get something really evocative that captures the feeling you are going for.

Interactivity here is pretty minimal, with most things being combat. The wandering table has a few decent entries, like a giant sleeping croc or a kobold having stolen a silver piece, intermixed with some normal “just the monster” entries. I harp, sometimes too much, on good wanderers, but a mix, like this, gets the job done. 

So, an also ran. Better room descriptions, cut the padding, and some interactivity improvements and this one could muster up No Regerts.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $1. The preview is six pages, and you get to see some rooms, so, good preview.

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15 Responses to Return to Wavestone Keep

  1. ShockTohp says:

    Thanks for taking a look even though it was so late. I’ll take a resounding meh over overt shaming any day. The feedback on tightening up descriptions and text is welcome, that sort of criticism is difficult to find in the wild.

    • Stripe says:

      Wow! The legendary author of Wavestone Keep?! Cool! I always wondered if you even knew about the contest!

      Great attitude!!!

      Thanks for inspiring Bryce to do a contest, because that contest inspired my first ever published written adventure (“Wyvern’s Roost”). That did me so much good. So, you’re a big influence on me! Thanks!

      Congrats on the improvements. Keep hacking away!

      Play-testing is always a good idea. Let me invite you to the OSR Pick-Up Games Discord server if you want to try your material:

      • ShockTohp says:

        That’s actually a great resource! My players get sick of play testing my material, but that’s not their fault. It’s nice to have a place explicitly for finding oneshot groups.

      • ShockTohp says:

        And as for knowing about the contest, I didn’t find out about it until early October. Ironically from the winner of the Wavestone Keep contest who was participating in No Artpunk II. He won that contest handily as well, with a really cool dwarven stronghold dungeon.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bryce thank you for being so constructive this is awesome feedback for any writer

  3. Edgewise says:

    Massive respect to Conyers for rolling with the punches from the initial review and subsequent contest. It sounds like he’s really listening and learning. At this rate, he’ll eventually author a first-rate adventure.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Giant trainwreck to solidly meh is a noticeable improvement. Good work.

  5. Maynard says:

    So glad you’re still at it. It’s inspiring to see someone improve so fast, and come out here eager to learn more.

  6. squeen says:

    “finely carved wavestone, and engraved with scenes of great navel battles between ships and sea monsters.”

    My attempt at playing the usual re-write game and trying to inject some mystery for the PCs to scratch their heads over.

    “Scratched deeply all along the smooth black wavestone of the walls is a scene of vast tentacles encircling a fleet of longboats. The fighting men on board are semi-skeletal, missing random limbs and swathes of flesh. Many have their arms raised as if to embrace the horror rising out of the water.

    A lone intact figure rises above the rest, clinging to a masthead in isolation. It holds a spear above its head and is encircled by an icon of an eye.”

    • Adventure Bundles says:

      Well, that is certainly better than anything I can write in short time. For such a thing I would need half an hour searching for synonyms and such (EASL). Remind me to notify you when I need a read-through of my new adventure 😀

      • squeen says:

        It’s a cheap shot to do it in isolation. Much hard to sustain for a complete product. My hat’s off to you for getting something out there (multiple times). That’s how you learn a craft…by doing.

        If you want something reviewed, post it in Bryce’s forum. You’ll get some good feedback.

        • squeen says:

          For no particular reason other than it bugs me: a better(?) word-choice for my own last sentence:

          It brandishes a spear towards the heavens and is encircled by an icon of a heavily-lidded eye.”

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