Gravis Town Blues

By Stephen Thompson
Laidback DM
Levels 1-4

In the frontier mining town of Gravis all is not as it seems. A sapphire shipment has been stolen. The river boat transporting it disappearing without a trace. Thieves. Terrorists. River Raiders. A locked down virus-infected lumber town. A forbidden temple crypt. A lost ship yard that may hold the answers. What is the long-hidden secret of Gravis Town? And how far will you go to answer it?

This 68 page booklet uses about forty pages to describe about five “mini-adventures” based around some kind of convoluted plot. Magical ren-faire, conversational writing, long paragraphs with info buried in them, extraneous backstory padding in room descriptions and a casual disregard for lore results in a mess. And it’s not an OSR adventure. It’s 5e with a page or so on how to , generically, “convert” to OSR. Which is non-specific.

Breakfast this morning was anchovies on toast and a Triton Railsplitter IPA. You see, this is going to be a hellish week. I’m at the end of my DriveThru request. list. Which means overpriced, long, and pretentious works. Since I’m blowing $100 on adventures this week, it seems like a great time for you to all join the Patreon; I’d hate to not be a hypocrite.This looks like a kickstarter dude releasing a kickstarter adventure. So it looks like it did well and no doubt his fans and followers are happy. I am not. This is a steaming pile.

I’m not super in to D&D lore. For the most part I don’t give a shit. Mirroring, I guess, my views on art in adventures. I’d love for it to be great and inspiring, but I recognize its not going to be. Lore, in very broad strokes, is just something you take for granted. IE: it’s a fantasy world. If its not gonna be that then maybe make sure people know that up front. But, the small stuff? Who cares. And thus, I will now botch the lore in this adventure because it if soooo fucked up.

Basically the Laidback DM is doing whatever the fuck he wants without much if anything in the way of pretext. Shit just don’t make sense at a very basic level. You get to break the rules, but you need to break ONE rule, and have things follow from that. If I just think you’re doing whatever you want then there’s a different issue. You just don’t give a fuck. 

In one of these mini-adventures someone hires a tribe of Sahuagin to raid the boat they work on. An elf. ANd the fucking text tells us that Sahuagin hate elves with a passions, but that the deal was just too good to pass up. Serious? No? How about a wight in a tower that serves as the guard for the dude that lives there. What the fuck man?! Does tone mean the fuck nothing anymore? Orcs, goblins, bugbears, hobgoblins all attacking in a group as a happy little family. With harpy air support. Also, did I mention the magical ren-faire? Then there’s the golem. Sitting on a safe. WIth a bomb in it. And continual light torches lighting everything. Everyone in town has running water and flush toilets thanks to a magical gnome machine. And, in the town hall, all of the windows and balconies have magical glyphs on them that (explode, summon monsters, etc.) Mixed humanoid groups abound. Because the designer just don’t give a shit.

Which means … this is a 4e adventure. Someone tell me it’s not. Someone convince me that Laidback DM was not a heavy 4e dude/learned with 4e/etc. The mini-adventures are three pages each. A double page spread map with little pointers to the rooms with the monster in it that attacks you. Yeah., that’s fucking 4e all the fucking way. The blight on the game that keeps on giving. Look, you can like 4e all the fuck you want, just don’t call the fucking thing D&D. 

Let’s see here. A couple of paragraphs in backstory and history that mean noting to the adventure IN PLAY, in the middle/start of a room description. Of course it has that! FOurteen pages till we start an adventure? Of course! Long sections of italics? Yup, it sure does! A couple of manticore opponents at this level? Yup! Monsters have a 10% chance of having a magic sword or shield? Sure thing! The town has 5000 people and 500 are guards? Sounds fine. The mines are 30 miles away but everyone comes home on the weekends to see family? Yup! Fancy fucking fonts abound. Perhaps the most silly being the intro section, impossible to read, that tells me the entire point is to make my job as a DM easier. Ha!

Hmmm … this rooms says the monsters in it will respond if they hear fighting in the corridor outside of it … another room encounter. I’m gonna magically look at this room while running the other fucking room? No. We put that shit in the room it matters in … the corridor. The bandits in the basement of the town hall don’t want shit, they just attack, with no personalities at all .. even though they are surrounded by hundreds of zombies. There’s no tension. The Laidback DM does nothing to build a tense zombie siege/horde situation. “Make a DC 15 stealth check to sneak pas the 345 zombies.” Fuck off, man. Long fucking sections of text, written in a very conversational style, with a bolded word here and there. You can’t fucking run a room that way, not effectivly. Much less a town. Dude MIGHT be a good DM, I don’t know. But I do know he’s a shitty adventure writer.

There’s a decent part where bugs burst forth from a dudes stomach. Another part where a zombie is running up against a wall, meaninglessly. Oh, and the humanoid horde has a couple of commoners as prisoner, using them as human shields. Nice!  There’s your good parts of this 68 pages of crap.

The best example, of the kind of adventure this is, is the intro text for each adventure. For the first one it reads “ (Two paragraphs removed) You and your friends chat amiably about the town and your adventuring prospects, when you overhear an argument near you. Two burly mercenaries are disagreeing about something. It only takes a moment for the dispute to involve others. …” This is what D&D is to the Laidback DM. Just read some abstracted text and start a fight. Whats the argument? Roleplay? Specificity? Nope/ Just yell “Initiative!” and run yor fucking combat. I’m happy he found his following.

This is $25 at DriveThru. The preview is the first thirteen pages. Just fluff background stuff that is unlikely to be needed. Bad preview.

This entry was posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Gravis Town Blues

  1. Dave says:

    This is coming late if you’re at the end of your list, but Bryce man, in the future consider applying one degree of skepticism to review requests. I’m starting to feel like some of these were not made in good faith.

    • Anonymous says:

      Bryce has reviewed so many adventures he must have an *exquisite* ability to guess with but a glance whether one is shit

      And yet he chooses to spend time reviewing one with this title and this cover

      Time none of us will ever get back

      • You’d think that after 9+ years of reviewing modules, Bryce’s adventure radar would have developed but apparently not. Either that or he just doesn’t care what he reviews, good or bad. Looking at that 13 page preview and then still plunking down $25 for this turd is baffling. Absolutely baffling. At this point, anything by this Laidback DM guy needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

        Honestly, why should I support a patreon that is going to produce these kinds of results? Yes, I realize that not everything can and/or will be good but this one should have been a hard pass based on the preview alone, never mind the price tag.

        Bryce, if you want people to support your patreon, you need to start being a little more selective. To use one of your phrases, perhaps I am a jerk faced jerk but I think what I said needed to be said.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m just glad Bryce reads these to confirm turd status for those who would otherwise be duped. Sometimes there are hidden gems to be found, but most people aren’t willing to drop the time and cash ($25 notwithstanding… sheesh) to look for them.

          I would guess that most reviews of this nature are requested by the author themselves taking a shot in the dark for a publicity boost. It makes for some entertaining fodder, but I do think Bryce allows his expertise to go to waste on those who aren’t ready to benefit from it.

        • Stripe says:

          “Either that or he just doesn’t care what he reviews, good or bad.”

          Regular readers (and Patreons, like me) know that Bryce reviews shitty products like this on purpose in order to shred them for the readership’s entertainment. If you’re not entertained—though you must be since you’re commenting—then you’re reading the wrong blog.

          It’s right in the site’s motto at the top of the page: “I bought these adventure and review them so you don’t have to.”

          Patreons, like me tip him once a month because we’ve been educated and inspired by his advice, entertained by his tragedy, and have made many purchases based on his reviews.

    • Stripe says:

      It’s Bryce’s schtick. He knows they’re going to be bad. He does it anyway. For our entertainment. Like, three days a week. That’s a lot. A whole lot.

      *Of course* some of these were made in bad faith!

      Whoever made the request is getting a laugh. Bryce got something to write about. We get to rage at the machine. The shit circle continues.

      • I’m not so sure he always knows they’re going to be bad, given some of his reactions. Maybe he’s a better actor than I give him credit for. Either that or he’s a masochist ;). In any event, I’ll take your comments at face value. Fair enough but I’m still not gonna give him money to review utter garbage. At this point in my D&D life, I need good adventures much more than I need to be entertained by him reviewing shitty adventures

  2. The Heretic says:

    $25 for this? I guess they need to recover that wad of cash they wasted on the cover art somehow.

    • Bucaramanga says:

      As far as “demon/elf chicks clearly based on the artist’s (imaginary) gf” covers go, this is admittedly better than the previous reviewed entry…

  3. Anonymous says:

    A pile of nested titles for a single work is pretty much always a giveaway for awful, whether it’s fiction or RPGs. Shotglass Adventures Kal Zar’s Bane: Gravis Town Blues just reminds me of a certain kind of self-published fantasy epic with titles like “A Legacy of Wolves: Zendrass’ Revengance Part II: A Fallow Harvest”.

    • 3llense'g says:

      “Shotglass adventures” is his name for the format of several mini adventures in one title, I guess. Though “Kal Zar’s Bane 1” is the kind of hubris I really enjoy seeing come back to haunt authors. The ancient lesson from T1 need to be re-learned in every generation.

  4. Gnarley Bones says:



  5. Artem of Spades says:


    I myself slip up into Ren Faire tropes sometimes but this is just nuts.

    Stuff like this is what gives 5e a bad rap.

  6. Anonymous says:

    >The blight on the game that keeps on giving.

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