The Wondrous Hoard

By Jokin Andersson, Johan Nordinge, Olav Nygard
Cyclopean Games
S&W
Level 2? They never say ... ?

There once lived a Moon Sage in a wondrous palace. Dilimbabbar—for such was his name—was a leader of armies and a scholar of the night sky. In his palace, he collected wondrous things and hoarded riches beyond belief. He summoned servants from the ether and demons from the earth to bring treasures no mortal eyes had ever seen. But that was long ago, before the flood washed over the lands. Now, the Sage is lost to an unknown fate, his powers having faltered. Yet his palace remains, brimming with wealth locked away in the vacant halls. …or so travelers say, telling tales to each other under starlit skies.

This sixteen page adventure uses five pages to describe sixteen rooms in an arabian nights/sumerian type setting. Decent interactivity, but a shit way of presenting it that I’m not gonna dig through in order to run it. 

Seems unfair, right? I mean, you come up with an ok adventure and then it gets ignored because you wrote it in Basque in iambic pentameter. Cause there’s 600 hundred other adventures that are ok, or better, and easier to use.

Let’s cover some random encounters! I fucking love them in this, and when I saw them I was cautiously optimistic about the adventure to come. “The warm wind brings the laughing voices of a group of women, bathing in an azure pond of remarkable depth.” Hey, man, that will get some players attention! And, for once, they ain’t Oh Brother sirens! Or, how about “A long line of prisoners of war are being escorted to Sippar by a troop of well-armed soldiers. One of the prisoners is an Akkadian prince, promising a bountiful reward if he were to be freed and brought to his kinfolks in Ashur”. Where “troop” is define as “74” … which seems a little large to get up to some fun, but, still … that’s a great concept! And the random encounters on the way to dungeon are pretty much all like this. A bolded sentence that grabs you and a follow up sentence that only adds to it. Really top notch chance encounters. In contrast to the actual wanderers in the dungeon, which are, like “1d10 centipedes.” Meh. Ok, then how about “1d6 skeletons”? No. Yeah, me neither. A real disappointment after those desert encounters. (Which, I will continue to praise on, are REALLY fucking good for their size. Like, hex crawl good.)

Ok, so, you’re going on The Wonderous Hoard adventure and you’re hired to go to the dungeon and bring back this mask. And told you can only take two things from the dungeon or you’ll be cursed or something. Grrrr … ok. I’m not sure I’m down with that. It absolutely fits the theme of the arabian nights/folklore thing this adventure has going on. Almost every creature is a person or demon or insect/animal, so, it’s got the human-centric/realism thing down pat, which I groove on, and the “only take two each” fits in with that. And if you do take more than two then theres this chance of not escaping the dungeon and being cursed afterwards … more for each thing beyond two each. So. Ok. It’s a different vibe, I guess, which is ok. 

Ok, so, the actual adventure. It’s ok. The rooms have some decent things in them to interact with. A hallway in tiles of glazed clay in blue and black … the severed corpse of an adventurer in the middle of it. That’s fun! And the man, dressed as if from Sippar, carries a healing potion  of the sort sometimes sold in the foreigners district – in a small leather pouch. That’s hw you integrate extra fucking information. Not quite the usual evocative writing, but something behind it. Or, how about the Moon Beasts room! “A giant centipede lies coiled in the middle of the lower room, preternatural frost radiating from its body. It is chained by silver shackles to a large meteoric rock that prevents it from climbing the balcony, but not from moving freely—albeit with some effort—across the rest of the room.” I love a truly giant centipede … especially as a moon beast!

And then the magic items are great also. The Bone Crown brings back to life anyone who wears it. Until they take it off and they drop dead again. How fun! The “mundane’ magic items gets a little bit of fun to them and a large percentage are non-standard. A good mix, with everything done well.

But man, that fucking text is a fucking mess. “It was here that the moon sage rested between his campaigns.” So the fuck what? How does that contribute to play at the table? More importantly, lets look at the COMPLETE CHAOS that is the room organization in this. I present room two.

Taking up a column (not unusual here, for the text to stretch out that far in this adventure), we get a room with walls covered with shelves stacked with cuneiform tablets. Which contain astrological calculations and formulas. Then we get notes about a secret door in the room. THen the same paragraph tells us about glass vials and amphorea with strange infusions scattered on the floor, some broken. Then what in the vials. Then that there’s a robe in the corner of the room. Then a paragraph break to tell us about the robe. Then another paragraph to tell us about a big round rock sitting in one of the wall. 

It’s almost a stream of consciousness writing style, for organizing the text. SOmething gets mentioned, then some details about that. Then something else gets mentioned in the same paragraph. With details about that. Thus, any overview of the room requires a full on grokking of the room. You can’t scan the text, at least not easily. And then shit just shows up elsewhere in the room descriptions, in other paragraphs, There seems to be no  overarching format at all other than “I guess I’ll put this here now.” And that’s not cool.

Either giove an overview of everything in the room, up front, that the players will notice, or separate them out in to separate paragraphs, Or put them in bullets. Or something. But I, as the DM, need to be able, when the party enters the room, relate to obvious contents in split second. A second, maybe two, that’s how long I have to glance at the text Before I start relating shit. And the format chosen needs to support that.

And this don’t do that. You have to dig. You have to read the entire thing, slowing down the game. You have to hunt for information. I missed the secret door location TWICE in room two, while scanning the room description. That’s not cool. The descriptions are long. They pad out with useless information, and they are arranged in a manner not conducive to running it at the table. Uncool man. Uncool.

But man, those random desert encounters … In the middle of the desert, a city of tents has sprung up. Here, a drunken revelry is held to the deafening sounds of countless cicadas. The ecstatic festivities culminates in an ancient ritual—led by Tuol Aham, a copper skinned priest from Borsippa—where two teenage boys are sacrificed to summon the vile cockroach demon Bahaga.

Also, when you call your adventure The Wonderous Hoard, then, maybe, you should have a wonderous hoard in it? “There are plenty of precious things in here for example …” (gives three examples …) Hmmm, so, not so much wonderous?

This is $3 at DriveThru.The preview is five pages. You get to see a good portion of those desert encounters, ad well as the intro. Meh. Show us a fucking room man! Or three! So we can make a real purchasing decision.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/205392/The-Wondrous-Hoard-SW-compatible?1892600

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8 Responses to The Wondrous Hoard

  1. 3llense'g says:

    “The preview is five pages. You get to see a good portion of those desert encounters”
    “…desert encounters. (Which, I will continue to praise on, are REALLY fucking good for their size. Like, hex crawl good.)”

    So, free desert hex crawl?

    • Tom H. says:

      > So, free desert hex crawl?

      The publisher has a bunch of free random encounters in “Wonders of the Wild”. Their “Thralls of the Sun” also seems a lot more legible and dense than this adventure; it’s a pity that our host didn’t review it instead. But it’s for a sword-and-sandals heartbreaker rather than for S&W or any other clear D&D derivative, so a bit more of a stretch for most of us to use.

  2. Chainsaw says:

    The cover and title are cool.

  3. Chainsaw says:

    (cover has a nice Tale of Satampra Zeiros vibe, one of my favorite D&D inspirations)

  4. Dave says:

    Sounds like it might be worth my time just to mine for elements/ideas.

  5. Gnarley Bones says:

    How, here at the end of 2022, does an author NOT include PC levels?

    • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

      The same reason some designers keep making these system agnostic adventures. I’ll stop short of calling it laziness though.

      • DCO addicted says:

        What was the difference between all these system agnostic ones and, say, Hotspring for example? Because every one praises that one, and don’t get me wrong, I like it too. A well reviewed No Artpunk adventure (Tower of the Time Master) is also system neutral. Although both these imply neutral, but still OSR. Is there a specific way of writing that is acceptable (Hotspring, Time Master) and some that are not (like this one)? Or what? From all I read around the blogs, it appears that there are the following reasons:

        1: If the adventure is well written, then system neutrality is irrelevant
        2: Hexcrawls have a special place where it is accepted to be system neutral
        3: System neutral but at least OSR style is accepted over a general system neutral where you imply that any system can be used (5e, Pathfinder etc)

        All in all, I’ve seen Bryce review some system neutral that got good reviews. So I tend to believe that it is a combination between reason 1 and 2, that makes it acceptable.

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