Poached Parchment

By Carl Ellis
Broken Arch Publishing
Levels 1-3

A Scriveners Guild. Seemingly a place of quiet work and contemplation, however its Guild Master is a Wizard of mighty repute and holds many treasures. Recently, they have gained possession of a rare and sought after tome. Plan, cheat, or lie your way into the organisation and, perhaps, make away with the prize.

This 24 page digest adventure uses about eleven pages to describe 38 rooms in a scriveners guild. It’s not a dungeon. It’s not a heist. I don’t know what the fuck it is. Incomplete?

I don’t know what the fuck a heist is. You’re robbing some shit? Ok, I went and read the SLy Flourish article. And this thing ain’t that.

Let’s see here … “Heists have multiple potential entrances.” This adventure has one. The front door. It’s set in a manor home, according to all the art and text, but there’s only one door. The front one. No root celler. No back door. The generic overview text says the rooms have long tall windows, but we never hear of that again, or see it on the map. So, no, there are not multiple potential entrances.

Hmmm … “Have multiple paths within the location’ says the flourish of sly’s. Nope. Just your standard corridor with doors on it. One stairway up to the second floor. One stairway down to the basement. One down to the secret basement. No balconies or shit. So, not multiple paths to be found.

Hmmm ‘Has secret paths and shortcuts to discover.” None of those. Well, one secret door, to the secret stairs to the secret dungeon level. 

Hmmm “Inhabitants.” Who are the guards, how many, what is their behaviour, etc. Nope, none of that. Well, there is a guard mentioned in room two. It says he guards room one at night at sometimes comes in to room two to tend the fire. THEN YOU PUT THAT FUCKING INFORMATION IN ROOM ONE!!!!!!!!!! Seriously, man, the number of times I see “the monsters here in room thirteen react to noises in room seven” is unreal. You put that fucking shit in room seven, the room where the DM needs the information. Fucking christ …

So, no grounds for the manor. No multiple entrances. No real NPC’s to interact with. Aggressively generic content like “The Guild Master has received a secret Grimoire that outside forces desperately want.” And I’m not fucking around here. Thats the extent of it. Or “Within the Secret Study is an ancient shrine to an unknown God.” Or “A false bottom in a desk draw has a cipher book and coded correspondence.” That’s it. Nothing more. “The kitchen staff takes pride in their work” … but no other mention of them at all. 

No guards, just the one in room two. Nothing mentioned about any more at all. So, non order of battle or how the scribes react to a incursion. Oh, the treasurer is a 7HD fighting man. So, there’s that I guess. The guildmaster just sits in thee final room guarding his book. 

It’s not a fucking dungeon because there is nothing to interact with … not even creatures (ok, there are 3 … in 36 rooms: the guard, the treasurer and the guildmaster.) Walk in a room, and walk out again. It’s not a heist because it’s not written like one. There are no resources to take advantage of for an infiltration, sneaking in, or roleplaying in. It’s aggressively generic. 

THERE’S NOTHING HERE. it’s just a generic description of a scribe guild.

This is $5.50 at DriveThru. There’s no preview. Buy is sight unseen, sucker.


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15 Responses to Poached Parchment

  1. Dave says:

    “I don’t know what the fuck a heist is.”

    Something the players have to stop and plan out, more than the normal battle plan to enter a room or combat, based on some amount of information rather than blind, then executing with complications arising that are not immediately fatal or always of the “now go to combat” variety.

    So the article Bryce refers to – https://slyflourish.com/running_heists.html – is pretty good, but I disagree with some details. I wouldn’t set a hard limit on planning time as the GM, I wouldn’t hand all the scouting information to the players, and jacquaying, while useful, is not necessary to the “heist moment” that causes players to stop and make a plan.

    I’ve GM’d a full blown heist exactly once in my career, and the credit isn’t mine. My players had talked to (and gotten a decent reaction roll with) an ogre in a dungeon. In a later session they split the party, one group went in to talk to him and ask him to hunt something else with them, while the other group waited until he was out to rob the hoard. As a bonus, they planned this out between sessions so I didn’t know, which was awesome.

    The only two published D&D heists I know of are The Boswitch Bathhouse and Kidnap the Archpriest. Neither of which are true thefts, but both have the “heist moment,” and are well worth checking out.

  2. Yora says:

    Now that is a striking cover to remember.

    • Dave says:

      Stock art disease.

      The way to make stock art work would be to find something you can work with, a tower or ruin or manor, and draw a map to actually fit in it. Then you’d be getting use out of your art piece rather than just filling space.

  3. Reason says:

    >>“Within the Secret Study is an ancient shrine to an unknown God.” Or “A false bottom in a desk draw has a cipher book and coded correspondence>>

    There seems to be a whole generation of writers who either don’t know HOW to move from having the cool “abstract idea” (as above) to actually representing the idea in fiction/in game.

    Every adventure, same issues, “show don’t tell” mistake again and again when it is literally writing 101 in almost any format, from film to fiction to rpgs. Maddening.

    You’d think _someone_ at OSE who actually knows their stuff or any editor worth their fucking salt would just send that back with the notes when writers turn in this lazy (or just plain ignorant of how to actually write) stuff.

    TWO companies have attached their name to this. Presumably an editor too. Are they all incompetent ? Don’t give a damn? or just scared to give clear feedback?

    • Mica says:

      Reason, only one company is attached: Broken Arch Publishing, and only one person: Carl Ellis. The game is just made to be used with OSE, and so Gavin Norman, the bloke behind OSE has (thankfully) nothing to do with this shovelware. He’s too busy creating awesome shit, like the Dolmenwood campaign setting

  4. Anonymous says:

    heist more like shite…

  5. Artem of Spades says:

    Note to self: write a heist adventure to end all heist adventures…

    • 3llense'g says:

      It’s a heist to steal a heist: “You’ve heard tell of the wondrous artifact in the possession of the famous noble. Ever the recluse, finding information on his abode seems impossible. But rumor says, the thieves’ guild managed to infiltrate as an employee and learned a sure-fire way to procure the illustrious item. All you need to do is gain their plans!”

  6. PrinceofNothing says:

    This seems to be a ‘true heists have never been tried’ type of situation. Perhaps another avenue worth persuing?

    • Shuffling Wombat says:

      There are the Thieves’ Guild materials (Gamelords) by Kerry Lloyd and co-workers. The Duke’s Dress Ball is a good one, albeit no easy task for the referee to run.
      More modern examples include Kellerin’s Rumble and Ebonclad. The former is very good (and PWYW), the latter is tending to wordy but with some interesting adventures.

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