By Sean C. Sexton Self Published 5e Levels 5-6
I beg your indulgence, gentle readers
Standing on a grassy hilltop, it seems unremarkable from a distance. Two stories high, cylindrical, thatched roof. Simple and idyllic. There’s even a whisper on the breeze, or maybe a thought in the back of your mind: There’s nothing to see here. What brought you in the first place? Just turn around and go back. Those that venture nearer find that it’s much more than meets the eye. The closer you get, the taller the tower seems to be… until standing at its base, the tower rises dozens of floors and pierces the sky. Do you have the courage to enter the unknown sanctum? What could possibly await you within? Gather your allies and find out!
This 42 page overly formatted and linear “challenge” tower uses about 22 pages to present about thirteen rooms/challenges. Flowery text. Despair.
I’m in this liquor store. I’m trying to make some hot chocolate from the French alps. Which basically means its like normal hot chocolate but they dump some chartreuse in it. So, hey don’t have any, surprise, and dude sees me looking and is like “can I help you?” and I’m like “looking for chartreuse” and he checks the computer and is like Yeah, we normally carry it but we’re out. And that sucks, I know there was a shortage, but still? And, also, this shit ass little liquor store, sandwiched between a cigar shop and a sex toy shop, with, like three aisles in it, stocks chartreuse? So, anyway, I ended up with a bottle of anus flavoured sambuca, which is going to sit the fuck around the house forever, so, I put it in my coffee. Not bad, for anus. No, but, it will make the bottle go away. So, I’m deep in to it now. As I look at this adventure. With a resignation in my eyes. You know, that kind of defeated sigh you give? Weary eyes. Shoulders slumped down and forward. Head nodded. My whole face feels tired. So scarlet they were maroon.
Okey doke folks! How did that make you feel? Ok, and how does this line from the adventure make you feel? ““You should not have come here, but this timeline is already ruined. Can you finish what I started? Can you understand true devotion?” No? Throwing up a little? What if I added that there’s a violin version of Seal’s Kiss From a Rose playing?
It’s a challenge dungeon. I fucking hate challenge dungeons. It is the modern equivalent of putting one long hallway with a bunch of doors hanging off of it. They are SOOOOOO supremely low effort. And each fuuucking room starts with some dude giving you a clue. Hence that Can You Understand True Devotion crap.
Have I mentioned I also hate it when the text addresses the party? Like “can YOU understand …” Or the read-aloud that ends with “What brought you here to begin with? Do you turn back?” You know what, if a fucking DM ever asks me that then I’m going to turn the fuck back. Yeah, you know, I shouldn’t ruin a game, but Jesus H FUCKING Christ, there have got to be some limits as to what you can put up with.
Ok, so like thirteen levels and you need to complete each one. You don’t get to walk up stairs, you get to use the teleportation circles. You know it before I type it: you have to complete the rooms challenge before the circle will teleport you to the next room. *sigh* Because whatever. Which floor you go to is completely random. Unless you don’t want it to be. Then the recommended order is 2, 5, 10, 3, 4, 9, 6, 8, 7, 11, and then 12. Because 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 would not make sense?
When you walk up to the tower you have to make a DC12 investigation check to find the door. I wonder how many parties fail that check? Does the DM fudge? Do they say “Well, no adventure for you tonight?” Do no parties every fail because DC 12 is trivial for a group of sixes? Oh, also, KNOCK doesn’t work on the front door because Fuck You solve the fucking riddle. This is not how D&D works.
“The tower seems unremarkable” We don’t do that. We do not use seems or appears to be.
“You may only hold one Tempus Rose at a time.” Why? How? I can’t physically hold more than one?
“In the event the party can’t fly, climb, or otherwise reach the [elevated] exit …” then the DM is instructed to lower the exit to their level.
Why even bother anymore?
I guess I botched about the formatting. I should cover that. Bolding. Underlining. Bolded and underlined. Boxed text. Shaded text. Blue text. Different type of shaded text. SOlid bullets. Open bullets. Bolded and larger font. Another different type of background shading for text. Red text. Orange text. A different color of blue text. Italics. Green text.
Sometimes designers go off the deep end in trying to make things clear, and this is an example of that. In trying to make things clear you make the text too busy to follow. Don’t do that.
This is $4 at DriveThru. Preview is seven pages. You get to see several pages of the adventure, so, look upon it and despair! But, hey, great job with the preview man!
Well, I’ve got lots of room to improve. The worst part is I find myself trying to justify what you’re pointing out, like a defense mechanism. I’ve just got to improve. So, lessons taken away:
– Looking at it objectively, I can now see that my color scheming was just adding confusion. Simple is better.
– Keep formatting uniform instead of multiple types of bullets, etc.
– No “seems” or “appears” because padding and just say what it actually is
– No more challenge dungeons or railroads — give paths and actual choices for the party
– No skill checks to gatekeep the adventure, and none that the party should just pass anyway
For what it’s worth, I did think about the floors’ order, because I went through mathematical distribution on dice rolls, and I wanted to differentiate the experience for people who did roll randomly. I liked the gag that I pulled from a HeroQuest map (random). But, you know, way too over-thought. Just going ascending would have been easier. And given choice. And allowed for loops. Oof.
Live and learn, move on, and write better adventures.
Thanks for the feedback, genuinely. Sorry it was so bad this time.
“Castle of Mystery.” Nice.
Quest 10: Castle of Mystery, hell yeah! Ollar! Roll 2d6 when stepping through a doorway/portal.
“Sucking at something is the first step to being sort of good at something.” I respect almost anyone who has at least published something, which is more than I can say for myself. Beyond that it sounds like you’re willing to learn and improve. Keep learning, keep writing and I’m sure you’ll get there.
You took it on the nose like a champ. Better luck next time. Your attention to detail for looking at things like mathematical distributions can be leveraged. You can do it!
Way to take it on the chin like a champ! Got a tough review. Come back better. Great attitude.
I think your bullet take-aways are great. Additionally, though it may not be important to 5e, but from the OSR’s perspective, here’s some of Bryce’s advice on “checks” from his review of Mount Saint-Mikkel (https://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=7101):
“The adventure does two interesting things. First, it occasionally handles a skill check well. In one notable example, you find a cave if you are following footsteps … OR you can make a PER check if you are not. That’s how you handle a skill check in the OSR. If you search you find the fucking trap, otherwise you fling yourself to the fickle hand of fate.”
“No “seems” or “appears” because padding and just say what it actually is”
More importantly, don’t tell the players what their PCs feel or think.
Yes, this is a better way to think about it. Good frame of reference shift. Thanks for the extra clarity.
2nd-person direct address to the players in read-aloud is a cardinal sin. Weis & Hickman have much to answer for.
Sad Bryce face. Hope you get better booze for Xmas.
I look forward your next adventure Sean!
Thanks for inspiring greatness Bryce
Well played by the author, taking the criticism on the chin. Keep your enthusiasm up, there’s plenty of time to improve in your next adventure.
For 5e read dungeon age and Kelsey Dionne Sean! Feel free to contact them for help too
Gavin Norman has some 5e things too but it’s converted
This was pure fucking gold!
Top three favorite review of the year.
The liquor store story. Loved it. Put me right there, man. Laughing my ass off at the same time. Also, my girlfriend really likes those Smirnoffs!
Now that your ROSE is in BLOOM
The LIGHT hits the MOON
All the way…ooooh
Anise, Bryce, Anise
Anus is a different part of the… Flower 😉