By Kormar Publishing Kormar Publishing OSR Level 3
Undead frost pirates, mad imprisoned fae, and a pile of loot guarded by a monstrous slug…
THis nineteen page digest adventure features a three level sea cave with about 22 rooms. Colourful descriptions and encounters compliment an easy to scan/use format to produce something that you’re excited to run! OD&D returns motherfckers!
Yeah, ok, it’s not OD&D. But, also, I think there is an OD&D vibe and it’s my preferred gaming vibe. I mean, fuck that hoity toity version. And that high fantasy version. And that superhero version. And that minis combat version. And that Ca$sh Cow version. Gimme me some OD&D vibes baby! Yeah, sure, #NotAllVersions, but, whatever man, yo know what I mean. An OD&D vibe is WHERE. IT. IS. AT!
Sometimes you crack a cover and you know. You just know. One of the first sentences, talking about the local village, is “Some folk farm, others fish, all are miserable.” This, gentle reader, is the epitome of evocative writing. There’s a juxtaposition here. I was expecting the normal fantasy village shit when I read “some folk farm, others fish” … but then WAMMO! Fuck yeah baby! I can run that village. I can run the entire thing. I don’t need ANYTHING more. This will be the greatest village I have ever run in my life because of that sentence.
This adventure delivers that evocative style over and over again. It’s not exactly word choice, although that helps. It’s more of a framing of the sentence itself. The local bar? “The menu consists of salted fish, turnips, and cheap beer.” Rock on! Or, lets look at the fey, some creatures that feature prominently on level two of the dungeon, in particular . Stats as elf, but “: translucent blue skin, permanent fanged smiles, makeshift seaweed garments” Thats a fucking description! And fort the “bloody crabs?” “child sized crustacean, fleshy shell, pulsing veins.” Or how about a waterlogged corpse covered in barnacles and ocean detritus? Or a specter pirate … missing eyes that have been replaced with crab/small crab claw. The fucking descriptions are good man. It’s like someone IMAGINED the place, the thing, whatever, first and THEN came up with words for it.
The map is three levels, with the last having only four rooms .. but flooding during high tide. The rooms are concise. Maybe a first bullet with a two or three sentence description and then a follow up second one with a little more information. (I would note that I think bullets are misused here. Bullets are great for calling attention to things, but, if you’ve only got two paragraphs, both of two or three sentences, you probably don’t need to bullet them. You need a clear separation, for scanning, which bullets do, but also, you don’t need them if its short. Bullets alot a magic solution.)
We got good encounters. NPC’s are on a table, with some great terse aspects to them, along with where they are found. Easy to use and memorable. Encounters are chill. “Four skeletons are impaled on stalagmites and message has been carved in to the southern WALL: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES” Yesh baby! We’re no a fucking adventure now! The back wall has a crack … that can be SHIMMIED through. Excellent word choice. A rotting trap door, it’s handle encrusted in barnacles … that cut you if you try to use the handle. Hey, man, the DM warned you! This shit goes on and on “A fae bruiser and three bound fae hold court in this dank cavern debating the finer points of sun worship, namely, whether the sun exists. They vehemently despise the moon worshipers in cavern 15.” da da da! Strong encounters that, by their very nature, contribute to the evocative nature of the writing. Ghouls bicker over if they can eat zombie flesh. Skeletons SCALP their victims … thats chill! Nice specificity! And, there are things going on in the caves that you can nuke. Return treasure to the pirates and they all disappear. Lets the fae out and they leave you alone. Oh, they slaughter everyone in the village above … except for the one proto-witch girl that they abduct and train. Is that a bad outcome? Meh … it’s an outcome. Shit happens. And I fucking love the attitude of giving the monsters what they want to appease them and also a Fuck Around And Find Out attitude.
So, yeah, I fucking love this one. It’s not the end all and be all of creation, but, also, I’m SO much more excited about it than that last thing I reviewed and Bested. This one has the spirit of D&D that the other was perhaps missing. At least for me. Cause, you know, I like to have fun when I play D&D.
Oh, also, hey, put those “environment” things on the map, dude. The “crashing waves, dampness, etc” that make up the “always on” descriptions for the entire dungeon? Stick it on the map or some place that I’m always looking at so I remember to add them!
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $2. No fucking preview. But, then again, PWYW, so, the whole thing is a preview.
Woah, I appreciate the feedback!
I think the feedback was leave your job, leave your family, and go write more stuff.
Continuing to work at using Affinity and organizing my thinking. Took some advice and moved away from system neutral to try a level 1 adventure.
I downloaded this. Bryce is right that there is a lot about it that is delightful.
But for me, it’s not a usable adventure as written. “System neutral” isn’t the epitome of laziness, but it IS lazy design. Far better to pick a system, write for it, and let interested parties adapt it to their system of choice rather than say “Hey, everyone, you ALL have to adapt this to your system of choice…because I CAN’T BE BOTHERED to learn a system and write for it.”
I play 1E. I can pick up an adventure written for OD&D, or Holmes, or B/X (or…if you prefer retro-clones…S&W, BlueHolmes, or LL/OSE) and know the tweaks that are necessary to run the thing.
This thing? Stats as an elf but 3 hit dice and armor like leather? A spectre with stats as a ghost (and the ghost’s possession power plus energy drain)? A slug with stats as a dragon? Does that mean it has a breath weapon? What kind? Does it fly?
Learn a system, write for a system, THEN you can say “here’s how it’s different.” Old Master Gygax was always putting small tweaks on things in his adventure modules, but he started with a common foundation of understanding for the DM trying to prep the thing. Barnacle-crusted zombies with AC5 (“as chainmail”) are a great mod to keep adventurers on their toes, for example.
For an old edition game, the treasure count is about right for a 3rd level adventure, and the distribution is about right for B/X (as per Moldvay’s stocking guidelines). Likewise with monsters and traps. Undead are actually about right for B/X clerics of 3rd level (while they’ll auto-turn skeletons & zombies, the numbers are sufficient that it’s still a bit dicey). Would be nice to know how turning interacts with the magic sigil in area #3 (and by “next turn” does the author mean “next round?” This matters in old edition D&D).
[the spectre/ghosts are killers, though]
As said: a delightful little adventure with evocative writing and some nice ideas/concepts. Dungeon is short but not terribly linear with multiple access points to multiple levels. That’s nifty.
The design mechanics need more work/effort to make the thing usable at table. For me that’s a thumbs down.
I’m on record slamming system neutral adventures before, but this one is not the worst. Everything has hit dice and damage directly, plus AC “as leather” or whatever which isn’t the best or the worst. So really I can run that straight out of the book if I want, the “stats as X” block is optional if you’re not a sperg.
It’s when designers treat system neutral as statless that it creates more work than converting on the fly from one system to another.
I guess the one problem I can see with this approach is if I run HD and damage straight out of the adventure, then I don’t really know “how tough” they’re supposed to be in my system of choice, and if I’m doing it right. But even there, the solution is to just don’t be a sperg and don’t worry about it.
Indeed. No sperging allowed.
“A slug with stats as a dragon? Does that mean it has a breath weapon? What kind? Does it fly?” It does NOW!
Sounds fun, love the setting. Great cover too.
This is wonderful. Little bit about me; I entered the hobby two years ago, starting from 5e and moving on to Cairn, but after three sessions we got bored with it and discovered you can’t level up and also it was half finished or something idk. I tried talking to Yochai Gal on GenCon, but he started screaming and calling me a chud and he said I made this, I copied this from Into the Odd and his bodily hygiene was so terrible it was atrocious so I had to leave. Thank you Bryce! Finally a normal adventure a normal person can play!
Love the cover! Looks like Franklin Booth’s style.