By Filip Gruszczynski Self Published OSE Levels 5-7
The Eminence Luminous monastery has fallen, but so has the besieged forces. Now the holy site stands silent, surrounded by a sea of corpses. Undead abominations, ravenous scavengers and pagan fiends roam inside. Deep below lies the legendary vault, full of divine relics and unholy artifacts. Will you restore the convent to its former glory? Or will you rather plunder its riches?
This 103 page digest adventure features a monastery, its outbuildings and dungeons with maybe 120-130 rooms and about a dozen interconnected levels/areas. This is gonna get a Regerts because I think the room text is a bit long, the descriptions a bit uninspired, and the digest format wrong. But, also, dude gets it. This is a real site based adventure with good interactivity, of which there are few in spite of everyone claiming they just published one. He’s got his shit together in this adventure.
Usually I like to talkIt’s 9 about nice things and then talk flaws. My back hurts and I’m not in that mood. But know you, gentle reader, this one may be worth you checking out. Now, excuse me while I go on a meaningless rant.
Digest format sucks shit. I know, people like it. It’s currently the rage “Zine zine zine!” is all you hear. I don’t know what the fuck you people think a zine is, but it aint what I think it is. A zine aint a fucking format. That’s a fucking digest. A zine is a fucking magazine. Multiple things in it. Yeah, tey look digest, usually, because you an photocopy it and fold the 8.5×11 in half … hence the digest format. Digest is not, however, a good format to publish your fucking adventure in, OSE to the contrary. Or, rather, it is GENERALLY not the correct format.
When you’re working with a large work, like this adventure is, I think you need to return to more traditional size. This is, in many ways, a very hard statement for me to make. In so many of the judgments I pronounce, it’s not really a binary statement. The decision to go digest on a large dungeon doesn’t make or break the adventure. It’s all a spectrum. Going digest may push your adventure a few “usability” percentage points in the wrong direction, if you don’t handle things correctly. And, thusly, saying “digest was wrong” is more of a “well, I think it was a wrong decision and if you had gone standard format then the rest of the decisions you made in this area may have presented better and perhaps to the point where I no longer have comprehension issues or at least not to the point where I feel like I need to write a lengthy section on it and/or start a review by commenting on it.” But, it’s easier to say that “digest was wrong.”
On top of everything, the thing uses spreads. So, we’re back to traditional formatting, albeit landscape. And, it’s a fucking PDF product. Realistically, it’s only every GOING to be a PDF product. Almost no one is going to print this. Or buy a printed copy if/when one becomes available. I don’t mean to sound like an ass, but, rather, the number of PDF copies is going to GREATLY outnumber print copies. You don’t gotta hyperlink the fucker, but, at least don’t cripple the medium that everyone is going to be using. You’re not using a photocopier. I’m not printing this out. Why the fuck is it digest format?
And this exacerbates the problems with the text. The font is generous and the descriptions/DM text are not exactly svelt. This, in digest format, for a large number of rooms, give the impression of one room per column, even if it may be a little more than that. Your eye is travelling half the page to pick up information. This is not the way to good comprehension.
And, while it pains me to say this, I live in the United States. Some people do not. Life is not fair. And, I think, this is an EASL adventure and I’m about to rag on it for being so. The text here is not bad. The text here is not GOOD though. I mean, it’s adequate./ And, in many ways, because of that, above average. But, also, it comes off a bit staid in a way that it shouldn’t. There should be energy here tha tisn’t. And it’s not, I think, for a lack of trying. Here’s one of the better attempts: “ The sweet smell of honey mixes with the putrid stench of rotten flesh. Floors and ruined furniture are lined with sticky, pinkish resin. The air vibrates with frenzied buzzing.” This follows the guidelines. (Which, I suspect, is why I think its doing a decent job) But, also, it’s a little lifeless? It’s a little … I don’t know. Antiseptic? And a lot of the text is like this.
Which is weird because dude clearly has it going on. In the “I don’t like your bullshit setting” DM offset box, it startswith “You break my heart, but that’s OK …” and then gives some more neutral setting advice. That’s the kind of aside I love. And the fucking wanderers are great. They take a sentence or two each and are full of fucking life. Really really strong situations that DO come to life.
And this energy in the wanderers extends to the general interactitivy of the adventure. The thing is stuffed full of it. The maps has multiple level entrances everywhere. Very little gimping going on (I think. There’s a lot of undead in this adventure, especially low level undead, and the “turning” special rules are unclear to me … perhaps the only section in the adventure that IS unclear. Which is a shame for something so important.) Someg level/area interconnections everywhere. Move a statue for a hatch underneath. Go down a well. Its all there. And the magic items tend to be great ones. The setting here is a little LotFP, so, we get, as a treasure The WORD Of GOD. It’s a Wish. Fucking perfect. And the other magic items, both traditional and not, and pretty well done also. A pair of magic dice … that let you reroll dice. That’s a little meta, enough to make my brain hurt ? Mundane treasure, to level, feels light to me. Especially at this level.
There are little misses, here and there. A fuckwit “your greatest sin attacks you” thing. It could use A LOT more cross-references. Undead that you could interact with (to the point of joining your party) that could use a word or two of personality more. Or at all.
But the core of this is strong. A strong, multi area environment to explore. Good map connections. A great degree of interactivity. And descriptions (and formatting) that are trying. You can see that. And they are not BAD.
But, also, it’s a little lifeless and, in looking at the layout/digest/text density issues … I’m not sure I would pick this one up and actually use it.
Which is a shame. There’s a lot to like here. A LOT. Filip deserves better than me.
This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is ten pages. It shows you lots of rooms, so it’s a good preview. Room F10, on the first page, stretches across three pages and four columns. G2 on preview page five is also a good example of density.