Pilgrimage of the Roaches

Kormar Publishing
Level 1

A group of Roachling pilgrims from the chasms below the earth have emerged and are fortifying the abandoned chrysalis of a death gnat. They prepare to wage a profane war of infection against those who refuse to live in squalor. The human village of Peldor has already been ravaged by the emergence of death gnat; it is not equipped to handle the insect threat.

This sixteen page digest adventure uses seven pages to feature a two level dungeon with 21 rooms and a lot of intelligent roaches.  The central conceit is a gimmick, with interactivity being limited to stabbing. 

The roaches got three factions. The mercs, interested in cash, the preachers who want to convert folk and the zealots who want to kill people. As a level one, id you take roachling as your optional language? No? Then I guess you’re not gonna talk to them, are you? So you better get out your stabbers and stab away. Not that there’s any real guidance on talking to them, anyway. So stab away you kooky cats! For, while the roach leaders have personality ,and the lair is full of weirdo window dressing, ain’t none of it meaningful for an adventure.

“Room 5: Refuse Pit. A dumping ground for the Roachlings. Trash and excrement left here may

be used later in construction.” Wunderbar! You’ve both defined what a refuse pit it and then told us what its going to be used for. Neither of which helps us run this adventure. That’s a pretty good example of a low-value room description. “Bedroom: This room is a bedroom. People sleep in here at night. It has a bed.” would be an equivalent description. 

There’s a lot of littl mistakes in the descriptions I could point out. Important things second int he descriptions. Little bits of backstory embedded. None of them is really enough, in a normal adventure, to make me more than a little grumpy. But, here, the minimalism of the text combined with the complete lack of anything interesting (ooo! Roaches that can stand up and weak clothes and can speak their own language!) make them all stand out like a sore thumb. 

It’s just being weird for the sake of being weird. Kormar has done some interesting things in the past; this is a shame to encounter. There’s nothing to this. I don’t know how to write more. There’s nothing here to review. “Oooo, look, the pug is wearing a tutu!” Ok. Now what?

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $2.


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11 Responses to Pilgrimage of the Roaches

  1. Kormar Publishing says:

    As always, I appreciate the feedback. Probably time to move away from the minimalist digest style and work on some more substance.

    • Lance Toth says:

      I don’t know what “minimalist digest style” means in this context, but a staple bound digest fanzine can have up to 60 pages, able to hold a dungeon with (“sixteen page digest adventure uses seven pages to feature a two level dungeon with 21 rooms”) 150 rooms.

  2. Dave says:

    DMing 101 should be to look at your PC bonus language lists for demi-humans, and stock your dungeons and encounter charts with those monsters. Or conversely, change those lists to things you’re likely to run before players ever roll up characters.

    If I somehow knew before I started a campaign I were going to run this I absolutely would place “roachling” on my language lists. Easy. But for a drop-in adventure goblin might have been a better choice to allow interactivity.and still be compatible with the theming.

    Then again, any player party past 1st level, or even at 1st level but after their first good treasure haul, could have the option of hiring a translator, consulting a sage, Charming or simply hiring the one roachling who can speak Common, etc. Language barrier isn’t insurmountable for a party that doesn’t need spoonfed. An adventure can support those options, but its tricky because you don’t want the DM running it to think he has to forcefeed it to the players.

    • Maynard says:

      In all my one shots each extra language is just an extra 1in6 chance to already know a language you encounter a la lotfp. In a campaign you can give the players options of what to reasonably expect.

    • Edgewise says:

      I’d just change them to be speaking something more usable. Easy, done. I think Bryce makes too much about what is a very small issue.

  3. Christopher Potter says:

    It’s a point for newbie DM’s, but crashing an adventure over language is really weak sauce. A simple Bablefish hack (Bablefish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) like language spores or having the Roachlings speak whatever trash they’ve been eating should keep it going.

  4. George Dorn says:

    “Not that there’s any real guidance on talking to them, anyway.”

    What is an example of a module that does get NPC interaction guidance right? So often when a module tries to have some sort of conversation guidance, my PCs immediately go down some other path in the conversation path, anyway. So what format actually works at the table for this, and what modules actually do it right?

    • Reason says:

      For interaction guidance…Do we know?

      What the npc knows which is useful & gameable. Something they want… Something they hate/fear… Something else to hang our hat on for characterisation? Is there a call to adventure?

      For genius level examples how about the legless veteran in Mines, Claws, Princesses… “A scabrous beggar-vet rants of 4 magic
      swords in Sanjikar. An orc confessed this to
      him whilst begging for life. Displaying his
      ruined limbs and medals, he’ll trade food for
      Sanjikar’s location or the knowledge that
      Guurgen still wields Hevgar.”

      Yeah i can run that.

      Or the Orc leader from the same “Doesn’t grok marriage but
      marrying a princess makes him king of theHumans. Right?” Who throws captives in a cave with human corpses “for company”.

      Yeah i can run that, I see what the designer wants here. That’s a personality and goals in one/two sentence that’s also evocative of much more.

      Cockroaches here is a little more threadbare. we have _some_ of those things but One group refuse to engage with non-roaches at all- so stabby stabby. One group want silver- ok, simple but not really alien or different- couldn’t they just be human mercs? And one who wants to baptise you to the roach god in a slime pool- but zero more given than that on deity or her.

      I’d say that’s ok interactivity, a bare pass but it’s not great. I’d run this thing if my campaign had an insect thing going on but nothing sings like the other examples.

      • Reason says:

        @George Dorn. So none of the above “good” examples are presented as backstory or history or “used to be”. ALL of that is interactable with, findable in the adventure and will come out on sight, discovery or conversation.

        No “conversation guide”- but damn they get the point of wtf this guy is all about across without pages of backstory that will never come up, WITH clearly visible or actionable clues (missing limbs, medals) that MAY provoke conversation.

        That’s the difference between writing a novel, or writing an interesting idea (roach-men) and writing a good encounter/adventure. They are not the same.

  5. Johann says:

    “Trash and excrement left here may be used later in construction.” I think this is quite nice, actually. Drives home the thought that these creatures build things from excrement. Roach-people indeed.

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