By Harry Menear Self Published OSE Levels 2-3
Deep in the woods, where the pines grow tall as churches, a god-thing is dying. Her children are gone, taken by the plague, and what was once her temple is now their tomb. In desperation, she prolongs the life of her last remaining servant, transforming her into a vile instrument of grim necessity — a yellow-eyed horror that preys upon the inhabitants of the local village. The servant comes at night, dragging its victoms, screaming, to the black lake beneath the sodden earth. There — amid the rotten husks of plague-ravaged monks — they are caged, nourishment for a dying thing that dreamed she was a goddess.
This ten page adventure has a small lair dungeon with five rooms. Great room descriptions come to life while the rest of the surrounding adventure descriptions reek of a bit too Try Hard. I might run this as a lair side-trek.
As I write this I have a leg of lamb sitting in my fridge. I saw it again this morning when I grabbed a jar of olives. I bought it as a special food. Then I got sick the night I bought it for and didn’t make it. It’s been sitting in the fridge since then. Getting greyer. It stinks. A lot. I think about it sometimes. That little lamb was raised for just once purpose: me eating it. Everyone who worked on it. The dude who raised mom, the transport company, the farmer, the people at the slaughterhouse, the grocery people, buyers, distributors. Everyone. They all exist in a big long chain with the end result being me eating that leg. The thing that didn’t happen. It stares back at me, reminding me that it has failed in its purpose.
Exactly like the fuckwits who spend too much time on layout. “I want it to be pleasing!” That’s fucking great. More power to you. But you can’t lose sight of goal: the adventure as an ADVENTURE. To be run. When your pretentious layout garbage takes over and contributes to me NOT running the adventure then you’ve failed. Don’t worry fuckwit, you can still make it look nice. “Ahhhh, but it’s all subjective!” wails the maddening crowds of layout idiots. Sure, in as much as absolutely everything in life is. But, also, maybe the fucking moron who buys your work and takes enough time to write up something about it could be given just a tad bit more credence than the fucking echo chamber you’re in? No? Ok. We arrive at todays review.
Menear can do a couple of things right. He’s got a decent overall aesthetic going on, in the adventure. The theming, as it were, of all the elements, rooms, and people and such, of the adventure all work together fairly well. The setting, and each room, all make sense together and contribute to the overall mood. That’s fucking great! We get consistency throughout.
And dude knows how to write a room description. “The tracks end at a rough stone arch, doors hastily mortared shut with lyme and ash.” Fucking lyme and ash man! Great specificity. Brings the entire thing alive. Or “Flickering candlelight, dripping water. Wet stonework caked in mould. Smells of sweet rot and Petrichor.” Flickering candles and dripping water … with some sweet rot? Sign me up! There’s some great use of adjectives and adverbs in this. Great specificity. The kind that I’m really looking for to make a room description come alive.
The first words of the actual adventure are “The boat is leaking.” Perfect. The game is afoot Watson! On the river you come across thee sullen, cock-eyed fisherwomen smoking pipes and srinking coarse bramblewine, outside their huts, watching the river go by, in the rain, with goats, chickens and muck-smeared children running up and down what passes for a street. I’m not doing the thing justice. It’s really good. Sets the mood. A great description.
I’m down man.
Well, until I’m not.
There is a definite talent for setting a mood. And the room descriptions, the evocative part of them, are top notch, without relying on gore and explosion sounds to make them come alive. But then, also, some of the descriptions are just REALLY try harding. The main creature of the adventure is described as “Hunched, yellow-eyed embodiment of a dying god-thing’s will. Consumed by virulant plague. Stinks like a leper colony and screams with a voice like tearing paper and gushing boils. Wants to take people and cage them above the Weeping Lake as sustenance for its god.” I note that there is no actual description here. I don’t think I can tell the party what they see. And the tearing paper/gushing boils stuff reads nice but I don’t think that translates to something I can do for the players. What the fuck does a leper colony stink like? This needs to be grounded.
The text here is two column with some fuckwit font choice. And, I swear to fucking god, half the page is green. Like, once column has a green background. And it looks like the text in that column is yellow. Who the fuck thought this was a good idea? With your fucked up font. The main text is good. The rooms have a little overview. There’s good use of bullets, bolding and whitespace. I think it runs a good tight ship in terms of formatting, combining both a more traditional descriptive style with the good elements of the OSE house style. But, man, slapping down that green? With text on it? In that font? Shove it up your ass.
There are some design things in this that I kind of like .. and am maybe questioning. The main enemy has 9hd and reappears, in the main dungeon room, in 1d6 turns after you kill it. That’s a little fast and a little much for levels 2-3. But, also, the main map is a loop, so we can do some avoidance stuff here. And, you don’t actually need to kill it in the adventure. You don’t know that, but, you can “win” by just rescuing some people. And, also, the main room is a lake underground. You take a boat from one shore to another. So, you could be stuck on the far shire when the creature reappears. It’s got some interesting design choices here. I might put the monster down a little longer and maybe keep the hints it is coming back. But, if you want to go all LotFP style, then you can.
You’re also rolling, every turn you’re in the dungeon, to see if the creature moves to a different room. I don’t know man. That’s a lot of fucking rolling. Maybe you hear sounds in the darkness. Maybe it serves as pressure to keep the party moving and provides some tense situations. But, also, that’s a lot of rolling. Every time I see an adventure that wants rolls every turn I ask myself if this person actually ever plays D&D.
This thing is short. A little village play to get the adventure going. That part is almost presented in a perfunctory manner … where it could be a little longer or more involved. And then a five room dungeon. This is absolutely a side-trek lair. And for that, yeah, groove on. It fits. It kind of fits that petty god/folk horror thing that I like in a lair adventure. It’s not 100 Bushels of Rye, but, with with, it could be. Descent design and good room descriptions. A great vibe. Something meatier. Less head-up-the-ass on layout and controlling the nonsense descriptions. But, it’s still Best quality.
This is $3.70 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages. You can get a look at the layout and such, and that great intro the village (that ultimately doesn’t pay off) but no room descriptions, which is where I think the strength of the designer lies. The village intro description, though, give you can idea of what to expect.
There are five rooms. Going back, I see that you mentioned it, but it’s five rooms. No secret doors, no sense of exploration, just five rooms in a loop.
That’s not a module; this used to be called a “side-trek” when presented in Dungeon Magazine.
Bryce does say “I might run this as a lair side-trek” at the end of the 2nd paragraph.
See? I was distracted by the lamb.
The Distraction of the Lamb. Now, in your local movie theater.
Half a page per room smh.
cool cover yo
Bryce, are you okay?
Bryce, sometimes you don’t actually try to break down and describe the smell of a leper colony in it’s constituent parts. You just say smells like a leper colony and get a disgusted look or a giggle and they get it and move on. They get it. Because while leper colony is not a thing we have smelled, the phrase IS evocative. It works by association- we _imagine_ rotting flesh and unwashed bodies, tattered rags and we associate with disease and disfigurement which psychologically make us uneasy. Which is the emotional response evocative needs, rather than the literal listing of odours.
If you can’t get hunched, yellow eyed + rotting and boil covered (implied or just lean into what’s supplied) from the description then I think you’re a bit too cranky today.
“hunched, yellow eyed + rotting and boil covered” is evocative, but it’s missing a few unimportant details like size, skin color and number of limbs.
5 room artpunk getting “the best”.
No Artpunk bros…did we get too cocky?
Yes. “No Artpunk” is at best one of several scenes picking the corpse of the OSR, and by far the least creative and most insufferable.
Creation? Purifying flame is not creation.
The only people who claim to be a “purifying flame” are serial killers, 1980’s satanists, and comic book villains.
and our No Artpunk heroes.
It’s Artpunk’s fault. It swung the pendulum waaaaay too far away from actual gaming. The universe demanded a correction. 😉
Correct on all accounts Artpunkman.
In our fantasies, yes. But in reality they are mere white supremacists and/or nonces.
The accusation of noncery is particularly interesting. There have been Artpunkmen famously accused of sexual assault, 1? 2? OSR Discord administrators have been investigated on charges of grooming, there is the famous robot rape case, there’s people into BDSM and other predictors for noncery etc. Where are the NAPsters doing all this?
If playing oldschool D&D is now considered white supremacy, and your friends in the media certainly seem hellbent on making that claim, then I suggest you find a different hobby. We will not miss you.
I laughed way too much
That first paragraph makes this thing sound really good.
And then I learn that it’s a five room side trek. A dying god with a horrific servant kidnapping victims to feed its master is NOT a five room side trek adventure. It begs to be expanded into something far more substantial. Wasted potential.
I don’t know, “forgotten god dying in a hole” kinda works for me. Somewhat like “former king begging for scraps”.
A much larger hole, with a couple more expansive levels. That’s what I’m getting at. This thing doesn’t deliver that. It delivers a tiny (real tiny) dungeon. I don’t believe it does the concept the proper justice. Epic premise, far from epic location.
Now only $1.85! The Brycce slyce and dyce discount?
I’m glad you have been red-pilled on the layout question. ‘Gods at low levels’ was a recurring theme in NAP II, and has been a theme in the OSR for long before that. As one-shots its all good stuff but for longer games you run into a problem of scale (if I run into gods frequently at level 2, what do I do at level 5?).
This sounds like the author has a penchant for descriptive prose and had a cool idea but did not have enough energy or knowhow to turn it into something more substantial. Might still be fun chucking into one’s sandbox somewhere though.
“Red-pilled on the layout question”
Prince of not reading? He gave it a fucking best, dude.
“Exactly like the fuckwits who spend too much time on layout. “I want it to be pleasing!” That’s fucking great. More power to you. But you can’t lose sight of goal: the adventure as an ADVENTURE. To be run. When your pretentious layout garbage takes over and contributes to me NOT running the adventure then you’ve failed. Don’t worry fuckwit, you can still make it look nice. “Ahhhh, but it’s all subjective!” wails the maddening crowds of layout idiots. Sure, in as much as absolutely everything in life is. But, also, maybe the fucking moron who buys your work and takes enough time to write up something about it could be given just a tad bit more credence than the fucking echo chamber you’re in? No? Ok. We arrive at todays review.”
Proof is in the pudding, the pudding is saying all that and STILL giving this “The Best” over things like the most recent Malrex adventures, half of the Advanced Adventures product line, etcetc
I can’t quite tell what side you are arguing for or what you are trying to achieve but this should cover all sides:
Acknowledging that obsessive focus on layout exists and is detrimental to the quality of an adventure is good, irrespective of the verdict of any single entry, or any other standard and whether I agree with it. Ergo me bringing it up. Does that help?
I like the layout, the gold on green, it really is beautiful. FUCK PRINTING THAT, but if it were more pages (50+) and very good, I’d consider POD.
This gets a “Best” based on evocative description alone? Isn’t that the epitome of style over substance?
Let me see if I can summarize:
– great room descriptions (though some “try too hard”)
– great ‘mood’ setting
– coherent concept (“theming” works well together)
– poor readability (which equates to poor playability at table)
– peril set too high for level range
– unclear objectives
– added systems that make the reviewer question whether or not the author even plays D&D (i.e. poor use of randomizers)
– since it’s for OSE does it have treasure? Unmentioned. But when the adventure seems to consist only of 1) five rooms, 2) with a monster that “need not be killed” and is (probably) too big to be handled by 2nd and 3rd level characters, 3) a few prisoners for rescue…
Um. What the fuck is the game that we’re supposed to be playing here? Run around the circular dungeon experiencing a creepy mood and jumpy scares till we can exit the thing and leave the “god” in its “hole?” Bold adventure that.
“When your pretentious layout garbage takes over and contributes to me NOT running the adventure then you’ve failed.”
Failure does not equate to a “best” rating in my book. And based on this review, I’d say it’s more than just the layout that’s “pretentious garbage.” This seems an adventure designed to be read and admired…not played.
Given time, it will probably end up looking as grey and sad as that leg of lamb.
Seems to me that Folk Horror is best played with CoC rules or, if one is feeling groovy, Chill (Pacesetter edition, ‘natch).
I take the opposite approach, I prefer to drop a Scenic Dunnsmouth or something into an ongoing D&D or Traveller campaign, but sandwiched in between more typical adventures. It makes it mean something when usually your guns or swords are the right solution, but this time they’re not.
Whereas in CoC you basically know what you’re there for and how things are going to go. There’s the trappings of horror, but the play experience is more like an episode of Scooby Doo but with better weapons and the monster is really a monster. Which, when I put it like that sounds pretty awesome, but I wouldn’t think to call it folk horror.
More on topic, it sounds like this adventure is right up my alley as something to pull for a filler session, but the review reads more like a No Regerts than a Best.
I think Bryce simply misclicked, ngl.
Also, bravo, absolutely agree with your take on dropping stuff in to create a real surprise and sense of wonder.
When I watch actual plays of lads like Into the Darkness, I can’t shake off the feeling that while they are (as opposed to the vast majority of groups) playing following the genre’s framing; their play is almost academic. By and large because the answer is “a ctulhu”. When I watch most of the other groups or hear the stories about the actual play of coc I just cringe. You know, in MTG we have this concept of life points as a resource. Plays well in a board game, but when in TTRPG one treat one’s sanity as a resource, and kinda optimise game actions pushing it without going over, it just makes for a bad gameplay…
Fuck off weirdo. You have accused half the commenters here (including the OP) of being nazi sex-offenders and by extension this site of platforming and tolerating the like. Go cringe somewhere else.
Almost no adventure is used as is. Bryce values whats good highly. Even if it’s small, it can be borrowed into something big.
If I run them at all I run most published adventures as is. Drop a dungeon or lair in somewhere on the map or in during a down session and I’m good to go. The most I might alter is the hook, or adding one key treasure of interest, but those hardly count. If I find myself reworking someone else’s dungeon I find I can stock a free map myself just as easily.
If I do borrow at all I lift much smaller elements, “elf selling hydra eggs” or whatever , something I wouldn’t have otherwise come up with on my own until I’ve seen it. But then I’m still not sitting down to convert an adventure, just straight up stealing the best tiny bits from memory.
This glut of low-level grimderp artpunk is getting really tiresome…
Bryce, I don’t care how fun a metaphor it is, throw out the damn lamb before it infects your fridge.
“As I write this I have a leg of lamb sitting in my fridge. I saw it again this morning when I grabbed a jar of olives. I bought it as a special food. Then I got sick the night I bought it for and didn’t make it. It’s been sitting in the fridge since then. Getting greyer. It stinks. A lot. I think about it sometimes. That little lamb was raised for just once purpose: me eating it. Everyone who worked on it. The dude who raised mom, the transport company, the farmer, the people at the slaughterhouse, the grocery people, buyers, distributors. Everyone. They all exist in a big long chain with the end result being me eating that leg. The thing that didn’t happen. It stares back at me, reminding me that it has failed in its purpose.”
That’s good writing.
Meh. It needs to be worked. But I appreciate the thought. The post-modern style is not too hard to emulate.
Well, I felt something human.
Stop telling me about your food if it’s not going to help me decide whether to buy the adventure. This is supposed to be a *review*!
Welcome to the Bryce Lynch Choose Your Own Response Adventure Game(tm). You may: A) Be Insulted B) Be Explained C) Pedantic
a) It’s a terrible world, isn’t it? People existing other than you. DOING things that you don’t want them to do. How dare they not do anything and everything you want them to! Don’t they know that’s not what YOU want?! Pffft.
b) I note that you have missed the point. We’re talking about the purpose of something. What makes an A an A? You’ll note that the first sentence in the next paragraph noted this explicitly.
c) Well, good thing it wasn’t about food then, right? I mean, when does something actually become food? Do you have to actually eat the thing for it to be considered food? When does a cow, or lamb in this case, cease to be a lamb and start to be considered food? When it dies? Before then? When it appears at the butchers?
Yes, I know it’s a troll. But I’ve been confronted lately with multiple instances of people not being catered to. “The party has too many people at it!” Yes, that’s what makes it a party, the fact that there are people at it. “You didn’t have the booze I like in the stuff you bought for yourself and let others drink at the BYOB party!” Uh huh. “You didn’t have free mixers at the BYOB party!” uh huh. “You’re not doing what _I_ want you to do.”
There’s room for feedback. People closed off to feedback are assholes that you don’t need to associate with. However, feedback and demands to be catered to are far different things.
wow that’s a whole lotta cope and seethe
too bad I’m not reading it
ayo this anon finna boutta get dabbed on
Actual original anon here. I wasn’t doing a troll, I was doing a joke ;_;
Bryce are you OK? (This is not a joke.)
Thanks Bryce! I bought this