The Sun Orb

By Malrex
The Merciless Merchants
Levels 4-7

Bellamar, ancient mage of great power, jealously guarded her secrets, especially her signature spells. She created several orbs, each a tiny world of their own, filled with mystical creatures and traps to protect her most treasured spellbooks and experiments. Upon her mysterious death, the orbs have become scattered across the lands and lost in time….until now.

This 24 page dungeon features a sun temple with about 25 rooms, and an extraplanar area with about fifteen more at the end. A bit puzzle/riddle heavy. Malrex can get a bit lengthy in his DM notes for rooms, but it’s a solid adventure that does nothing wrong. 

You’re after a spellbook full of sun spells, probably. And the way to get it is to go inside a magic orb by touching it. Inside you see a temple … with a lot of sun theming. 

I always have a hard time with these sorts of reviews. Ultimately, it’s ok. It’s not doing anything wrong. Maybe a little lengthy in the DM notes for some rooms, with stretches of text (decently organized, if long) that stretch for a column or more for the more complex rooms. And, also, I’m not terribly excited for it. I think a lot of your own views on this are going to come down to differences in personal preference. Seeing so many adventures, my standards are impossibly high. This adventure is certainly exceeds  most, even of the older stuff, and in many ways reminds me of the better old adventures. Or, maybe, is evocative of them. It’s a fine journeyman effort. 

I’m struggling with the room descriptions. “The doors open to a brightly lit marbled passageway that ends at a whitewashed stone door. The marble boasts swirls of gray and golds intermixed with a chalky white. Golden runes are etched on the floor.” That’s fine. I think you can see, maybe, the comparisons to the older adventures in that description. This is not minimalism and there was clearly an effort made to bring the environment to life. But, also, I find it a little dry … just as I do most of the earlier adventure descriptions. As always, I think this is the hardest part of writing an adventure. Bringing an environment to life in the DMs head. You have to envision something and get it down on paper in such a way that the DM reading it has their mind come to life. This is hard. For many purchasers they are not going to be worried about this. The description, above, is enough. If we ignore design/story/plot/situations, as a lofty goal almost unobtainable, in our criteria, then we’re left with ease of use, my usual gripe. The single most common complaint is that adventures are hard to use, and thus my emphasis on that. If you eliminate that and write something that’s not a nightmare to use (which should be allow hurdle …) then I’m left with: what makes me excited to run this adventure? And, generally, that’s going to be the descriptions. That’s what’s going to make me excited to run it … if I leave out the situations/design criteria. And that excitement about running it is what’s going to get it to the table. Sure, great situations and/or design will trump almost everything else, but that’s not something I’m going to harp on. If I did there would be VERY few entries on my recommended list. For all the bitching about the standards, my criteria is rather low, and yet few things make it past. This one does.

There’s a lot of theming here, which translates, in a way, in to a lot of puzzle like elements. Doors that open only at certain times of day (Sundial!) or straight up riddles. Darkness and light being used in a variety of way to elements to the adventure. A prism, in a room full of mirrors. A fresco giving hints on  how to pass a room without damage. It’s a decent integration of the theme of the temple. Maybe trending a bit to the “challenge dungeon” trope a bit, but, it’s a temple and there are riddles. What ya gonna do?

At one point you can defeat a (godling?) in his temple (nice art there) and go through a portal to a sun god mini-dimension, fucking around a bit. 

My notes for this adventure are almost nonexistent. I don’t have much to complain about. And, also, not a lot to gush over. That puts us solidly in the category of a fine adventure that just isn’t hitting the highest of highs for me. IDK, maybe it seems a little rushed to me?

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is thirteen pages. More than enough to determine if this is for you or not.

This entry was posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, No Regerts, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to The Sun Orb

  1. squeen says:

    Malrex, you sure have honed your craft! You’ve even managed to silence Bryce. 🙂

    I really like the look of this one. The cover is elegantly great. I hope it’s a hit.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bryce has completely shot his ability for people to take things like “Seeing so many adventures, my standards are impossibly high” seriously after giving this a mere “no regrets” (tying with Monte Cook 300 page shitfest) and giving five room artpunk “the best”. There seems to be no consistency anymore. The Roger Ebert metaphor – “even if I disagreed I could see where he’s coming from because he’s consistent” – has all but vanished.

    • squeen says:

      Bryce has a soft-spot for poetic (short but evocative) language. That’s why I think the ArtPunk entry got an inflated score.

      • Anonymous says:

        Truth is Bryce is literally is the type who buys adventures to read, not play. It was inevitable his tastes would skew in this direction. At this point prose quality seems to be the most important factor for him

        • Chimerical says:

          Bryce’s reviews still reliably point me towards the sorts of things I want, because I generally buy adventures to cannibalise not to run. A solid, well-designed, well-polished adventure with nothing remarkable about it is worthless to me because I already have more of those than I could ever hope to use. An adventure containing some short, interesting or unique, well-crafted entries or concepts is worth more to me, because I can lift those and use them elsewhere. It’s not worth as much as a whole adventure of top quality, but it’s worth more than an adventure that doesn’t stand out. In other words I think I know exactly where he’s coming from.

    • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

      I agree about Anon’s comments about consistency. Consistency seems to have taken a back seat lately in Bryce’s reviews. I’ve certainly noticed that in some of the more recent reviews.

  3. Anonymous says:

    How to get a “The Best” from Bryce
    1. Have a mudcore town with zero magic, not even a chapel, but no one freaks out about m-us and clerics
    2. The mudcore town has a sentence fragment of padding for a dozen or so NPCs
    3. The dungeon is both spartan and filled with flowing detail
    4. The dungeon has an ooze
    5. The dungeon has 5 rooms
    6. All the magic items have no mechanical effects but handwave-y bullshit effects instead

  4. Anonymous says:

    How to get salty comments complaining on your OSR review blog:
    1. Call out trash adventures for being trash.
    2. Offend some snowflake authors who can’t accept that their darling adventures are trash.
    3. Allow anonymous comments.
    And you’ve done it! (See above.)

    • Anonymous says:

      “snowflake authors”? Is that kind of anti-semitic dogwhistling really necessary?

      • Anonymous says:

        The fact that your fingers typed “anti-semitic dogwhistling” in response to a critique simply proves his point, my dude

      • Alexander Moonbeam says:

        In modern parlance “snowflake” has come to mean “one who is easily offended.” So, you.

      • Anonymous says:

        How has “snowflake” gotten associated with being Jewish?!?

        To be clear: “Snowflake” is about being a whiny, privileged Millennial, nothing else.

        • More Anonymous Than You says:

          “whiny, privileged Millennial, nothing else”

          Just millenials, so it’s not snowflaking when you do it? Found the Boomer.

          But the Day of the Pillow is coming, Boomer. Your children, if you’ve gotten that far, will put you in the cheapest home they can find and cross their fingers for the worst.

    • anonymous says:

      bryce can’t call adventures out for being trash because he literally doesn’t read them. he skims them while sitting on the loo

  5. Anonymous says:

    Annon here I completely support Bryce.

    Nobody has the ovaries anymore

    It’s all google, Facebook shit requirements

    With the way people overreact in the rpg space and look for random meaningless shit

    Bryce gives me freedom and hope in today’s world

    I get peace and a sense of belonging

    My life is better because for you Bryce

    I love you

  6. Anon says:

    Really he just needs to add a couple more tiers for reviews. A better than the best and a new one right below the best that’s like “it’s good but I’m bored”

    • Crank Denser says:

      He has one already….it’s called “No Regerts”

    • Kubo says:

      I think what Bryce considers best of the best are listed on the My Favorite link at the top of the page, which by its name is subjective. Sometimes you’ll read Bryce reporting what are his favorites among the favorites (which I guess could change over time). As I recall, that short list included: Deep Carbon Observatory, Anomalous Subsurface Environment, and at least 2 of the levels of the Fight On! Magazine collaborative mega-dungeon. These are slightly “gonzo” sci-fi in feel to me, and DCO is like what a Mork Borg adventure should be aiming for to me. (I personally like more “reality” in my adventures with less high-magic/fantasy and fewer fantasy PC races (elves, dwarves, etc.). With the exception of his liking talking animals, Bryce has claimed to prefer these games as well. However, he’s obviously not locked into this mindset by the favorites I’ve mentioned).

  7. Norm Al Pearson says:

    I still think you should review Tomb of Immolation

  8. Anonymous says:

    CX is an all time fav for Bryce. Dont forget about Gaan too

  9. Libra says:

    This review got me thinking: I recognize Bryce has lots of game time experience to pick up on the playability of a product, and I value the reviews. Sometimes play brings out stuff that makes it seem better or worse than the read through, and I’ve wondered if his opinion has ever changed after actually running an adventure. It’d be cool to have follow ups on how they ended up actually playing out. “Whoa, far crappier than I thought,” or “Wow, that’s some wicked D&D after all!” Especially the stuff that seems a bit “meh.”

    • Dave says:

      I’ve had one experience running an adventure that was better in actual play than Bryce reviewed it, and a couple of instances where a read through of a reviewed adventure showed elements I thought would be good in actual play that he didn’t mention. (Though one of these was Forbidden Caverns of Archaia, which everyone reviewed poorly in comparison to the author’s first work.)

      Still, I remember the bad old days when OSR bloggers didn’t want to burn a link from someone else’s blogroll, or reviews where everything was either four or five stars. Narcosa was never as good as everyone said, and I still want a shot at whoever gave Mongoose Publishing’s 1st edition of Mercenary (one of the worst books in the history of the hobby) a positive review.

      In comparison to everything’s a winner, our host being savage but unfair is still a public service. The Best has always been a safe buy for me, but I keep in mind anything above Don’t Buy Ever may still be just as good in actual play.

  10. John Paquette says:

    Bryce’s reviews have caused me to buy something, and not to buy something. They are therefore useful to me. That said, Bryce cares a lot more about things that I don’t care as much about, so I have had to calibrate the reviewer – but that’s always the case.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I feel bad for Malrex getting all these comments on his review with no interest in the actual review and just weird meta-commentary. Malrex if you’re reading this, keep your chin up

    • Malrex Morlassian says:

      Thanks buddy, whoever you are…chin is always up. Background note: Wrote the second half of this adventure while HIGH on gummies. I’m a beer man and never do that shit, except twice….Drugs are bad and I don’t recommend them–It’s not chocolate and peanut butter for me like it is for some. Although if you do take gummies while designing, marble turns into golden ponds with silver lily pads with blue flame flowers—all hail the Golden Dawn and Dusk Walkers!!….try to keep typing out those visions (just review them in the morning)! But yeah, not surprised with the ‘weird meta-commentary’–seems fitting.

      Thanks for your time reviewing Bryce.

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