Sorrow of the Mangled Prince

By Elven Tower
Self Published
Star Frontiers
Tier 1

The Forbidden City was once the royal palace of a bygone family. The place is shunned and thought to be cursed. But now, for some reason no one understands, children ran away from their homes and into the Forbidden City, and no one dares approach the place. The events have caused people to remember an old cautionary tale of a prince from a bygone era that was robbed of his legacy and became a spirit of hatred. The characters walk into a dangerous place willingly under the promise of a nice monetary reward. They soon discover that the mausoleum compound under the Forbidden City is protected by deadly traps and undead guardians that fight with a strength and brutality that defies explanation. Within, they shall learn what happened to the mangled prince almost three centuries ago and whether it is possible to save the children in time or not.

This nine page 5e adventure features sixteen rooms on two pages. It’s generic fucking garbage by someone trying to make a buck. Who can fuck right off.

It is important to recognize that, generally, people are not bad. Sometimes, people do things that are bad. But that doesn’t make them a bad person. And, sometimes, people create something that is not good. But, a critique of the work is not a critique of the person. We can separate the two. This is a very important distinction that this blog makes. And, really, that everyone should make in their day to day lives. We can critique a work, savagely even, without passing judgment on the person who created it. With this context in mind, thus I say …

Elven Tower can fuck right off and is a piece of shit who actions make the world a worse place for their presence in it. The audacity of the blatant grab of money is beyond. Just … BEYOND. This represents the worse, the absolute worst, that we can expect in mainstream D&D publishing. Which, of course, just means that it is a portent of things to come in the future and we can expect this behaviour to become mainstream. Because that’s the way the world works. Are you a tired old grognard railing against the world? Are you an ignorant artpunk reveling in your cleverness? Well my bucko’s, time to come together and dig up Gygax’s skull to summon Kramer and call back Guy from whatever dimension his tower is in. 

This, it seems, is an OSR adventure. Why is it an OSR adventure? Because the designer has listed it in the OSR category. I know, it’s somewhat generic cover looks like the puppymill 5e crap that is churned out. Or, the product page which looks like every other 5e generic product page full of fluff? Wrong! It’s OSR. And, yes, it is for Tier 1, which I believe is 5e nomenclature, but, still, it’s for OSR. And, it’s written with skill and ability checks/saves nd tuned to 5e, but, still, the designer says it’s OSR and put it in the OSR category, so, it’s OSR. 

I noticed this, and a bunch of other shit from the designer hitting the DriveThru OSR category. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. Then I saw a comment. Some rando (who, if reading, I would like you to know you are now one of my heroes) called it out in the comments, noting that it’s not an OSR product and is miscategorized. Which caused the designer to post a long response rebutting that, and claiming to be Star Frontiers. Errr, I mean, OSR. 

Well, fuck you Elven Tower. You are, no doubt, looking to expand your sales. Your 491 products that you have churned the fuck out to make a buck are not producing so you’ve decided, no doubt in the wake of what I assume is a 5e sales plunge, to expand in to new frontiers. Fuck you and fuck your puppy mill of shit. 

But, I digress …

There is nothing in this adventure. It is an empty and hollow shell of generic abstracted garbage with no sense of what an adventure is or how to write one.

We start in an inn. It seems that dozens of the local children have gone missing. Everyone thinks they went to the Forbidden City, an hours walk away (ug!) but, also, everyone is too scared to go there. Uh huh. Let me  help you there, Tex. This ain’t the way the world works. If this were to actually happen then, along the time the second or third kid disappeared, for sure, if not the first, then there would be a fucking mob forming, farm tools, torches and shotguns in hand, and 50% of the people in town, at least, would be off to solve this problem. They aint waiting the fuck around to pay 1000 coins to some randos that showed up. When Maude runs in to the tavern saying her kid is gone then a bunch of fucking drunks go get their buddies and they go solve the problem. But, whatever. You don’t care. You just need to churn out the next thing. 

There’s an inn! It’s fully detailed. FULLY. Two and half pages. For ten rooms. Full of exciting descriptions like “Valoura brews wine here.” Just to be clear, nothing about it is important to the adventure. There might be two sentences, up front, about adventure specifics. Otherwise we get generic and abstracted descriptions about the owners bedroom. It is absolutely textbook in not understand the purpose of a description. Full of meaningless descriptions (well, “full” isn’t quite right …) that have absolutely no bearing on the adventure. Fucking garbage. 

And, then there’s the rumors. “A minority thinks this is all an elaborate, practical joke organized by the children that eludes explanation.” I am inspired!  Yes, please! More abstracted text! I understand people give me shitfor my in-voice desire, but, this is the results without that. Generic abstracted shit that it meaningless and does nothing to help a DM run an adventure. Oh, did I mention that the inn is full of laughter? When two dozen kids are missing.

Good news though! You do get to pick up a mary sue in the tavern in order to accompany your party. Who has a magic necklace that puts the big bad to rest forever. Uh huh. Fuck off man.

Oh, on our way to the forbidden city! Here’s the description “they find a barren wasteland of what once was a rich settlement and the farmlands that surround the royal palace. They are dilapidated ruins, mounds of shapeless rocks, and overgrown fields. Only the Forbidden City itself, because of its size and scope, remains a recognizable feature in the area.” Yup. Ok. nothing to see. Move along. Move along. Absolutely nothing. This is supposed to be the centerpiece. The place people are afraid to go. 

You randomly find an entrance to the dungeon, one of three. Cause the LSR is random, I guess. We now transition to a generic map. The most boring generic map ever. But hey, it shows torches. Why are their torches? I don’t know. But there are. Everywhere.

We now transition to the most evocative room descriptions ever. “This is a long corridor that connects several sections of the dungeon and a semi-natural cavern in the south.” or “The hall within contains three ornate sarcophagi.” or “There are three unlocked wooden chests in this room. The chests and their contents are magically preserved.” No doubt too wordy for some of those among us. This fucking shit adds nothing. No specificity. Conclusions and abstracted content. For what should be the main part of the fucking adventure. 

Wanderers are rolled for every turn. Not a chance. Rolled for. With about a 50% chance of a monster or trap. Ghouls and Shadows. Giant Spiders (2d4 of the fuckers!) The dungeon proper features a Wraith. And an “Underground Stinkray”, whatever that is. No stats. No idea what a stingray is supposed to be. A cloaker? 

Anyway, no sense of what an OSR adventure is. No notes for the OSR. Just a 5e adventure that you could, if you wanted, stat up for the OSR. If your level one to three OSR adventures include a wraith. And a 50% chance of monsters every turn. 

Absolutely no fucking understanding at all. Just fucking garbage. A shameless money grab to say its OSR to expand their conveyor belt f muck to a new category so they generate a new $1.50 a month in sales. Fucking bullshit. A bad adventure. And a bad person in their blatant late-stage capitalism abuses. 

This is $2 at DriveThru.Enjoy your six page preview, showing you the inn in all its glory and the wanderers table. Every ten minutes. Fuck off man. Fuck off.–Tier-1-Adventure?1892600

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25 Responses to Sorrow of the Mangled Prince

  1. Legion says:

    Well, this explains the robotic rebuttal to the miscategorized call-out:

    “This product contains assets that were procedurally generated with the aid of creative software(s) powered by machine learning.”

    This thing’s “creator” is a Captcha grid!

    • Monkey Bars says:

      So the dude is using ChatGPT to churn out bad adventures. Gross.

      • Edgewise says:

        I’m not going to defend using chatgpt to generate adventures. But I will say that I played around with it the other day to see if it could generate an interesting swords & sorcery setting. With some halfway decent prompting, it can actually do better than this. This sounds like the product of artificial stupidity.

    • Kubo says:

      I’m beginning to hate seeing AI in the creative realms of music, art, literature, and of course RPGs. It’s like a real life dystopian nightmare. We see she-male lamias with 4 ears and adventures taking the worst tropes and thoughtlessly (robotically) cramming them together.

      • Legion says:

        Yeah. If I wanted shit like that I’d just play with the AI DMs WotC tried to ram down all our throats.

        • Knutz Deep says:

          When I was young, I was awed about the possibilities of future technology. I anticipated great things for the future. Now, I just want to shut everything down and return to a simpler existence. I look forward to more AI dreck like this because it’s coming. It is coming.

    • Dave says:

      Does nobody click links? Unless it’s been edited out, Legion’s quote doesn’t exist. What is there is:

      “On the contrary, the adventure is mostly system neutral but the few “rules-stuff” citations are currently the skeleton of a system we are developing that is most certainly OSR. The system attempts to emulate some aspects of the Dark Souls games and is based on a combination of OSE, Into the Odd, and some small parts from other OSR games.”

      Whjch is no better, but it’s wrong in a completely different way. 4+ commentors all deploring something that isn’t there because they can’t click a link or view a preview is a weird and bad element of this site’s comment crowd.

  2. Andy says:

    It’s never about pushing good product for these people. Just quantity. I used to run a Patreon for 5e adventures (Adventure Bundles). Flawed? Perhaps. Not the best adventures you’ve ever seen? Also. Prince reviewed one and his problems were 5e related, mostly. You reviewed also one and said the main issue was too much text.

    So it kept bothering me, why Elven Tower, DMDave etc are so much more successful, when everything I read from them is really not good (as objectively I could read them as “competitors”). The truth was, it’s all about quantity and marketing. They just shove things out without playtesting, thought process, editing, etc. And that’s why I stopped my patreon. I refused to do this. At the end of the day, we started publishing because we love the hobby. I’m writing my current adventure for about 6 months, and without the pressure of publishing it as soon as possible because I need to show a certain quantity to make buck. And it’s been a joyful, creative and stress-free process.

    • Edgewise says:

      I think the only way to enjoy creating rpg content is as a hobbyist. You have to hustle harder than a pimp on crack to make any money in this business. Better to have a real job and put out stuff as a creative outlet.

    • Malrex Morlassian says:

      You have found the secret Andy. Patreon may work for some, but pushing something out each month eventually leads to burnout and potential shitty product. Some have found the secret for marketing (and not necessarily good product)–yay, good for them. The ‘joyful, creative, and stress-free process’ is the pearl….and clutch that fiercely. Nothing else matters. And Edgewise speaks truth.

    • Prince says:

      The irony is that it requires great skill to produce work of even medium quality at such a murderous pace. I’m glad you decided to give yourself more time.

  3. Stripe says:

    Thanks for the review. Thanks for calling out the parasites who shit all over our hobby and who make the process even more difficult and frustrating for newcomers.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Seems the publishers were right about it a low-tier module

  5. Elven Tower says:

    Hi there, this is Derek Ruiz, the author. I learned of your review to my adventure from a comment in the product page. It is mentioned in the comment section of that product and another one that they are miscategorized as OSR. The claims are correct and I removed the OSR category tags about a week ago. It is true I am trying to develop an OSR-inspired system that takes some stuff from Into the Odd, DCC, and others. But after reading several comments and discussing it with an associate, we agreed with the commenters that it was not correct, nor accurate to market them as OSR since only a glimpse of the rules I’m trying to develop is actually part of those products. So that was removed. You and other people have assumed that we chose to use those categories to trick people into making a purchase as the OSR scene has considerably grown recently. That is not the case. If it were, I could bombard the category which I do not do, nor will I.

    I visit your blog often and I respect your stance as an RPG reviewer. I too have often made purchasing decisions after reading an article on this site. And I also appreciate your OSE house rules which I have used for years now. Amazing content.

    As for your critique of the written content. Well, what the only thing i can say is thanks for the fair and honest review. It helps me become a better writer and see the flaws in the stuff I write. And thank you for featuring my adventure on your blog, despite earning such a roasting feature.

    • Elven Tower says:

      One more thing. If you or anyone else is dissatisfied with the product purchase, for whatever reason. Please request a refund directly on the site or directly to me at derek @ elventower (.com)

      I do this for a living but never with the intention to rip people off.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m more interested in how can one push 500+ products. I mean, how often do you write? And how many of these do you sincerely believe will be memorable sessions for the people who buy them? It’s the same thing with DMDave, Adventures Await, MonkeyDM etc. Quantity over quality. Just to release them, whatever, let’s just write the next one.

        Intentionally ripping off it may not be, but subconsciously releasing subpar content is for certain.

        • Elven Tower says:

          We’ve been operating for 6 years so it’s not like we churned out 600 adventures in 4 months. In addition, the GRAND majority of those products are NOT adventures. They are stock art illustrations for other creators to use. I don’t have the exact number but it must be around 400 or 500 art pieces that are on sale at drivethruRPG. Monthly we post 1 or 2 written products. One of them is a compilation of stuff we also sell on Patreon.

    • Elven Tower says:

      Just noticed you’re not the author of a set of OSE houserules I have used in the past. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. The two blogs have similar names.

    • Kent says:

      Would you consider turning Sorrow of the Mangled Prince into a novel?

  6. Reason says:

    Where can i see Bryce’s OSE houserules?

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