The Crystal Wood

By Matthew Lock
Parts Per Million
Worlds Without Number
Levels 3-5

A local Innkeeper would like you to investigate the disappearances of the foresters and find out what happened to the search party. He suggests you speak to the village priest to look at the body of the returning villager. He is willing to offer a good reward.

This 41 page digest adventure has … I don’t know … six encounters? I’m considering selling out and becoming a much more person because of this adventure.

I kind of hate old people. Speaking as an old person, this becomes a bit of a poser. But, actually, I don’t think it’s old people I hate so much as people who are set in their ways. How did they get that way? What thing caused them to become the sort of person who became pessimistic, sit in their easy chair, and bitch all day long about The Kids These Days and shake their fists at the clouds? This is a relevant discussion because, after this adventure, I am considering a new feature to the blog website. I have, in the past resisted the idea of a Hall of Shame list. We need not focus on the foibles of an individual evermore. In a land where everything you have ever done, every humiliation, misstep and flub lives on forever … why make that worse? Do you really need to see your name on a list of things so terrible that it results in that most of evil of things: a generalization? I mean, to be put alongside the the company of brazen money grabbers who have sold out for a release schedule and revenue stream … is it really fair to just lump someone on to a list with that company?

Ok, so, let’s see. This is, essentially, an imposter. The entry on DriveThru looks professional. The cover image certainly looks so, yes? The same pages look like the layout is groovy. Or, at least enough to pass.And, there’s like, a million other products listed by the same publisher in ribbon format. Dudes got his act together!

Or, maybe not …

Looking at that entry, there’s not really any marketing blurb of what the adventure is ABOUT. Even the introduction, a screenshot from the text. It’s just some generic nonsense that doesn’t say anything, followed  by “The Plot”, which is essentially a hook. “There’s a dead body” Uh. Ok. Context for the DM? No. We continue in to the adventure, proper, with the maps. They are not maps. They are, essentially, battle maps. So, “three encounter in the forest” actually means “three things in a large clearing, one of which is The Approach to the clearing. And, then, another clearing with five encounters. Essentially one room with five numbers on it. These are battle map encounters. So, 41 page pages for three room encounters, essentially. Uh huh. 

How about a wandering monster table with “Small pack predators” on it. Yup, the soul of specificity right there. And, that’s when I remembered I had seen this publisher before. And wondered if “Not being a pessimistic grump” was worth the continued exposure to this shit.

How about two and half pages for a monster stat block? That’s cool, right? The adventure doesn’t evenget going to page eighteen, That’s how long it takes to get to the fucking lineline in which you get some semblance of what is going on in the adventure. You wander through the woods. I’m guessing you hit the first clearing, and then the second. The second has a cave mount, mentioned in the text and not on the map, that leads to the third encounter. But the first and second are just listed, there. How do you get to them/between them? Who knows.

This is just shit. The page looks professional. The cover certainly does. The layout isn’t terrible. The maps look interesting. But then you find out its just a battle map. And there’s no overview of summary of what’s going on. No marketing. And that layout is just hiding a three page monster stat block.

I don’t know what to do here. How do you review three encounters that take up 41 pages. It’s pantomime. Someone is doing this on purpose and yet to no effect. 

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is the entire thing. So don’t say you weren’t warned.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/425033/The-Crystal-Wood–A-Worlds-Without-Number-Compatible-Adventure?1892600

Fun Fact: In this adventure with giant crystal ants, I read, at some point:  “it attacks with its martial arts”  “Huh”, I said. Turns out it said magical arts. TIme to cut back on the Sambuca in the morning coffee.

This entry was posted in Do Not Buy Ever, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, My Life is a Living Fucking Hell, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Crystal Wood

  1. Amanda Hugnkiss says:

    Please do Tomb of Immolation next. It’ll be a great palate cleanser

  2. Tom H. says:

    Could definitely use an editor, or two, or three.

    I was shocked when you reported 3-page statblocks for WWN, but
    – from the font and layout, this must be intended to be a digest?
    – the author copied the entire text of spell descriptions into some of the statblocks; some spells thus appear multiple times in the adventure
    – similarly, when describing magic items, the author copied lengthy text from the rulebook, rather than applying it to the item.

    Thus, a 2.5 page statblock: an 8 HD “boss monster” with complete descriptions of six special abilities – several of them not relevant to combat – and seven spells, including elemental summoning, including all the variant elements they might summon from. Given the sensibilities of the module, this makes me a little bit nostalgic for the 5e approach of “give them 3 distinct powers, they probably won’t live any longer than that”. Or, in this case, a couple of “lair actions” too, since it’s the big bad.

    Thus, Crystal Spike: a +1 longsword, penetrating and shocking: 1d8+1, 4/AC13, shock ignores nonmagical armour. Or, instead of that complete description, copy nine lines out of the rulebook explaining how to take a weapon and apply the “penetrating” and “shocking” qualities, including the clauses about what to do if a weapon doesn’t have inherent shock damage. Which the longsword does, so … there’s no point in including it.

    But really, they lost me when the random encounter table included 1d8 bandit’s.

  3. Johann says:

    Maybe it’s the first marketed adventure written by ChatGPT? I fear you may have a lot of these coming…

    • Dave says:

      Its like the boomer and butterfly, “is this … ?” meme, but with AI. AI shovelware is probably already here, but its never been needed to explain bad adventures. I think you should be required to read the bad adventure before weighing in that way.

  4. stonedrunkwizard says:

    Looking closely at the cover image, that in itself seems to be AI-generated. So i wouldn’t be surprised if the text is just prompted as well. But it’s still speculation.

  5. John says:

    Dude doesn’t know how to write or edit, but he’s not an AI or pantomiming. There may be some culture shock here too, checking a couple of his other adventures they all seem to have battle maps and be straight line hack and slash runs. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is more or less the way he writes his own notes, including copying the full statblocks onto the encounter page for convenient reference. Maybe I’m just favourably disposed to him for putting the whole adventures into the previews, that’s a gentlemanly thing to do.

  6. Dave says:

    As a prompt, ” The Crystal Wood” could make a good hexcrawl session. Have to sit down and do the work of coming up with what’s in a Crystal Wood, but I feel like there’s something there.

  7. Johnny says:

    I was interested when I saw a company had dedicated an entire series of modules to WWN. I think this was actually a business decision to reach a niche market, and not have competition. I agree that this publisher really has its act together and knows how to make things and their brand look professional.

    The problem though, was when I started looking at all of their adventure previews, I noticed that the writer only seemed capable of speaking in cliches and English’s top 100 most common phrases. This concerned me enough that I started looking for reviews on their content and sure enough, it’s a stinker.

    Sometimes small indicators like are representative of the quality of the entire work.

  8. SargonTheOK says:

    OK, so I’m GMing Worlds Without Number right now. Solid system, and could benefit from more premise adventures that don’t suck (working on that myself – at least, I HOPE mine doesn’t suck)

    But… this adventure was not playtested. An encounter with 4 soldiers, all of them with spellcasting, knowing Howl of Light? Good Lord in heaven, that’s the WWN equivalent to fireball!! They also apparently have 4x attacks each. “For levels 3 to 5” indeed…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *