The Draining Caverns of the Winged Beast

By Jeremiah Leppert
Self Published
Levels 5-6

Something is plaguing the farmland around the village of Oxdale, out in the middle of nowhere. The beast visits regularly and carries off an animal, disappearing into the hill country north of the village. Word is that it is also buzzing around the new goblin camp to the northwest. It wasn’t too big of a deal until it tried to carry off a village youngling; now the mayor and the citizens want it dealt with immediately.

This 23 page adventure (a review request) details a cave with four rooms. Oh, and a goblin encampment. Everyone is friendly. Aren’t you happy you played D&D tonight?

So, look, I know there is no meaning anymore. I know that words have no meaning. I know there is no truth anymore. I got it. Came to terms awhile back. Except, fuck me, it still fucking grates on me. You know, call 4e Chainmail or call 5e Lasers & Feelings. I’d probably be ok. But nooooooo, the megacorps feelings are hurt and its brand is undermonitized, so we get Lasers & Feelings. (As the playstyle, even if the RULES don’t support that? I don’t know. Let’s not hang too much on that hook …) Chainmail might be a good game. I don’t want to play that though. And, especially, I don’t want to spend my money on it. If you just put “For Use with Lasers & Feelings” on the cover then I’d be ok. Again, I don’t care about your game. I wish you luck with Lasers & Feelings. I just don’t want to play that. I want to play D&D. 

Ok, so, we’ve got a NG vampire. Yes, a NG vampire. He news to drink blood but only wants to drink animal blood cause he’s NG, I guess. We’ve seen this, what, in about three hundred adventures? The vampire who won’t drink blood? It’s the same as the good dragon and the evil princess trope at this point. 

Ok, so, he’s NG and doesn’t want to drink humanoid blood. So, he builds some constructs to go find animals for him. Because he finds doing this himself distasteful. Also, he’s a gnome, so, we have to follow the modern gnome trope of being crazy mechanical engineers. As a vampire. Who’s NG. 

So, you go to the cave where the townfolk previously tracked the beast to. Along the way you run in to a goblin camp. They are friendly, of course. God forbid you stab an intelligent foe in D&D. Great. You go to the cave.It’s got four rooms. In the last couple you meet the vampire. He’s friendly. If you upset him he demands that you leave his home immediately! Or he’ll call the police? I guess? So, I guess you can negotiate with him, go back to the village, and the villagers, goblins, and vampire dude all live together in peace and harmony. You’ve done nothing in the adventure. 

Is this actually the kind of game you want to play in? I find it rather revolting. It’s as one dimensional as the games in which you only stab people. The only allowable foes are mindless, literally, or animals. And that NG vampire? As the fuck if. He’s fucking evil. His ranting, stealing, and threats make him evil. Further, his JUSTIFICATIONS FOR HIS ACTIONS make him evil. A haphazard pseudo-Kantian framing don’t change it.

So, 23 pages, Five encounters. Yeah. No.

So as to make this review not totally worthless, here’s your design Tip O’the Day: Important shit comes first.

When you write a sentence, put the important shit up front. Let us assume that, as in this adventure, we have a section with a page long room that has a column full of bullet points calling out details in the room. Which one of these sentences is better for a bullet? “If the party makes a DC 14 Perception (wisdom) check then they can tell that the pit floors slope towards the middle.” or …. “Pit Floors: A DC 14 Perception check reveals they slope towards the middle” See how, in the first sentence, you have to wade through the garbage, that EVERY sentence starts with in this bullet section, in order to figure out what you are rolling against? And in the second example we know up front what the party is rolling against? If they are looking at the pits then I can more easily find that “Pit FLoor” section and see what the details are for running it? See that? This is what we mean by bullets and bolding. It’s a technique to help the DM scan and locate information in the adventure. It’s not a goal in and of itself. 

Ok, a few high points. The villagers call the creature attacking them a Dusk Claw, and give it weird descriptions. I though this was ging to be a normal monster with a new name, which I enjoy greatly. Instead it’s just a new monster, a construct, and the villagers identify it as a construct. Not so good. Give the creature a name and give conflicting villager accounts. Thats good.

We’ve got a wandering monster encounter with an eagle attacking a boar, and the boar putting itself between the party and he eagle to avoid the eagle. That’s a cute vignette and interesting way to get the party involved. 

There’s this guard in twon who saved a girls life when he shot an arrow at the creature swooping off with the girl. He’s guilt ridden over the fat that the monster almost ate the kid on his watch .. .literally. He can/will join the party. Morose guard would be an ice addition, but, also, we need some vignettes with him. SOme sayings. SOme of the shit he’s going through. The DM needs a little bit more to riff on during play. There’s none of that.

The designer is trying to give people personalities, but he’s using that shitty 5e way of explicitly saying “Motivation: blah blah blah. Appearance: blah blah blah. Manner: blah blah blah Weakness: blah blah blah. Sure man, those can be ghood guidelines. Also, you dn’t need them all every time. Also, put it in a natural manner instead of having four bullets with line breaks between each one. We dont’ need separate call outs for each. GJust give us a one or two sentence vibe of the person.

So, new school adventure vibe, which I’m not allowed to comment on, so I spent half the review bitching about how its not D&D. And, a page to encounter ration that reveals Not An Adventure. And, formatting that is not conducive to running it. The beast thing about this is that it’s not 4e. SLAM! Never forget the true enemy, folks. 

This is $1 at DriveThru. The preview is ten pages. You get to see the cave. Good luck with that.

This entry was posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to The Draining Caverns of the Winged Beast

  1. Dave says:

    I like the title. Winged Beast lairing in a slippery limestone cavern with an underground river and waterfall cutting through it would be a decent one session set-piece.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “If you just put “For Use with Lasers & Feelings” on the cover then I’d be ok.”

    I think “For Use with Good Society RPG” on the cover might work better. Maybe the NG vampire gnome would hook up with the female gnome PC and live happily ever after.

  3. Jeremiah says:

    I love this feedback. I have to work on avoiding the 5e “standards” because I can see how they bog it down.
    One playtester said pretty much the same thing about the vampire being NG and wanting to just stab the bad guy. Should’ve listened.

    • Olle Skogren says:

      One part of the D&D fantasy is to have villains which are both worthy (their plans make sense, they put up a good fight) and dastardly (they are a menace to the world at large) with legal and moral justifications for killing or capturing them. Moral quandaries are mentally taxing – they can be interesting, but if you don’t have a clear framework working them out takes time and effort, just like stuff like counting encumbrance can be interesting it’s also a mental tax.

      • Gnarley Bones says:

        I don’t know how many players sign up for Dungeons & Dilemmas.

        Few, I’d bet.

        • Knutz Deep says:

          These days? Probably a lot more than you think. For those of us who played back in the halcyon days, not too many I’d imagine but modern players? I’d guess quite a few. I think a lot of today’s players eat this sort of thing up with gusto.

          I can’t imagine much less interesting than playing D&D this way?

        • Jeremiah says:

          FWIW, all players but the one said they liked the dilemma of what to do with the vampire. Most opted to take him out, since it was legally and morally justifiable, they were sent to do it, and expected to do it. Some wanted to hear him out. One group decided to set him up with offerings from the goblins, who believed the beast was some sort of divine vengeance that needed appeased.
          But yeah, plllllenty of room for improvement on the DM side of things.

    • Reason says:

      Would a more interesting set up be the bad guy you really WANT to /Could/ Should stab because he’s clearly an asshat in some or many ways but *maybe* choose not to because he can offer you… or XYZ will happen… etc.

      E.g give the players a dilemma, temptation or a choice. It’s much more fun and leads to more emergent play than “oh you really shouldn’t stab this guy, he’s nice”.

      Awful but trying to do better is interesting (help him? Destroy him anyway?). Nice but doing awful things for their own “right” reasons is interesting. Awful but offering something/the only way to get/do something you really want is interesting etc.

      Vampire is taking the cattle but he has told the hardest hit herder he wants a sentient being once a quarter and he’ll lay off your herd (bad guy trying to be good but slowly sliding worse)… Vampire is attacking the herd but wants you to bring him the Necronomicon which he says he thinks can help him walk the right path- do you trust him and bring him said super evil tome? He’ll teach you 2 magics if you do… Choice/temptation.

      That’s more old school/sandboxy. Leads to more emergent play. Legitimate choices with consequences rather than a straight “what you *should* do.

  4. John C. says:

    Hey, Bryce, can you review “Curse of the Blood Moon”? I’ve written it and would really appreciate some feedback on it. I think my dungeon is kinda “meh”, but i also believe there is some good stuff to be salvaged. I’d like to know what is what.

    • Maynard says:

      Hi John. It’s cool to get something published and it’s even better to get feedback on it. That’s why you should understand it’s bad form to take up space while Jeremiah and his project have some time in the limelight. There’s a whole space for requesting a review on this blog, I think we’d all appreciate it if you used it in the future.
      I’ll give your adventure its first bit of feedback: Include a preview so we can take a look.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If ChatGPT can do it better, you’re doing it wrong.

    In a fantasy setting, a strange monster wandered through a village at night and ate a sheep before leaving. Five villages heard or saw something. Please come up with an interesting, original monster that they saw or heard, and then five different and conflicting descriptions, all based on some combination of the truth of the monster, and the fear, prejudices, and superstitions of the individual villagers.

    — ChatGPT response below —

    The monster that wandered through the village at night is called a Skreecher. It is a large, nocturnal creature with scaly skin, razor-sharp teeth, and glowing green eyes. The Skreecher is a solitary hunter that preys on livestock and occasionally, if it’s hungry enough, on humanoids. Its cry is blood-curdling and can be heard from miles away.

    Here are the five different and conflicting descriptions of the Skreecher, based on truth, fear, prejudices, and superstitions:

    Villager A: “I saw the Skreecher, it was huge and had bat-like wings that flapped loudly as it flew off into the night!”
    Villager B: “The Skreecher is a vengeful spirit that possesses animals and turns them into monsters. It’s a punishment for those who break the sacred covenant with nature!”
    Villager C: “I heard the Skreecher, it was like a thousand voices screaming at once. It’s a demon that feeds on fear and despair, it’s best to stay indoors and pray for protection.”
    Villager D: “The Skreecher is a cursed creature, its flesh is rotten and diseased. It’s a sign of the coming apocalypse, we need to purify the land before it’s too late.”
    Villager E: “The Skreecher is a wise old creature, it only attacks when provoked. If we offer it a sacrifice, it will spare us and bring us good fortune for years to come.”

    • Chimerical says:

      Each of those descriptions is individually pretty tepid without further development and the idea that elevates them, that of having multiple conflicting accounts, was provided by Bryce who is (I assume) a human being.

      • Anonymous says:

        The rumors are mostly false as written and give you no idea of what you are facing other than a nocturnal hunting creature with a loud cry. Nothing about the glowing green eyes to identify it for example, which would be something worthwhile to add to one of the rumors. See how ChatGPT describes the creature as “large” and doesn’t adequately describe the creature in the specific description. Come on, this is the specific description! How large is large? Is it humanoid? Etc.

  6. Artem of Spades says:

    Note to self:

    1) Complete a “friendly dungeon” adventure that isn’t out to kill you but still is challenging and dangerous.

    2) Complete a gnome adventure that doesn’t feature the loathsome “crazy incentor” trope for once.

Leave a Reply

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