By Sage Paolilo, Dean Leonard Armored Stroyteller Publishing OSE Levels 2-5
This adventure begins with the arrival of the characters to the dwindling town of Reinhorn situated at the edge of the kingdom and part of a barony that the denizens of the realm consider cursed. The characters learn of Reinhorn’s dirty secrets and curse, ghostly horsemen who steal children for their dread mistress. This information propels the characters through the wilderness against a band of brigands, and eventually to Iron Pike Castle. The castle is masked with illusions which the characters must overcome when they first arrive. Once the PCs venture into the castle, they face numerous horrors including the tormented souls of the kidnapped children who haunt the halls of Iron Pike Castle. The castle’s denizens are bound to the baroness who rules ruthlessly. Those that enter her castle in attempt to liberate the stolen children and fail, join her ghastly minions. Should the characters prevail through their exploration of the castle, they face the Horsemen again and have a final confrontation with the baroness.
This 89 page adventure has a few plotty things that end up in a 45 room castle with some pretty shit people in it. The vast majority of the writing/formatting is complete garbage and almost incomprehensible in its verbosity. This hides a decent little plot where the people act like people would and some room writing, in the castle, that is decent. But, man, you have to fucking to get there.
Ok, so, we’ve got this village. Every full moon three undead knights show up to claim a kid under nine. This has been going on for decades (What’s the song lyric? Nothing to do but smoke and drink and screw?) The dickcheese gang, your party, gets involved. Let’s see … you save an old woman who was attacked by bandits. You go to their lair and kill some. You see a raid on the town by the three knights. You find their hidden base under the old mill. You go to the local castle and kill a fuckton of undead and gross shit. Along the way there’s leprechaun having trouble with some pixies and an ogre in a cave. Oh, and there’s this sea cave in the castle where you have you showdown with The Baroness, who controls the horseman. I don’t know man, I didn’t write the thing.
I want to compliment it now, but I have to get two things off my chest before that. The fucking PDF is in spreads. Why would you do this? Because you hate your buyers? If you want to make spreads available then that’s great. But put out a single page version also. And, it’s not like the thing is specially formatted for spreads. No cross-page maps or lay-open usability. It’s just spreads, for no fucking reason.
Second, it’s for levels two to five. Meaning you start at level two and then are level five by the end. I find this quite hard to believe, given the treasure. We’re all gaining three levels in this adventure? I didn’t do a treasure count, but, man, that’s hard to believe. It was originally written for 5e (with a few things missed, like gullygugs being mentioned, and then later in the same encounter referring to them as bullywugs …) , so, I’m guessing they yanked out the milestone shit. I wonder if it was playtested for OSE? It says it waaaasssss…..
This is a dark setting. Like, WFRP dark. Or, it would not be out of place in Ravenloft. The dark setting is complimented by the artwork that continues the dreary themes. Half-orcs suffer abuse. There’s religious persecution mentioned. There’s the whole “giving our kids to the monsters every full moon” thing. And then there’s the mayor. Who’s paying bandits to steal kids to give to the horsemen. Heh. Whoops. Also, the bandits are slaving. The local scout for the militia is a double agent for the bandits. Who also doesn’t give a shit about anyone, in a very self-serving manner. There’s some heavy shit going on. The scene setting or the old pine forest thing, and the fog, mud, rain, etc, all contribute to this. Complimented by the art. And, a scene or two of kindness and shit to contrast this with. It is infrequent that we see someone go to this much trouble to create an environment like this. 5e Ravenloft tried. Look, it’s not modernist, but, it does go there. A good job … with caveats.
The room descriptions, in the castle proper at the end, are decently done, if a little long. “There’s a pungent odor of decay. Black sludge coats the ceiling. The sludge drips into the center of the room and oozes down the walls, making puddles on the rotten wooden floors. The puddles of sludge bubble and gurgle, releasing noxious odors. Weapons and armor racks line against each of the walls gather dust and display various rusting, corroded swords, old shields, and spears. In one corner of the room, an ornamented chest sits undisturbed in a pile of gold.” Oozes down the walls. Black sludge. Rotten wooden floors. The pungent odor of decay. In another room there’s the description of a state that end with … “the dress is made up of hundreds of tiny anguished faces. If a character touches the statue at all, including trying to pilfer the gems, hands shoot out from her robe and begin to pull the character towards it.” Hey hey! Good job there! Both in the tiny anguished faces (kids are theme in this adventure, with several monsters touching on it) and the hands shooting out. Decent descriptive job, in the actual castle rooms, of their description.
But, anything else, any text meant for the DM, is an absolute categorical DISFUCKINGASTER. Seriously, an absolutely terrible job. There are MOUNTAINS of text in this thing, for the DM, and almost no formatting to help the DM wade through it. The first fucking 29 pages of the adventure essentially detail the hook and town. That’s A LOT of fucking pages for the fucking intro. It takes TWO PARAGRAGHS, LONG paragraphs, to detail a fucking pit trap with poison stakes. Our bandit friends have two leaders. It takes a page and a half to detail them … including their incredibly meaningless backstory. If you rescue a kid and bring it back to town then you get two fucking paragraphs on the tearful reunion, under the town statue, of mother and child. Sure, I’m all for these sorts of things. The players should see the impact of their actions. But fuck man, two paragraphs of it? What the fuck?
We meet a person at one point that is described as no taller than a human. Yeah, no shit man, it’s a halfling.
The real impact of this spewing of verbosity is the inability of the DM to find any details of what is actually going on in the room. How many foes do you face? Who knows. Where’s the section on the chest? Fuck if I know. Let me read the page and half of text to find it. It’s fucking absurd. Most of the adventure, up to the castle, is in FIrst this happens and then this happens and then this happens format. In paragraphs. Without headings. Or formatting. We’re just digging through a random assort of NPC’s showing up wherever they want in the text, as you run in to them, to find them again later, along with their three paragraph backstories. It’s a fucking special kind of fucking torture.
THis things needs a complete rewrite. It needs trimmed in a very bad way. And don’t give me that “rich fucking backstory” excuse that a critique’d designer always pulls the fuck out. Figure it the fuck out. Everyone who did something good figured it the fuck out. You do that also. So, trim the fucker. A lot. At least half the words needs to go. Figure out the keyboard shortcut for bolding, and the where the tab key is. Maybe organize your fucking NPC’s in some way. This First this then this shit has to go.
It could be a decent adventure. The start is pretty much something we’ve seen a thousand times before, but with the added atmosphere of Ravenloft, it’s interesting. The ending dungeon is full of freaky deaky shit, exactly the way D&D should be. But my group will never know cause I’m trashing this. I’m not wading through the crap text to run it.
This is $6 at DriveThru.The preview is ten pages. Which means 20 spreads. Try on chapter one on preview page five. That should cure you if you think you want to run this.
That art is sick AF. The dark fairy tale theming sounds great, too. Such a waste. I hope they do a complete rewrite.
It is a shame no one has the money to pay editors, sounds like this one could have been saved.
I didn’t need to read past the first sentence to know this is bloat city. Almost English as a second language content.
“This adventure begins with the arrival of the characters to the dwindling town of Reinhorn situated at the edge of the kingdom and part of a barony that the denizens of the realm consider cursed.”
“In the doomed barony of Reinhorn…” says the same thing and lets you add some action in the second half of the sentence.
The art is AI. Maybe the writing is too? Buckle up, we’re going to see a lot more of this kind of junk.
AI is a great tool. But it should be considered a helper. I’ve tried to ask it to create a dungeon using a generator. Well, it does it. That’s not AI, that’s a random room generator. Take that response and stick it in a document and you’ll get a worst evah, no doubt.
But write everything on your own, and ask the AI to enhance it in ways, can be extremely helpful.
Example 1: EASL. Tell the AI to enhance your text. If you cannot understand the response, do not use it. But the AI may use words that you understand, but do not come automatically to your head because of EASL. It may use seaward side instead of sea side, or obscured instead of hidden. These make a difference.
Example 2: Idea provider. Writing an adventure, just like any work of art, can lead to writing blocks. AI can provide ideas. Ask it what could be hidden in the corner of an abandoned kitchen in a dungeon occupied by ogres. Take the response and work it out. Do not ask it to generate “a room in an ogre dungeon”. You’ll end up with generic shit.
So all in all, it can be a great help and tool. But just like any other automatization and gadget, if you use it without control and just copy paste the response in your text, you’ll end up with garbage. Sadly, most people do the latter.