Peril Below the Pile

By Louis Kahn
Starry Knight Press
Levels 4-6

The Pile is a lone hill which overlooks the forest village of Naofahill, which lies on the far eastern border of the free nation of Dùn Bhriste. Locals believe powerful magical wards still guard the place and they avoid going there, believing it to be cursed. Recent earth tremors have opened the place up to exploration, and a pair adventurers went there to explore, and they were never heard from again. Their kin, the local village blacksmith, has offered you a sizeable reward for finding them, if you dare!

This twenty page adventure features a ruined castle with about fourteen rooms. Column long rooms. Page long rooms. A page and a half long room. Sometimes, Ithaca looks pretty nice …

I got a guy I know. Last year he organized a big group camping trip. Bought out the campground. At the end, the owner said “I’m never doing this again if I have to talk to that guy again.” A year passes. The campground has some bigger issues, with code enforcement. Owner gets things open again. The guy I know contacts owner and tries to rent out the campground again. Dude says “Sure, I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as I remember.” Three days later he gets reminded just how bad it was. Enter Starry Knight Press.

Cracking this open is a weird experience. First, it starts immediately. Like, G1 immediately. A little intro, an overview of the outside, and room one, all in the first column. That’s fucking weird, right? No long bloated backstory? But, then, you notice the font. It’s TINY. Really, small. It’s a fucking PDF with no real limit on page count, but the font size is still small? And it’s some weird font choice. Almost, but not quite, italics. The entire text. Essentially, italics. In a small size.  And random words seem to be bolded in the text. In the description of the courtyard the word “courtyard” is bolded. Multiple times. For no real reason. It’s like the designer is actively working AGAINST comprehension., taking a list of everything that makes something more readable/scannable and turning it on its head so it works against that purpose. It’s fucking weird.

Speaking of weird, every room here is about a column long. At least. Many of them are a page long. One is at least a page and half long. Of small font. In italics. With random bolded words. And you’re supposed to be able to run this?

And it’s padded the fuck out. “There does not appear to be anything of value here.” or maybe “As discussed above, recent earth tremors caused parts of this tower and nearby curtain wall to collapse. If the rubble is examined by the players then …”Backstory. Explanations. Justifications. If/then clauses. This thing is like a textbook in how to not write something. Except, assigning it to the students would get you nowhere because they would not be able to suffer through it, and thus not learn any of the lessons. 

It’s truly, truly bad. 

When you complete the adventure you’re gonna get about 6000gp in loot. Meaning XP. Jesus h fucking Christ.

I had sworn off Starry Knight. I was doing good. I had forgotten. I had told myself that surely the designer has gotten better. Time healed my wounds. But Starry Knight remains eternal, pumping out the substandard product, month after month, without seeming improvement.

This is $7.50 at DriveThru. There is no full size preview 🙁

This entry was posted in Do Not Buy Ever, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Peril Below the Pile

  1. Vorshal says:

    Levels 4-6
    “… the local village blacksmith, has offered you a sizeable reward for finding them, if you dare!“


  2. Vorshal says:

    Sounds like that “PILE” is steaming…

  3. Bucaramanga says:

    Ah, MUCHO TEXTO, the ancient nemesis of Old Man Bryce…

  4. Anonymous says:

    There does not appear to be anything of value here

  5. Concerned Citizen says:

    A fiercely radical, subversive thought: maybe, just maybe there isn’t anything wrong with page-long rooms, as long as they use the space well and/or there is more complexity to them than “guard room, 3d6 goblins, they attack, each has 1d10 sp, 100 gp gem hidden under worg hide in right corner”?

    • Prince says:

      Give this man a Pearl of Insight.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      Everything I rant about has an inverse case, where it IS the right choice to make. I might ask, though, how many page long fucking rooms you seen that fall in to that other case?

      • Prince says:

        As a general principle, minimizing bloat is sound design. It has, however, in combination with the demand you must be able to scan a room during play, led to an overall simplification of design, which is not always preferable. For argument’s sake:

        – Room 2 in WG4. Also, the end room.
        – The last room in Mud Sorcerer’s Tomb (Dungeon #34)
        – A lot of the rooms in the Cellars of Huso’s Nightwolf Inn are fairly complex (like the Ennead) and have unique effects and caveats
        – Room…18 in Threshold of Evil (Dungeon #10?), which contains complicated round by round tactics for multiple outsiders
        – Ditto for Monte Cook’s Labyrinth of Evil with rooms with complex traps, glyphs, combatants with tactics etc.

        Rooms with multiple unique effects, set-piece combats, chain reactions/reactions with other rooms, unique treasure whose properties are important for the contents of the room and combinations of the above. More then 1-3 of these in a dungeon is an indicator of overdesign, even if you terse/evocative the shit out of it.

        Interesting to see what you think of Demon Bone Sarcophagus, given your disdain of bloat.

      • Prince says:

        I think you encounter the same error so often that merely pointing out the error is necessary to make your reviews legible but new readers join later and they do not always recognize that an argument versus bloat is not the same as an argument vs text. Over time the one transitions seamlessly into the other. The map becomes the territory. Your reviewing criteria have shifted from maps and unique building blocks to an evaluation of the language, the organization of the information and the elimination of waste. The Utility standard must have its due.

        Night Wolf Inn is very good and you are the only one that I know that paid it any attention. Is there anything better for a seasoned fan of AD&D? As an emulation requiring mastery of an extant body of work it must be singular, above even F3 Many Gates of the Gann, and rivalling Melonath Falls.

  6. Malrex Morlassian says:

    Squeen? small font….check it out man…. 🙂

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