Advanced Ancient Academy

By Stuart Robertson
Robertson Games
Levels 1-2

An expedition to the ruins of an old monastery uncovers hidden mysteries and monstrous peril. 

This 36 page digest adventure uses 24 pages to describe forty rooms. And ok map and occasional evocative phrase stick out in what is otherwise just another rando first level dungeon.

“… a massive bipedal frog looms out of the darkness at the far end of this large column-lined chamber.” So, “looms out of the darkness” is a pretty good description. And, there’s almost an interesting encounter or two. A room with a water-filled floor/sinkhole/collapse, zome zombies come out to attack. And in some kitchen you meet Seth, who is looking for food and will join the party. Turns out he’s a cultist out foraging in the dungeon. There’s a few other phrases of bits of encounters that are ok.And the map is, thankfully, non-linear with some features on it. Thank Nergal for small blessings. 

But everything else? Meh. At best.

The first six pages of this adventure tell you nothing. A meaningless generic background in a column. A section on how to roll up a character. How to start the adventure. Nothing interesting. Nothing evocative. Just the usual blandness found in most generic adventure settings. Oh no, trade wagons have gone missing. No expectant mothers with children looking longingly in to the distance. *yawn*

And then, Forward to Adventure! The adventure proper is more of the same. Descriptions that generally take a column or so. Multiple paragraphs. Nothing of interest. No real descriptions that are meaningful. A kitchen is a kitchen is a kitchen. 

Even the better things, that I mentioned above as some prime examples, are lacking. Those zombies? How much better to have them grab people and pull them under, rather than them lumbering out of the water to attack? A dead face staring up at you from under the water, all Dead Marshes style? THEN they can lumber out. Seth? Seth is a fuckwit. He does the usual attack the party, run away, lead them to danger thing. Just a bland cultist cutout. How much more interesting if we made Seth a real person? Yeah, he’s a cultist, but he’s fucking hungry. Give him some food, let him be ravenous about it. Maybe both wary and gleeful, eating like a ghoul cross legged on the floor, wide grin. Stick him in the fucking the fucking with some questionable morals. But, maybe also, some contacts and shit. That’s such a better encounter. Seth as a real fucking person. You know, in another room there are some bandits. They are looking for loot and interested in knowing more about the dungeon. You know what that makes them? Fellow Murder Hobos, that’s what. Treat them like that. I don’t know. Nergal forbid anyone go beyond the surface level tropes of D&D. 

“Large chamber.” That’s great. Large. Maybe a Big room next? Stick in some better words. “As the door opens you see …” We don’t do this. I mean, it’s not read-aloud anyway, so I’m not sure why we’re using second person. 

Further, the dungeon lacks coherence. It’s more of a random assort of monsters. Goblins. Bugbears. Bandits. Cultists. Dwarves. Zombies. Skeletons. Giant Bees. It’s like you took every level one monster and chucked them in. Each in one room. No real zones. No real story behind the current state of the dungeon. And I don’t mean an actual story, but, rather, the dungeon as a place that kind of makes sense. Not in a realism or simulationist way, but in a way that is meaningful to the adventure. The bandits have explored blah, blah, and blah, lost a dude in a trap room, hes on the floor there, and so on. Instead we get lots of monsters living in their own little rooms. Meh.

“Ruined tapestries and broken furniture litter this dark and decaying room.” I asked Ray Weidner once what this kind of sentence was and he didn’t have a strong answer. So, let’s call it “cumbersome and not effective.” I’m not sure what’s going on here. Well, I do, but, I mean, motivation wise when writing it. There seems to be an tendency in this to write … I don’t know, like a novelist? But it results in these sentences that are trying to be thematic and evocative instead just coming off as cumbersome. It’s … putting the modifier as the primary thing in the sentence (which, I think, is similar in concept to passive writing. A big nono) And, what it’s modifying, dark and decaying, isn’t really any description at all. They’re all fucking dark. 

I should note that this room description (thats the leading sentence) goes on for three paragraphs. To describe a room with six goblins in it searching it. I get what you want. Dank and wet, heaps of moldy tapestries hanging from the walls and on the floors, rotted couches and broken plush chairs turned over, with goblins poking through the piles and digging in to them. But that doesn’t come through in the column long description. 

Just as the room intent, the interactivity and the evocative setting, doesn’t really come through in any of the rooms. This was a one pager, expanded to 36. It’s not a terrible job at expanding, but, also, it’s not a good one either. Half the page count would have been better, at least.

This is $10 at DriveThru. No full size preview, just the mini quick preview. I has sadz. 🙁 Also, I paid $10 for this?!

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16 Responses to Advanced Ancient Academy

  1. DangerIsReal says:

    I was hesitating to back it up. So I will keep the one page free version 🙂 Thanks

  2. Ray Weidner says:

    Huh, I don’t remember that conversation, Bryce. But that’s a really good breakdown of what’s sometimes wrong with my writing. “It’s … putting the modifier as the primary thing in the sentence (which, I think, is similar in concept to passive writing. A big nono)” That’s a great way of putting it in a way I can apply. Much appreciated.

    • AB Andy says:

      Can you enlighten further? Like, what is actually so bad in the sentence example Bryce provided? Honest question as English is my second language. To me it seems the room is well described. Is it too static?

      • Anonymous says:

        From what I can tell, they are talking about relying on adjectives (tired adjectives, at that) to carry the room description. E.g., let’s remove the adjectives: “Tapestries and furniture litter the room.” BORING!

      • Bryce Lynch says:

        Assume you are in a forest. The sentence “A tree is being chopped down by a giant” is one way to write things. And then “A giant is chopping down a tree” is another. Which of those would you prefer to see, in an adventure, aimed at the DM?

      • Ray Weidner says:

        The given sentence is weak, for lack of a better word, even though it isn’t truly terrible. Good composition (in English) is about getting to the point. That doesn’t mean that a sentence has to be simple, but it does mean that its structure should emphasize the subject of greatest interest. This can be a subtle art, even though the goal is to be direct.

        One of the best books at describing this is The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. It’s been too long since I last read it; it’s good to periodically remind oneself of the fundamentals.

        Here’s its list of the elementary principles of composition:

        – Choose a suitable design and stick to it.
        – Make the paragraph the unit of composition.
        – Use the active voice.
        – Put statements in positive form.
        – Use definite, specific, concrete language.
        – Omit needless words.
        – Avoid a succession of loose sentences.
        – Express coordinate ideas in similar form.
        – Keep related words together.
        – In summaries, keep to one tense.
        – Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end.

        You may notice that many (thought not all) of Bryce’s common critiques reflect these guidelines.

  3. Anonymous says:

    So is people expanding their free one-page dungeons into 30+ page paid products without actually adding any new substance the new hot trend? Just fucking kill me now!

  4. Gnarley Bones says:


  5. Frank says:

    More hot air from Bryce and his over inflated ego

    • Reason says:

      @Frank Ad hominem doesn’t add much though.
      Maybe discuss which parts you disagree with/why?
      Help shed some light on the modules good points.

      • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

        Why should Frank do that though when he can just waltz in, lob his verbal grenade, and then continue to get his jollies by trolling somewhere else next.

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