By John Battle Self Published OSR Level ? Fuck you for wanting a level, plebiscite!
The curse left behind by the shells of gods has turned the canopy of this forest into a fungal carpet. It’s tangled so thick that it can be skiffed across like a green and dead sea, on wood and steel barges, frigates, and scooters. Bismark’s Guild of Hooligans has spare cash to throw to adventurers who climb down below the canopy and pilfer the pre-war tech that’s probably still down there.
This thirteen page hexcrawl in a post-apoc/fantasy/bio/retro setting is the usual for this style: more ideas than adventure and a lack of understanding of what “Situations” means.
How disappointing. I reviewed a decent adventure by this designer a few weeks ago. It was artpunky, but, was substantially longer and with more substance. A rarity among the artpunk crowd. So I sought out another one. That was a mistake.
So, hex crawl. Three hexes “on top of the trees” and five underneath it that have encounters. A small rando table for each that has Other Things that happen while traveling. Bismarck has an airship, there are biotech giant mech wreckage (“the gods”, I think?) and so on. Kind of an interesting setting; maybe a little anime for my tastes with the appeal to Bismark and airships, but, sure, I could do this.
The descriptions suck. “A sac of lifeforce wrapped in now-sentient fungus which fights to protect itself.” Great. I am inspired. Can we pulsate? Can it be ghostly lifeforce? A translucent purple sac? A fungus full of fave with only mouths? I don’t know. SOMETHING? Everything is like this. This is the core conceit of these types of adventures. Just toss out an idea of something and put all of the work on the DM. This fucking shit does this enough that I hesitate to even call them adventures. “99 adventure ideas within a fungus forest” might be a better idea. Except there are far fewer than 99 ideas.
Stats are few and far between. That lifeforce fungus shit gets some. 5HD. But thats the heart of the adventure. The Big Bad. Most things don’t get stats. And most treasure is not detailed. You do get a treasure table at the end, ala the Gamma World junk tables. “A broken AI chip.” Wonderful.
As with most of these, it’s just ideas. It doesn’t understand the difference between an idea and a situation. “A still living war machine is impaled on a fungal thorn tree, made of red, bleeding fungus and 6ft spikes. Its battery can charge two disintegration rays.” Great. “Spiced Pear Pirates are arming a car-sized bomb to blow a hole in the canopy.” Wonderful. These are, I admit, wanderers, but, the hex locations have much the same energy.
You need to do a mission for someone, in one of the hexes. You need a pre-war cape, the blood of a god, a vial of time and the “final’ mushroom. I get that a large part of D&D is improv. A large part is people making shit up. But, too much reliance on this and you fall in to story game territory. That’s not OSR D&D. Let’s look at this comment, in the description for the sinkhole that leads you from the upper canopy to the ground beneath things “I don’t know how they could get down this, so just ask them how they’d like to avoid being crushed by the sands and what they plan to do about the fall. They’ll think of something.” Or this commentary for a treasure item “The sand is crystalized Time and can be used for many interesting purposes (I’m sure).”
I get shit sometimes for wanting things a little more loosy goosy and less mechanistic, but this is just insanity. This is just the typical artpunk collection of ideas. This is a story game. Perhaps, I guess, this is what happens when the OSR won. The story gamers, the people who hate the D&D mechanics, are still around. They just call themselves D&D players and continue to play, and produce, story games.
Quite the disappointment.
And, to out ArtPunk friends … be happy that you have an identity. From high fantasy railroads in 2e to 1e stick-in-the-ass, to the sublime perfection of B/X and the New SHovelWare of The Hotness, at least you got a brand also.
This is $5 at DriveThru. There’s no preview. Of course. No doubt there are Communty Copies on itch or something like that. I don’t know. I don’t really give a fuck.
Sublime perfection of bx is proof you were hitting the sauce a little bit too much this morning. Or, for a more interesting comment besides some anon shitting on you, what do you find are the exemplar modules for each edition? What is THE stick in ass 1e module? Hoard of Delusion?
I suspect the “sublime perfection” part was tongue-in-cheek, and I thoroughly appreciated “1e stick-in-the-ass”; the man hits all his targets.
I have the same question every time I read one of the reviews with “setting, not adventure”. What makes it so? Is it just the ideas vs situations? So in the above example “A still living war machine is impaled on a fungal thorn tree, made of red, bleeding fungus and 6ft spikes. Its battery can charge two disintegration rays.” What if it would be written like:
A still living war machine is impaled on a fungal thorn tree, made of red, bleeding fungus and 6ft spikes. (insert monster group) are climbing on the tree, throwing ropes toward the machine, coughing blood blah blah (doesn’t matter, you get the idea).
Bullet points follow
* Its battery can charge two disintegration rays.
* The (monster group) need the machine drill to (do whatever).
… and so on. Like… would this be fine as opposed to what is written? A situation, and not just the location description?
In short, yes. In your example, you added to the encounter to give it life, but it’s more basic than that. As originally written, the “still living war machine” does not say what the war machine is (tank, humanoid robot, or something else?), how active it is, what way it is active, is it capable of self-defense, what weapons it has (a disintegration ray? Does it still function?), etc. Nothing is said about the fungal tree either (is it toxic? How did the war machine get impaled on it?). This is a heck of a lot for a GM to fill in to give the encounter life and meaning, and you did not address these questions in your example. (Also check out the lone comment on the Drivthru link, which essentially describes it as a setting, not an adventure).
In a setting, the designer creates an environment that allows the GM to create an adventure from it. For example, a setting builds a town in which adventures can happen, and the GM makes up specific adventures that occur in the town based on the people and places provided in the town. An adventure does not require the GM to do anything but run it for the players. In an adventure, a GM can change the number or type of monsters, adjust the treasure, add or cut out whole sections, but it is not required. These changes are often made by GMs when dropping adventures into their own ongoing campaigns. Using the town setting example, a setting says that the inn is often visited by ruffians and scoundrels. Okay, that’s a possible place for adventure, but the GM has to make up everything else with that basic information for it to actually become an adventure.
That’s an interesting distinction between setting and adventure – the former described a location in a toolbox manner that can the DM can work with to produce multiple adventure situations, while the latter describes a single situation in detail so that it can be run straight out of the box.
Thinking back on my favorite “adventures” – almost all of them (from Temple of the Frog to T1 and B2 and D3 and Caverns of Thracia and Snakepipe Hollow and Griffin Mountain and most of the early Traveller adventures) are firmly in what’s described here as the “setting” mode, and even those that have more of a specific situation – like G1-3 and WG4 and Dark Tower – are more of a hybrid between the two modes, and when I think about how I would improve other ones (like WG6) it’s almost always by de-emphasizing the scripted situation element and making them more toolboxy snd setting-like. And of course everything I write is in that mode.
I really have no use for or interest in what’s described as an adventure here. They’re fine for one-offs and demos, and as examples for n00b DMs to help them understand how to create their own stuff, but beyond that I find them limited and frustrating and annoying. I don’t want “scenes” or in medias res setups or any of that stuff. I just want maps and stats and descriptions of the NPCs’ motivations and plans and relationships to each other that I can riff and expand on an use organically in multiple different ways, that can grow and change depending on what the players do (or don’t do).
Which, I feel like, is a probably-irreconcilable difference in tastes and preferences between Bryce (and, by extension, the legion of “Brycelings” who seemingly treat his utterances as gospel) and me. I run, and am interested in, campaigns, not adventures.
A lot of DM’s like adventures drop drop in their sandbox (whole or in part) and run a campaign that way in a homebrewed setting. Or get creative around the edges and stitch a few together into a campaign.
I’m not sure if Bryce hate settings- it’s just that he _reviews_ adventures. Not settings.
Adventure vs Setting is like the difference between a flower and a plant, the flower is a decoration for a week but the plant has hidden roots. If an adventure is so well written that it has roots then better call it a plant and it will survive on its own terms.
Great review. Thanks!
“I get shit sometimes for wanting things a little more loosy goosy and less mechanistic, but this is just insanity. This is just the typical artpunk collection of ideas. This is a story game. Perhaps, I guess, this is what happens when the OSR won. The story gamers, the people who hate the D&D mechanics, are still around. They just call themselves D&D players and continue to play, and produce, story games.”
Terror is the passion of revelation. A band of midwits larping as artists and making material that is meant to inspire the creation of other material that is also not meant to be played. It is so clear and so ugly once you see it.
And, to be clear, given the dearth of playtesting and play reports, is it that the creators do not play D&D and that accounts for the disconnect with actual gaming or (as I increasingly feel) is artpunk intended to be read, not played.
Your charity is astounding. I would venture much of it is not intended even to be read, at best skimmed.
Behold, the ultimate form of the OSR! Two skinny itch.io accounts milking each other for $2.00 per supplement, while the surrounding community just claims the community copies because everyone involved considers himself a victim of society.
The most memorable thing John Battle ever made was his retarded loose change style video where he tried to link Grim and Venger to the alt-right and had to take a Minecraft break halfway through because he was getting too emotional.
A fat, blubbery, soy-filled human balloon.
Ow, the edge. Indicative username.
Impressive detective work. Your kind is not usually found on this side of the law.
So what you’re saying is that this writer has improved in the 3 years since this adventure was published? That’s good to know
Broken clock is correct twice per day etc. etc.
I don’t think mental retardation improves.
Plebicite and not plebian? Guilty of malpropisms, grammar errors by the metric ton, but on the cover?