A Taste of the Goods

By Grant Howitt
Soulmuppet Publishing
Best Left Behind/OSR
Level 1?

The Cryptdiggers are hired to reclaim a wizard’s stolen property: bandits hijacked a shipment of potions to their dilapidated fort half a day’s ride from the city. Retrieving the box of special black-bottled potions is paramount—anything else is simply useful to sell.

This four page adventure is set in a ruined fort (which means a small thirteen room manor?)  There are decent imagery descriptions scattered throughout, but the entire thing is one of the most confusing masses of text I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s also most like the layout was randomized. 

Ok, so, I think some bandits got ahold of some magic potions and drank them. That’s about all I am sure of. Seriously. That’s about it. Cause this thing is a FUCKING MESS. “Layout by Jean Verne.” with three different editors and THIS thing is the result? More on that in a bit.

First we note the nice things. It’s got some ok imagery in the descriptive text. “RUBBISH PILE Rubble and bones, shattered glass and a horse’s yellow-green corpse. Two Dogs gnaw at the horse.” or “FINE BEDROOM Presently damp and grim with plants growing up the walls.” I like the damp and fine combination. It gives the picture of moldy, peeling wallpaper and dripping plaster ceilings. And that’s what good writing should do: provide more than the words on the page. Mouldering tables, scorched tapestries, lumps of meat, “Vomit and filth in the far corner” in a room with two bandits passed out in it. I’m there!

But, the problems here are many.

There’s a map. It has no key. “Dormitories” are shown in the text. Where is it on the map? WHo knows. “Washroom/Chapel” where is it on the map? No idea. Seriously, it’s just a little hand drawn map and there is NO indication, AT ALL, where the various rooms are supposed to be. It’s label after label in the adventure buyt nothing on the map.

And the text is mostly just a confusing mass. “You can squeeze through the burned out rooms damaged wall” one of the rooms tells us. Uh … ok. Where is that? Why is it in this room? 

Perhaps my favorite is this text. We just got a description of the ARea, telling us about a nest in the rafters and ruined stone overgrown with moss. Nothing specific. And then we get the rubbish pile, that I quoted above, that ends with “A wagon marked with the wizards sigil is parked nearby.” Sure. Better, I think, to put that in the area description instead of a random rubbish pile description, but, whatever. Then comes this gem:

“STORE To the south, D6 unopened potions were removed from straw-filled transport crates. To the north, a bandit— who recently drank the Red Gem and Flame potions—is having a paranoid fireside conversation with a friend’s corpse. He is scared the wizard sent someone to retrieve the potions and kill them. The roof was repaired using the gateway door.”

TO the south of fucking what? The store? What store? There’s no store been mentioned. And there’s nothing on the map to indicate a store. The roof? What roof? The one to the store? WHat fucking gateway? What gateway are you referring to? WHy do I care about the roof repair? This entire thing just appears out of nowhere. I promise you I am not leaving out context. It’s patchy rain and pigeons fluitterring” in the Area description, with no overview, and then the rubbish pile and then this. 

The trend continues throughout the adventure. Just random references to other places. Three editors. Three fucking editors. A layout person. FOR FOUR FUCKING PAGES. And you can’t do something coherent with this?

I have absolutely no fucking idea at all what is going on in this adventure. Bandits drink potions and get sick and mutate, I think. But, more than that, the wheres and overall context of the fort/manor? No clue. I am completely fucking lost. 

Whatever fucking idea these people had failed miserably. No order of battle. Nothing to make a whole of the individual parts. I get the feeling there is something here … hence the great imagery, but it’s so addled that me and my sixth grade education can’t figure it out. Back to being a double nought spy I guess!

This is $3 at the publishers webstore. No preview. WHich is a good thing because $3 for four pages would probably mean I wouldn’t buy it.

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6 Responses to A Taste of the Goods

  1. SargonTheOK says:

    Bit of a shame – I saw Grant Howitt, of one-page RPG fame (Honey Heist, etc), as the author and had higher hopes. For one-pagers, brevity forces one to know where to evocatively leave the gaps for the GM’s imagination to fill while still keeping it coherent. Normally I’d say Grant delivers here, so this is a disappointment.

    As for the three editors: this is one adventure in a periodical zine, so they all probably rotate responsibilities. But I would have hoped at least one of them would have challenged this more before publishing… Editors gotta be OK with hurting some feelings to make a better product.

    • Stripe says:

      Ah. Okay, that explains it. They all worked on *the whole ‘zine*, not just his one four-pager. Thanks for the info.

      Looking at his itch.io store, he looks super creative. I downloaded Honey Heist and it looks like a fun two-hour “beer and pretzels” diversion.

      >The store? What store? There’s no store been mentioned. And there’s
      >nothing on the map to indicate a store.

      “Store” can be used to describe a cache of something. “A store of potions,” I’m guessing. Clearly, that doesn’t mean it *should* have been used that way!

    • The Heretic says:

      I wonder if some of the issues in this adventure were introduced by the port from zine to standalone product. It would be interesting to see how it looks in its original form. Do you happen to know the name of the zine and the issue number?

      • SargonTheOK says:

        The series is “A Doom to Speak” but past that I’m not sure where to find the full compilation, sorry.

  2. Artem of Spades says:

    Mudcore fetch quest with bandits in a hole? Riveting.

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