By Christopher Capone Wicked Cool Games OSE Levels 2-3
Among the witch’s valley mist, The Murk, sinister fey shadows terrorize the forest, demon spirits haunt old ruins, and undead howl from the volcanic shrine. Can the adventurer’s purge the vale of evil to gain its lost magic and riches?
This forty page adventure details three locations/adventures in The Murk, a misty forest. It’s got an interesting take on locations, and has some decent ideas and encounters. This is combined with some ok formatting as well. It’s not going to reach my Best levels, but as a first effort its get more fucking close than most big name designers will.
Ok, so, a section of land with a forest that is eternally misty during the day. A little town in it, with an abandoned town deeper in. People say there are fey around … and ruins deeper in. What this product delivers is something adjacent to thisWe do get a little town. It doesn’t overstay its welcome. There are a few people highlighted, and easy-ish to find. There’s a sentence or two with some keywords to help you run them, maybe a rumors section of things they can provide if asked and/or quests they could give or special shit they could do for the party. There’s decent use of bolding here to help the DM locate information. The first word or two of section toptic is bolded and, more importantly, relevant to the task at hand. So if its about Apples then its gonna start with Apples, bolded, not something like “If the party were to so inquire with Sir Buttface about the Apples in his orchard …” Put your fucking keyword first, like this dude does. There’s also a little “bullet” thing going on, although its ot really formalized. Important facts are separated well and easy to locate. In fact, all of the formatting seems … haphazard? But not in a bad way. Generally it lacks consistency. Different things are handled in different ways. That’s weird. But, also, I mean I can’t complain. It does it’s fucking job and thats what it is supposed to do.
Descriptive text isn’t winning any awards but is also largely above average and generally good enough. Thin mists waft gently. Bramble thorns capping sharp obsidian slopes. An uneven floor covered in dozens of thick burnt down candles. It’s some alright descriptions. And, further, the DM text doesn’t generally overstay its welcome. Four pages for thirteen rooms, with each page having at least half of it taken up with a map and illustration. Dude keeps the text focused.
But, I don’t want to talk about any of that. I’ve clearly rushed through that portion of the review. Formatting is decent, and descriptions are ok. Which, of course, is a compliment considering the source 😉
But, the adventures and vibe is what I want to talk about, mostly. There are three adventures. Some dude has lost his shadow, in the first. In the second you go to an abandoned town to Do Something and encounter the reason it was abandoned. Third, you go looking for a magic sword i some ruins/caves deep in The Murk. The first is a non-adventure. Dude has lost his shadow (fey shadow, not undead shadow) and want you to do something. There’s no real adventure here, at all, just a page noting the shadows stats and te fellow shadows he hangs around with. No real events or location to find them in, or anything else. Really just some stats for the most part. That did not give me high hopes.
But, the second and third adventures are more interesting. Both location based. The second is a town, abandoned,that is located inside a giant tree that has fallen. The third are some caves/shore/cliffs. Both of these have maps that are more open, but constrained. Kind of like the gatehouse/outside portions of Stonhell. Or, maybe, balley in B2/Caves of chaos. You have to image both without deeper dungeons. Maybe just the ogres cave or something scattered throughout. And, I’m not really communicating this well … the cope is smaller than either. But, I think both are an interesting concept. More open. And with encounters that are varied and interesting. Little sack dolls, murderous little bastards, inhabit the abandoned town, mostly. There’s a good mix of stuff to investigate, fuck with, and just stab. And the maps are annotated well,. They are keyed, but, also, make good use of the icons and drawings on it to pout major features on them, and then also the map is annotated with words like “Hidden Rong” or “Giant mushroom.” I really like the adventuring locales. Maps, concept, some folkloreish elements in the creatures without going heavy in that, interactivity, mildly evocative writing, formatting. It’s all good enough to make me not hate it and in some cases like the vibe.
Ok, so, maybe the descriptions could be better. And that first adventure sucks. But, I do want to mention one more thing, the thing that I think holds me back a lot. The overall atmosphere.
We see, from the marketing blurb, that “sinister fey shadows terrorize the forest, demon spirits haunt old ruins, and undead howl from the volcanic shrine.” And, yet, that really doesn’t come through in the setting. You get the idea that this is supposed to be a mist-shrouded landscape. And, from the tree log town, of a kind of shadowy town with these murderous little sack dolls. But the vibe that all implies is not really present. Sure, you get an individual description that is in the right area, but never in terms of a looming cohesive whole. Inside the abandoned town we get a scene with a “oil lamps slung from posts.” (Which are unlit,) And you get how, seen in the mist in an old tree log, this could have been very atmospheric. But, not in practice, and the descriptions doesn’t really lend itself to that. It’s trying, I think, but, overall the connectedness of the individual locations to the theme seems lost. The fey aspect, the shadowy forest … it just doesn’t come through at all in a meaningful way … in spite of a lot of the elements being there in the individual encounters.
And this, I think, is what majorly holds it back from a Best category. I really like a lot of what this is doing. Sure, it’s a little fractured in places, but, I can live with a little of that, and even call it charming. And I might even have a desire to run this one, if only that tie that binds that much more present. But, hey, GREAT first effort!
This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is ten pages. You get to see the NPC and town overview, and the rumors and wanderers, both of which are ok but not the strongest either. A few of the encounters in the abandoned town or cliff adventure, or even one of those maps, would have helped the preview a lot.