Legacy of Blackscale Lagoon

By Peter Spahn
Mythmere Games
Levels 1-3

What starts out as an ordinary venture into the backwater (and very watery) swamps of Blackscale Valley turns into a complex mystery about the events that took place in the Valley about a hundred years ago. Not everything is what it appears to be, and peril awaits the characters at every turn!

This 24 page adventure details a small wilderness region with six locations, two of which have around a nine-room dungeon each. It’s not a disaster, by normal standards of the industry. But by OSR standards … I have a hard time imagining how it got to the way it is. Long and … meh?

This feels so much like a converted adventure, in terms of the plot. Lizardmen worship a dead dragon and they subjugate some goblins to act act their hench, raiding a village to try and find the dragons egg. That’s right out of a dozen or more modern era adventures. So much of this feels like a modern era adventure … and I don’t mean a conversion. It’s weird to see Spahn and Finch on this as the primary designer and editor. It looks like it’s being advertised as “the new B2!” and is some kind of add on, I guess, to a S&W kickstarter? That makes sense. I was surprised to see something from Mythmere and it makes sense that this is just a throw-away thing tacked on to a kickstarter, given the quality.

You start with a quarter page read-aloud and then get attacked by goblins and a lizardman. If someone in your group dies then the town guard shows up to drive the attackers off. These are not good portents for the future of the adventure.

The town has a couple of good hirelings to grab; short entries with just a sentence to describe a really good hook for them. “Tends to invade personal space and look people in the eye too long” or Slick Jimmy the halfling “. Slick Jimmy is arrogant, glib, but surprisingly cautious. Loves to play dice.” This is exactly what you want in a an NPC description. It’s terse and leaves out all of the eye colour bullshit that tends to plague descriptions. You get a description instead that allows the DM to riff on it and being the person to life. You immediately know what to do with them to run them. This is perfect for an NPC and, in spirit, is exactly also what you want in a room descriptions. You want something easy to scan that implants itself in your head immediately and allows you to riff away on it easily. Otherwise, the town, is a problem. And serves as an example for the rest of the adventure.

If we look at the general store in town we can get a good idea of what is going on.  It is just about a column of text. And that text tells you that it is the usual general store. There is nothing special about this place. The chick in charge doesn’t have anything special about her. There’s no hook to pick up. There’s nothing interesting at all about it. But it takes nearly a column to describe that. What is the purpose of this? It feels like something I haven’t mentioned in quite some time: pay per word. The padding out of an entry just to fill space. The other entries are similar. I should note that the parties reward to investigating the goblin/lizardmen attacks are 100 gp each … even though the dude offering doesn’t have but 164gp in his loot box. That’s not very “loot the B2 Keep”, but, then again … the main cleric dude sends you off on this quest … only to attack you when you return. You see he’s got a dragon egg hes hiding. Which means you face a newborn dragon, a L3 cleric, and 2d4 militia when you return to town, in a chaotic battle scene. I like the concept here, if not the execution.

The encounters, some of them, have a littl bit of something different to them, here and there. There’s a ruined tower, partially collapsed, the lower floor with some standing water … and a giant leech. That’s not something you see every day. The entry if far, far too long for its providing, as it is with all of the encounters in this. But, also, it’s nice to see something other than the usual giant spider attack … even if there ARE stirge later on. Otherwise we’re not looking at anything very interesting. Fight some goblins and fight some lizardmen and avoid the collapsing rubble. 

The formatting is not the strong point here. It’s almost time for GenCOn, and I bought a couple of adventures at genCon last year that I still haven’t reviewed. These are for systems other than D&D. There’s this thing that happens where someone gets some money and publishes a new system. You know, all hardback with a lot of art and glossy pages with full background images. And then they publish an adventure or two for it. And they all look the same. Some section headings and not much formatting beyond that. Long stretches of paragraph blocks with almost nothing breaking it up. This is disastrous for running an adventure. You can’t find anything and you have the pause the game for long sections of time while you absorb the information … only to learn that there is nothing really interesting or interactive going on in the room.

We do, however, get a short boxed section on the morality of killing lizard men babies, a reference to the killing of children from Henry V. Absolved, I find three, orc baby killer! 

I shall finish by noting that this has two four star reviews on DriveThru … a more serious critique could not be given. The adventure is quite disappointing. I was excited to see something from Mythmetre and Spahn. But, for whatever reason, they seem to have forgotten everything about OSR adventures. Or, they are taking things to the next level by emulating the glossy big product drops of those third-party systems/games I referenced earlier. 

This is $8 at DriveThru. There is no preview. For shame!


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27 Responses to Legacy of Blackscale Lagoon

  1. SargonTheOK says:

    Nice review. I was watching this one, but without a preview I wasn’t going to buy until reviews came out. So thanks for that.

    The cynical part of me worried, during the Swords & Wizardry KS, that this was one of those whale-catching bundles to pull in some extra dollars. Bundling back-catalog stuff is cool (like Knave 2e bundling The Waking of Willoughby Hall) – the products are known quantities and this gives an excuse to make a new print run.

    But new adventures? Sometimes good, sometimes just trying to move units that wouldn’t go on their own. Disappointing that this seems to be the latter.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very, very disappointed with this adventure! I was surprised that Matt couldn’t tell it wasn’t good.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Just looking at the cover would tell me this is likely not a great adventure: it just reeks of that modern, sterile, soulless style pushed out for 5e.

    • Bucaramanga says:

      Sweet summer child, this cover is too damn edgy for 5e, it shows actual combat, blood, and oppressed reptilian humanoids getting killed.

  4. Artem of Spades says:

    “Lizardmen in a swamp, doing lizardy things” is only a small cut above “orcs in a hole, doing orc things” as far as depressingly trivial lo-level adventures go.

    (I know, because that’s precisely how I started my non-career in adventure design 20 years ago)

  5. Chainsaw says:

    I don’t mind classic set-ups like orcs in a hole, undead in a tomb, lizardmen in a swamp, rats in a sewer/basement, bandits outside of town, etc etc etc, if it’s done well (obv the hard part). I was saying over at Age of Dusk, and I think it’s common sense, you do need the classic (aka vanilla) scenarios to help set up the thrills that come with really weird or different ones.

    • Kubo says:

      Can you give us examples of where you played in or used a vanilla scenario to set up and balance with a weird/different scenario (and doesn’t a well thought out weird/different scenario already do that?)? Do you think an orcs in a hole scenario is needed before ASE or DCO? What is a great/well-done vanilla scenario? (I get your thought, but a scenario with mundane monsters in different settings or presented differently is better than simply repeating the same old tired “classic” tropes/scenarios. In fact, a DM might lose players if the DM can’t hold their interest before you get to the good stuff. (You can’t start a campaign too slow or uninteresting as a DM). Similarly, if vanilla scenarios work so well, then why not have a chain of weird/different scenarios end with a climactic battle with orcs in a hole?

      • Artem of Spades says:

        As far as “orcs in a hole” scenarios go, the 3e adventure Sons of Gruumsh is IMO the god-king of the genre. Don’t let the edition scare you away, it’s reasonably old-school in its sensibilities.

        It has the requisite flavour of “orcs sitting in a keep doing orc things”, but also has fantastic beasts, magic & supernatural, a rather epic feel to the proceedings (despite being for lvl 4), and even (a somewhat tacked-on) mystery plot.

      • Shuffling Wombat says:

        Some “vanilla base but with plenty of flavour” adventures you might enjoy: B10 Night’s Dark Terror; Ironwood Gorge; Vaults of Volokarnos (Echoes from Fomalhaut #9).

      • Anonymoose says:

        S4/WG4 starts out fairly mundane and winds up to being batshit insane. Heck you could even make the argument for the Giants series leading into Drow

      • Reason says:

        I ran a version of The Iron God Cometh as a lead in to a Hyborian Age homebrew campaign. Added in some Vanir raiders in the caves for some rping/stage setting for later. That’s fairly vanilla.

        After they did that, went into weird, Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine.

        Continued the campaign in that style- one vanilla type scenario for one horror/dark magic type scenario.(next did Spottle Parlour from Dungeon with Hyborian men races subbed in for humanoids as the vanilla, then 1000 Dead Babies) Worked well enough to ground things without going into full LOTFP style horror campaign.

        • Kubo says:

          Sounds like an interesting campaign, Reason, and long enough to see how the players reacted to the changes in flavor. I appreciate all reply comments, and it was meant to get people thinking. The DM needs to change up the flavor of adventures much like a band changing tempos of music from fast to slow for the audience. However, it’s the vanilla game world towns that ground the players to the game world, and they go out into the world for strange adventure. Therefore, an orc hole probably is unnecessary in a campaign. I think there may be some disconnect in phrasing here. An orc hole is basically a tiny dungeon with orcs in it. It’s not big enough to really develop any theme other than slay monsters and take treasure. Boring. They are lifeless in feel by definition. I wish I recognized more of the examples given, but B10 does have a goblin hole in it, but it starts with defending a fort from invasion, so the goblin hole is only a connected part of a greater whole. I believe Chainsaw claimed that tacking on a “good” vanilla orc hole at the beginning was somehow good DMing much like the belief that every campaign or even game session should start with a battle. You can, but I have found that to be unnecessary, and as a player, I found opening combats dull too because they become expected and are often not particularly challenging combats. Similarly, an orc hole is a waste of time in a campaign unless it is a part of a connected greater whole like in B10.

          • Tom H. says:

            Kubo, I think you’re reading “hole” a lot more narrowly than the other commenters, which might be causing the disconnect?

            Orcs in a hole might be dull, but my solution to that is to avoid holes, not to avoid orcs.

          • Malrex says:

            An orc hole as the main adventure can be dull…agreed. It can also be a great adventure for a 1st time player who is learning the game. But I like putting small holes around the area of a main adventure because it can make the area feel alive…meaning, there is reason for wandering encounters of a orc party–where did they come from? etc. I think we are in agreement Kubo with your example of B10. But I also agree with Chainsaw about the tempo and making everything weird and strange or epic can normalize it all. I view it as the same concept of adding empty rooms to the dungeon to break up the tempo…orcs in a hole can be used as the same thing, because sometimes (some) players enjoy drinking beer and slaying a hole full of orcs. Also–why do towns have to be vanilla? Towns and cities are very underrated and not used to their full potential in my opinion.

    • Knutz Deep says:

      Completely agree with Chainsaw. When everything is fantastic and weird then even the fantastic and weird becomes boring and humdrum. Use the vanilla to set up the fantastic.

      • Chainsaw says:

        100%. Not that complicated or controversial.

        • Anonymous says:

          Agreed too, the antipathy towards ‘vanilla’ or what has been done before is silly. There’s always a need for more orc holes or goblin holes, or whatever, as long as they’re done well. Campaigns come to an end; you need that core, low-level stuff for the next campaign too, which includes new orc holes as well. Strange and weird is good, but indeed isn’t strange and weird if everything is.

          I’d love to see a compilation titled: ‘Awesome Orcs-in-a Hole Volume I’. I’d buy that.

        • Stripe says:

          Agreed. Neither complicated nor controversial. Take vanilla and add the bizarre to taste is every single game I’ve ever ran or played.

          • SargonTheOK says:

            In old school circles, sure.

            But in SO MANY modern/5e games (not all, but enough that the reputation has been earned) the weirdness gets front loaded into allowing every race/ancestry/whatever they call it now during character creation, and then NEVER escalating it from there. At which point the weirdest thing the players will encounter all campaign is in session zero, when Carl across the table rolls up his half Genasi/half Tortle/half Tabaxi (math) multiclassing as a hexblade paladin. And they want it that way! They want to be the weirdos in a normal-ish fantasy-but-not-fantastical world! Or at least, they think they do. It’s from this point where I think some take this stance as controversial.

  6. cosmonauta says:

    The cover reminds Qelong.

  7. rekalgelos says:

    I always love the kvetching about modern “wacky races” in the game. We’ll just ignore the balor PC from the 70’s then, right?

  8. Anonymous says:

    I for one would yes

  9. Anonymous says:

    But it is all very vanilla because it doesn’t matter what race or weird class or whatever is played. In most cases, this is just superficial BS to get some combo of power someone wants. There is usually no difference between a human xxxxx, or a Tabaxi warlock/monk/paladin/ranger other than the suite of power. Being a Tabaxi or any of those combinations literally makes no difference other than the power suite

    • Gnarley Bones says:

      Somewhere on the IntarWeb, probably on Dragonsfoot, is the glorious Grell monk that someone statted out using 3E rules to demonstrate the absurdity of it all.

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