The Whispering Demon

By Davide Tramma
Levels 3-4

Centuries ago a group of adventurers belonging to a holy order of clerics and paladins chased a demonic entity, known as the Whispering Demon, to the complex of subterranean caves located at the center of the Frozen Marshes. The clash between the adventurers was brutal and deadly, and the combatants fell one after another against the demon. Only one of them was still standing to face the demon in a last deadly clash. The holy warrior was about to deal the fatal blow to the demon, who in return, realizing that his demise was inevitable, cursed himself and the body and soul of all his chasers. The whispering demon’s body burst and was consumed by his own unholy fire until only his heart, made of a pulsating black rock and violet amethyst, remained in place. The body and the soul of the adventurers were consumed in the explosion and returned as undead under the service of the Demon’s will, with the demonic heart becoming a bridge connecting his layer of the Abyss with the Prime Material Plane. Now an Abyssal Mist surrounds the caves, with the frozen marshes around it making the landscape even more impassable.

This 73 page adventure has a dungeon with two levels and … thirty rooms? It makes drudgery of the game, with billions and billions of skill checks and little to no interactivity beyond that. I mourn for the futures that will never exist.

We’re doing some weird shit in this adventure. What the designer chooses to focus on is interesting. And essentially useless. In town we get an entry for the Inn. It has NO information except a list of hirelings and a rumour table. Ok … I could almost get behind that. I might slap in a fucking name or something(the inn is just listed as Inn … literally nothing else but those two tables), but sure. The General store gets no information either, except a price list and how much they charge.Which is all pretty useless information.

It’s this weird focus. The overland adventure portionis through a cold swamp. We get a random encounter table, and rules for how far you travel each day and hypothermia … but not for how/when to roll on the encounter table. I assume there’s a normal interval from OSE … but that “how far you travel in one day” thing is almost at odds with this. Why not mention the encounters?

And the … padding? The first forever pages are all summaries of the adventure. Like page after page after page of summaries. I do like a summary to kind of get me oriented, but not several pages worth. One of them is something like “the frozen marshes hide the remains of ancient ruins.” Well no fucking shit. And it’s all “a local power wants you to …” or “a local church wants you to …” This is an aggressive abstraction that removes the specificity that actually brings life to an adventure. Its a total focus on the wrong things in the adventure. “This is an ancient language that belongs to an local ancient civilization.” I am inspired to greatness!

No level range on the cover or in the description. The marsh encounters, the text for each, is in some random order, making them hard to find in the booklet when you need them. The PDF is in “spreads” for no reason. The hireling/rumor table, one of the few actual useful things, is in WAY too small font. 

Once your in the dungeon you can counts on lots of skill/stat saves for no real reason of interesting gameplay, Hiding interesting information, that expands the game world, behind a skill check is pretty pointless. You WANT the players to know interesting things about the world. Sure, if its going to benefit them then maybe hide it behind one, but, otherwise give it to them for immersion reasons. And … I’m not even so sure I’m that much behind putting useful information behind skill checks. 

Most of the dungeon, ast room one, is behind a tunnel that leads away from room one. A tunne ltoo small to get through. It takes a day to dig it out. In theory thats cool. It’s, like, expedition behaviour. But, this isn’t an expedition. It’s supposed to be a crawl. Its all just bizarre. And, did I mention the 27 dretches in a room that spill out on to you? Again, interesting concept, but I’m not sure about teh implementation at this level?

There’s just SO much going on in this dungeon for absolutely no reason. You encounter things that are trivia. And it’s all so aggressively abstracted and generic. I’d give you a specific example but the asshat designer has disabled copy/paste in the PDF, guaranteeing it would be hard to use in actual play. 

There’s just NOTHING HERE. No interesting interactivity. No evocative descriptions. Just aggressive abstraction of trivia. 

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is twenty pages, so, enough to see what is going on. And find out the fucking level range.–Old-School-Essentials-Compatible?1892600

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2 Responses to The Whispering Demon

  1. SargonTheOK says:

    Content aside, there are a lot of “technical difficulties” dragging this down:

    – Spread-only PDFs. These are unfriendly for phones/tablets, and difficult to print.

    – As mentioned, no copy/paste. Are we really more worried about copyright than obscurity?

    – Mini-maps are just the single rooms: no connections, no context within the dungeon, and they don’t match the orientation of the full maps (the caves on page 3 don’t even match the orientation of the caves on page 28!). All this to say: they take a ton of space, still require the GM to reference back to the main map, and aren’t especially useful except maybe as battle maps.

    So the question: is there some sort of adventure style guide and technical checklist that helps with these sorts of things? Because it’s a problem here. I’m not talking about Bryce’s review criteria, I’m talking stuff like “how to export PDFs properly, how to format a page, how to improve user experience, how to succeed as a technical communicator, etc etc etc,” specifically geared towards amateur (not meant condescendingly) game publishers. Something like that would be super useful.

    An aside: I wrote an adventure “By the Light of the Whispering Flame” that also features a sealed demon as the primary antagonist and “Whispering” in the title. Pure coincidence, as the adventures and authors are entirely unaffiliated. And I published first! ;-P

  2. Stripe says:

    So, this fails at every level, but at least the cover art is pretty cool!

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