The Flames Witnessed at Temperance

By  D. D. Gant
Self Published
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 1-3

Dreams of the sleeping wizard seep into reality. Manifest familiars war over the fate of a remote islet.  An infinite garden houses an escaped experiment.  The god of purity is fooled for his blessings.  Into the nightmare we go.

This sixteen page adventures features a small island with around ten locations. It’s all a dream, with no death possability, but a lot of novelization language and a little heavy reliance on anthropomorphic animals, trying for a fairy tale/dream vibe. It’s minor high points don’t save it in any way.

*sigh* ANother dream time adventures. The sleeping wizards dreams invade reality blah blah blah. Go in to his nightmares and “kill” him to wake him up. Blah blah blah. How can you have your pudding if … I mean, how can you have an adventure when there are no consequences? This is one of those things that, as a player, I tune completely out on. I don’t really give a shit when there are no consequences. Anyway. People on shore see a light on the island and off you go to figure shit out. Once there you meet a bunch of animals who can talk and are intelligent and maybe tell you to go to the forest and kill the wizard. Once there you enter his nightmare and kill him, waking him up. There are also nightmare descriptions for the other nine locations on the island, although why you would go back there is beyond me. You enter the nightmare in the forest. The forest is one location. The dude is in the forest. Seems pretty straight forward to me. 

This thing is FULL of overly dramatized prose. The kind of shit that is supposed to be full of imagery, if you were reading it in a novel. But this isn’t a novel, its an adventure. One of the entries starts “In defiance of expectantly calm conditions …” Seriously? I’m supposed to run something that starts with that? One of the encounters is called “The tree will remember” and has a statue in it. That does nothing. The trees do not enter in to the location, except the statue is in a grove of trees. Yeah, super meaningful dude. I am inspired. “Half-buried crab cages entomb expired crustaceans where the gulls cannot reach.” Why do we care that the gulls can’t reach the crab bodies? What the fuck is the point?  “Under the spell of the beckoning nightmare the adventuring party find themselves stumbling out of the shady grove …” This isn’t writing. It’s not adventure writing anyway. Passive sentence structures. Overly purple prose. The writing needs to be clear, direct, not passive, and targeted at running the game. “Where the gulls cannot reach. *pffft* Garbage.

There is one section where things just do not make sense at all. In a lab there’s a table for a snow globe. The globe is never mentioned anywhere. Just a table for a globe. Ad it’s written, at least in one of the entries for the globe, like you can enter it. But there’s not enough to run that. And, where the fuck is the globe anyway? Its like the designer left out a paragraph. 

There’s a decent bit of thing or two in this. A potion of bees! You turn in to a swarm of bees for two turns. Kind of a nice reimagining of a gaseous form. And A rat who dons a repurposed chainmail coif over fine silks and waves around a sewing needle in command of his fellow rats. This is in a room with a familiar toad who ready to release a tamed tabby on the rats. Decent little vignette there, but maybe a little too much Watership Down for me. I just don’t get the anthropomorphic animal thing. The wanderer table has “Deer wearing prayer bead necklaces clip-clop out of a nearby room.” That’s suitable creepy for me though.

It’s all a dream. Who cares. The writing would be fine if this were a novel, but it’s not. You need to get the dream vibe to the DM, who can pass it to the players. You want an Annihilation vibe. You don’t do that by tormenting the DM who has to wade through the passive, purple prose. 

Then again, who cares, it’s all just a dream anyway.

This is free at DriveThru. The marketing blurb promises more like this from this designer. Oh boy.

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21 Responses to The Flames Witnessed at Temperance

  1. Gnarley Bones says:

    “Where the gulls cannot reach” should be a new category.

  2. D. D. Gant says:

    Thank you for the review, and sorry you didn’t like it! There are some clarifications I could make but I won’t argue. Too purple, too passive- noted.

    • Stripe says:

      Excellent response. Take it on the chin; do better next time. Good job!

      Let me direct you to an _essential_ article for OSR (or any TTRPG) writers:

      You have to understand that first before you can understand Bryce’s advice. Bryce’s advice is extremely helpful _once you understand that._

      “Yeah, yeah, too much purple prose, got it.” No. That’s not gonna get you there.

      Bryce tries sometimes. He didn’t try with you because you were too far from shore. He’s been doing this three times a week for a decade. He picks his battles. You weren’t worth it.

      Your reply changes that. You _are_ worth it. Read that article. Really, truly read it.

      (Also, you can ignore all his shit-talk about dream adventures. He’s just jaded. Veteran readers like me enjoy it when he really gives an author a good, well-deserved thrashing, then kicks them when they’re down. We _also_ love it when that same author who just got horse whipped gets back up, brushes the dirt of his shoulder, and comes back swinging. Before your reply, you were already forgotten. Now, we’ll be watching for your return and rooting for you!)

      • D. D. Gant says:

        I’ve been reading Bryce for years and I’ve read the blogpost you linked multiple times as well! I’m not offended in the slightest, I’m genuinely grateful for any and all feedback. The next project will hit the mark. This community should be proud of it’s unforgiving standards and it’s real desire to see creators put out good work. Your reply took effort and it’s appreciated.

  3. AB Andy says:

    I remember in Dead Gods there is a section where the PCs are entranced and dream (relive?) dome events of the past. With temporary characters even. I found it cool because of the fact that the players get to play the events instead of just learning them. I don’t remember however if Monte Cook mentioned if deaths or injury are permanent or if any other specific rule applied.

  4. Janissary says:

    I’ll make the clarifications then. It isn’t explained clearly at the start, but the island locations generally exist as two versions. The first is what they are like when you first arrive. You are not immediately told to go to the forest. You have to search the island and find that out. Once you enter the forest you travel into the nightmare version of the island, and you use the alternate ‘nightmare’ version of each encounter location. If the party travels back to the nightmare version of the forest then they can “kill” the wizard and everyone wakes up. It could be improved by an explanation at the start in plain English, and by ensuring every location has a nightmare version (some don’t which is confusing).

  5. AB Andy says:

    English is my second language. I struggle to understand what qualifies as purple prose and what not. Where is the line that shouldn’t be crossed? Here is an example from an acclaimed adventure DCO.

    “This room is full of shells. Some are huge and larger than a man, others small, and some smaller than small, like dust on the floor. Some of the shells have shells
    inside them, and some of those shells have shells inside them. There are a lot of shells.”

    I won’t lie, I love this description. Is it purple prose? If not (i think not), how would it be written to be considered purple prose?

    Another example from DCO, which I had trouble running, are the random tables. Example from the dryads:

    “I have heard long-dead kings consume themselves. And I am sure you must agree.”

    While rolling these I thought… cool, what am I supposed to do with this information? And the players felt the same. They seemed a bit random and pretentious. Is that purple prose? Or not, because of reasons?

    Any help to understand this issue will be much appreciated.

    • Prince says:

      DCO is also close to purple prose, Demon Bone Sarcophagus probably crosses the line (as does the appendix in Palace of Unquiet Repose, probably!).

      From the wiki:
      ‘In literary criticism, purple prose is overly ornate prose text that may disrupt a narrative flow by drawing undesirable attention to its own extravagant style of writing, thereby diminishing the appreciation of the prose overall.[1] Purple prose is characterized by the excessive use of adjectives, adverbs, and metaphors.’

      There must be some way to do Dream Adventures well. A percentage chance that things from the realm of dreams remain in the waking world? A chance to learn the location of real life treasure?

    • D. D. Gant says:

      The line between purple and evocative is vague and can be subjective. I think, in hindsight, it can be defined as “trying too hard”. Another key thing I’ve since realized is, “good words don’t make a boring room fun”. The author is fighting against the medium of prose to translate evocative IDEAS to the reader. Evocative WORDS, poetic or otherwise, can work against this purpose if not used carefully. Your examples from DCO work because the imagery is evocative regardless of how it’s worded, even if it isn’t directly helpful to running the adventure. A pig in lipstick, and all that. I’ll rewrite your first example more purple:

      “A hoard of sea shells, man-sized to minuscule, swallows up the cold flagstone. Shells inside of shells overflow down to the floor where pieces small as dust scatter in the draft.”

      • AB Andy says:

        Well that means that the OSE house style is risk free, right? Wooden beams(rotten, black with mold) or whatever is impossible to be purpled.

        But you explained it quite good. A boring situation made fancy is not what the room should be.

    • Reason says:

      Within context – a random table of philosophical topics the Dryads like to discuss, “I have heard long-dead kings consume themselves. And I am sure you must agree.” isn’t purple prose. It’s a guide to the Dryads speaking style/helps you run them.

      Useless trivia- sure. But it’s there to help the DM run the kind of highbrow conversations the Dryads have and given they are described as judgemental, it’s just there to give the players a tricky topic to respond to- or rise to and win the Dryads over.

      You only really need to worry about purple prose in room descriptions and intro sections etc. And it will always be a subjective judgement.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks a lot. So it’s all about the room design. NPCs, items, things like that are okay to exaggerate (within reason of course).

        • Reason says:

          I would clarify that writing which is in the NPC’s _voice_ can be purple- if that is their speaking style.

          Physical descriptions of NPCs or their personality- be clear and succinct. Never purple or longwinded.

          Items too should probably be done with a couple of evocative details, not streams of purple prose.

    • Vorshl says:

      Just off the cuff: The multitudiness cream colored husks of long deceased crustaceans. exude precarious footing to all unfortunate souls tottering through this waist high morass if cascading variety of sized sea shells Etc., etc.

      • Vorshal says:

        After a bit of shots, er I mean thought:

        Oh witness! The infinite creamy canopy of multitudinous miniaturized replicas of that legendarily wondrous Cytherean chariot, replete in infinitesimal certitude of form; secreted away, and nested one upon another; hidden, where the gulls cannot reach


        • Vorshal says:

          Just a whole lot an obtuse and obscure words strung together to hinder understanding. If you don’t know Cytherean pertains to Grek/Roman goddess Aphrodite/ Venus. And further know she was born of sea form and arose in a clam, well you’ll have no idea what that sentence is trying to convey.

  6. Gnarley Bones says:

    I don’t have any issues with adventures that take place in dreams.

    I remember running DL10 back when it was released (in 1985) and a portion of the adventure takes place in a dreamworld inside one of the Orbs of Dragonkind and it killed at the table. Didn’t hurt that Dreamscape was available on VHS at the time. 😉

    I would concur with Bryce that there have to be stakes (a PC dying in the dream dies in real life or suffers some other consequence).

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