By Kormar Publishing Kormar Publishing OSR Level 3
Deep in the forest, a forsaken keep holds treasure and the secrets of a crown won and lost. Seek fortune in the dust of fallen nobility, navigating through beastmen, a chaos cult, and bizarre sadists from beyond this earthly realm. Beware the horrors of CASTLE RABID!
This 25 page digest adventure features a three level dungeon with around 35 rooms. Beastmen, cultists and alien dero are highlighted through a bullet heavy, but clear and evocative writing.The themes are inconsistently displayed, but the individual rooms are solid.
Beastmen mean Warhammer! And, I guess, weirdo druid-like cult people also mean Warhammer? And Dero! A fine take on dero! To quote their description: “albino knee high freaks, black saucer goggles, totally hairless” And, they bring a little bit of tekno to the table with their pneumatic exsanguinators and etch-a-sketch writing tables that they are always taking notes on. We toss in a few “hulking mutants” and we get the low down: dero come up from underground, do some experiments and are taking notes while corrupting the former bandits in a ruined castle, with some cultists thrown in to help control the masses of unwashed they have to deal with. All in the form of a standard three level dungeon crawl. Which, I think, is an issue. But I’ll get to that …
So, Gart the hunter got this hunting lodge/inn thing on the edge of the forbidden forest. His daughters gone missing. He’s pretty sure its those smelly unwashed religious tyes that took out the nearby ruined castle. Or, in the designers words “Gart is a fine hunter, but he’s getting old. There are six other kids that need wrangling. He offers a wagon and two draft horses, Bert’s dowry, to anyone who can return his daughter to him alive.” Later ol Gart is referred to as “Father of the year.”
This is the first sign in the adventure that the designer gets it. Those sentences are enough to let me know that something in this adventure is going to be worthwhile. It might be a shitshow of formatting and long text, but dude knows whats up. Joke adventures sucks. But adventures that know that they exist in an absurdist world? It is rare indeed when those are totally fuck ups.
The formatting here is going to be controversial. It’s bullets. Like, HARD. CORE. bullet points. Like, three per room or so. SOmetimes more. SOmetimes less. The pure unadulterated lack of shame in JUST using bullets is wild to see. It’s jarring an offputting, but I can’t argue that it doesn’t work. The first one is usually what you are going to get from approaching a door to the room. The sounds or smells or something. Pretty nice. And then the second is what you would immediately notice. Like, the big ass fucking ogre in the room, who “Supposed to eat trespassers, but has a taste for pack animals and would love a captive audience for his terrible jokes.” And then maybe a tertiary description of the room. “Walls strewn with torn banners, crooked elk heads, and rusted polearms. A skeleton is impaled on one of the elk horns. Rotten smelling furs piled in the center of the room as a bed.” So, first things first, then whats obvious, then the details of the room. That’s exactly how you’re supposed to write the fucking thing. Uh. Like, exactly. I don’t think I’ve seen it done with such rigor before, at least not without those terrible “Light: Door: FIrst Sight: fucking headings that I loathe so much.
And the writing, the imagining of the room, it’s pretty good. That’s the first room of the dungeon I’ve quoted above. The ogre gets a little detail. Pack animals, captive audience. It could help bring him to life if needed. And the torn banners and CROOKED elk heads? That’s great. Rusted polearms. This room has been IMAGINED and then described. That’s exactly what a room should be handled. A skeleton on an elk horn is just that extra bit to let you know your’e playing D&D. I’m really pretty happy with almost all of the room descriptions, much more so than usual. Not over the top, but a really good job of imagining it. Like those Dero, reimagined as a kind of tiny Grey alien. And cultists wearing furs and animal horns. Beastmen that are beastmen. It’s done well.
There’s no order of battle, which is kind of bad. Treasure seems light? There are a couple of hoards to be found, with spotty treasure description. The maps are pretty plain affairs, about ten rooms per level.
If I’ve got a problem with this adventure (and I do) it’s that the vibe is off.
I don’t know how to better explain it. It feels disconnected. From itself? I don’t understand it as a … lair? The beastmen. The cultists. The dero. The other people running around …. It just doesn’t come together as a whole. The individual rooms? Fine. But they don’t seem to be working together. I don’t mean that there’s a red dragon in one room and a gold one in the next room. It’s just that it doesn’t feel like one complex. It never feels like a home to beastment, or cultists, or dero. I don’t know why. SOme sort of disconnect between the rooms? Again, the writing is good and the theming should be, in theory, great, sith the cultists, beastment, dero triad. But they really don’t ever seem to … riff off of each other? No. I don’t know. They feel disconnected form each other. Yes, I know I’ve said that a few times now. I don’t know what I’m trying to say.
It’s a decent adventure. If the disconnect thing wasn’t there then it would be a REALLY good adventure.
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2.50. The preview is all 25 pages. You can kick some ass with this one, and it doesn’t deserve the three star rating it has on drivethru.