By Christopher Wilson Self Published OSE Levels 3-5
King Nothrim’Ston and his kin founded the dwarven mine of Drothumstone some 400 years ago. The hope was to build a new citadel and companion city to Zolotoheim. Trusted by his friend and fellow adventurer, Tasadantilis, Nothrim’Ston was given one of the keys to Tasadantilis’ exradimensional space: the looped scepter. But Nothrim’Ston succumbed to an insidious mental illness that affects many dwarves. Pushing his clan harder and harder, the dwaves recklessly pursued the gem deposits and veins of ore in the mountain. It all ended in a single day as they stumbled upon something that had been better off buried…
This 121 page region has a “main” dungeon as well as a dozen or so sites spread out over a mountain hex map. It feels disconnected from itself, both in the hexcrawl and in the dungeons. A heavy dose of trivia and lack of exploration elements don’t help any either.
Blah blah blah, ancient dwarf mine. Go find it and loot it. The hex map for the mountain region has a road on the left side that leads to several adventuring sites. The actual mine is on the right side, with several other adventuring sites scattered throughout the map. No quite haphazard and probably things that the party will stumble upon, more or less. IE: a giant lake is in the middle of the map and a couple of sites are around the shore, where they might be seen while skirting the lake. Not a bad way to handle things. There are a few sites out in the nowhere, but, whatever I guess. The actual dungeon maps tend to be rather simplistic. A star pattern and so on. Not a lot of map terrain and, in some of them, hard to make out features. The joy of digest format, I assume.
The actual mine in question doesn’t start until page 82. That doesn’t have to be bad, if you’re doing a kind of sandboxy region, which this thing is trying to do. The wanderer table feels a bit short for that, with most of the entires being a simple attack description with a little variety in how they attak. They erupt from the earth and attack. They come out of a cave mouth and attack. Better than a bare table, I guess. The other sites are … weird. There’s a variety of them, mostly ruins, cabins and an occasional outpost with a couple of other mines and lairs. I’m struck by the … mundanity? of it all. Here’s a boring outpost/ It’s keyed. Which are boring. Why is this done this way? Yes, hobos are gonna hobo, they could fuck up anything. But if we don’t expect them to then we provide a minimal description rather than doing a full key. This cabin has three rooms. Let me fully key it! And have nothing interesting to say about the cabin to interact with or move the game forward!
The room descriptions are in OSE style, which some folk won’t like. But, like all styles, it depends on the designer. And the room descriptions here are … you guessed it … boring! How you can make a majestic throne room boring in its description is beyond me. The bolded words. The extra descriptive words. All boring. A mundanity that you are continually fighting against. A full page NPC description for no real reason. Why?
And those descriptions? Disconnected. I’m not talking about the paragraph after paragraph of free text descriptions for general location information, which is bad enough. No, the rooms. We’ll get a description of a room, OSE style, and then at the end of it we’ll be told that this is the lair of a filth monster covered in filth. It’s like the monster and the room are disconnected. What if you just wrote up a bunch of room descriptions, without monsters, and then rolled on a monster table for each room and put that monster in the room, without thought to the room description? That’s what this feels like. Are cockatrice neat? No? You wouldn’t know it from this dungeon. And true interactivity is poor. Stab shit. Find a secret drawer in a desk or a tunnel under a statue. Which are great, but, also, that sort of interactivity can’t be all you have in something. There’s no real sense of exploration or wonder in this.There’s so much trivia in the descriptions, things explained and detailed for no reason. Who cares that the left kitchen cabinet has clove and nutmeg in it if it doesn’t contribute to the adventure?
A quick google shows that this was written in June and published in July. That’s not enough time to really playtest it, I think, and really not enough time to edit this, I think, for 121 pages of content. And by edit I mean “agonize over every encounter and description, hate yourself, throw it down six times only to pick it up later and work on it.”
Look, this isn’t the worst thing ever written. Not by close. It looks like dude tried and was excited about it. But that’s not good enough. You are competing with every adventure ever written for every game system, ever, since 1970. Fifty some years of content. Why should I pick a mundane adventure? Why should I ever run something other than the best ever produced? Something interesting to play, easy to run, and evocative. I am ALL for supporting the new over the old, hence the emphasis on new adventures oh this blog. But not to the extent that it makes my life hard and is less fun/easy to run. If you are not producing the best work of your life then are you publishing it?
This is $6 at DriveThru. No preview … suckers!