Into the Elder Worm

By Jeff Simpson
Buddyscott Entertainment Group
Level 14

The Elder Worm, a purple worm of galactic size, has been released from its cosmic prison and is on the loose! Dare you crawl inside its guts to find out what dreadful creatures make homes in its bones and swim in its stomach? Are you tough enough to journey Into the Elder Worm?

This nineteen page adventure uses four pages to describe 46 rooms inside of a purple room. Yes, the page count/room count is correct. No, it is not anything other than drudgery. Enjoy, fuckwit.

I thought, perhaps, we were done with this sort of thing. But, no. There is still at least one person producing adventures in which you move from room to room and just stab shit. No descriptions to speak of. No interactivity to speak of. Just walk from room to room and stab shit. At level fourteen. In a dungeon that is the inside of a purple worm. I am incredulous. Let us examine this trainwreck.

There’s a REALLY big purple worm running around. You describe to go inside to … look around? See what’s up? Anyway, in through the mouth or butt. Inside you find a bunch of monsters, like fire and frost giants and minotaurs, and then a mind flayer in the brain controlling the thing. Don’t worry, it’s not done with anything of interest.

There are no descriptions here, per se, of the environment you are exploring. The very first room, in the butt, gives you this: “This assembly area is full of troops preparing to move out of the worm to conquer. There are 3 cyclopes, 2 bugbears each handling a basilisk, and 6 minotaurs. They carry no treasure of note and will fight to the death” This is a fairly typical room description. An assembly area. That’s it. Nothing more. Enjoy your worlds of wonder, sucker! And then a list of monsters to fight.That’s fun, right?! Here’s a description of a church, found inside the worm: “This church contains a shrine to Grimbus, God of Worms, Flukes, and Maggots which weeps an icy blue cloud of vapours from pores in the stone.” At least we get icy blue vapours, I guess. So, there’s absolutely no descriptions here, at all. You are a fucking fool to expect some, I guess.

And there is no interactivity. You get to go in to a room and stab something. No one cares about whoever is in the next room. Your only respites from just entering a room and having a DM yell INITIATIVE is the occasional secret door. I guess there is a little city in the intestines, but “the innkeep is a specter” is not exactly what I would interactive. I guess “does not immediately attack” could be see as an interactive encounter? At least in this adventure?

46 rooms in four pages. That’s a pretty decent spread. Too good to be true, as the examples from the text prove. Instead, though, we get fifteen pages that are NOT keys. Fifteen pages of wasted effort. All of the time and effort spend on those fifteen pages SHOULD have gone in to those fucking room keys. THAT’S the adventure here. Why pay attention to all of the other shit, the appendices and explanations and intro and all that bullshit? Why not just put that effort in to the keys? Because you think they are good enough? Here’s a tip for every adventure writer ever: Your keys suck shit. I don’t give a shit who you are. Your keys suck. Put some effort in to them. Yeah, sure, real artists ship. At some point you have to call it done and move on. But until then you should be working on your fucking keys. All of that other shit you’re typing the fuck up? That’s a distraction. Work on your keys some more. Then work on them some more. If you don’t hate the thing you’ve created, yet, and are not disgusted by looking at it another day, then you’re not done yet. I don’t get why people don’t get this. Work on your fucking keys. THAT’S the adventure. And it’s not perfect, yet. 

This adventure, though, is just pure drudgery. ENter room. Have a fight. Next room. I loathe

This is free at DriveThru, and thus, no preview.

This entry was posted in My Life is a Living Fucking Hell, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Into the Elder Worm

  1. The Heretic says:

    Shameful! S2 already exists!

    I am interested in more details about those last 15 pages. What was so important that it needed to take up almost four times the number of pages as the adventure?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Out of curiosity when was the last time you ran D&D

  3. Andy says:

    “This assembly area is full of troops preparing to move out of the worm to conquer.”

    I initially mis-scanned this as “the conqueror worm,” which would have been a lot more interesting. I now feel I have to mine Poe for more ideas.

  4. Bluecho says:

    The irritating thing is that this shouldn’t be so dull. You’re having an adventure IN THE BODY OF A GIANT SPACE WORM. How did you manage to make that boring!?

    Take that “assembly area” in the worm’s ass. How are the monsters going to leave and get where they need to go to conquer? The obvious answer is “they have some kind of ship”. So make this room a dock for whatever the setting’s equivalent of spaceships is!

    Have their ship just be sitting/floating there. Fill the space up with stacks of crates full of supplies and plunder. Give the party space to stealth around these crates to avoid detection, or loot them for supplies they could use further in the dungeon. Put the Basilisks in big metal crates (since their handlers don’t need them out and about where they could petrify their guys by accident). So the party could release them on the other mobs in the room.

    I came up with this shit in, like, two minutes. I haven’t even gotten into how the intelligent monsters should be dressed (like space pirates, duh). I’ve been doing Dungeon23 all year, so I know cranking out dungeon rooms on the spot is hard. But you got as far as “monsters preparing to leave out a purple worm’s ass to conquer”. It doesn’t take that much more effort to punch up the concept a notch or two.

    It’s especially galling since this is one of two possible introductions the party has to this dungeon. If you’re going to bring your A-game, do it here!

  5. Artem the Centaur Conqueror says:

    Well, at least it’s not a 5-room dungeon where you fight a demigod at level three…

  6. Anonymous says:

    I hope the author get real and actually learn something from this review instead of falling in the denial vortex like the most of them fall into.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I actually know and have played the author. One thing you need to keep in mind with their works is that they’re actually meant to be played. Ideally by people with enough iq to boil water

    • Anonymous says:

      Understood, you’re his boyfriend, then. Noted.

    • Anonymous says:

      Great game masters can’t always translate their vision to the page, but this module as written would need a world class GM to make it not suck (including adding a lot beyond what the text supplies). Maybe that’s what this guy is, and more power to him if so. But that’d also be a pretty generous take given the quality on display here.

    • Reason says:

      That’s great Anon, then tell us what you think Bryce missed or got wrong or what element works great in play as opposed to on paper.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sure. Bryce only cares about how pretty something is. He reads a thousand adventures a day and never realizes they’re supposed to be played. Imagine someone reading stage scripts but never goes to see the play.
        And with an adventure like this you don’t entirely need something other than go in and kill – you’re playing the fantasy swat team

        • Anonymous says:

          Weird, in all 716 words of this review I couldn’t find anything that talked about how pretty the adventure was/was not. All of it seemed to be about the actual writing.

        • Bucaramanga says:

          That’s indeed a trend I’ve noticed. Very often Bryce rails against MUCHO TEXTO and muh layout and I think, “Yeah, it’s kinda wordy but might be real fun in actual play”. And I’ve already got many personal examples where adventures he trashed were a hit with very different groups.

          • Bryce Lynch says:

            We need to be careful here. I do not assert, nor ever will, that you cannot have fun with ANY of the adventures I review. This is, after all, the famous phrase “A good DM could …” There’s little one can do to account for the DM (or players) in a good mood, a bad mood, a good dm, bad players, a rough commute home, or anything else outside the bounds of the adventure. And, thusly, we fall back on the criteria. Does the adventure help the DM facilitate that environment? Or does it hinder it? The continual feedback is “adventures are too hard to run.” Then why do people write adventures that are too hard to run? Why don’t they write adventures that are easy to run and actively work to facilitate the DM enabling that fun?

      • Anonymous says:

        In defence of the heckler, there is little consideration in the review of what exploring this place would be like. ‘You go into a room and stab something’.

        Its level 14 B/X, with specifically equipped pregens. How is the environment set up to handle that? What does that look like? What about the map? The encounters are not connected. Ok. Not uncommon in dungeon keys. What do they do? Are there unique creatures, interesting challenges, ambush possibilities etc?

        ‘There is no interactivity.’

        There’s NPCs to interact with (1:3, 1:7, 2:A etc.)
        There’s weird too (2:1, the restaurant 2:3 etc.)
        There’s environmental hazards (6a, 3:11, 4:5 etc.)

        Are these used perfectly? Possibly not. But this is not covered.

        A review that only covers format and layout is justly lambasted if the purpose of the module is its use.

        I laugh at the prowess and imagination of those who would suggest that only a world class DM would be able to make playing this not suck.

        • Anonymous says:

          World class GM is hyperbole, obviously. But after reading these sections you pointed out, it’s still evident that the real creative work is being left to the GM here in places that it should have belonged to the writer.

          1:3 – A fire giant with no personality, description, motives, or name with a 50% chance at charging on site. Minimally interactive. Anemic, even.

          1:7 – Tooth fairy goblin. Decent. Meets minimum expectations.

          2:A – Skeleton with genie lamp for sale. No personality, motive, name, etc., making this merely a button you push (or not) to get the treasure. Sub-par interactivity.

          2:1 – Exploding gas and weird prayer boon. Fine. Cast a divination spell to learn the answer (which is not useful to those who aren’t truly devoted to the worm god) and proceed. If something is interactive in a way that repels all attempts to actually engagement with it, it’s not really interactive.

          I could go on.

          Snippet from the infamous Gygax quote used in this adventure:

          “You must supply considerable amounts of additional material. You will have to make up certain details of areas.”

          If you’re using material written at Gygax’s level, that’s entirely possible. This adventure ain’t that.

          • Anonymous says:

            I strongly disagree that the real creative work is left in the hands of the GM in terms of imagery. I do think the encounters could sometimes be elaborated on a gameplay level, but they are not unworkable.

            1:3 The fire giant is an officer, his motivation can easily be deduced from his part in the army, having an encounter that can spiral into violence is well established in rpgland, and there is a clear guideline on what you can get out of it. What should be added is how much he knows of the local area.

            1:7 The tooth fairy is similar to 2:A. In addition, you will note he does not have a complicated motivation either.

            2:A. Giving him a personality or name (none of the others have names either, I will note) would not improve the encounter. You are confronted with an unknown, and offered a possibility of weal or woe, in exchange for great wealth. Do you take it?

            2:1 – First: Please refer to B/X or OSE for the divination magic available to high level clerics and see if you can name the divination spell that would allow you to easily retrieve that answer. I don’t think you have played much B/X at this level, because you don’t seem to understand how this divination works.
            Second: you are making up your own roadblocks. A sincere prayer can be offered without immediately changing alignment, no different from any other weird encounter where you have to offer a prayer to a statue or weird shrine. Not uncommon.

            You could, indeed, go on.

            I would propose that clearly there is a difference in ability when it comes to deducing information from context. I would point to the Judges Guild material for other examples of shorter keying.

            What property of Gygax’s writing do you think is the deciding factor for a standard of brevity?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Anon, now I’m the one worrying about *your* knowledge of B/X. But I’ll help you: Commune. The spell on the 14th-level precon cleric’s character sheet. I would assume a player leveraging a 14th-level cleric would be able to ascertain the shrine is a no-go after three questions. Probably even two.

            The encounters in this adventure are not unworkable or terrible. They’re just not great and they completely lack descriptive zeal.

            Any “generic monster’s” motivation in this adventure could be guessed at, but that’s the problem. It’s always going to lead to the expected and the boring. It falls wholly on the GM to infer and then pull the actual creativity out of thin air in almost every one of these encounters.

            For better overall material, I’d refer you to Gygax’s D1. You can blindly choose almost any encounter in it and find more flavor, motivation, description, and interactivity. They are often not as brief as the entries in this adventure, because this adventure is a lesson in being too brief with too little oomph.

            If you were to select from some of the best descriptions and encounters in D1 while comparing them against this adventure’s best? Well. There’s no need to continue to beat a dead horse at this point.

          • Anonymous says:

            The commune spell allows 3 yes/no questions and may be utilized once/week. You pretend as if the danger and the puzzle are trivial whereas it would require both a significant commitment and very directed use of the Yes/No questions. The shrine is not a no go as the danger can be bypassed, and the effect of interacting with it in a certain way cannot be easily ascertained with 3 yes no questions. You simply mentioned divination, not knowing the specifics, and now you have to justify that. You would use Augury to see if the gas was dangerous btw.

            I disagree that there is no descriptive zeal to the encounters, the lake of amoeboid acid, the rendering pits with the Deliverer, the See-Dragon, the city with its gnolls riding on ants. The diseased heart with Caecilias bursting out. I think structurally the adventure could be stronger, but this is not what was asserted.

            My question was not a request for a recommendation, I am well aware of the GD series, as is everyone who is in the OSR for more then 2 years. My question was an attempt to figure out what qualities, according to you, an adventure key is meant to contain.

            If you would compare D1 (which is not the best in the D series) with any 10 of the recent The Best’s the comparison is laughable, idiotic, the difference so pronounced it is not even a challenge. Comparing any single recent entry, with A HANDFUL of exceptions, with the most celebrated series of adventures by the creator of D&D is going to leave most things wanting.

          • Bryce Lynch says:

            I can, I think, accept an assertion that there is descriptive zeal. I do not think that there is, but, sure, maybe it meets your threshold for what you want in a game. I think it is halfhearted, at best (and I’m being very kid with that statement), and lacks anything other than “I slapped an extra adjective on to it.” Gnolls riding on ants is the bare minimum and akin, in my mind, adjacent to “hobgoblin slingers” shit found in a 4e monster manual. Slapping an extra adjective on to something does not evocative writing make.

            Also, Gygax did some interesting things at times but his adventures are not the strongest … nor are most of the old adventures, and especially GDQ. While there are moments in many of them that are interesting, and their ability to pack gameable content in to the word count is laudable, I really only like G1, and suggest G2 could be better with a little more work.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes anon, that’s why I chose D1. A typical effort on Gygax’s part. I’m not going to throw a nuke at an anthill, even though you requested a Gygax example.

            I was keeping my spell suggestions limited to those appearing on the precon character sheets, although augury would work just as well. Do you want me to actually list out all such spells and their considerations for you to prove they are real and I’m aware of them?

            Anyway, it was all just a litmus test where you were trying to smugly gotcha someone over system knowledge and it isn’t working.

            Glad to hear you’ve been in the OSR for more than two years! Welcome!

          • Anonymous says:


            It is only meant to reveal that you start by accepting a conclusion and then clumsily fumbling your way back to the premise. I am not married to any one position. It is the way in which the conclusion is reached that is of interest. In this alone you have obliged me.

            I requested (and have still failed to obtain), an elaboration on the properties of Gygax’s writing. Instead you provide what could be one of the worst examples to make your point about writing in such a way that details may be inferred.

            D1 has, on the one hand, expansive random tables, providing a vast framework. Adding ‘evocative description’ would be a triviality, the system is meant to be robust and cover the entire journey into the underdark. The random encounters themselves are just entries. On the other hand, the encounters (take D3 and M12) lack names and ‘motivation’ for the most part, but are rich and tactically complex.

            From this you should have deduced that:
            1. Writing briefly is acceptable if a great deal of information must be conferred in a short amount of space.
            2. Encounters can be fit for purpose. No one cares what the Manticore is doing in his off-time if he is just going to attack from surprise. And then here a good point would be to argue that the extra details actually make the adventure much more versatile, and stimulates different forms of play.

            Unfortunately for you, that litmus test worked again. You mentioned divination, a subject of which you have only read, then bungled that up by mentioning Commune, which takes 3 turns to cast and is limited to 1/week. You don’t cast that in the dungeon because you take 3 random encounter rolls. You then missed an easy retort by not pointing out that Augury is a spell that does not exist in B/X. B/X divination fucking sucks, like most things in B/X.

            You are presuming to judge encounters for a game and level of play with which you are not sufficiently familiar. Had you restricted yourself to either matters of description, or matters of interaction, this flaw would not have been revealed.

            I have been in the OSR for a not inconsiderable time. And your welcome is accepted with mild disgust.

        • Anonymous says:

          Maybe I’m blind, but I didn’t see one mention of format or layout in this review? Bryce talked entirely about the actual contents of the adventure.

          • Anonymous says:

            You can compare the amount of attention devoted to format and description versus that devoted to interactivity, gameplay, new content etc.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Bryce, do I smell another contest? This adventure idea would be a shame to see go to waste.

  9. AB Andy says:

    After seeing all the comments where some defend the work and some trash it, I went ahead and read the adventure with, hopefully, an open mind.

    First of all, let’s get this out of the way. The author has gotten favorable reviews in the past, as well as bad ones. It seems that for Bryce it’s a gamble, where he sometimes likes what Jeff Simson writes. It is also no cash grab, being a free adventure after all.

    To me, it seems like the author tried to create something different. A high level adventure. He had some ideas, he threw them on paper one after the other and took little time to polish them. However, some of the criticism is quite harsh. And this comes from someone who revisits Bryce’s standards from time to time to see if my writing is up to them (to an extent, no one should follow such things as commandments).

    Yes, there is a lot of fighting on this adventure. Rooms with fights usually contain writing in the manner of: “… will attack anyone entering the room”, “… will slither out in waves of 1-4 to fight any intruders.” and so on. And while some rooms can just be fighting in D&D, it shouldn’t be the predominant feature of the dungeon. It gets repetitive and boring.

    The biggest issue, though is that the rooms that don’t seem to contain outright fights, do not expand on this fact. Example would be “There are 3 kopru here, awake, and one is larger than the others (10HD). The larger one has a strange crystalline growth coming out of its head; this is his pineal gland and if harvested is worth 60,000gp”. So okay, these korpu do not attack outright. But what are they really doing here while awake? All of the non-fighting rooms face the same problem.

    So yes, this criticism is sound. But while reading I saw a lot of weird and interactive stuff that in my opinion should count towards not giving this adventure “my life is a living hell”. There are eyes on the walls that open up to reveal passages, bones that count as wands, gelly creatures for digestion purposes and many more, really.

    Would I run it? Probably not. But if I compare it to others that got the same tags and frustrated, angry reviews, I think it doesn’t deserve to be there with them.

    • Reason says:

      So at 14th level you might be looking for something more than a mere stabfest was actually supported by the designer then?

      • AB Andy says:

        The adventure is not good, whether for level 14 or 8 or 1. All things
        Bryce said is true. No room mentions order of combat, no room mentions reinforcements, no room describes what the room actually looks like. I haven’t said that this is a good adventure that deserved a praise from Bryce. All I said is, it probably didn’t deserve a living hell because we’ve seen better things from the author and much worse things from other authors.

        Now to the question, I don’t know, and I won’t pretend to know. I never played such a high level adventure in any system. Well, does 5e level 15 count? That the highest I’ve reached playing. So because of that, I will never pretend to know how it is to run, play, or write for high levels. If you want my guess, then yes. The higher the level, the more demanding is the content. These adventurers are owners of strongholds, owners of legendary artifacts and wealth by that time. A room of bugbears chilling before battle is a “been there done that” for them.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      “Provably not” ?

      There is some weirdness in the adventure. But the overall design, writing, and flow of the adventure is just garbage, especially at this level.

      • Anonymous says:

        You can’t assess the design of the adventure because you’ve never gone above level 9.

        • Anonymous says:

          Bryce’s blog is increasingly becoming a series of food reviews that judge the dish based off the blog post before the recipe.
          Maybe that is what all reviewers of modules who don’t play the modules are, deep down.

  10. Prince says:

    I think this review is a bit harsh, particularly for a free product of this length, but I will attest that Bryce has played at least 2 sessions for high level AD&D 1e with an 18th level cleric, as I was there to witness them. I shall leave the rest of my take for my own blog.

    This format is going to be challenging because both participants and reviewers are relatively unfamiliar with this bandwith so there is an exploratory component to it all. We have to be comfortable with taking risks. But isn’t this exciting? Don’t you feel a bit of titillation? A format where we don’t have 10 different great examples of every type of adventure. High level characters have access to all manner of spells, items, abilities, to immense powers of foresight, mobility, destruction, durability and protection.
    Who can craft dungeons worthy of such champions? You will need more then layout and evocative description.

    • Bryce Lynch says:

      “1: This assembly area is full of troops preparing to move out of the worm to conquer. There are 3 cyclopes, 2 bugbears each handling a basilisk, and 6 minotaurs. They
      carry no treasure of note and will fight to the death “

      • Prince says:

        He definetely should have opened with a bigger bang and set the stage for the rest, and I wish there would have been some effect if you attacked the Worms hearts but what about the giant gelatinous cube lake inhabited by the Beholder Dragon?

  11. GusB says:

    I’ve ran Jeff’s Crypt of Terror multiple times and it played well. I plan on running this one and many other releases from him. This may not have the polish of OSE house modules but I will run it all day over the vast majority of those adventures because I know for a fact these have been forged from actual play. Not to mention that Jeff is one of the most laid back guys writing Fantasy Adventure Games. Just had him on the podcast if you are interested in his creative process.

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