Adeva’s Mountain Shrine

By Franklin Hicks
Self Published
Levels 1-3

A small village at the base of the mountain holds a terrible secret. Unknown to all but the village elder and the Shrine Keeper the villages goddess, Adeva, is actually a devil. Each year an innocent is sent to the mountain shrine to ‘join’ the Shrine Keeper. When the truth is they are destined to be a sacrifice to the devil.  This years sacrifice, a dwarven boy named Orik, escaped the Shrine Keeper and fled into the mountain. Edwin Swift, the village elder will ask the players to venture to the top of the mountain to find the boy and return him to the mountain shrine. Little does he know that soon the Shrine Keeper will be dead and the villages secret on the cusp of being revealed!

This seventeen page single column adventure details a small dungeon with eleven rooms. Some nice ideas in this one, and a touch of or or evocative writing. It never goes goes far enough, though, in its writing or the logical consequences of things in order to bring the place to life.

This thing has some decent ideas in it, rather than just being another throw-away. The premise here is a village full of goody goodies. They live by a strict code of charity, asceticism and devotion to their protector goddess. Really good people, the way you wish religious people were. I mean, we can argue about the asceticism part, but, otherwise, you get the idea that we’ve got a nice little village here, and they truly like to help others. As a player this would SO set my teeth on edge. I’m ready to be drugged and wicker-manned and because of that I’m ready to start slitting throats and burning shit down on a hair trigger. And that’s a good thing. You’ve manipulated the PLAYERS through an in game thing. They are invested, and that can be quite rare indeed. Oh yeah, once a year they send a kid up to the mountain shrine to join the others up there in their Adeva religious order. KLast kid, though, got scared and ran off. Maybe you could help find him? 

Really solid foundation there. And, like so many other things in this adventure, that really solid foundation is going to be fucked up by the designer. Subverting expectations, or appeals to imagination abound … but then are generally drug through the much of traditional RPG tropes, ruining things. 

The kid is a little dwarf kid, and he’s run in to a kobold sorcerer … with a backstory. Great. So, look, we all recognize all of that shit as crap, right? It’s some kind of fucking excuse to throw in some kobolds in the mountain shrine. And, that kid, he was about to be sacrificed by the shrine when the sleep drug wore off and he ran off. LAME. Just an excuse to include the kobolds. THis could have been so much better with a little more thought. The village gets almost no attention at all. Turn up the charm. Get the party in to the mood, or either being paranoid as all fuck or loving the place. Throw in a couple of (very) short vignettes and NPC’s. Bring that pat of the adventure to life. Then get rid of all that “he was almost sacrificed” shit. He just ran off because he missed home, or got lost or some kind of shit. This allows the party to get invested, have some mountain encounters, and then get to the shrine, Turn up the paranoia there. THEN you can turn the entire thing in to what it is, once the party clues in. You can some dips and rises here, which are just not present. 

There are hints of good things though in almost every room. One of the wanderers on the way up the mountain are the bloody remains of a mountain goat on the trail … fortelling a mountain lion. All of the wanderers get that little bit of extra to help the DM bring the encounter to life.  And we get little snippets of good descriptions, like a sacrificial dagger is wrapped in a gold trimmed red cloth. That’s a good detail. It brings it to life in the mind. Or a small leather book on a bench … with three spells in it, like a scroll. Good little description, nothing complex, recalling all of the little leather bound ratted up books in bookstores and movies and the treasures and secrets they contain. A description that is overloaded, alluding to more than there is on the written page. And to use it as a scroll, instead of just saying “scroll with three spells?” Perfect. Or, skeletons in a jail cell, manacled up … who struggle to free themselves. There’s great tension there. 

But the issues here are pretty major, beyond the nonsensical plot design, missed opportunities and mismatch in tone. The read-aloud over reveals, destroying that back and forth between the players and the DM. The DM text gives details on the mundane. “Bed. The small bed is neatly made and has several thick wool blankets.” That does nothing for the DM. You lean on the DM to provide that sort of information while the designers role is to tel lus why THIS kitchen/bed/etc is different and relevant to the adventure. Backstory is embedded “the last remaining embers in the brazier have died out.” Well no fucking shit they have. Or, phrases are repeated between the read-aloud and DM text, telling us, for instance, that there are faded and tattered red & gold banners hanging on the wal … repeatedly. This, instead of, say, working a description that ended up as “On the other side of the portcullises is a dead kobold lying in the center of the hall. A faceless statue stands on the south end.” Joy to you! Or, a glyph glowing with purple light … with no real details on it. I’m gonna ask what the fuck it looks like. Don’t leave me hanging Mr designer! And, of course, the fact that the goddess here is a Erinyes. Who can actually grant boons. The implications are staggering! 

This is not just a generic garbage adventure. There are bots and pieces of imagination and evocative descriptions that shine through. But, it’s not consistent enough. There’s not enough of them, and the missed portions, the straining of disbelief … there’s just too much of that and not enough of interest. Maybe next time?

Also, put the fucking level in the marketing blurb!

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1. The preview is broken. ?

This entry was posted in Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Adeva’s Mountain Shrine

  1. Bucaramanga says:

    “Levels 1 – 3” should be an automatic red flag

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is that?

      • Bucaramanga says:

        1) Oversaturation (just how many orcs-in-a-hole do we need?);

        2) Clichés and no room for innovation (see how swiftly “kill a demigod at level 2”, no doubt risen as a response to orcs-in-a-hole, because a cliché of its own);

        3) Failure to engage with the complexities of the system, creating a vicious circle where the game is only ever played at the lowest levels (Prince wrote at length about that).

        • SargonTheOK says:

          I’ve got no skin in this game, but a response nonetheless:

          1) Agree, but only inasmuch as almost every entry-level designer writes one, because they are (generally) writing stuff from their home campaigns that (generally) start at level 1, and may or may not go much further. That doesn’t make it all bad, but I would anticipate quality to vary accordingly – not quite a “red flag,” though something to be cautious of. Frankly, I can think of many worse red flags than “levels 1-3” (AI art, shovelware release rates, no credited play testers, etc.) that make this argument lose some of its bite.

          2) Hard disagree. This sounds straight out of the same playbook that horse and buggy drivers wielded against Henry Ford. The presence of derivative work, even in high volumes, is not evidence that only derivative work can be produced.

          3) I’ll give some credence to this argument, though only so far as for developers who habitually rehash low level material and thus never acquire the increased system expertise needed to write compelling high level material. Thus, I think the solution (which I believe Prince came to as well, via NAP3) is to encourage the creation of more high level material, not expunge the field of its pyramid-like foundation of low level material. A need for better capstones ought not negate the need for cornerstones.

          • Prince says:

            Its not an automatic disqualification, but it is, currently, a situational red flag.

            In order to compensate for a temporary oversaturation of the lower brackets you should institute a temporary moratorium (or vastly increased scrutiny) on low level material.

            I think it is defensible to ask the question how people are going to improve in a bracket that is by far the most numerous. What are the best low level adventures? How can you expect to improve on them etc?

          • SargonTheOK says:

            Prince: One thought on how to innovate on low level play – I’d like to see improvements in establishing the beginnings of large faction play – not just “this dungeon has factions” (which is good and has abounding examples) but also “this module introduces large campaign scale factions and assists the GM in running them beyond the adventure.”

            I believe (from personal experience) that one major source of GM fatigue is that play escalates from dungeon crawl to domain/faction management. Without establishing certain domain questions early, the transition between play styles is sufficiently rough that many campaigns either fail to address it entirely (and thus fall short of the full intricacies of high level play) or die in their attempt to do so.

            Ironically, such adventures would be new low level publications that promote future high level play, creating the fertile soil in which adventures like NAP3 could better flourish.

            Of course, all that could be idle future-casting, like old sci-fi novels predicting flying cars but not anticipating the cell phone. So take my thoughts with a lump of salt.

    • Anon says:

      Disagree. Level 1-3 is all I ever played when I played all the time. It’s the best, most fraught part of the game. PCs should be put out to pasture by level 6 at most. And besides, the people really playing high level should be enmeshed in so much bullshit of their PCs own doing, that pre-written adventures should be unnecessary. They’re too busy dealing with the consequences of their actions. 1-3 is oversaturated because it sells, because it’s what is most commonly needed. A point to start shit.

      • Bucaramanga says:

        Wow, two massive NuSR copes in one, “1-3 is the best D&D” and “six-level play”.

        • Anonymous says:

          Wowww well unlike you guys I play games for escapism. I just want to fantasise about a life unlike mine. As a supremely successful CEO, Nobel prize winner, passionate lover and part-time warlord it brings me joy to play levels 1-3 and pretend to be weak and pathetic.

          • Anonymous says:

            Ah yes, CEO’s and brilliant scientists are notoriously unambitious and underperform in all their pasttimes. Total losers. I believe the passionate (self) love part though, particularly in the physical sense while wearing a dog costume.

        • Anonymous says:

          Liking levels 1-3 does not make one a NuSR cope. Bit of a stretch.

      • Knutz Deep says:

        Well okay, if 1-3 sells then let’s see more quality work instead of dreck. I would have zero problems with a stream of high quality low level adventures. This adventure seems tolerable, maybe even decent, but we must raise the bar.

        If designers are going to flood the market with low level stuff then they need to up their game. The time of merely okay (at best) adventures is over. There’s way too much of that out there right now.

      • Anonymous says:

        Small games for small minds.

        Low level has its own charm. It’s fun dying a heroic death on an orc’s spear, it’s much more fun and heroic to die on Asmodeus’ spear; that’s where the campaign should dream to go. You might not make it, but as with all things in life, play the game big; the mundane and small is fine for the real world, don’t lesson the possibilities of a game with no limits.

  2. Hattori Hanzo says:

    The drive towards minimalism and the drive for low level gaming is at its root a drive to avoid having to play the game at all. First its ‘compatible with OSR principles’ but then the same person will claim that ‘there is no right way to play OSR games.’ The trend is towards nothing. A flat expanse. Undefinition. Zero.

  3. Gnarley Bones says:

    It has reached a point where old-school = low level play is an entrenched stereotype. From an “actual play at the table” perspective, how many low level games can one play? The PCs will swiftly level up and out of this range. As a hobby, we simply don’t need any more of these. It’s an oversaturation. As a gamer who is not a collector, once I see “Levels 1-3,” other than an appreciation for an author actually including a level range – as far too many do not- I’m on to the next product. I have more adventures in this range than I could ever DM.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Levels 1-3 are like a good entry point for designers to learn and improve their craft. As long as there are new generations of writers coming into the hobby, there will be new level 1-3 adventures. In no way does that take away from the greatness of the classics, so it’s hard to understand why there is so much shouting at clouds over it.

    • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

      It’s not about taking away from the classics. It is about burying us under tons of shovelware crap adventures that aren’t very good. If designers produce good level 1-3 adventures, very few will be shouting at clouds.

      That’s what we want. We want good stuff. It truly seems like much of what’s being produced is garbage at worst, and tolerable at best. Sure, there are exceptions but you have to sift through a lot of chaff to find those few grains of wheat.

      • Anonymous says:

        I for sure agree, we all want good adventures. Designers need to publish and get feedback to get good, though. They have to start somewhere.

        • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

          Anon said, “Designers need to publish and get feedback to get good, though. They have to start somewhere.”

          Yes, absolutely everyone needs to start somewhere. The designers who want to improve will take feedback to heart and try to do better. However, some don’t accept feedback. Those are the designers that will keep on churning out below average work. That’s one of the issues.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sounds like your issue is more with shovelware than level range, with the core issue being that most shovelware just happens to be in the low level ranges. If most of it were for Levels 10+, would seeing a glut of Level 1-3 adventures really be all that bad? I wouldn’t think so.

        Likewise, if the source for these materials has adequate filters to block out the range offerings you’re not interested in, is there really an issue of “being buried under a mound of shovelware”? Doubtful. Even children know how to specify terms and filter search results.

        People sure love to get up in arms over non-problems; this is, I believe, one of those instances.

        • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

          Anon said, “People sure love to get up in arms over non-problems; this is, I believe, one of those instances.”

          Hey look at that. Denigrating someone else by condescendingly minimalizing what someone wants to discuss. Also, Nice job on the “children” insult. You really grabbed that low hanging fruit with gusto. Way to go Chief. (golfclap)

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m sorry things are so complicated for you. You are surprisingly touchy for a guy with the handle “Middle Finger of Vecna”. Guess it’s one of those dish-it-but-can’t-take-it situations, eh? Man, I’d hate to see how you fare on literally any other part of the internet.

            So, we all have to root around like pigs in the mud since we’re “buried under tons of shovelware crap adventures that aren’t very good”, as you’ve put it? It’s too hard to “separate the wheat from the chaff” is it? If only there were a place online – say, some kind of review blog stretching back by a decade – that pre-screened modules so you’d know what was good and what was bad among the pile of adventures. One that conveniently had a list of, say, 200+ amazing modules assembled under one tag for easy browsing. Man, something like that would sure render the problem a total non-issue…

            Alas, tis only a fevered pipe dream, and we remain forever mired in shit, unable to pull ourselves out. Let us continue then to just shout down every new author who dares to publish a low-level adventure… that’s the obvious solution here.

          • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

            Nice try Anon. Keep tilting at those windmills and looking down your nose from that ivory tower. Oh noooooo, somebody dares to speak out against adventure designers who can’t produce good adventures??? I hope the internet is better off for your efforts. I’m sure it will be. Well done.

            Oh, and at least I use a name on this blog. I don’t post as one of 453 different “anon” commenters.

  5. I admire good high level adventures, but one of the great appeals of levels 1-3 is: the math is simpler. Not as much sifting through mountains of dice and counting down from 100s of hit points. Also, everything is simpler. At higher levels it’s easy for the players to walk over the DM *or* the DM to walk over the players because there is so much more to keep track of and so many loopholes & possibilities. For low prep adventures and one shots low level D&D is just easier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *