Grackle’s Vale

By Randy Musseau
Roan Studio
Levels 3-5

The otherwise peaceful village of Grackle’s Vale has been terrorized of late by a creature that has taken up lair in the nearby ruins of Reeker’s Keep. It is a Boarman, a foul lycanthrope said to haunt dark forests and murky mires, feared for its savagery and accursed tusks. At least a dozen people have gone missing after attempting to track the beast, the most recent being a Ranger of some renown. A reward of 1000 gold pieces has been offered to anyone willing to help free the community from the Boarman’s bloodlust.

This 24 page adventure uses about ten pages to describe … thirty encounter locations in a small valley and dungeon. It’s verbose, boring, not formatted to any particular manner, and has little to no treasure, as compared to the needs of a party of three to fives. “Worldbuilding” at the expense of adventure.

This is in two parts. The first part is the village of Grackle’s Vale. It’s a fishing village on a coastline. The Barons men don’t get involved in the villages affairs. The adventure spends ten or so pages describing the village, but, “fishing village” gets you 95% of the information contained in this part of the adventure. Many many MANY words are spent describing the village.Which is just a fishing village. There is absolutely nothing special or interesting about it. I don’t care the the chick that runs the local bakery lost her husband at sea  awhile back. That does nothing for me. How does that create adventure? How does that create interactivity? How does that inspire the DM to something to do in the game? Instead of a couple or three paragraphs describing her and her bakery I might instead say that she grins too wide, is kind of slow, and makes a show of putting in her SECRET INGREDIENT to her special buns. I have now done more for this adventure, in one sentence, than the ten pages of the village description ever did. Jesus christ people, I don’t need yet another description of a smith or tavern. Give me something that I can run with the fucking party. It doesn’t have to be a fucking evil cult, just make it something that is gonna be fun or interesting at the table. Compelling. Conceptually dense. Not yet another description of the shopkeep having blue eyes. That only works if everyone else in the village has black eyes or blue eyes mean you’re divine or the devil or some shit. “Dogs are commonly used for work and as guard animals. The lower valley is quite fertile and harvests have been abundant”.I loathe these fuckign descriptions. Someone spent time and effort on each and every one of those descriptions. They wasted their energy and creative juices on page after page after paragraph of boring ass mundane descriptions instead of using it on compelling and dense content. I’m sure, though, that the actual adventure will be better? 

Well, no. Part two is a trip up a little rift valley. Seems there’s a boarman up there and you’re being offered a thousand gold to go get him. A thousand gold! Oh my! What ever shall we do with all that cash?! Anyway, lack of compelling hook otherwise, up the rift valley you go. You have thirteen encounters, all in a row since it’s a rift valley. At one point you probably take some tunnels up so you don’t have to climb a waterfall. That’s another fifteen or so linear encounters. Then you find a ruined tower and fight Yet Another Wereboar (that’s the fourth or fifth in this adventure, I think) and the adventure is then over. Yeah you!

Slog ye through … and encounter with a wereboar and his overly described cabin! Slog ye through … two ogres and a bear in a bear trap! Slog ye through … some zombies! SLog ye through … combat after combat. Maybe a spike trap here and there. Toss in a hobgoblin and some redcap and a couple of shadows and you’ve got yourself an adventure. The adventure up the waterfall, which is the closest thing to being interesting, had the potential of feeling like the Fellowships slog through Moria. Dark hallways and chambers. Echoes in the distance. An enemy unseen. Natural hazards and stumbling upon crypts. Instead it comes off as Just Another Room. A large dark chamber. A small cavern. A 30×20 room that serves as the quarters of the redcaps. These are the actual starts of room descriptions. And they don’t get better. Instead going on for sentence after sentence, expanding upon nothing interesting, backstory, meaningless things, instead of concentrating on an actual interesting encounter. 

Theres a throwaway sentence about one of the guardsmen in town being infected and the loyalty of his fellow guardsmen. That’s the only thing remotely interesting. That could have been expanded with another sentence and turned in to something really good. A kind of Dawn of the Dead (remake) and the tenseness of a transform vs the love and loyalty of your fellows. Real human shit. But, hey, why not tell us who has blue eyes and who has brown instead.

“The journey will take two days (unless magic is used.) Yes, wel, thats understood in all contexts, correct? And the treasure here is subpar. The magic items might be books, but are about the right amount, I think., The mundane, gold-xp treasure, though, seems far too little. 

And the maps all seem backward. They are kind of isometric.Not really, but drawn to give perspective. And the focus, then, is confused. The waterfall tunnel map seems backwards from the keying, as does the town map. As if one were drawn North to south and one was drawn south to north. You can figure it out, but it takes a minute (or ten) to figure out what you are actually looking at and how it fits with everything else. Not really a bitch, but, an interesting observation. I don’t know I’ve encountered this kind of map dissonance before.

Anyway, A combat slog with WAY too many words, little to not formatting to help the DM through them, little to no interactivity beyond combat, too little treasure, and nothing really interesting going on. I get what the designer wanted to do, but the whole thing feels wrong. And the lcimax, with the boarman, has a Lareth the Beautiful thing going on.

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. You get to see part of the town. It would have been better to show a page of the dungeon as well, or at least the wilderness encounters.

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2 Responses to Grackle’s Vale

  1. Stripe says:

    It’s been a while since I posted this link in the comments. It sounds to me that this author would benefit from understanding *this*:

    Conceptual density (or ‘What are RPG books *for*, anyway?’)

    You have to understand *that* before you can understand Bryce.

    If you don’t understand *that* then Bryce is just an angry bastard hurling insults.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Are there any grackles? What does it mean that the vale belongs to a small omnivorous bird? Does the harsh song of the common grackle echo from the valley’s walls? “ChewiK, ChewiK!” The haunt of a ravenous gracklebeast?

    Is this implied setting? Does it mean Grackle’s Vale is “North America east of the Rocky Mountains”?

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