Underneath the Ruined Watchtower of some Forgotten Duke

By Eon Fontes-May
YouCanBreatheNow Games
Levels 1-2

People here just call it ‘the old watchtower.’ To the shepherds and merchants who pass by, it’s nothing more than a landmark. Young lovers sneak away to carve their names on the weathered stone walls. Among the locals, the structure is widely believed to have been the military outpost of some forgotten duke. It was not. Hidden beneath the ruined watchtower is a dark relic from a forgotten age.

This seven page digest adventure uses two pages to describe a watchtower & basement with about twenty rooms. There’s some interesting moments here, more so than usual, but fails t convey a sense of the environment. Maybe next time.

Brycy Bryce likes a short, in terms of page count, adventure. That should be clear by now. Ye Olde G1 kicks some ass. But people just loooooove to stick some fucking backstory in to their room descriptions. They fucking love to pad out entries with filler words.  Let us rejoice in overly describing the mechanics involved in a situation, to the point of exhaustion. FIll those first pages with your fiction, backstory, and a town that is in no way interesting. FIll the rear with pregens, and appendix after appendix. 

Or, you can work the fucking room description. Work it till you fucking hate it. And second, fourth, and fifth draft and disgust every time you look at the wonder you are trying to convey. For us, the descendents of O’Shaughnessy. I want to believe! But not too today, you strange enchanted boy.

This adventure is seven digest pages. The watchtower has 21 rooms, including a couple of areas outside. There are three pages of padding, with some repetition of information. The actual room descriptions take about a page and a half, plus a page for the map. There was room here, in those seven pages, to do something interesting and good. A promise, unfulfilled. The background information tells us little to add to the adventure. It does not add to hooks or situations to get the party mixed up in. It is just generic backstory and the like that adds to a rich tapestry of history, that will never see use at the table. It’s not like I’m going to get pissed if we get a little bit oft this in an adventure, or a throw off sentence or two in a room description. But when the focus of the adventure seems to be on this aspect of the writing, when the actual keys suffer, then I must suggest that focus has been lost.l You should have been working those keys instead of fucking about with the fluff. But, first,an intermission …

The thing does a decent job with some ideas. It grasps a interesting situation and dumps them in fairly frequently. There is, for example, a hastily dug and shallow grave outside of the watcher. With a body in it. That has been gnawed upon. One of the halfling bandits from inside who opened the wrong door and got disemboweled by zombies. That’s great! Not the backstory, necessarily, but the clue. It amps the players up, It provides clues as to what is going on inside. It causes questions and gives apprehension. Great little fucking encounter. All from “Recently dug gravesite for [a bandit] half-devoured by a zombie.” The element of grounding, here, that his provides, bringing home the realism and the viscerarealness that comes along with it, without falling in to the trap of “realism.” You know the word. The word I won’t use. But, yeah, that’s the magic word.

Which is not to say that the adventure does it to an overwhelming degree, but when it does, it’s hitting hard and it’s a major strength. It also explicitly provides a vibe check, up front, before the keys starts. In a little shaded box we get a vibe for the upper tower and the tower basement. Weathered stone, lovers graffiti, hateful graffiti, old campsites and scattered debris and filth. And for the lower tower, a large rat twitching with paralysis, a bloody handprint of a halfling, stacks of brittle paperwork. Nicely done little “always on” details to help the DM set the mood room after room. A zombie with a carcass crawler eating entwined, gnawing on his innards. A halfling along and crying in his room, drinking to forget his sorrows, or curled up fetally in the courtyard vomiting from the booze. The air smelling of sulfur, brimstone and smoke in a room, foreshadowing another room, nearby. Noice.

But these little situations are few, and not enough to carry the adventure. And for each one of these we get “Crashing sounds can be heard from inside this medical center its in disarray.” That’s your descriptions. Oh, there more, there’s four more sentences. But the description, proper, of the environment, is no more. Or, a ruined wagon outside thee tower, hit by the bandits. With the padded out “An unlucky victim of the  bandits” and then “There’s a unique crest on the wagon, someone might care to know about this ..?” And you, the designer, might want to provide three extra words instead of that description to really hook up the DM and get their juices going. I get what you were trying to do, and am VERY supportive, but you need to do it with specificity, not with ambiguity. Anyway, the adventure loves to give us room descriptions that are not. The Commanders office hung with outdated maps. Hastily barricaded steps. A wide set of stairs, descending. They just needed another few words, or sentence, to turn them from the sparseness of an almost minimal description in to a terse worded and evocative environment that makes the imagination run wild.

Work those key description.

This is $4 at DriveThru.The preview shows you the first three pages, of backstory and shit, but none of the keys. It should have shows a few keys, because the preview wis not good for its intended purpose, getting a sense of the adventure you are about considering purchasing.


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One Response to Underneath the Ruined Watchtower of some Forgotten Duke

  1. Eon Fontes-May says:

    Hey, I’m the author of this adventure! Really cool to see it here, I wanna thank you for your review! I appreciate the compliments and the criticism alike. This is part of a series of ‘zine-modules that I’m releasing in this super-concise format and you’ve really helped me see where I hit the mark, and where I fell short. I’d love to send you a complimentary copy of my other adventure, The Buried Convent of the Headless Saint! If you’re interested then email me and I’ll send some download codes via DTRPG.

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