The Ring of the Battle Maiden

By Ashley Warren
Self Published
Level 1

A legend speaks of a lost ring that belonged to famed battle maiden Dagmar the Unyielding: traverser of the realms, feller of beasts and giants and all those who dared to stand against her. The ring, lost among the Moonshae Isles, is imbued with the power of her might. Many have sought out the ring, but few have uncovered it.  The ring is shielded by the Daughters of the Gray, a fierce and fearsome band of warriors as tough and relentless as the coastal landscape from which they were hewn. The Daughters, who reside in a Norland settlement called Kvinne, have made an oath to Dagmar, whom they revere and respect, to protect the ring at all costs. Only those the Daughters deem worthy are allowed to get close to it.  For the ring is not a piece of jewelry: it’s a place. In fact, it’s an arena.

This 23 page adventure is terrible. It has a  number of combats in a Challenge Arena. With a few more fights tossed in also. I don’t understand it at all.

I’m not sure why this is on my list. I combined several of my DriveThru wishlists recently, now that I’ve discovered that I had them, and this was on it. So someone suggested it. A bad person. I usually start reviews by trying to say something nice about an adventure. I recognize that folks generally have some emotional investment in their works and they deserve a fair shake, which includes finding some things to praise. But I’m really struggling here to find anything. 

You’re after The Ring of the Battle Maiden, which contains her power. The hooks are the usual lower effort kind. A toss-aside bar rumour or a lost page of a book. And there’s there’s the body of a troll that washes up on shore. Do trolls do that now? Not regenerate? You don’t need fire anymore? I see a stat block at the end for a Norland Troll,. That has a slightly different regen mechanism. And also has the Vicious Mockery skill? I guess this is a new troll type then and I should calm the fuck down? I don’t know. I’m down with new creatures but I think I’m taking exception to the subversion of the core mechanic of Troll. Also, when a troll DOES appear in the adventure there is little guidance on the Mockery thing. Like, none. It just seems to be another attack type. “I cast SUPERNOVA OF THE SUN!” ok, your opponent takes 1d4 damage. This would be too much in the way of removing the mechanics from the fluff for me. 

So you jump on a ship, the Maiden Voyage (get it?! Get it?!) and head to the place. AT the dock you get attacked by a harpy in a perfunctory manner. Then you’re met and told that to start your journey you need to go to the battle house over the mountain. So you hike over it, up the trail, and along the way you activate each standing stone, all CRPG style. Then you might a random undead monster at the top, which, I might note, is the improper way of using randomness. And, in fact, might stand in for a lot of the issues in this adventure. That’s not the purpose of randomness in D&D. It’s not to determine which monster you fight, in a fixed encounter that you are only having once. Yes, wanderers are a thing, but that’s to prevent your abbreviated work day shit. But, this encounter is only happening once. WHy is it random? Why not put some effort in the encounter, since its the culmination of lighting all of the beacons of Gondor. But, again, whatever.

You make it to the other side. You find the battle house. It’s stated out in all room/key style, which is inappropriate for something like this. We’re not exploring. It’s more of a social environment. A different key style is more appropriate for the assisting the DM in a case like this. Oh, also you find out that the Ring is an arena and you’re fighting tomorrow!

We go through a LONG section of read-aloud the next next morning that I am in no way paying attention to if I”m a player. And then a LONG section of rules. Which I am again ignoring because I’m bored listening to the DM and am now playing on my phone. .You go through a tournament of combat, like, five rounds or so. Worry not, if you die the priest fixes you. And between battles you can drink of the font of recovery to get your HP and abilities/spell slots back. Lucky you, death provides no escape from this adventure. 

Once you win a troll then attacks and you’re charged with killing it. If you all die then the village leader steps in, kills it immediately, and the priest cures you. It’s hard enough to die in 5e, but this takes the cake.

Did I mention the prose style in the read-aloud? When arriving at the coast there’s a long section of read-aloud that ends with: “It is a stark and bleak, but achingly beautiful, landscape. Ghostly mist swirls around you, enveloping you in its whispers — a promise that you may discover both danger and wonder here.” How’s that for purple? I can’t stand this sort of commentary. Writing is supposed to make you feel something, not TELL you how to feel. I understand it’s a bit unfair to hold an adventure writer to the standards of The Paris Review, but maybe just get a little close?

I don’t know what to say here. I know people have different styles of games. I just find it impossible to believe that any decent number of people want to sit through long read aloud. Or with that sort of prose in it. And a Test Your Might arena? There are THOUSANDS of those adventures. I can’t see why they are popular at all. Because they are easy to understand and run and require little creative effort on the DMs part? I mean, D&D has those 4e-style boardgames, right? And, with no risk at all, to the party … this is where I come closest to being wrong. I understand I want a more Game game. And that other people want more Story activities. 

But, then, why are you using D&D for that? I mean, Thou Art But A Warrior. 

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages. Enough to tell what you’re getting. Or not getting, as the case may be.

I don’t know. There is just so little understanding on how to write an adventure. What good formatting looks like. Your read aloud. Structure. Evocative writing. What’s important to pay attention to, or not. And I don’t even mean the style of game. I can acknowledge that people have different play styles. But so much of the rest of it …

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35 Responses to The Ring of the Battle Maiden

  1. AB Andy says:

    Judging by the reviews on Drivethru, the general popularity of Critical Role, and talks I stumble on the dnd, 5e etc subreddits:
    The amount of people who want an epic story in which
    1. their character will never die(and they know it)
    2. the DM talks for 5 minutes explaining how a merchant looks like
    3. The world scales to their level (and therefore it is also considered bad practice to have PCs of different levels)

    makes at least some 80% of players.

    But it’s to be expected. Critical role is what… 10 years old? Many have started playing because of it and try to imitate it, not understanding that 99% of tables will fall asleep during a Mercer read aloud.

    • Anonymous says:

      80% is a high estimate. To assume 80% of 5e groups play the game in the same way, and that all their players have homogenous preferences, and that the same 80% are the only ones posting on DTRPG and Reddit… the estimate is merely a generalization based on anecdote rather than verifiable statistical reality.

      Generalizations are bad, in the same way I could make a flip generalization that “90% of non-5e players are basement-dwelling incel neckbeards and balding old geezers, based on the blogs I’ve read and the YouTube videos I’ve seen”. We both know it’s not the case, but damned if I didn’t type it out online anyway, and damned if some reader doesn’t come away agreeing with it.

      Gut feelings are not credible statistical sources, and generalizations only serve to distort objective discussion.

      • Anonymous says:

        – Gut feelings and prejudice are often reliable indicators of objective truths. The only problem is the loss of context and nuance.
        – Generalizations are inevitable and are useful guidelines for a discussion. It is impossible to discuss any topic without some degree of generalization.
        – In the current era, there is a massive replicability crisis in science, mostly concentrated in the humanities, caused by a tidal wave of dishonest junk science from 2nd and 3rd world countries, untenable publish-or-perish standards from magazines and massive overreach from biased ethics comissions, political interests, special interest groups and corporations otherwise.

        All of this is analogy for being less of a massive know-it-all faggot to other commenters. Shut up midwit.

      • Anonymous says:

        You can’t convince me it’s under 40% at least.

      • AB Andy says:

        Well, will it make you happy if I don’t put a number there and say “vast majority” instead?

        • Anonymous says:

          Depends – would it bother you if I put a “[citation needed]” next to that statement?

          What statistics are you pulling from? What sample size have you polled? Are you looking at the long-form D&D player census, or only the abbreviated one?

          • Anonymous says:

            Long-form? Someone knows their instruments!

          • Anonymous says:

            “What is the effect-size? Have you conducted a meta-analysis? What does the New York Times think?”

            Imagine making decisions like this. Science is a tool meant to reveal the secrets of the universe, not enable the mid-witted and perpetually rebellious to obstruct the natural flow of conversation.

            Just ask: Why do you think that? It is easy to figure out if the commentor is discerning.

            There is such a superabundance of information, in particular, junk information, it is possible to corroborate or cast doubt on any position.

            If someone asks for a citation it is your duty to kill him and thus clear the conversational field so the rebirth of goodness, beauty and truth may commence.

  2. Gnarley Bones says:

    Multiple 5-star ratings.

    Vecna wept.

  3. Artem the Orc Blade says:

    1) Vicious Mockery is a spell in 5e. So, it is a troll that… wait a minute… magically insults people. Troll. Insults. As in, “trolling”. Get it? GEDDIT? This is some Rick & Morty level millenial humour.

    2) Video Game Logic galore. Collect plot coupons. Have forced arena combats. Are they still doing that in CRPGs? They certainly do in 5e shovelware.

    3) Super NPCs doing the job for you if you fail was ultra-lame in the 2e era and even lamer now.

    Adventures like this is why 5e can’t get a fair shake.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just have to wait for 6e to come along and the brainless masses to migrate in. Then all that are left are those that actually enjoy the old system at its own merits, not because it’s the popular Current Thing. THAT is when we’ll get the fair shake, not a moment sooner.

      I remember when 4e was the newest thing, and it was absolutely reviled. But nowadays – now that it’s been around for a while and no one is forced to play it anymore – I hear people praise it more and more for what it is and what it did right. It will happen with 5e as well: I hear 6e is already on the way so it won’t be long.

      • Reason says:

        That’s the first 4e praise I’ve ever heard… I guess that still makes you right though?

      • Anonymous says:

        Plenty of praise was given to 5e for what it did well from when it first came out. The cracks grew over time and more and more people found these cracks harder to ignore. And it doesn’t help that WotC has leaned in hard to tell everyone to play it like a story game.

      • Anon says:

        I think you mean version 5.666

  4. Dworkin says:

    The author is one of the founders of the “Uncaged” series of intersectional feminist themed adventures for 5e, who was later hired as a sensitivity reader at WOTC. Uncaged features female monsters who are all “misunderstood” by society’s “oppressive systems”, and the adventures are mostly railroads designed to teach the passive players DEI lessons.
    One adventure features a Dryad and a Russalka who are actually good, and in a relationship. The players travel with them to a festival where they have non-threatening encounters with cute gay, trans and queer characters (A trans-male dwarf is having a pie-eating contest, etc). Then a heterosexual male elf shows up, twirls his moustache, and as such, is obviously the villain. The adventure requires you have multiple educational encounters along a linear disney dark ride, and prevents you from immediately killing said elf, and winning the adventure.
    There’s also one that’s supposed to be a Little Mermaid remake, but with the Mermaid in a relationship with a woman, and then an older patriarchal man shows up to ruin things by forcing an arranged marriage. You get the idea…
    It’s high on activism, low on game design skill (hence the re-educational railroads).

    • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

      Replying to Dworkin, this is a joke right? This has to be a joke. Please tell me this is a joke

    • Gnarley Bones says:

      I dunno about that, but she wrote an adventure to raise $10K for children’s cancer after her daughter beat leukemia. So, I think she gets a pass.

      Subverting fairytale tropes is as old a practice as fairytales themselves. Nothing to be alarmed about.

    • samurguybri says:

      RPGs can be queer as all get out, if there’s some actually adventureland with risk and rewards! I fall on the left side of things and I want to see good examples of all this stuff. Sadly, Sturgeons’s Law applies to so many “published” adventures, from whatever pov they are writing for.

      • Dworkin says:

        This is definitely not a joke — simply read the samples from the Uncaged pdfs on DMs Guild and you will see. No problem with good adventures, but many of them are more political propaganda than well designed adventures (the designers do a lot of motte and bailey tactics where they state they are “presenting alternative voices” in public, but in private overtly state they have a pretty on-the-nose political agenda.

        That being said, this author is only one person, and the Uncaged series is a group effort of activists, some of whom are more militant than others. I’m sure she is not a bad person, but IMHO (and having a read one of the books), the adventure series prioritizes activism over good game design, and based on Bryce’s review, this sounds like more of the same.

        • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

          Remember when D&D was exploring some old hole in the ground (or wilderness, or castle), killing the inhabitants and taking their stuff? Remember when it was a game to escape reality not be reminded of it constantly?

          Good gravy, what happened? I praised WotC when they bought the brand. Now I wish they’d crash and burn.

          • AB Andy says:

            With the amount of OSR Systems and other, non so OSR…. nonetheless good… do we really care anymore what WotC does? Like… are you going to check 6e when it comes out? Will you care?

          • Gnarley Bones says:

            Storytime D&D started with 2E, in my opinion.

          • Melan says:

            We don’t have to live like this.

          • samurguybri says:

            Why is this so hard for adventure writers? This could use more solid hooks for interaction, but damn, it’s not that hard. Here’s how I advance my “liberal agenda”:

            A mercenary lieutenant inspired by African Cavalry units.

            Left Talon Huzba-Commander of the Brilliant Lances

            Recently “promoted”. Squints then barks orders. Thoughtful. Rich and shows it with fine printed clothes and flashy weapons

            Does not know how to command cavalry, but is a capable and motivated leader.

            Especially open to outsiders ideas on how to utilize cavalry troops and ways to get to the heretics. She will gift fine steedlizards, tack and feed upon success

            Unaware of Eehee’s activities

            2 jealous husbands, 1 content wife and 5 children in tow in the baggage train

        • The Middle Finger Of Vecna says:

          @ AB Andy, fair point. I guess I keep hoping they will do something that I find more to my liking, which at this point is highly unlikely.

  5. Jacob says:

    Looking at that (probably AI generated) cover I wonder whether the author is a child? The art seems infantile.

    If it is a child’s work then I am not going to criticise as getting your adventure down and published is more than I’ve managed.

    I like the idea that the ring isn’t treasure in the conventional sense. That is a neat twist that you might find in an episode of Tales of the Unexpected or Fredrick Forsyth’s No Comebacks.

  6. cengizisyan says:

    The cover art style alone is an indicator of how awful this adventure would be.

  7. Anders H says:

    Dude, it’s just a variant troll. Calm your grognard tits a bit.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Variant troll lives matter!!!!!

  9. Girly Bones says:

    That cover is going to win the war against the patriarchy all by itself!

    The evil CIS white males defeated!

  10. Bailey says:

    This art style means you can judge a book by its cover.

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