The Brigands of Bristleback Burrow

By Brynjar Mar Palsson
Self Published
Levels 1-3

No amount of coin is worth crossing paths with the Bristlebacks; they’ll rob you of more than your gold.” – Myrtle Salesbury of Salesbury & Sons Caravansary.

This eight page adventure uses three pages to describe twelve rooms. It’s trying hard, and does a decent little job of descriptions and scenes. Situations and interactivity, though, is lacking. Still, a better job than 90% of Shadowdark adventures, at a minimum!

What we’re going for here is a small dungeon with mostly goblins and their minions that has some faction play, again mostly between goblins. Most of the other things you expect from an adventure are at a bare minimum, at best. No hooks. No real marketing. It’s just a dungeon that you’re going in to for some reason. And that’s chill. You know what I like to say, concentrate on the important thing, the dungeon. Everything else is fluff. And that’s what’s going on here. There’s a short (and unremarkable) rumour table and that’s about it. Background is one paragraph of three sentences. Right on man! Then we get a half column on factions and what they do when all hell hell breaks out. Four factions. About half a column. With direction. That’s pretty good from a terseness standpoint. A craven goblin boss with a penchant for cruel punishment. Also, there’s an ambitious and patient doppleganger. Hoy boy! This is how you write an NPC description. Not a fucking paragraph. A few words that inspire and make sense in the context. 

I’m generally satisfied with all of this. Or, would be. They are, I think, a little too eager to recruit any PC they meet to their cause. Basically any goblin who sees the party is going to be all on board. And I’m not sure that’s how this should be handled. The map is small, only twelve rooms, so there’s not much room to breath here. And while the map notes creatures on it, it doesn’t necessarily note factions or numbers. So, what are we doing? Is this an exploratory adventure with subtle faction play? It’s not really large enough and everyone is eager to see you. Is it more of a mass combat/raid thing once you make contact? But the map doesn’t really support that, or the notes. 

And this is, I think, an issue with e adventure. It feels like a kind of 4e/5e mashup. The 4e aspect of combat centric with some “less tactical” 5e stuff. But it doesn’t feel interactive beyond that. And I’m not even sure I’d include NPC discussions with the monsters as an element. It seems like including Talking To The Shopkeeper would be appropriate here. It’s lacking that verve of contestation in the verbal arena, or even much in the way of interactivity beyond just stabbing shit. There are interesting things here, but they are more of an integrated backstory thing (well done) rather than things the party will be directly interacting with in a game way.

But, hey, I’m being an asshole before I’m being nice. There is some really chill stuff in this in terms of scenes and descriptions and the like. Like I said, monsters are noted on the map for reaction purposes. There’s a great monster reference sheet. And the magic? Oh man. The Pact Slate of Beherit: “A broken and chipped stone tablet with infernal writing and streaks of dried blood.” Go ahead, stamp your fingerprint in blood on it! That fucking shit is gold. FUCKING GOLD! Sign me up mom!

And, as the description for the pact-stone might imply, the descriptions in general, and the scenes that they build up, are well done. “Cramped and muddy vermin– infested hallways with the lingering stench of urine and body odor. Goblin voices echo from the gloom as flickering torchlight emanates from intermittent wall sconces.” That’s the general Always On description of the main part of the dungeon and it does a great job of communicating a vibe in a small amount of space. Or. Pillars, strung with 1-3 bodies, each with a sign stating “thief” or “trespasser”, etc. I might go a little harder there, but ok. The terse and colorful NPC description, combined with terse little scenes in the rooms help to do a lot to give the rooms a little life to them. Even if they do end up in combat. 

Formatting it pretty good also. Or, lets say, well thought out. There’s a sentence ot so describing the main thing in the room. What you might notice first. And then a few bolded section headings of other main things, and then some bullets and bolding, with indents, to note other important things. No, dickheads, it’s not the ultra-terse OSE style that you love to bitch about. It’s more verbose than that, with essentially something close to full sentences, if not full sentences. And it does a decent job. 

The rooms, however, tend to be on the more complex side of things. Four or five bolded section headings/bullets, at about a minimum. This contributes to a density of about four rooms a page or so. We’re moving toward set piece room length here, or Main Room vibes. In something something this short it’s not really going to be a problem.

But, the short size of the adventure, is, I assert, a problem. There is no room to breathe here. There’s no room for the faction play to develop in to something meaningful. There’s no room for that interactivity that is the soul of Dungeons and Dragons. Todo those things you need to get to something longer/larger, and THEN we have to look at page after page of four rooms per page. Can you do it? Absolutely. But it’s not gonna be fun. The challenge here is to take that format and really work it. How do you keep the vibrancy of the room, the scene, or situation, while also keeping each and every one of them from running to a quarter page? Errr … I guess that’s my challenge. You can also have a quarter page room. 🙂  

More seriously, the challenge here is the lack of interactivity beyond a lot of combat. Yes, there are factions, but this is a rather simplistic implementation of them. A full dungeon, but this designer, would be an interesting thing to see.

This is free at DriveThru:

This entry was posted in Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The Brigands of Bristleback Burrow

  1. Bucaramanga says:

    So, I reckon it is Goblins In A Hole But Done Reasonably Well?

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is a Ben from coldlight press rec

    Thanks Bryce! This is very helpful to me. Glad to hear Ben saw something, ie you thought it was fine but not great

    Keep writing and improving author! I will follow your next work

    But also for the future I know your standards seem to be higher than his

    Great info for the reader of both blogs!

  3. Vorshal says:

    So… No Regerts? the Best? Seems the combat focus, and diminutive scope are the major setbacks.

  4. The Arcane Library says:

    Cool! I’d love to see Brynjar write a longer dungeon. I think he could develop out some fun nuance and interactivity if given the space! 🙂

  5. Chainsaw says:

    Fun cover. Those goblins remind me of the ones from Legend, which were awesome.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Chainsaw when is the next adventure!

    I hunger

  7. Anonymous says:

    I like big dungeons and I can not lie XD

    Brazen Bull was my favorite part of that collection

    Maybe a small region with connections between the smaller dungeons?

    Although I am big dungeon biased I can say for someone who wants to get back into the swing of writing?

    Something like brazen bull might be easier to start with!

    That said you could be a different writing style than me 🙂

  8. Brynjar says:

    Thank you Bryce for a great review! This was my 2nd ever written adventure and I’m still learning at lot, especially from your reviews! I’ll definitely take your points into consideration for my next adventure. 🙂

Leave a Reply

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