Night Land

By Vasili Kaliman
Singing Flame
Levels 2-3

Night Land is a realm where the sun has extinguished and its ashes lay strewn across a landscape. One after one, the stars in the universe are entering their ultimate stages of life, and existence is evaporating into memory. Night Land may take place far in the future, or even in the past. It is a dream-like realm existing without plot, which referees can weave to their will.

This 48 page digest pointcrawl uses about eighteen pages to describe about seventeen points in a trippy land. It is a pointless endeavor, with no meaning behind it. To it. Just someone with some ability to invent and describe weirdness, but absolutely no understanding of how to use it or what to do with it.

For those of you hoping for some WIlliam Hope Hodgeson, as I was, you shall not find it here. The sun has gone out here, as have most of the stars, and things are a little trippy, but otherwise there is no similarity beyond the name. It is not even to be found in the long list of Inspirations up front. Awake in the Night no more …

Ok, so, you’re awake in the Night Lands. No sun. Just a pale moon (whatever …) and most of the stars have gone out. You’ve been transported there, all Porky in Wakyland with dipping water birds and other weirdness. Then Dungeonmaster shows up to explain to the party what is going on. Errr, sorry, I mean Inspiratus the Gatekeeper, who crawls out of a pit, explains shit, and then jumps in a different pit. Bottomless, presumably. We’re not off to a great start here. And I’m serious about the Porky thing. Watch the toon but turn the sky greenish black.

I sound like an asshat here, but I’m sorely disappointed. With factions like Sunmourners, the Necro Divas and the Void Engineers you’ve got some great imagery just from the names. (Evidently, Mage the Ascension factions/houses make great factions …) The Sunmourners riding around on swine. The Necro DIvas have a ladder to heaven made out of blond human hair. How the fuck yuo make this shit up? Drugs man, lots of drugs. 

The druge continue through to the descriptions. “Within a clearing, an ASH GOLEM sits feasting on LACERATED HUMANS. Geothermal features such as geysers and hot MUD POOLS are nearby. Other ASH GOLEMS are soaking in one of the pools, chanting tender MELODIES to one another. Numerous SUN SPRITES are fluttering above them, enthralled” or “Only Necro Divas can perform magic here. Divine or arcane words spoken by other casters fall to the ground as vapor, hardening in forms reflecting the meaning. These solid forms can be taken out of the hamlet, after which the spell regresses back into an ethereal substance and activates as normal.” That’s some weird ass shit and some weird ass descriptions. Flash of radiant color sparkle within, great bubbles rise to the surface of things. The designer has a penchant for writing a terse little description and coming up with some bizarre ass shit. 

And then not knowing fuck all about what to do with it.

This comes in many different forms. Let us start with the very nature of a pointcrawl. If you try to stray from the path then the DM is told “The ashes might become too thick to wade through; terrifying beasts might be heard ahead to discourage them; they might reach an escarpment too steep to scale” IE: “I didn’t care to figure this out, just hand wave it.” Or, perhaps, the weird ass use of bolding. You can see it up above, in that ash golem description. MELODIES is bolded. Are they monsters? No. Something with more detail below this description? No. And the fucking thing does this all over the place. There’s one more sentence to that description. It ends with “a convergence point for UNEXPLAINED aerial wonders”   I’m pretty certain this refers to the table, taking up the rest of the page, of “Occurrences in the sky.” Since there’s nothing else I guess this is the same as UNEXPLAINED. What, exactly, was the point of this? And I’m not harping on a misused word, this shit happens all over the place.

Not to mention the misuse of randomness. Everything is a fucking table in this. Yeah, it’s great that the wanderers are doing something ala the wonder of Dave Bowman, but beyond that EVERYTHING that can happen is a table. Why? Why make the encounter at a location random? Will you be revisiting that location time and again and need something new to happen? No? Then why? Why not, instead, take one of those fucking ideas and expand on the six words you used to instead to provide a fully formed encounter. I find this so frustrating; the mediocre, or worse, encounters here are sometimes full of good ideas. But they have no room to breathe. And it all stems from this complete lack of understanding of randomness and the role it plays. If you want an encounter then write a fucking encounter. Why fuck around with making the Tome of Adventure Design instead look like Wackyland? Just write a fucking encounter man. Instead we get little fragments, not formed at all. 

But the major sin is the lack of cohesion. This is, I think, best exemplified by the point The Fog. “Nestled within a valley is a region thickly shrouded in BLUE FOG.While most travelers pass through without incident, many go missing each year, VANISHING without a trace. They emerge several days, months, or years later — without aging — and with no sense that time has elapsed.” You get a little table for people emerging from the fog, or for you entering the fog. That’s it. It’s just pomo, weird for the sake of being weird. It lacks any connection to anything. And, I would assert, almost every encounter in this pointcrawl follows in this fashion, even those among the factions. Nothing matters.

THings end with a visit to a garden party out of Alice and The Hatter, with a figure that has blackmail material on several notable figures. None to be found in this adventure. And never to be visited again. Just like the holy travelers who have found a new form of transportation … with no other words than those being written about it. 

There’s nothing here. It’s an empty void with a patina of colour. 

This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is a one page DMS page. That’s worse than fucking useless as fucking preview.

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12 Responses to Night Land

  1. Prince says:

    This one sounded promising for an Artpunk module. Ouch!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Vasili / Singing Flame keeps producing true simulacra — modules that at first glance seem to have the best of the old in an attractive package. Alas, not even once did they hold up to scrutiny, with DNGN being the worst offender.

  3. Shitty Adventure says:

    Sounds like Picasso, Dali, and Bob Clampett got together and took an acid trip. Oh, and it’s also point crawl with a 4.9 rating on drive-thru!!

    Hard, hard pass.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Are there any modules that have a William Hope Hodgson Nightland vibe? I suppose one could do a steam punk variant.

  5. I found myself in possession of this PDF and was similarly non-plussed by the utter lack of any WHH goodness. I considered its utility, but there was simply no meat on the bone.

    This module has kind of annoyed me for a while. I’m glad somebody else is shouldering the burden.

    • Prince says:

      A real Night Land oldschool setting/hexcrawl, with tasteful enumerations from Awake in the Night Land, would be something truly spectacular. It comes with a full bestiary for pete’s sake.

      • Absolutely no doubt that it would be great interest.

        There also exists a goodly niche for a module/setting that’s hitting all the Nightland/WHH beats, without being an official adaption.

        Points of light cranked to: ‘a point of light’.

  6. Nick Alexander says:

    EDIT: “would be ‘of’ great interest”. Cannot. Let. It.Stand.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Given the love and influence of WHH it’s somewhat surprising there is nothing. Maybe a version of paranoia, heavily hacked up, with the straight theming that no one ever uses

  8. mdhughes says:

    There is a really good Night Lands supplement in Apocthulhu, a D100 “Cthulhu Eternal” game. They detail the lands, all the Watchers and points seen in the story, and has some post-Lesser Redoubt & back adventure ideas.

  9. lige says:

    I got it because I found the cover striking. It has a sort of Tove Janssen Moomin look to it (if you don’t look too closely I guess) and because of that I was expecting something a a lot more whimsical than the actual content. Since I wasn’t familiar with WHH I also assumed the Night Land referred to an arctic sort of extended night since the landscape on the cover appeared to be snowy.

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