The Slithering River

Sebastian Grabne
Dawnfist Games

The adventure takes place in the Viper Vale Delta where a tribe of lizardmen have stolen the sacred Singing Stone from Lushwater Village. Villagers fear the wrath of the river god and urges anyone to recover the stone. Meanwhile, the lizardmen are fighting for their lives against a family of giant toads. How will the characters solve the issues along the Slithering River?

This eighteen page adventure presents a small temple with twelve rooms. Pedestrian but not offensive, I’m bored to tears by it. “Of course it was Bryce; it’s a generic/universal adventure!” Well fuck you Mr Hot Shot sane and stable reader … I thought this one was different. 

The lizardmen steal the Singing Stone from the village. The villagers want their stone back. It turns out that the lizardmen are using it to protect themselves from some giant frogs that have just moved in. (I guess lizardmen are pussies now.) They live in a ruined temple in the jungle. Some chick in town offers to guide you there. But, first, the giant albino croc in the swamps is sick and you need to help it. Or, another dude in the tavern wants you to kill it. Oh, and the towns mill has a ghost in it; Mayor Useless would like you to do something about that.

In this review I am going to do nothing but bitch about this adventure. 

The three miniquests included, with the croc and the mill, are perfunctory. You get one column of bullet points for each that outlines the adventure. For the mill, this amounts to the banshee inside asking the party to bring her the dude in town that jilted her in to suicide and then she kills him when they do and she goes away. And the mayor is ok with this. There are, I think, like six bullets that describe this, with no real detail of an adventure at all. I would hesitate to even call this an outline, more of just an idea. No real depth, or anything approaching that at all. Is the dude a bad person, a good person, there’s a complication? Nothing like that. The croc thing provides a boon if you save the croc; then the treehugger who hired you guides you through the swamp and you could avoid a random encounter or so on the way to the lizardman temple. But that’s really it; there’s no real information to run an adventure in either of the mini’s.

The adventure has its heart in the right place, in general, but falls down in most respects when it gets to the specifics. We note, for example, that the handful of NPC’s are being written in a rather terse format. Our treehugging tracker, for example is described as a happy go lucky tracker who knows the jungle well, with a quirk that there is life in everything, even rocks. Great quirk. And the happy go lucky part also. Perhaps not quite as effective as the “three keywords” descriptions that i revel in, but you can see that the designer kind of knows what to do here, even if they are fumbling a bit.

And the descriptions are trying also. “A stilted village that straddles the Slithering River, its halves connected by a swaying bridge. A symphony of bird calls and rushing water fills the air, while wood smoke fills the nostrils” That’s not a bad start. But, also, that’s ALL there is. There’s nothing really to solidify this village over any of the others. (Callback to that kilted lover, perhaps?) There’s an offhand mention of mosquitoes in the swamp, but that’s it. This is a far cry from the kind of evocative setting that really gives the DM something to work with as they ad-lib in things. 

And, once you reach the temple, we get descriptions that are things like “A large hall with exist in all directions” which both uses a boring word, large, and tells us what the map already tells us. Or “The room appears to be an old storage room.” Again, not really great. Appears to be is just padding and we should e working towards a description in which the players think “ah, an old storage room!” rather than outright telling them this. Another room has graffiti on the wall that says “I’ve solved it! You need different blood in each goblet!” Good job putting a clue elsewhere in the dungeon, but a little too on the nose. 

And it has fallen in to the trap of bullet point mania. ALL of the descriptions come in the form of bullet points. When everything is one thing then nothing stands point, if you get my meaning. Bullet points accentuate information, but shouldn’t really be the primary form of communication. Otherwise, how, again, do you know what to focus on?

The adventure is not as bad as most generical/universals, but that’s a long way from good. While the designer is on the right track in many areas, it still comes off as an effort with a lot problems.

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. You can see the village, NPC’s, and mini-adventures that I spoke of. A page showing a couple of room keys would have been nice as well.

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3 Responses to The Slithering River

  1. Artem the Divine Alligator says:

    So, Lizardmen In A Swamp, but slightly above average? (I love Lizardmen In A Swamp adventures, BTW, and even got one published… 20 years ago…)

  2. Malrex says:

    I think adding the 3 mini-quests is cool, but sounds like they just needed to be fleshed out more. Adding little quests/side treks to an adventure makes a place feel bigger and I like the options they bring as a player as well as sitting back and watching players argue on what they should do first as a DM…because it amuses me.

  3. Reason says:

    I’m getting slight U1 Danger at Dunwater vibes which had a mystery twist of Lizardmen who (if you played your cards right) turned out not to be enemies – or at least the enemy of a greater looming enemy.

    It also had a couple of side quests included- I think so you could get back in the good graces of the Lizardmen if you slaughtered too many of them before figuring out the mystery.

    U1 was good though. Loved that module.

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