A Traveler’s Guide to the Echelon Forest

By David Lombardo

The Echelon Forest stretches a great distance, making it an awkward obstacle to bypass without crossing through it. Attempts to pave roadways through the woods have always met with failure, sometimes violently, so the crossing is usually reserved for small parties or individuals. It is a strange, isolated place. Alive in more ways than could be usually said for a forest. Within the woods time flows and weather changes at their own pace, and in their own ways. Although largely boreal, It is not restricted to a single clime’s plants and animals. Crossing need not be hazardous, the forest is not malicious, but it is also not entirely safe. Granting the forest its rightful respect is recommended to any who wish to cross quickly and unharmed

This 32 page adventure is not an adventure. An adventure has to have something happen. It is the D&D version of a walking simulator. 

I shall elaborate. I’m not a grumpy old man. I know, I know. But you’re wrong. I have an issue with expectations. I get excited and then am crushed by disappointment. That’s different than being a grumpy old man. My other hobbies tend to be full of old men. And they are grumpy. They hate everything new. They hate that the world has passed them by and that people seem to no longer jump to obey when they open their mouths and have dared to have other opinions. I think the kiddos are great. Life, and change, are a delight. I am, though, somewhat mystified at times. I get, for example, that some people don’t want to play a game and would rather have an experience instead. Engage in an activity, so to speak. It’s not for me and I will be happy to tell you a hundred reasons why I think it sucks shit, but I understand that they can exist and people can like it. And then it gets pushed to the logical extreme and I just am completely lost. I can no longer understand any appeal at all. “We’re all gonna sit here and stare at the blank wall, quietly and awake, for eight hours.” Uh. Ok. And thus we come to today’s adventure: a walking simulator. 

This is a generator for a forest adventure. You do a die drop to create the paths and then roll on some tables to determine which of the points in the booklet to populate where, with the  middle of the forest all being the Heart Tree. I’m going to ignore the die drop portion of this, since it’s just used to determine the map. After that you use the points in the booklet to populate the map. And this is the only reason I’m reviewing this, because there were points. It was not advertised as a generator but rather a way to organize the points provided. 

The first signs of trouble were in the introductory pages. “There are no combat encounters here, and no explicit challenges or puzzles. Just the forest, the strange things within, and the changing weather.” Yup. The designer just told us that there is no content in this adventure. And that checks out. A pair of eagles make their nest in the crook of a large tree. A bearcave,, 50% it’s empty. A lean-to, a simple structure constructed of local materials. Signs of a campfire inside but otherwise uninhabited. Those are three of the points you could encounter. And I’m not really cherry picking nor am I giving a summary of the encounter. Those ARE the descriptions of the encounters. That’s it. That’s all you get. There’s nothing else. No generator for whats there or anything like that. Oh, no, you get a generator for the season and the weather. Hot dry and full of life, says the summer generator. Great. 

As the designer told us, there are no challenges here. Or even any encounters, I would assert. Just an idea for something. No real descriptions. No evocative writing. No interactivity OF .ANY. KIND. Nothing. 

What, then, is an adventure? “an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity.” says the arch-heretic of joy, Websters. Unusual? Maybe? Exciting? That’s not this adventure. Is a walking simulator a game? It shares a medium with games. But, without challenge, is it? (WHich, I note, is the same question often asked of the story game people.)

There is no game here. Not even close. There are no challenges, explicitly. There is no evocative writing or anything to bring the unusual to life. There is barely the unusual, or, rather, barely the outline of the unusual. 

This is $5 at DriveThru. There is no preview. 



I also checked out Largshire. This is a village supplement with seventeen locations in about 31 pages. It is massively overwritten, although there is an attempt to include a plot element in each locales as well as a secret. It just came off a boring though. Your village supplement is in another castle, Mario.


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2 Responses to A Traveler’s Guide to the Echelon Forest

  1. Knutz Deep says:

    Bryce, I think you need to develop a vetting process for weeding out garbage like this.

    I know, I know, they can’t all be great adventures but there has to be a way for you to avoid obvious valueless junk like this or at the very least lessen the chance.

  2. Phillip A Hessel says:

    Notwithstanding the profound differences between the ‘story’ and ‘game’ schools in RPGs, there is a fundamental that a good story and a good game have in common: the protagonist or player has an objective, and to achieve that must overcome obstacles.

    Something that by design features “no explicit challenges or puzzles” is conducive to neither dramatic story nor engaging game. It is indeed a baffling paradigm for something offered as an RPG aid.

    Innovation transforming techniques borrowed from a prior form into a radically new form can be worthwhile. That D&D itself was originally advertised as “rules for wargames campaigns” may exemplify a normal tendency not initially fully to recognize how radical a novelty really is.

    The present case, though, seems rather a lazy lack of consideration, and — depending on how much the advertising reveals — perhaps a cynical taking of advantage of an uninformed market. That there is no preview suggests the latter.

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