The Witch of Chimney Rock

Ancient Sage Games
Self Published
Levels 1-3

The village of Veknis has a problem – crops are dying and villagers are disappearing. Suspicions abound that the Witch of Chimney Rock is responsible for these misfortunes. Heroes are needed to discover the truth, venture into the primeval Forest of Legressia, and rid Veknis of the scourge plaguing the town, potentially uncovering a far more dangerous looming threat in the process!

This 67 page adventure, a conversion from 5e, presents a jumble of over-invested encounters that the party has no opportunity to overcome. In spite of a few interesting encounters, that near the definition of set pieces, the overall effect is one of wasted effort in a world in which everyone is simply misunderstood.

There are many things to complain about in this adventure, examples of bad design that may, in some cases, be the platonic example of what not to do. You show up in a village for hook reasons. Those hooks are the usual suspects: someone has hired you/asked you to look in to something. Ye olde quest board, active again! These hooks, and almost every one like them, are mere pretexts and show a lack of agency for the party. You don’t do something because you want to. You do something because you have been hired/sent to do something by someone else. This reminds me so much of the many pretexts in YA lit in particular: You are special, or, The progenitors came before. Seldom do we see someone who just overthrows the system because they want to. No, you were destined to do so. A hook in which the party ARE the progenitors, in which they forge their own destiny, would be much more preferable to these. (Insert the usual commentary bitching about hooks not being needed.) 

And then comes the village. 25 pages worth of village, I think? Lots and lots of people described. Lots and lots of businesses described. Events described. And almost none of it is meaningful to the adventure. Overly described NPCs are the word of the day, along with the needlessly described business description. There is nothing special here. THis is just a generic fantasy village. One of the events is a priest who gives his sacrificial hers to some yours fish and smoking them. I guess this shows he’s kind? But this is not a meaningful part of the adventure and, of course, take us WAYYYYYY too much space. 

And WAYYYYYYY too much space is a notable thing in this adventure. The core of the adventure is your journey through the mysterious forest on you way to the titular Chimney Rock to find the titular witch. You are presented with three paths through the forest that you can take to get there. Each one will have a handful of encounters, in a linear fashion. Choosing one means not choosing the other two, and thus not encountering the other two sets of encounters. We see here a lack of understanding of what kind of adventure this is. If this were a story adventure then we may not have a problem with a linear encounter set. It’s not my thing, but, for those types of adventures I think we can acknowledge that the linear set of encounters could work for them. On the other side of the spectrum may be an adventure with a forest map in which you wander around in a kind of free form manner, having encounters along the way to the rock. You might, I suppose, encounter ALL of the areas in the forest in an adventure like this. You, maybe not. 

And this, I think, leads to the discussion of how long an encounter should be. If the party could possibly encounter, say, thirty locations, then I would not expect each location to be a long one. I would expect them to be on the shorter side of things. As a designer we’re not investing a long word count on something that the party may not encounter. But, if we’re looking at a kind of linear set of encounters, with a plot type game, I might invest a little more heavily in the, say, five encounters the party will discover. (Needless to say, I should hope that in both cases they are done well, be it terse and evocative or formatted for use!) 

But, what if I write a page, or a page and half, for each of thirty or so encounters, most of which will probably not be encountered by the party? What then? My effort wasted, n things that will never see the light of day. And that’s what this adventure does. It doesn’t know if its a linear story adventure or a free form wander. Thus utr creates each path, with the encounters on each lasting a page or a page and half or more. Two third od which will never be seen. I would not, also, that they the writing for them is not particularly evocative or the encounters formatted well for use at the table. It’s hunting text and highlighter time!

This is not to say that the core of the encounters are all bad. There are more than a few of these which tend to the situations side of the spectrum rather than the brief encounter side. And situations are a MAGNIFICENT thing for an adventure. A hag in a hut, not immediately hostile, or a rickety bridge over a ravine, complete with goblins to make things harder. These are way overly described, and the formatting used works against comprehension it is so prevalent. But, also, there’s a druid going the same place you are … to turn himself in to a lich. You don’t know that. But, also you might end up with a little ally in the future, who never leaves his forest. “Yeah, I know a dude which might help. Also, do you have any trees left over from Arbor day? Don’t ask.” That’s a great little after the fact outcome. Or, an owlbear encounter in which he’s eating a dwarf, still alive. Wanna be TPK’d? Or wanna watch the dwarf die? Or, maybe, figure out how to lure it away? There are some pretty decent ideas in this, just WAY overly described for what they are. A ghost child you can district by playing with it’s toys with it. Great!

And looking ta that ghost child, the initial read-aloud ends with “The figure whispers, insistent, beckoning you to come and play…” Which is a pretty great example of telling instead of showing. 

The conversion here is obvious, with trade dress being 5e, skill checks galore, and the final treasure being  “43 cp, 78 sp, 121 gp.” Shitty conversion is shitty and it’s prevalent throughout.  Did I mention the milestone leveling?

Throw away the vast majority of the village, rework the forest encounters, trim a lot of words and rewrite to be more evocative and for the formatting to be less cluttered and actually help at the table, while doing a proper 1e/BX conversion. Then you could have a decent little woods adventure. IN which no one is to blame for anything and everyone is mind–controlled, undead, an insect/construct or so on. Even the bandits are revolutionaries. 

This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is the first 29 pages. Enjoy page after page of village and maybe two ofthe generic wilderness encounters. But the haunted orphanage is there on preview page 22, as well as the druid/lich guy at the end. CHeck those out for an idea of how concept doesn’t quite meet the road.

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11 Responses to The Witch of Chimney Rock

  1. Anonymous says:

    “One of the events is a priest who gives his sacrificial hers to some yours fish and smoking them.”

    Bloody hell Bryce, I want some of whatever “sacrificial hers” you’ve been smoking…. sounds potent.

  2. Gnarley Bones says:

    Once again, we witness the uselessness of the obligatory village.

    It’s OK to say, “You start in a village.” You don’t HAVE to plot out every moisture farmer and rusted tool collection.

  3. Sevenbastard says:

    Well the party might hit 2/3 of the forest encounters if they chose to take a diffrent road back to town.

    Ya know take in some different scenery?

    • Lonely Penguin says:

      Based on the preview, it looks like there’s also a “cut-through” that runs through all three paths, making it easier to do all the encounters if you want to. Plus, I guess your PCs can always traipse through the wilderness, off-path.

  4. Anonymous says:

    i smell AI

    • More Anonymous Than You says:

      The Forest Oracle was written by a live human, pre-AI. Sometimes a bad and wordy adventure is just a bad and wordy adventure.

      • less anonymous now that the AI are after me says:

        that’s what the AI want you to think…
        thanks for the correction, every description seems copy/pasted, I am fooled

  5. Shitty Adventure says:

    I smell a really crappy conversion with 5e trade dress. Apparently, all you have to do is take any adventure written for any system, slap “OSR” on it and voilà! you have a conversion. I think I’ll go find an old Cars Wars adventure and slap OSR on the cover.

  6. Roger GS says:

    But if you write a motivation for the party into the module, isn’t it more agency-denying than simply having them meet with an advertised opportunity?

  7. Red Flaggz says:

    5e trade dress + levels 1-3 + pseudo-OSR = obvious crap never to be touched

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