Eye of the Storm

By Joseph Mohr
Old School Role Playing
OSRIC
Levels 3-5

The sleepy little coastal village of Sea Mist has a problem. A ship bringing important goods to the village is overdue. A major storm hit the coast earlier in the week and the village elders wonder weather the ship wrecked on the dangerous rocks nearby. But something far more sinister has occurred.

This eighteen page adventure uses five single-column pages to describe twenty rooms in a wrecked ship. It is lacking anything interesting. It has no joy. It is misery.

An isolated village of a hundred people are waiting on a ship to arrive. It is overdue. Could you go a couple of miles up the coast to find it, pretty please? Why are you in an isolated village? Who knows. Why do you do this? Because that’s D&D tonight. Why haven’t the COASTAL villagers gone two miles up the coast to see? Who knows. Well, no, actually, I do know. Because the designer is lazy.

It’s like there’s no effort at all anymore. A Dyson map. Some public domain art, Single column text done in Word or Google Docs. Monsters? Some mermen, a water spider and a sea lion. Challenges? None, other than combat. Role playing? None. Interactivity? None. The wonder and joy of D&D? None. 

A ship. The top level/deck is empty, but for some subtle signs of combat and a spider. The second level has more signs of combat, a sea lion, and some prisoners who tell you it was … MERMEN! The lower level has twelve mermen, who almost certainly all show up in a pitched battle, leaving the rest of the lower level nothing but a “what loot do we find?” interrogation of the DM. B O R I N G. 

Also, no storm in this. No eye of the storm. Nothing.

“Cargo Doors – When cargo was brought aboard it was dropped through these grated doors
to be brought below. These doors appear to have been forced open by someone as one of
the doors hangs downward.”

That’s a room description. Here’s another:

“A single water spider has decided to make a nest in this cabin. This is the rarer sea water
variety. Although the spider enjoys proximity to water it still needs air to live. It uses this
space as it’s home now but hunts down below on the second level.”

Expanded minimalism. They both say almost nothing at all. The spider entry, for sure, says nothing, while the cargo doors has the signs of being forced. Which, of course, os abstracted text. Don’t say signs of being forced. Describe what the fucking things look like.

But, that would take effort. And effort, clearly, was not involved in this. I dub thee “Rip off” with the honour of receiving the coveted Bryce “You get a 1 out of 10” award,.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $3. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/375267/Eye-of-the-Storm?1892600

Posted in Do Not Buy Ever, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews, The Worst EVAR? | 7 Comments

The Child Thieves

By R.J. Thompson
Appendix N Entertainment
OSE
Levels 3-5

Several years ago a piper happened along the poorest district of the city during the midst of the plague of rats and with his magic flute rid the people of the rats. Every year since the rats have come again, and so has the piper. In recent years the price of his services has risen, but the money of the poor has not. This year they could not pay. The angered piper left the district, cursing its residents. The next morning the people woke and found the beds of their children empty. Large rat-like tracks were found in the district leading from the homes of the missing children to the storm drains. With so little to offer for the return of their children, will the people find anyone to attempt a rescue?

This 27 page adventures uses nine pages to describe two levels of a sewer system with 22 rooms. It’s heavily rat themed, in terms of monsters. Lots of rats, giant rats, and were-rats. Surprise! It’s a daily non-offensive thing, doing nothing really interesting or overly bad. I guess it’s boring? Sure. It’s boring. 

Oh, the jaded reviewer, pity him! Dwelling in his pile of shit. Eating his pile of shit. Seeing the same thing time and again. Oh, why can’t his icy heart appreciate the thing for what it is, now, in this moment, and not make the comparisons to all of the joys of the part, president, and possible futures to come? Because I don’t want to run a boring game, that’s why.

There is a joy to D&D. In it’s best moments a mirthful glee to the situations the party find themselves in. The world is straight man to the characters, but you need to give the party something to work with. You need someone asking who’s on first base. That’s the adventure. And an adventure without those opportunities gives us less room to create that unbridled glee that is D&D. 

So, rats in a sewer. A million billion adventures written about rats in the sewer. And, here’s another Rats In The Sewer adventure. Of course, there’s wererats involved. No doubt there is some portion of my literary education that is missing, that which will make all D&D designers obsessions with wererats make sense. So, the towns kids are missing and the tracks lead to the sewers. The same sewers that, yearly, a horde of rats come out of. *sigh*, ok, let’s go down in to the sewer. Why is there a sewer? Who knows. Is there any “sewer” like things in the swerve, like grates to the above? No. There’s some water 3’ deep. 

And a lot of rats. A LOT of rats. Like, encounters with 50 of them. And then giant rats swarming out of holes in the walls. And the required wererats, who never alert anyone else and just wait in the rooms to die. There is, in the back, an art piece I thought was cool. It had a sewer place and some wererats in combat and one of them was holding a revolved at the ready! Cool! Then I saw I misread the art piece and it wasn’t a revolver. *SADZ*

Map has some water on it. Map has some loops. It’s not a bad map for what it is. I mean, it’s not good either. One room mentions a pile of dung sticking out of the water, and that’s not on the map, so, you don’t get major room features like that. Or, only rarely do you get them. 

There’s a water valve puzzle, because all sewers have those. Like, I don’t know, twelve possible combinations? Including them drying out a room that you already have to be standing in in order to get the treasure in that room. So, leave someone behind in that room while you go elsewhere to work the vales. There’s no real indication of what the valves do, other than going back to look at all the rooms to see what happens after each time you make a change. This seems tedious to me? Like something I would handwave. 

I don’t know. At one point a trap drops a bunch of staves on the floor, which has a sticks to snakes spell on it. I can’t stand this kind of rube goldberg type traps. Just fucking drop some god damn viers on the party. Like a carboard box full of them. Why the shit with the staves and “the floor has the spell on it?” 

I’m just bored. Bored of going in to room after room and fighting rats. What’s in this room¿ Oh, more rats. Nice. Said no one ever. Maybe two thousand copper coins also? 

There’s a kind of D&D drudgery here. An ennui, as an adventurer, that makes you wonder why you are doing it all. I mean, yeah, saving kids. That’s a reason, right? I mean, the parents didn’t even try to save them, so, youknow, if they don’t give a shit … And, you know, infant mortality rate in towns was pretty high already. I guess we’re going down in to the sewers, again, because we want to hang out with our friends tonight and play D&D. But, really, what’s the difference? Sitting home alone. Playing boring D&D with friends. Same thing.

No, I’m not a member of the cult of the new. And no, I’m not overly attracted to gonzo. And no, I’m not a jaded reviewer. I just have absolutely no interest in things like this. Things that all fight Fight FIGHT. Yeah, there’s a time and place for combat, Mr 4e, but it’s not all the fucking time. There need to be evocative places of wonder to explore. And the descriptions of the sewers don’t bring the filth required to qualify as a place of wonder. Or even a place of Mild Interest. There is essentially no interactivity, other than the valve puzzle and talking to a giant turtle. The designer has also “Made the adventure replayable” by giving you five different locations the children could be. Seriously? Who the fuck does that? Replay an adventure like this? 

It does, to its credit, do an ok job with mundane treasure. Holden bracelets with opals, a silver tiara, a gold pendant in the shape of an oak leaf. Note that is my threshold. It takes almost nothing to impress me and yet here we are. Again. “Silver tiara” gets a nod from me. It also has some little rule about rumors, where a 13 WIS, and a divine background, lets you know which “cult” rumors are false/true, etc, and something similar for INT. Pretty common sense stuff ,but nice to see it called out. 

So, it’s an adventure. I guess you could run it. If you had nothing better to do with your life. Like watch the paint peel or take up coke or shitty Italian aperitifs. Want an adventure? Here’s one. God, nothing about this would make me come back again to a DM who ran a session like this. Is this really how people play D&D?

Gavin’s OSE has now ARRIVED; the market is flooded.

This is $5 at DriveThru. Two ratings, both five stars. The preview is six pages. Only the last one is any good, showing you the first five rooms. Oh, and the fourth one has that rumor shit on it, if you want to see that mini-rule.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/370030/The-Child-Thieves–S1?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 8 Comments

The Infected Village

By Marcus Lock
Parts Per Million
Worlds Without Number/OSR
Levels 5-6

No movement, No sound, barely a wisp of air. The village appears empty, with no sign of struggle, no violent death, in fact, no sign of the villagers at all. All there appears to be is an empty space as if the people were teleported away and, in their absence, in the time they have been gone, strange shapes seem to have almost sprung out of the ground. Growing upwards getting bigger, the shapes are familiar, but the size is wrong. Mushrooms just don’t grow that big. 6’, 8’, some as big as trees, almost blocking out the sun. Multi-colored and grouped together around the village. The strong earthy smell of growth is almost overpowering. There is a mist filtering through the tree-sized mushrooms…

This thirty page digest adventure features 15 “locations”, using six pages to do so. It makes me question all of the life choices I’ve made to bring me to this point in my journey. 

Look, I’m a happy go lucky kind of guy. Live and let live, Bryce always says. You see that hill over there? That very next one? Right behind it is a shining city under blue skies. We merely need to stretch our legs and walk the distance and we’ll be there! Rage, my cynic friends! Rage against the dying of the light! 

A magnificent adventure today! Look at that cover! How could there not be a shining city under it?! Blue skies await! 

Look at that product description! Joy! Oh, no … wait, it’s not joy. Hmmm, it’s pretty much telegraphing what is going on. I mean, the villagers turned in to mushrooms, right? That’s obvious to everyone? It’s not just me? So … it’s going to be obvious to the players just as soon as they step in to the village … or even see it from a distance? “No signs of life in the village, no dogs or fires or anything, but there are clusters of 6-footish tall mushrooms scattered around in clusters.” 

What follows is a study in tedium.

Essentially, there are no encounters in this adventure and there’s nothing to do. I’m not counting fighting. There’s plenty of fighting. The DM text does say “role-playing within a village environment”, but, I don’t think we’re using a common language at least as far as it applies to the term roleplaying. I’m cool with other play styles. I mean, I don’t want fuck-all to do with them, but, hey, if you like them then engage all you want. But I despair over is the loss of meaning. “I like to play D&D” means nothing any more. It could mean literally anything. And this adventure is NOT my definition of D&D.

Basically, you walk in the village and get attacked. You fight some mushroom people. You can look around in some buildings, but, they are all empty, with minimal descriptions. “Roberts family, 4 children.” a great many of them say with a generic description above them all of a dusty building not lived in for quite some time. There’s no specificity. And it wouldn’t matter if there were because there’s nothing going on in the village. Some giant mushrooms to look at. “Giant mushrooms.” is about all the description you get for them and there’s no interactivity. Get attacked by some mushroom people. Yeah! Find a hole in the ground. Great. There is absolutely NO interactivity in the village. No mystery to solve. Nothing to find. Nothing to explore. And then the “dungeon” starts with it’s eight-ish rooms. Again, no interactivity. You can go right or left. If you go right you find guard mushrooms and the hive mind aggros all mushrooms to your location. If you go left you find mushrooms that attack you and the hive mind aggros all mushrooms to your location. Each location is essentially just a description saying “There are X mushroom people of type Y at this location.” with a long stat block then mixed in and a note at the end reminding the DM to agro all of the mushroom people. 

There is no treasure.

The hook is that the rumors are that the village is empty. Or a merchant hires you because no caravans have come. And the village is at a cross-roads. But no one has explored it all. Cross-roads is not out of the way. But weeks of dust, and un-looted general store implies that it is. Giant trees spore you once you get close. Maybe. Or maybe they don’t? They take weeks to develop. The text says hey are not developed. And then it says they spore the party. None of this shit makes any sense.

Wandering monsters contains such evocative entries as “small pack animal” and “herd beast.” 

This is D&D. This is what a large number of people think D&D is. Because it IS that to those people. Just like Critical Role. That IS the definition of D&D for a great many people. The majority, now, I assume. Or D&D is “the DM is telling a story through the adventures” bullshit. Or D&D is mini’s combat and combat-as-sport. But this isn’t D&D. You might have fun doing one of those things. I’m genuinely glad you do. But, at some point, we must agree on the meaning of the word “egg.” If you offer me poached eggs and serve me dried maggots for breakfast then I think it’s fair to assert that I have a right to be disappointed. 

I find adventures like this so perplexing. How do you put something like this together, with the obvious quality in layout and art, and NOT know what a D&D adventure is? Surely you’ve seen them before? But I guess not? I mean, otherwise, why would something like this exist? Do people care so little for what they attach their names to? I mean, I’m an asshat and too much of a perfectionist, having attached my name to nothing, but this is the other side of the spectrum. 

I weep. 

Day after day. Week after week. People who don’t care. On a good day I’ll tell myself that they just don’t know what they don’t know. I don’t understand how they don’t know it, but, it’s clear they don’t. Why else then? 

Because there is no shining city just over the next hill. All the clouds are grey. It’s just people. People muddling through life. Doing the best they can. Which is substandard 99% of time. And no one really gives a shit, one way or another. There is no hope for a brighter tomorrow.

And yet, we must imagine that Sisyphus is happy. 

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is the entire thing. So, at least there’s that.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/373012/The-Infected-Village–A-Worlds-Without-Number-Compatible-Adventure?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 13 Comments

Tomb of the Alchemist

By Michael H. Stone
Self Published
OSE
Levels 2-4

After long years lying undisturbed and forgotten, the tomb of Hashur, master alchemist of sargon, has recently been opened when an earthquake ripped apart a rock formation in the Montem Downs. When the adventuring party “The Bold Blades” went to investigate, they were wholly unprepared to face an ancient mummy infused with immense power by magical potions and poisons. Murdering the bold blades in a confused rage, Hashur awakens to find the ancient kingdom sacked and its once great cities ruined. Realizing the awakening might not come to pass for him and his wife and followers if local authorities learn of his unearthed crypt, he hatches a plan. Slaving away in his laboratory, he brews a terrible plague of undeath which he plans to unleash on the borderlands.  In mere weeks, a tide of decay and infection will sweep the borderlands clean of the contemptible servants of Law…

This twenty page adventure uses nine pages to describe an eleven room tomb with a mummy dude and his undead friends running around in it. I fucking hate it? I don’t know why though. It’s trying to do the right things? I find the text confusing, and I find the mmap confusing, and I find the text … verbose? No, not verbose. Not the way I usually use that word. It’s like one of those old B series “learning adventure”, maybe? Like, any idea has to have a paragraph on how to run it. Maybe that’s it.

Ok, so, I’m in hour two of a thirteen hour conference and I’m drinking a $45 bottle of gin that’s only 375ml. And I fucking hate gin. I don’t know. Whatever. I just know that I HATE this adventure. Unreasonably so. And, in my own defense, I hated it before I started drinking today. 

And, now, I’m pissed off from work. Grrrrrr… sorry dude. Fucking piece of shit small minded mindsets. No, I’m NOT checking with others before I work with their staff on personal growth projects. I can go to lunch with anyone I want to any time I want to. Fuck it. That’s my staff are better. 

So, you’ve got this undead mummy dude. Long dead sorcerer priest mummy alchemist guy, woken up by some recent tomb raiders and some kind of earthquake thing. Whatever. My takeaway is that alchemists are the new go to for evil bad guys. I chalk this up to an anti-science attitude prevalent in society today. Alchemists seem to be the go to baddie. Whatever. Existence precedes essence, stab whoever you want. Shit. Except there actually are gods. And there’s an god of evil. Fuck. What the fuck does THAT mean? Oh, yeah, so, there are some skeletons with mutations. Mostly save or die shit. Anytime you meet them you roll on a table to see what Save or Die abilities they have

Speaking of save or die … How about an animated statue with AC3 with a save or die ability? The various baddie mutations that amount to save or die? The save or die abilities of, seemingly, over half the creatures in the adventure? This seems a bit much for levels 2-4. In a mostly linear map. 

Let me, now, explain how D&D works. 

Blah blah blah blah Combat As Sport blah blah blah blah Combat As War. So, look, levels 2-4. That’s what the fucking cover says. How many Save or Die effects and/or creatures are ok in that environment? How many are ok in a LINEAR environment? Traditional exploratory dungeons allow for other areas to explore. You can go around shit, or go to other places. Linear/modern/lair/shit dungeons, though, rely on balancing. It’s ok to be linear because the designer has carefully crafted the place to make sure y ou don’t get fucked up. Unless they don’t. Unless you are a B/X level 2 character in a world of fucking Save or Die. 

The read-aloud overexplains. The sectary (desk) has an open written journal on it. *sigh* What about people LOOKING at the fucking desk to determine what is on it? Whatever. The entrance to the dungeon has a living statue, AC3, save or die effect. Linear entrance. Also, you need to pull its tail to make the secret door open. How the fuck does that work? I smash it to pieces and THEN I pull it tail to open the door to the dungeon?

Whatever. 

Room seven is the main entrance. I think. I’m not actually sure if you can go in that way. It looks like room one is the entrance. Except seven says it is. The map is unclear. Is the tunnel blocked? Who knows. Who cares? The Death pit and a trapdoor in to it? I don’t even know how that works. This points to a basic, basic aspect of adventure design: you have to be able to understand what the fuck is going on. 

Again, I apologize that half my gin bottle is now gone. You don’t deserve this. But … I do …

The main bad guy appears in room 2. Probably. There’s probably a let down there as you explore the rest of the tomb. Pretty Boy Lareth was, at least, in the last room. I guess I don’t know what you do after this. I mean, you stabbed the bad guy. What do you do now? I guess you wander around and stab more shit? Whatever. How about the room full of ghouls? 13 ghouls? Sure. Whatever. That will work out ok. 

Wait when was I bitching about the read-aloud over-explaining? About the urns being empty? I shall elucidate. Or go in to more detail. Or whatever. When you over explain you break one of the core mechanics of D&D, exploratory or plot based. The back and forth between player and DM is at the heart of these types of games. The DM describes something, the players investigate with actions and follow up question, the DM provides further info, and thus the circle of life continues. By over-explaining in the read-aloud you are removing the back and forth. WHy do this? Why remove what is a core foundation of all RPG’s? 

Oh, what the fuck else. Did I complain about the map? Did I complain that the room descriptions are obtuse? Did I complain that one room was 1.5 pages long? Did I complain that the rooms are OVERLY formatted (that’s twice now that I recall this problem popping up in adventures.) Everything is explained. It takes a paragraph to say what the zombie is wearing. And one to tell us about the easily spotted secret door. And one to tell us that a zombie used to be the leader of a band of adventurers. And one to tell us that the room has ten zombies in it. And then a read-aloud paragraph. And then a stat block paragraph. I don’t want to be an ass here, but, this is too much for what the room is. It’s not that the room has too many elements, but that the individual elements tend to get way too much attention. 

Ok, this is a shitty review. I apologize. I’m going to sleep it off now.

This is $4 at DriveThru. Preview is five pages. The last page gives yo ua brief sample of what to expect. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/370631/Tomb-of-the-Alchemist-OSE-version?1892600

I actually had to go back and edit this review. Fucking gin.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 17 Comments

Barrow of the Elf King

Nate Treme
Highland Paranormal Society
The Vanilla Game
Level 1

And if joy were not on the earth,
There were an end of change birth,
And Earth and Heaven and Hell would die,
And in some gloomy barrow lie
Folded like a frozen fly
-WB Yeats, The Wanderings of Oisin

This sixteen page digest adventure features a ten room barrow. Of an elf king. I know, surprising, given the title, right?  It knows how to create an atmosphere and brings a certain OD&D charm to the table with its encounters. I will never complaining about small level one adventures, but, the challenge for a designer like this is moving away from the ten room level one dungeon in to something with room to breathe and the context to bring the larger area to life.

There are, I think, two major hurdles for most designers to overcome. In the Brycian model of adventure design we have Ease of Use, Evocative Writing and Interactivity … with hidden pillar four being “Design.” Ease of Use is not particularly difficult, once you know you need to do it. It’s mostly just following some guidelines. Interactivity that is formulaic can provide least middling results, enough that the adventure is not just one note anyway. The ability to throw away all of the tropes of all of the adventures ever seen and bring new life to things is an important skill. The imagining of a scene, and what it would really be like, getting past all of the imagination having been beaten out of you by life. The Evocative Writing then communicates this to the DM and the DM to players, painting a picture in their head, creating a mood and atmosphere. It allows the DMs imagination, and the players, to be leveraged in to something much greater than what was on the page, the negative space in the imagination being filled in by the players/DM’s own brains. This adventure hits on all three notes, successfully in all cases with some occasional bits that verge on brilliance. 

The dungeon is small. Ten rooms, which includes the exit which is not an actual room, at least not in my taxonomy. So, nine spaces to adventure in. It keeps the text to one room per page, one digest page, with relatively large margins a decent sized font, and generally some room left over at the bottom. (At least enough for my most petty of enemies t o make an appearance: the explicit mention of where each exit is in the room.) This allows the DM to scan the room quickly, picking up what the important features are. It’s generally written with the most important features appearing first/high up in the description, allowing the DM to narrate as they go through the room. It’s very tightly edited. There’s none of the usual if/then shit, or room backgrounds, or conversational styling to get in the way of the DM actually using the text to run the room. At most we get an occasional aside in the room that provides context within the bounds of ACTUAL PLAY. A room with three skeletons at a table playing dice tells us, in the middle of the description, “An ancient enchantment bound them here to protect the tomb but the magic has eroded with time and they are terribly bored.” The terribly bored part enhances the rooms play especially roleplay, which this room is bound to have. The “ancient enchantment” stuff can even fit in to that. It fits in perfectly with the next sentence “They’ll halfheartedly ask intruders to leave and end every conversation with “Ok, time for you to go” or “It’s getting late” while gesturing towards the entrance.” It builds. (and, good use of italics to offset while maintaining readability). Importantly, this is one aside in what is otherwise ¾ of a page of text, maybe, seven sentences total. The ratio of directly actionable data to tertiary aside is absolutely spot on … AND The tertiary background is relevant to the actual play of the room rather than just useless trivia. Good job. There’s an OD&D vibe here, not just in type of encounter but in mechanics as well. The text focuses on the play rather than the mechanics of play, with a sparseness of attention to it, letting the focus remain in the FANTASTIC rather than the mundanity of getting there. Oh, for a world in which the monster ref sheet page of the Ready Ref sheets were the norm!

Interactivity is … subtle. While there’s an obvious role play element to the skeletons, there are at least two other role play opportunities as well within the tomb. In the tomb! Tomb dungeons can be boring, but here we have something other than undead combat and traps. You can talk to a goblin, or with The Oldest Spider in the Forest … and perhaps strike a bargain with her. Want to see in the dark and walk on walls? The spider has a deal for you … and that deal is delicious! Literally, of course, but figuratively as well, causing the player to ask themselves what they will do for power. And, the ability of a minor entity, the oldest giant spider in the forest, to do that? Great! (More The Oldest later.) 

This sort of thing extends to the magic items.  Canopic jars full of brains and heart … who’s up for a light snack? Or, the living wooden sword of the elf lord … planted to grow in to a tree. Rewards for returning said gobo to her boggy home? The gift of a toad steed. Or skulls attached to the wall with thin silver wires. There are things to do!

The writing here is generally strong, and it supports itself by leveraging a kind of older folklore element, something pre-Tolkein and before the advent of every description becoming meaninglessly abstracted and generic. This is bleeding in to the general vibe of the dungeon and the atmosphere it creates even from the very first encounter. There’s a mound of dirt in the forest. There are three stone slabs on top, all the same shape, one that a single man can lift, one that three men together could lift, and one that it takes two men to lift. Stacking them, in order, creates the portal in to the barrow. Note this doing three separate things. FIrst, there’s interactivity. Second, there’s the appeal to the entrance to the mythic underworld … you have to do SOMETHING to gain entrance to it. Finally, the appeal to The Old Ways. This feels different. It feels like you’re in some older tale, a peddler or soldier matching wits with the supernatural. And it does this over and over and over again. The talk spider. The dicing skeletons. A dead elf lord on a dias, arms crossed, holding a black iron arrow in each one. Wearing white wooden armor and a crown of twisted branches growing green leaves. Note the evocation of the fey elf, closet to the wood elf king from the Hobbit. Fey. Iron. Bramble Crown. This all FEELS right, down in your bones. 

We get “A narrow stone brick tunnel is lined with small alcoves, two on each side. Each contains a skull, covered in ornamental markings in blue ink, with green gemstones “ A brick tunnel, with all the imagery that holds. Niches, and not just skull but inked skulls. And not just inked skulls but blue-inked skulls. These are simple, decently described, not overly verbose, evocative. And leveraging ideas to bring more than the simple words would indicate. Maybe could use some work in this area to get to super stardom description levels, but the trend is absolutely SOLIDLY on the correct side of the spectrum. 

A small lair dungeon for level one adventurers completed successfully. Good Job! You’ve done the most basic thing a designer can do. There’s a weaker room here or there (the exit room, the canopic jar room) and perhaps the writing could be even better. But, solid solid effort. For what it is. A basic level one lair dungeon. Yeah, that’s right fuckers, I’m complaining about that. Look, I like level one adventures. There are a decent number of them. Maybe fewer lair dungeons, since those tend to come from a genre not known for producing strong efforts. But, I assert, the level one lair dungeon is nothing but training wheels. There is no larger context of the world around the location. There are only ten rooms. The challenge is to continue this effort. To include the larger context. To have a dungeon  that larger design elements come in to play. One in which the players can stretch their legs, with all of the design challenges that come with that. The lair dungeon, that is but a single bite of a single donut. I want to see something more fully realized, with context and size. That’s where the designer needs to go next to stretch themself, both creatively and logistically. That is what will put Nate down in the annals of RPGdom. 

This is Pay What You Want at itch.io, with a suggested price of $7.

https://natetreme.itch.io/botek

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Level 1, The Best | 10 Comments

Vengeance of a Burned Witch

By Kai Putz
Self-Published
LotFP
Level 3?

A witch that had been burned returns. Her bones need to be recovered. A contract needs to be destroyed. An otherworldly ally of hers has to be faced. Where? How? Try to learn that from the panicking villagers. It is the only way to learn it. Vengeance of a Burned Witch is a one-session side-quest where talking to the NPC is vital for solving the adventure as a whole. It is not a big affair, and it has in-build set-backs to deliberately frustrate the players a bit. But in the end, success will be so much more sweeter for it. …oh, did I mention that no riches and no impressive magical items are to be gained? And that it is yet not a “nega-dungeon”? Take my word on it.

This fifteen page adventure details the efforts to put down a witches vengeful spirit. It magnificently channels a realistic set of events and situations. It is also plagued by burying important bits deep in paragraphs. If the information transfer could be improved I would give this my highest rating. 

This is, basically, an investigation. The party finds themselves in a village when shit goes down and they need to figure out what to do. A lot of adventures revolve around that concept. This one does it right.

I’m a big big fan of this. It is a mess but it also does a couple of things that REALLY get me going in an adventure, both as a player and as a DM. First, the motivations of the people involved, their reactions and so forth, are extremely relatable. It makes sense, how they react and what they did in the past. This sort of relatability makes the adventure much more visceral, IMO, while playing. It’s easier for the DM to relate to the players and it makes a larger impact on the players AND helps them then relate to the people involved, the villagers in this case. I’m not talking about some emotional catharsis nonsense, but rather the relatability that spawns empathy that comes from normal people caught in a situation. It’s not right, or wrong, but just some shit happens and you’re caught up in the situation. Time to muddle through it. 

It also has a good sense of folklore involved, at least in relation to a witch. Again, this deals with relatability and the immersion of the players in to the adventure. There are these THINGS that we all know, deep down in our souls. It comes from a lifetime of having been immersed in the tropes and stories of witches and the like. The adventure, by leveraging these cultural concepts, makes a much larger impact than it otherwise would. It’s a witch. Or is it? The woman in question was the local mid-wife. And herb woman. Ok, so now we’re starting with the modern historical witch then? Oh, also, she was the local whore. Hmmm, now things are getting more interesting. We’re now adding a degree of realism to the situation. Oh, also … she’s an actual witch, having sold her soul and made a contract with an otherworldly entity. Ok, now we’re talking! This is a MUDDY situation. She’s not mentioned as evil … in spite of what selling your soul though a written contract might imply. There’s no actual background in the adventure of her being evil. It’s exactly the sort of “not explaining” that makes a concept much more powerful than explaining every would. Also … her vengeful spirit can’t enter the church. Makes sense, right? Also, you need to find her bones (she was burned at the stake a year ago) to put her to rest permanently once the local priest blesses them/consecrates them. Oh, and you need to destroy her contract, the one written on hide and signed in blood. Note the obvious connections to the vampire myth, how you have to do more than just kill the thing. It’s a process. There’s a ritual. 

And the people involved? A simpleton who hides in his childhood hidey-hole and swore an oath to god that he will not break Not To Tell. There’s a challenge for the party, twofold! The local bailiff, who, once the witch appears, heads upstairs to the attic, rope in hand, muttering to himself.  The panicked villagers hiding the church, signing, praying, etc. This shit is GUUUUD! 

The designer points out, explicitly that there is no exposition dump in the adventure. The players can’t work a checklist. They have to pull information about of a group of scared shitless villagers, all of whom know different bits of information. That’s the key. That’s part of what makes the design of this investigation better than most. It’s not working a checklist. 

When the witches bones animate there’s the sound of a burning pyre present. Then you find her bones at the bottom of a well they are covered in mud, from the bottom of a mostly dried up well … the way wells are. It’s the specificity of the detail, the way it MAKES SENSE. 

Ok, on the bad. And that’s one minor point and one major one.

The designer is not a native english speaker. That’s not a big deal. There’s an occasional grammer issue but it doesn’t detract from the adventure. And their vocabulary and ability to describe the conditions and emotions of the situation is far better than the crap that comes from most english speakers. But, there’s an exception to this. At a few points the witch makes explicitly threats and these are the only points where explicitly dialog comes in to play. These parts, maybe three phrases/threats by the witch in the adventure, are substantially weaker thank the rest of the adventure. It seems clear this is an EASL issue and they stick out, greatly, being a good deal weaker than the rest of the adventure. “Remember me, you feckless lot?! The time for my VENGEANCE has come, and it will start with YOU, Avner!!” So, you can get from that what the intent is, and yet it comes across less eerie or horror and more … I don’t know, trope or telenovela? Overly formal, maybe? In any event, this sort of dialog is probably a place for extra attention, in general, from our EASL friends. 

The second is the general formatting of the adventure. It’s basically just a normal text/paragraph formatting style. This is augmented, in places, by bullets. There is, for example, a list of interesting places nearby, essentially a rumor location table, of places the villagers might mention, like the old mossy standing stone or the hole in the ground no one has been down in. (The designer, noting correctly, that adventures spend to much time describing only the pertinent places, leading the party to place too much emphasis on them. The rumor locations are never mentioned again in the adventure but solve that “checklist” issue well.) But these sorts of checklists are few and far between. Most descriptions come in paragraph form and the information is invariably buried in them. You need a highlighter and you need to take notes. Good, good content, evocative content, is buried and you have to fight to pull it out. The designer needs to find a way to solve this issue. It could be better paragraph writing, or selecting different formatting options, or better bolding or some such. But, it’s going to need to happen.

I could mention a few more things. Maybe toss in a few more words about what the panicked villagers do, in the inn, in the church, at home, etc. Not a lot, just to get the DM’s juices going. 

This is not an epic adventure. It’s full of the foibles of a group of villagers. And that’s what makes it a good concept for an adventure. I’m giving this a No Regerts, for that reason alone. If it would have helped me run it more then it could have received my highest marks.

At one point, a ghostly spirit in a hut passes through the center beam. When it does so the whole hut skates as if the beam was struck by a ram. Because that’s what the fuck happens in a hut when a ghost passes through a support fucking beam. That’s specificity.

A good job in fifteen pages.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $1. The description states the entire thing is available for preview, which I believe since it’s PWYW, but, the full preview is broken. 🙁


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/371766/Gregorius21778-Vengeance-of-a-Burned-Witch?1892600

Posted in No Regerts, Reviews | 8 Comments

Demon Driven to the Maw

Emergency Thursday Post!
Emergency Thursday Post!

By Brad Kerr 
Swordlords Publishing
Cairn

SOMETHING IS WEIRD ABOUT THIS PARTY IN 16TH CENTURY SCOTLAND. A famous thief stole a magical jewel and hid inside a castle where a party is taking place. Enter the party, find the jewel, escape with your life.

FUCK! 

YES!

This sixteen page adventure details a nice party in a manor with about seventeen rooms … before things go to hell. It is everything an adventure like this (social/investigation) should be. Brad Kerr knows how to add flavour to a bit of scenery without bogging you down in useless crap. I want to have millions and millions of this adventures babies. I repeat …

FUCK!

YES!

Our pretext for this evenings adventure is “The thief Jougal stole the famed Sky Marble from the king’s bedside. It’s the talk of the town. A drunkard at the tavern swears he saw Jougal headed towards Firnhirst castle in Edburg, a forlorn neighboring hamlet. Following the drunkard’s tip, you find a full blown party at Firnhirst Castle. Two smiling servants hold the door and beckon you to enter…” Not bad, eh? Short. Its the talk of the town. A drunkard tells you. A full blown party. You could either use that text as read-aloud or roleplay it out; there’s enough there to get the gist of what’s going and add enough, as a DM, to fit it in to the game smoothly. My only complaint is the last line. Yes, that’s my only complaint IN THE ENTIRE ADVENTURE. As read-aloud that telegraphs to me, the player, to be on guard for More Than Meets The Eye. As the DM, it very successfully communicates the vibe of the adventure, but, perhaps, could inspire a bit more subtly. It’s almost a perfect set up.

So, fellow asshats on this journey we call life, SPOILERS. Yes, that’s right, I’m announcing spoilers. Don’t read further. I mean go right ahead and buy the thing so you can run it. You bought it? Ok, let’s talk …

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG! Cool, right? Ok, so, the local Baobhan Sith (deer-hooved vampires, with a delightful little art piece successfully conveying their nature. FUCK! Where’s my GURPS Vampires book when I need it?!) have come up from hell to throw a party for the Devil. And he’s shown up! Let’s see, they mostly look female, their skin is removable, sometimes swap identities for their own fun, and like to seduce weak-willed mortals and then slice their chests open to feed on their blood! (So, an older folklore vampire, not a D&D vampire.) And that’s what’s going on tonight. They’ve taken over the manor and are throwing a party for the local villagers. Shortly after the party arrive the doors get chained shut (windows are arrow slit windows, this being a former ‘working’ manor) At some point (in 4d4+1 turns) they are going to set the place on fire to burn it down and start their black mass feast. Inside is the thief, along with a host of locals and mostly disguised hell folks. Search around for the thief, talk to some folks, get creeped out by things, and then ABSOLUTE CHAOS starts. This is what SHOULD happen in an adventure like this. Oh, and as the vampire/sith are running around, after the fires have started, they are killing people, etc … they are yelling “Hail Satan!” Because everyone reading this INSTANTLY recognizes that is EXACTLY what SHOULD happen in this situation. I can’t think of anything else in life, ever, feeling more right than that. 

Excellent use of bullets points to highlight important information, but not an overuse of them. SOmethinglike “During the fire phase these things will happen” or some such. Offset boxes are used, along with selective building, to highlight important bits of reference data. NPC’s are generally found on one page. Maybe two sentences each, a general one and a “Wants.” Lum, a giant from the underworld, sad that her date ditched her. Wants a good time, a hot meal, and basic human kindness. Noice! I can run Lum. It’s quick, terse, and choked FULL of relatable human behaviour that I know how to run and is ACTIONABLE during the game. Hele, the Morning Star. Literally Satan. Doesn’t care about all this blood and sacrifice stuff as much as everything thinks he does, bu, a party’s a party. Fuck Yes! 

Supplementing this are a table full of random villagers at the party, along with another with some of their small talk, as well as a small table for the vampire sith. Both of these are ACTIONABLE. Their tables are focused on their interactions. It is GAMEABLE DATA. 

Likewise the locations in the manor. They are all handled on, like three pages. Because the designer recognizes that this is NOT an exploratory adventure. What happens in THIS adventure is the party wanders around from room to room interacting with people, mostly.  The descriptions are generally focused on that. Again, generally interactive, with an NPC or something interesting, like a locked door (which no doubt the party will fixate on) or some such. 

There are little mechanics for redcaps, an increasing number over time, following you … waiting until their are enough of them to overpower you. Sweet! And a great table on “What atrocity is happening in this room?” after the fire/black mass/slaughter begins.  What happens when you go to hell? The adventure gives you advice! 

EVERYTHING here is SPOT on. It is exactly the correct amount of information. It is EXACTLY flavourful enough. It is formatted perfectly to do what it needs to do. It’s not following rules, for formatting, but flowing naturally, relying on evocative tersity to convey what it needs to.

You can run this. You instinctively know HOW to run this. The adventure supports you in running it. It is full of GLEE, or, perhaps, POTENTIAL glee. 

It is all I have ever wanted in a D&D game. WHich means it is all I have ever wanted in life.

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview shows the entire thing. Because Brad is a classy guy. Try page 6, the NPC’s for a great example of flavour, tersity, and gameability. Absolute wonder in sixteen digest pages.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/372360/Demon-Driven-to-the-Maw?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, God Effort, Millions and Millions of its Babies, Reviews, The Best | 14 Comments

The Deadly Mine of Pantanga

By Tim Shorts
GM Games
OSE
Levels “I won’t bother with how many and what levels the party should be.”

I call this a found adventure. There are no hooks and motivations. The party is traveling and they find a cave. Adventurers love caves. Can you ever recall a time when an adventuring party didn’t enter a cave? I’ve decorated the cave with bones. They love that. Wish the party good luck, then smile.

This sixteen page digest adventure uses around nine pages to describe eleven rooms. It’s small, low on treasure, and feels more disconnected that I think it should. While the writing, and encounters, are decent, it feels a bit empty, like there’s no point to adventuring here.

The writing here is decent. It’s focused and provides a moderately evocative description of the various scenes encountered. The very first encounter, the entrance, is reenforced (sp) by thick wooden beams, with a cracked crossbeam, bones scattered around the entrance, and a handful of barrels that smell of sour ale, one cracked open and covered in big black flies. This is the best example in the adventure of a good description of a scene. It’s short, and yet does a great job painting a vivid picture of the scene before you. It’s not really read-aloud, and what I’m quoting isn’t an actual quote; it’s got a bit of DM commentary scattered through it. But it could ALMOST be read-aloud, and does what it needs to do: give the DM an image of what’s going down, inspiring them to then give that picture to the players. There are occasional smells listed, or lighting notes, in the descriptions all of which work to let the imagination of the DM and players fill in the rest. It’s not overly rigid, not all rooms mention lighting or smells, which goes a long way to helping it be terse and focused. Which, of course, in turn then helps the DM quickly scan the room and run it for the players. It’s just enough, allowing the DM to then riff on things and leveraging their abilities for the game. 

Treasure is quite light, but the magic items in particular get a decent enough description. What does that mean? A potion is in a silver vial. Not just a bottle. A vial. Not just a vial, a silver vial. That’s one extra word, silver, and using “vial” instead of “bottle”, but the effect is substantially better than “a potion of ESP.” Likewise a magic ring that is platinum with an onyx band. These little touches really ramp up the nature of the items. This is exactly the sort of thing I’m referring to but encouraging designers to go just a little beyond what they expect. There’s an abstracted genericism inherent in the word potion, at least as in how we use it in D&D for a treasure description. By just working the editing magic just a little bit more you give the imagination something solid to hold on to, just as with a good room description. Non-traditional items are present as well, like Dead Mans Fingers, a mushrooms that grows to look like … dead mans fingers! Putting on in your mouth delays poison/death for 1d6 days, as it slowly dissolves. It’s a nice item. A good description analogy, a good effect (not immediate) and the added time delay factor. Folk remedies at its finest folks! But, yeah, the treasure is otherwise light for an OPR game. We’re looking at about 4000 in loot, for an adventure that has a deadlier than average trolland several 3HD monsters. Yes, it’s a side-trek sort of thing, just a spot on the road to poke in to. But … why? And I’m not talking hook. I’m talking Compelling …

The cave complex is small, about 60×90 in total. This makes many of the encoutnters feel like they are on top of each other. There’s an occasional note of a sound or smell coming from a particular direction, but the guidance here is not strong, nor is creature reaction, for a complex that is so small. It FEELS larger, or perhaps I mean more complex, than a typical lair dungeon, but it also doesn’t feel fully formed. It’s occupying some middle ground of not a lair dungeon but also not a traditional site-based location. I’m not sure there are a lot of these out there. A dyson map in a sinkhole comes to mind. So, no unifying concept, like with a lair dungeon, slightly larger than a lair dungeon, a variety of encounters in the location as one might find a site-based dungeon, but substantially smaller and shorter than one of those would imply.

And somehow this is all throwing me off of wanting to run this. If this were one zone of a larger complex, perhaps with a little more space in it, I think I would be more interested in it. It’s also got a few rooms that are crystal themed that come off pretty flat … a killer in a dungeon this small. They don’t FEEL like crystal rooms. It could be that I’m TOTALLY over the idea of just throwing in a couple of living crystal statues and saying “crystals in a room” being a good room concept. Or it could be that those are the weakest rooms in the dungeon and it’s no amount of leaping troll or “three pillar sized colonies of yellow mold” is going to save it from that. But man, it gets close … that leaping troll is a good one. And while the yellow mold room is a good anchoring concept, there’s no real reason to hang around.

The adventure explicitly has no hook. And that’s ok. But, there also doesn’t seem to be any reason to adventure here. Poke around. Find some things. Find a TERRIBLE thing in the yellow mold and just get the fuck out. It all feels so … unsatisfying. Isn’t there some german or french word that? When you anticipate something are are not really disappointed, but unsatisfied?

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. You get to see the first rooms, which is representative of the writing. Good preview.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/372871/The-Deadly-Mine-of-Pantanga?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 6 Comments

Beneath Bernhold

By Louis Kahn
Starry Knight Press
OSRIC
Levels 8-10

Hidden in a wooded vale lie the remains of Bernhold Keep. Beneath this ancient fastness dwell the spirits of its original inhabitants, betrayers who turned away from the Light and embraced Chaos in a climactic battle that rent this land asunder. Cursed to everlasting unlife, they wait below, ready to claim the lives of all those foolish enough to venture into their demesne. Are you brave enough to delve Beneath Bernhold?

This 54 page digest adventure uses 24 pages to describe a dungeon with fourteen rooms. Yes, as that page count would suggest, it’s padded to fuck and back with conversational writing, background data, and myriad other issues. The text is hiding a mostly linear dungeon with traps and undead. *sigh*

Your level 8-10 party is hired by some sage for 4000gp to go explore some ruins. Why you’re doing this at level ten I don’t know. I guess you’re suckers. On the way you meet a wandering monster table that takes multiple lines for each entry because each entry starts with what is essentially “it comes out from behind a tree and attacks.” Oh, and the treasure? The DM is left to determine appropriate treasure for the party.

This hints at the major issue of the adventure (beyond dungeon design choices) : the padding. Meaningless padding. It feels like every sentence, every phrase, every room is padded out. Every little thing needs the DMs hand held. “If the players search then they find …” we are told. This is the classic quantum padding I’ve referenced so many times in the past. An if/then statement that should be reworded to just explicitly state what is going on. Or “The treasure found is as follows …” This is just pure padding, having no use at all in making the adventure clearer. “If the players are not carrying illumination …” the adventure tells us, then they can’t see. Well no fucking shit. That IS how fucking D&D works, isn’t it? Or, rather, how LIGHT works? If there’s no light you can’t see? “If the players don’t breathe then they die of suffocation” is, thankfully left out of the room description for each room. 

The adventure goes on and on in this conversations style. Room backgrounds and histories that have no purpose in the adventure. “Lord Bob had a sliding floor trap placed to foil prisoner escapes.” You can’t even argue that this might, in some way, cause the DM to put in some extra feature or be able to answer some player inquiry, like “this room used to be a kitchen” sort of thing might be, in some possible, arguable. On and on and on it goes, every sentence in a conversation style. 

This leads to, of course, a wall of text issue where all of the text runs together and the DM can’t actually use the adventure for its main purpose: as a reference tool to run the adventure. This is, of course, one of the main conceits of this blog. The Adventure is a reference tool for the DM running it. The DM uses it to run the adventure, and thus it must be formatted, and the writing put down on the page, in such a way that facilitates the DM running it. Spending minutes reading a room description, and fumbling through it during play in order to pull out the details you need to run the room, is not a reference tool. It’s something to be read, perhaps. The greatest sin an adventure can make.

And the gimping. *sigh*. Undead cannot be turned. No commune spells work. A trap “cannot be detected as a trap because it is not one.” You put a fucking needle inside of a mouth in which you put your hand in to. Sure, it may be a door lock, pricking you to get blood so the fucking door will open, but, that CANT be detected as a trap? Seriously? 

I don’t know what else to say. Sticking your monsters in the second paragraph, or deeper, so the DM will overlook them? “Oh, uh, wait, sorry, there’s actually eight skeletons in this rooms glowing with unholy fire.” 

The text, padded as it is, is devoid of actual descriptions of things. Just plain jane words with few adjectives and adverbs, much less evocative ones. 

It makes my heart yearn for what it was meant to be. Not the garbage thats in front of me, but what the vision was. The art is there, you can see it on the cover, and on a few pieces inside. It was clearly an act of effort to do layout. To use the formatting that was used. And yet the editing is not there, in any way shape or form. And then, the actual DESIGN of the adventure? The traps and encounters and how they work together? No. This kind of product just hurts my soul and makes me wonder why I do this shit. To be reminded, every day, or the meaningless of it all? And yet, we must imagine Sisyphus as happy …

“If the players don’t remember when you described the green mist going through the fireplace then remind them so that the adventure can continue. 

*sigh*

I thought, maybe, that Starry Knight had improved. Maybe I’ll try again next year.

This is $6.50 at DriveThru. There is no real preview. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/370241/SOS9-Beneath-Bernhold?1892600

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 2 Comments

the FOREST that KNOWS your NAME

By N. Masyk
Monkey's PPaw Games
OSR/Pinkhack
Level? Fuck your and your concept of “levels”, just buy my product!

The sun is out. Smoke drifts from cookfires. Loggers nap in the shade, or dice beneath awnings on ramshackle yurts. Nearby, raised voices. One petulant: “This path was to be cleared weeks ago!” Another, defiant: “You ask the impossible. I need more soldiers!”

This 31 page booklet is not an adventure but rather some ideas for a setting in a weird haunted forest. Atmospheric, the way inspiring content in a setting guide should be. Also, falsely advertised and not an adventure.

fuck you.

its not an adventure

it says its a pointcrawl forest adventure. twice.

its in the adventure category

its not a pointcrawl

its not an adventure

It’s a collection of rando evocative tables and descriptions for a weird insular/haunted/bloody forest. Dark ancient forest, make some blood sacrifice to get the paths to open up, even just a drop of blood. Weird forest people living inside, farmers and the like. Loggers who want to log. Ancient ruins. Weirdo “formians”, no two alike. 

Everything in this is very well described. It’s evocative. The writing is descriptive, generally without not overstaying its welcome, although it does tend to the longer side. Which, is ok in something that is not an adventure. If I’m looking at a setting guide, or regional guide, some kind of thing to help inspire me to create a game or an adventure in that setting, then longer form writing, and even paragraph-style writing, is ok. It’s not an adventure, it’s something else, and it doesn’t need to follow the technical writing/usage conventions of an adventure. A bureaucrat is described as portly, brittle, slick-backed hair. Always glancing from side to side. Rarely leaves the city, eager to get back to it. “You there! You look a warlike lot. Indulge these local louts’ superstitious nature and the nawab will shower gratitude upon you!” That’s a great description. It’s specific. It’s sticky; it stays with you after you finish it. You instantly know how to run him. A brief conversation snippet, related to the adventure, provides more than the mere number of words would indicate. 

And the booklet does this time and time again. The formian table creates weird giants: a hobbled left leg, bound in chains, with a pair of ravens perched on their shoulder croaking words of prophecy, with a voice like a golden trumpet that ruptures eardrums in fountains of blood. That’s a pretty good set of random things to build a legendary creature out of! Magic items. Farmer descriptions. Things found in the forest. All of the descriptions hit and hit and hit. Who’s hungry for some blood figs?! The juice is a bright arterial crimson! They fall to the ground with a wet sound, SPLORCH. Sweet! 

But, that’s all the fuck it is. A series of random tables with some other descriptive elements, like creatures and so on. This is a booklet that you can use to inspire you to create a setting. There is no adventure. I’m not even sure that there’s a hint of an adventure. There’s some kind of implied “loggers need protection” thing at the beginning, but there’s not even enough there to go forward on. There’s no goal. There’s nothing to solve. There’s no places to plunder, no ruins to explore, no mystery to uncover. Not even a Big Loot to plunder. WHich is weird. There’s this section in the back that looks like it MIGHT be locations. It says things like “a break in the trees” and then gives some kind of a description. But there’s no map. And they don’t really DO anything. I mean, hey, some weird description and a monster that attacks. Yeah!

IF this were an adventure, then there would be some great evocative writing, but I’d ding it for a lack of interactivity. Writing a good location description, or an interesting NPC, is useless without something going on IN that space. You need some potential energy. In the example NPC, I quoted above, he’s at least sending the party on a mission/hiring them. But, beyond three “hook” NPC’s you don’t get anything like that in any of the locations or with any of the tables. They are just static random elements. It reminds me a lot of Isle of Unknown where you’d just encounter some bizarre creature.  For no reason. And, while some of that it perfectly fine in an adventure, if the ENTIRE adventure is nothing but that then you have a very dull boy. 

And that’s what you have here. A dull boy. No potential energy because nothing is actually going on in the forest.

Well, I mean, IF it were an adventure. Which it is not. It’s just another filler product masquerading as an adventure in order to snag your filthy lucre.

This is $5 at DriveThru.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/366945/The-Forest-That-Knows-Your-Name?1892600

Posted in Reviews, The Worst EVAR? | 23 Comments