Lair of the Shorlee Wyrm

By James & Robyn George
Olde House Rules
OSR
Lower Levels

Years ago, a dragon was slain in the Shorlee hills, or so said the one surviving warrior who made it back, only to succumb to his wounds before the morning came.  But the attacks ended, so it must have been true. Dead men tell no tales, and the lone warrior died before revealing the location of the beast’s lair. Who knows what riches it held; who can guess what treasures lay unguarded for the taking?  There is an old saying in Shorlee: riches lie not for long, and who knows what dangers – and rewards – await those brave enough to go in search of them, for the site of the old lair is forgotten no longer. Its long-sought depths await the plundering hand of adventurers seeking their glory – or doom.

This 32 page adventure features a two level dungeon with about fifty rooms. It starts with some strong “rural rea-life slain dragon” theming, and then devolves in to mostly a hack. The mystery and wonder of the place peter out after 40% or so, and it reveals itself to be seemingly random, not continuing the initial strong theming. And it’s long-winded for it’s hacking, a quarter page for encounters is the norm with half page/one column not being unusual for “the usual hacking.”

There’s a land right out of Harn, a quiet rural land with a scowling local steward serving his absent lord. A hundred years ago a dragon terrorized the lands and was slain by seven 2nd sons, only the last returning, to local sainthood as The Seventh Man, before perishing from his wounds. The lair was not found. Except now a local shephard found a bunch of coins by a hole in the ground newly opened up from the recent rains and flooding. With looting the lair threaten the lucrative local pilgrim trade?  Strong stuff and a solid planting of the seeds of local legend in a Harn-like land. This is all handled in a several bpage background & overview section. Very light on details and keeping things high level, it provides a pretty solid footing for interpreting what is to come.

And what is to come starts strong. A hole in the ground, opened up next to a tall oak tree (mythic underworld entrance!) with a few coins scattered around. And then a cave, full of massive mushrooms growing in it! Solid entrance. The caves continue. A skeleton half under rubble, a torn bag of coins. A cave with statues … and and a basilisk. There’s a strong low-fantasy, or, maybe, classic fantasy vibe going on.

But this soon devolves. Kobolds show up. In a dormitory with beds. Cultists, replete with suiside herbs stored in their cheeks. (What about Frank? He’s just here to hang out with the guys and play cards and get away from his wife. Now everyone is like Chew these Herbs If We Get Caught … And Keep Them In Your mouth At All Times! And no hint of this cult in the town/village overview section? For Shame!) The patterns become obvious after awhile. Enter a room, hidden monsters attack. There’s a weird thing to look at a time or two, like dragon eggs, broken, with small child skeletons inside of them (and a mute little girl you find the caves …)but for the most part this is just a hack.

And the designer seems strangely interested in keeping any advantage from the party.  The little girl refuses to help the party in any way. The cultists all commit suicide ratherthan be meaningfully questioned. The rings of undead control only work for the cultists. The skull from which gold coins flow (Cool!) is verboten for Lawful characters. It’s all a little forced, IMO, with a touch here and there of enforced morality. A character of Lawful alignment means dumb and unable to have fun, evidentally. Better to leave this stuff out

It is a sign though of one of the major problems with the adventure: the length of the rooms. Even the most simple room goes on for a quarter page, half a column, with longer rooms taking up at least a column. There’s this conversational style and a huge amount of DM asides mixed in with the rooms. I’m not a monster, a sly aside, with a wink, to the DM now and again if a fun little bit. But it becomes prescriptive when the rooms are full of it and you have to wade through all of this DM minutia to get to the important bits of the room … like how many creatures there are and IF there are creatures in the room. And this is an actual problem in several of rooms, the inability to quickly tell how many and of what there are. 

For awhile I’ve had four pillars of judgment. Ease of Use at the Table, Evocative Writing, Interactivity, and the elusive Supreme-Court-Porn of  ‘Design.’ I’ve toyed with the ideas that there is this kind of sliding spectrum of each and at some level they produce something that is worth your time to use. I think, now, though that I’m thinking of it wrong. The overwhelming feedback from most folks, when you talk about adventures, is how they don’t use them because they are hard to use. And they’re right. This points to the Ease of Use pillar. I suspect that there’s actually this hurdle in Ease of Use. The number one priority is to make it easy to use. Because if you don’t then no fucking person is going to use the fucking thing. It doesn’t have to be perfect in this regard, but you have to get over some hurdle. Just make it not torturous to use. Then if you can hit the bare minimum in terms of evocative writing and interactivity then you get a Recommendation. Maybe not even that, maybe you don’t even have to make it an interesting adventure with the writing or interactivity. Just make the fucking thing not a chore so it can actualy be used to play the game. That makes you a Journeyman. Anything at all in the other areas makes you a Master. There’s, how’s that for the setting the baf impossible fucking low and still seeing 90% of the designers not be able to meet it? (These rules only apply to MOSTLY everyone. Jabberwocky’s Wake still gets a pass from me.) Yeah, it’s really taken me ten years to come up with that. Go figure.

It’s short on treasure for an OSR game full of death and hacking. 10,000cp and 5,000sp might be realistic but not level-able. 

This is $2.50 at DriveThru. The preview is two pages and shows you only the setting background. It’s decent read, to get the vibe of the place, but a shitty ass preview since it shows you nothing of the encounters you’ll be purchasing/using. Previews need to give you a sample of what you’re buying. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/300851/A20-Lair-of-the-Shorlee-Wyrm?1892600

Posted in Reviews | 8 Comments

Ragged Hollow Nightmare

By Joseph Lewis
Dungeon Age Adventures
OSR (&5e!)
Levels 1-4

Yesterday, young Tobias went to investigate an old tomb by himself. Everyone told him it was a bad idea. Everyone was right. Today, you and your companions awaken to a town in chaos. Why is the temple sealed behind a divine shield? Why are children and worshipers trapped within? How do we get inside? What did Tobias do?!

Quick reminder. There’s a Patreon button off to the right. It helps me buy these adventures, uh, so, uh, you don’t have to? But if you donate then you are, also, buying them? Hmmm, I should work on the marketing related to this. One day …

This forty page adventure is PACKED FUCKING FULL. It has a small town/village, about a dozen little mini-adventures, and a temple, sealed off by the powers of good, with about forty rooms in it. There’s good layout, evocative writing, and things to talk to in, what turns out to be, a nightmare madhouse of a temple. Non-combat/NPC interactivity may be a bit low, and the level range may be off also.

You wake up one morning to find the neighbors all rushing towards the temple in town. Seems it’s now surrounded by a strange golden glow and no one can get in or out. The clerics offered free schooling, so, you know, the villagers kids are inside. So, could you, you know …? Also, as one hook explicitly points out “… which is full of rare books, valuable religious art, and magic items!” Yup! Sore would be happy to help! Only one problem … getting past the magical golden force field. Fortunately, the bell tower, 60’ above, it sticking out beyond it. Alas, there is no way to get to it.

This then is what sets this adventure apart. To get to the site, sitting right next to you, you have to find a way in. There are a few items scattered around the surrounding countryside that could help. But it’s not really pointed out anywhere at the start. Talking to people in town will get you some adventure hooks, from the vermind basement to the poison well to the witch that lives in the woods outside of town. There are, I don’t know, a dozen or so of these? Talking to the townspeople might give you three or four, but those lead to others which can lead to others. The formulae might be: the mundane quest in tow leads to something fantastic, which leads to something even more so. The poison well has a mutant frog-man with open sores in it, laying injured. He cna plead for his life, telling the party of a haunted house nearby with a pair of metal jumping shoes. Ah ha! A way up to the tower! And thus it goes.

From a design standpoint this is one of the few misses in this adventure. It feels like there’s a time crunch, to get inside the temple and save people, and it is perhaps a bit non-intuitive that you need to run around the countryside to get in. It’s natural to talk to the townfolk to see what they know, in order to get in, but “clean out my basement” or “the well is poisoned” seems like things to NOT pursue, although The Witch outside of town is a rather obvious follow up in looking for help to get in.

(I might note, as well, that this adventure comes with both 5e & OSR versions. OSR healing being what it is, having substantial adventures before the “main” temple adventure is likely to result in drained HP, and days of recovery time. Perhaps some fun to be had there with nagging villagers, worried about their children, while the party recover from their wounds. Again, a bit of a system/tonal variance in the OSR/5e, but neither this or the “countryside” thing is enough to worry too much about. It’s noff, not a deal breaker.)

The town is nicely done, terse, brief hits of shopkeeper personalities. A little note on “what they know”, IE: the actual play stuff. It’s organized well, with bolded heading and doesn’t go on and on about extraneous details. Really well formatted. In fact, the entire adventure is well formatted and organized. It’s easy to find information and it writing is tight and evocative. A “a town, a main 40-room adventure, and a dozen side quests in 40 pages” would imply. Top notch. It’s three column layout but feels clean and modern without using an avant garde layout, and doesn’t feel cramped at all the way three column can. 

I don’t know what else to say. It’s fucking great? A barrow with a hag eating people. An old woman in the woods who people say is a witch. And bakes cookies. And is a witch. But a nice one. A fey goblin market full of shuckers AND chock full of minor magic, like apples and dolls and their ilk. The town is full of events, at night, the stuff of nightmares, since they ARE nightmares. But it doesn’t FEEL like one of those terrible consequence-free “it was all a dream” adventures. Or even a dream adventure at all. It feels like the real-world, but twisted, but not so much as to stretch disbelief. Well, until you get inside the temple. Then things start to spiral a bit … “An exploded pig lies screaming on the floor. A silver key glint in its mouth.” A) Uh, oooo, that’s disturbing! B) A golden key in it’s mouth?! Sweet! Temptation! I love temptation in an adventure! It’s what D&D is all about!

I would note a few other nits. While the adventure does have some cross-reference, a few more could have been in order. I’m thinking specifically oft he section where it mentions the three items that can help the party get up in to the tower … those could have used some cross-references. There’s also a bit of an issue with what the party sees. It’s natural for the party to explore the outside of the dome, to look in, to see what they can see. There’s no overview of what the party can see, even though there ARE outside areas. This means the DM needs to dig through the adventure for those sections and, kind of ignore the upper levels and the like. A nice overview of “what walking around the place shows you” was in order. Likewise, windows and the people inside? No one at the windows screaming for help, or vignettes of horror? Finally, I would be a bit worried about the party focusing on getting in rather than pursuing the mini-adventures. Like I said, they are behind some barriers and “lets get 100’ of rope and string up a pully system” is, I think, something my party would turn to first rather than a quest for a quest for a quest. That may be an actual play thing, but some guidance in that area would have been nice.

Still, overall, a GREAT adventure. Even the magic broom has a personality!  Great new creatures, good new magic items. The oSR version might be a little light on loot and a little off in level range, but this thing if chock full of flavor and and is easy to use. The nits are easy to overcome. 

Dungeon Age Adventures is one of those publishers/designers to keep an eye on. 

This is $5 at DriveThru, and comes with an OSR version and a 5e version. The preview is fifteen pages and shows you the town, rumors, the layout and design choices, the way it organizes data, and a couple of the side quests. If I were being a hard ass I might have also like to see one page of the encounters of the main temple/adventure to get an idea of what “core encounters” look like also, but, still, good preview.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/301207/Ragged-Hollow-Nightmare-A-Dungeon-Age-Adventure-5e-and-OSR-versions?1892600

Posted in Level 2, Reviews, The Best | 7 Comments

Ruins of the Grendleroot – 5e D&D Adventure Review

By Michael E. Shea
Sly Flourish
5e
Levels 1-5

For a thousand thousand years, an ancient entity has been trapped in the heart of a mountain formed from rock not of this world. Over eons, creatures both monstrous and intelligent have explored the endless tunnels, caverns, and chambers of Blackclaw, answering the call of the mysterious entity buried within it. Over long centuries, hundreds of lairs, cities, keeps, prisons, and tombs were established within the mountain, but even those centuries of exploration did not uncover all its secrets. Then, two centuries ago, the entity now known as the Grendleroot awoke. Indestructible black spires shot through the rock of the mountain like the roots of a deadly weed, shattering civilizations, burying cities, and exposing caverns long lost. Today, adventurers residing in Deepdelver’s Enclave explore these lost ruins once again. They seek fellow adventurers brave enough to answer the call of Blackclaw, and to seek the mysteries of the Grendleroot.

This 172 page book is a collection of ten single-session dungeon adventures (taking up about a hundred and ten pages) set inside of a giant hollowed out mountain, Moria-style.  The adventures are ok, but long read-aloud, abstracted descriptions, and unfocused DM text leads to a product that has ok design but terrible usability. 

So, big hollow mountain full of tunnels, Moria-style, with a rich history. Abandoned due to REASONS. There’s a small village inside in a big chamber, the only settlement, that caters to explorers and serves as homebase. It may cater to explorers, but the party will be going on missions. Mission after mission after mission, instead of exploring. The way the adventures are oriented, the party is really just a set of troubleshooters for the village, dealing with the absurdity that Friend Computer, errr, the villagers, encounter week to week. 

The situations tend to have a slight sense of absurdism to them, just enough to cause the party to do a “Jesus H Fucking Christ … “ as they learn the details. Little Timmy talks to an invisible friend in ancient elvish? Seriously? You thought that was ok? And they disappeared at an ancient temple during Wee Delvers Week? What the fuck is wrong with you people?” Thye absurdism doesn’t go past the set ups, so they work out pretty good. It’s obvious what the adventure is, and slightly amusing without TRYING to be amusing. 

The advenuring environments tend to be small, as you would expect from a two to four hour adventure. Still, not badly done for being small. The first, for example, features a small tower on the outskirts of “town” that only has about six rooms in it … and yet there are three entrances, from the front doors to climbing to the roof to going in through a stream in a cellar. The encounter rooms, also, tend to have several things going on in them, from creatures to things to explore and mess with, in each room. And it tends to do it in a naturalistic way that doesn’t feel forced. Thus the adventuring environment is a rich one to explore. Rewards tend to be nice also, like … that tower in the first adventure! Now you have a home base! And if you rescued someone inside instead of killing them then you might have a caretaker also, grateful for your help in their rescue! And … you might even get a spectre as a butler! Again, rewards to no just hacking him down. And, besides, having a spectral butler is pretty cool. Oh, and a gargoyle doorman. Rich rewards that are not just cash. Thumbs Up!

The setups and situations are nice. But I am not nice.

The adventure is bloated to all fuck all. My position on bloat has softened in recent years. Whereas before I fucking hated it, I now tolerate it as long as it doesn’t get inthe way. I still think there’s some value prop that is miscommunicated in a 200 page adventure that has 150 pages of fluff and fifty of adventure, but, that’s a different problem. The only problem with bloat and backstory is when it gets in the way of running the adventure … as it does here. Now, to be sure, the vast majority of bloat & backstory in this (let’s call it “the setting guide”) is reserved for some chapters that you can easily skip and/or pluck out if they offend thee. And then there’s the embedded backstory in the encounters. This is the real issue with bloat in this, beyond value-prop expectations issues. Background in the encounter gets in the DM’s way of scanning the encounter to run it at the table. Moving it to the end, or beginning, or some other place where the trivia can be ignored and/or referenced at leisure if the way to handle it if the designer believes they simply must include it. 

And then there’s the read-aloud. LONG read-aloud. In italics. In RED italics. My eyes just glaze over at this shit. Long sections of italics, meaning more than a phrase, are functionally illegible. Eyestrain galore! Oh, you can read it, you just don’t want to struggle to. And then, to ALSO put it in a red font? Was the inset box AND the italics not enough to denote it was read-aloud? It also needed a red font to make it even harder to read? WTF Flourish? 

And then there’s the abstraction. Specificity is the soul of narrative. If I rail against bloat I also must rail against abstraction. Targeted specificity is what the word budget SHOULD be spent on. Yet time and again it abstracts. The players recognize carvings of ancient gods. WHICH ancient god? Detharaxis, Reaver of Blood? No, just ancient gods. B O R I N G. Don’t fucking abstract!

The RE is also too expressive. It  gives away all of the details of the rooms too soon.  Writing in read-aloud is described as elvish. Or as religious iconography. Of other details in the read aloud. This helps destroy the back and forth between the players and the DM which is the soul of RPG’s. This interactivity between the DM and their players. There are things carved on it. That leads the players to say “what kind of things.” Or even that there’s just an alter, which causes them to examine it, which causes the DM to mention the writing, which causes them to examine it. Back and forth. But if you put all the fucking details inthe read-aloud then that can’t happen, can it? And the read-aloud is WAAAAAAYYYYY too long. Paragraphs, or columns in some places. Two to three sentences, that’s all you get. 

“Time has not been kind to …” NO! NOT IN THE READ ALOUD! NO FLOWERY SHIT IN THE READ ALOUD! Besides, that’s a conclusion. Don’t put in conclusions. That is, again, an abstraction. Instead write a description (or read-aloud) that makes the players THINK that time has not been kind to this room. SHOW don’t TELL. 

And then there’s the weird absences. If the room has creatures then it’s almost uniformly NOT mentioned in the read aloud, in spite of “is there something about to kill me? Being perhaps the most important thing that the DM can initially mention to the players. It’s fucking weird. Instead it’s all buried deeper down in the DM text. 

Oh, the DM text, terrible in it’s lack of focus. The rooms start with a little brief “important things” keywords, but then those same keywords, the important shit in the room, tends to be buried in the DM text. Room two has statues and mosaics in it, but without bolding in the statues and mosaics paragraphs you’re left to hunt for which Witch is which. Not cool. The DM text is, essentially, completely unfocused. 

I can go on on, covering design decisions, like “how do I know there’s a second path to the temple?” or “You need to use six charges from the wand to solve the adventure but it only has seven charges … why not instead of two encounters each requiring three charges instead they require two, or one? This seems like a design trap and a pushback AGAINST players using the treasure they find … what if the DM has a special use for it somewhere and we need it? Not good D&D. 

So, some journeyman ideas and effort but ruined by being essentially unusable at the table. Let’s hope that improves in the future.

This is $15 at DriveThru. The preview is eleven pages. You get to see the entirety of the first adventure “Starson Tower.” This is great,as it gives an exact idea of the quality of what you are purchasing. Great preview. A brief perusal will also show the red offset long italics read-aloud. Room two is a great example of most of the issues the adventure has with read-aloud and DM text.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/296843/Fantastic-Adventures-Ruins-of-the-Grendleroot-for-5e?1892600

Posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 27 Comments

Mike’s Dungeons

Geoffrey McKinney
Self-published
B/X
Levels 1-10

I took my DeLorean time machine back to 1983. I saw there four middle-school boys playing Dungeons & Dragons, and Mike was the name of the DM. I managed to steal Mike’s dungeons and bring them back to 2020. I stole them fair and square, and now you can buy them. Mike did all the work, so we can be lazy.

This 158 page adventure describes a 72 level dungeon. It lies somewhere between “minimally keyed” and “just a bit more than minimally keyed.” And I do mean Just A Bit More. Is minimal keying good enough these days?

So …. Good effort. 72 dungeon levels. Hand drawn maps of about a dozen rooms per level. The rooms are all described on one page, in clean easy to read font with margins. The dungeon map is on the other page, making it a “lay open” book affair. I, also, use 3-rings at home, but rings instead of a folder. It’s a good format for actualling running things. You can flip around easily, fold it back to back, lay it open on facing pages, and find the front and back easily for additional quick-access reference material. 

Geoffrey doesn’t do any of that. It’s just a map and a one-page key, per level, with a singal page of DM background information on page one describing how undead turn as two levels harder and how all Chaotics in the temple levels of the dungeon get a 1 point armor class bonus when attacked by Lawfulls. 

The writing style is one that Geoffrey has used before, such as in Isle of the Unknown. It’s minimally keyed, and, while he doesn’t say it, it looks like he’s using the charts from B/X to roll the encounters on, about one per room. Thus the first level has about fourteen rooms and twelve of them have a creature to slay in it. The thirteenth is the entrance cave mouth and the fourteenth a room with a trick. Stuffed full of creatures!

And minimally keyed. Which I seem to think is important since I seem to be beating that point to death in this review, name dropping it all over the place. The encounters on level one include:

2 chaotic warriors in plate mail with shields and swords.  

Giant orange centipedes crawl in and out of a worthless red glass urn, and they will not attack unless disturbed.  

1 giant yellow scorpion cannot move unless the 319 gp scattered on the floor near the scorpion is touched. 

2 gray oozes are in this cold, damp, and humid chamber  

An 11-headed hydra lairs here. Each of its 22 eyes is an amethyst worth 100 gp  

I’m not summarizing; this is all the text there is for those various rooms. I don’t think I’m cherry picking either, this is fairly representative for the vast vast majority of rooms. It’s very similar to Isle of the Unknown. In both cases it looks like a random generator was used to crete a keying and then an adjective was added, usually a color adjective. Yellow scorpion. Orange centipede.

Which is not to say that the entries are all bad. Crawling in and out of a glass urn is not bad, as ia hydra with amethyst eyes. In both cases it engages the risk/reward mechanism of the party, tempting them to recover loot, present with the hydra and not with the urns.   

And to be fair there are sometimes longer entries. But they are not common. Here’s one in which the creatures will talk to you:

The 9 wereboars here are preyed upon by the cyclops (room B). They will seek an alliance against their hated enemy: “Help us kill him, and you can keep all his gold.”

Your experiences here are going to be related to your tolerance of minimally keying. I don’t have any tolerance for it. There are mountains and mountains of random creature generators online these days to roll up your own dungeon. The level theming is pretty non-existent, except for a an Evil Temple theme which runs through some of the levels. (Portions of a dozen or sixteen levels?) It’s just a novelty, like the Habitation of the Stone Giant Lord art project from a few years back. I’m glad he wrote this, it’s fun to see, but that’s all.

This is $4 at DriveThru. The entire thing is available for preview, all 158 pages. Kudos for McKinney for doing this. Every product should be like this, or, close enough to it that you can get a real sense of what you are buying before you pay for it.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/295151/Mikes-Dungeons?1892600

Posted in Reviews | 23 Comments

Where There’s a Will, OSR Adventure Review

By Jacob W. Michaels
Raging Swan Press
OSR
Level ... ?

Standing on a dingy side street in Low City the Scythe has a reputation as a place for hard drinking and its entertainers. Nights at the Scythe are rarely boring—particularly when the legendary halfling bard, Dricolen Nimblefinger, is playing

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Why yes, El Senor Lydon, Johnny Feelgood, Liz and I do THE THE FUCKING TIME. (Hmmm, looking this up, the lyric is “Johnny Light on.” I think it’s better as “Johnny Lydon.” Kind of a Peaches “My Chrissy behind is fine all of the tie” Chrissy Hynde kind of thing. That fucking earworm has been out of my head for a week now and I just put it back in. Great.)

This thirteen page adventure details … I don’t know … some vignettes in a town? It’s supposed to be a roleplaying adventure, uh, I mean “eventure”, but in reality it’s just some one of those hooks from a “101  hooks for your party!” products that’s been expanded in to thirteen pages. Just the hook. JUST. THE. HOOK.

Town adventures are one of my favorite things and this product line seems to be trying to do two things. First, no combat, andsecpnd  shit that happens in town during downtime, returning,etc. Not bad, especially the second. Shit going on in town helps cement the characters and who they are, with the players flexing themselves a bit and all them zany human relations. Plus, players seems to have more restraint that usual, not ALWAYS picking the “stabby stabby” solution. SO, good ideas! Town! Yeah!

And very VERY poorly executed.

This isn’t an adventure. It’s not even an adventure outline. It is, I don’t know, a hook? Imagine one of those “100 hooks” products and one line in it is “In town, get part of a map to a pirates treasure during a dead pirate captains wake.” That’s this adventure.

You’re in town, somewhere. You hear bells ringing. A notorious pirate captain is dead. You go see his body strung up at a town gate and met some other pirate captains. You go to a bar and the reading of the will, along with other pirates, and a bunch of map pieces get tossed out. That’s your adventure!

And it’s not even properly supported. There are a bunch of tables at the beginning to add local color to the town: rumors, street scenes, gossip and the like. They tend to be well done, although the street scene tables could be more oriented toward the pirate captain being dead instead of the usual “beggar with his bowl” shit. But, that’s the good part. It’s full of things like “the pirate tell tall tales” … without anything to get the DM started. It’s critically important in these situations to give the DM something to work with. Not a novel, a few words, maybe one sentence. Just enough to get going. But this don’t do that. And this happens repeatedly. There are these little two or three sentence paragraph that describe these HUGE scenes, like the stringing up and viewing of the body at the the gates. I finally figured out that these little things ARE the “adventure.” These two or three little sentences in their little scenes scattered around the test are what is supposed to occupy the players and their characters. But it’s unsupported. 

It THINKS it’s supporting them though. We get full write ups on six pirates including their history, and other details that mean little to the adventure. MAYBE, in an ongoing campaign, this kind of extra detail is worthwhile, and this IS meant to be a town thing, so, recurring. And there IS a decadent dive bar full of twisty passages, etc, that is more a “city bar location fluff” than “adventure location.”

So what you’ve got here is a fluff product that says it’s an adventure and is TRYING to be an adventure but succeeds in only being fluff. Don’t get me wrong, I like fluff. Inspiration is good. But it’s not an adventure. 

This is just an outline. And an outline of a hook, at that, that lasts thirteen pages. 

*bleech*

This is $3.50 at DriveThru. To its credit, the preview shows you the entire product. CHeck out page seven of the preview/five of the book. This is the “Traitors Gate” hanging scene. That column of text is all you get (!) to run it. A column should be more than enough … but this column tells you nothing pertinent to running this as a scene/encounter.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/300608/Where-Theres-a-Will-OSR?1892600

Posted in Reviews, The Worst EVAR? | 4 Comments

(5e) The Song of the Sun Queens

By Shane Ivey
Arc Dream Publishing
5e
Level 2

The adventurers have journeyed uncounted miles to the vast plains of the Sunlands. A merchant in a faraway city told them that a great treasure rests in an ancient, cursed ruin called Juakufa. Where can the ruin be found? What is the nature of the supposed curse? What dangers lurk along the way? What are the Hyena Giants? And what were the mysterious Not Heres? The adventurers may learn all that from the people who abandoned Juakufa long ago. But first, they must survive being guests of the Sun Queens.

An average rating of 4.5 on DriveThru?!? You just KNOW this one is going to be good!

This forty page adventure uses about twenty pages to describe, I don’t know, six encounters? Maybe? The rest is appendix and pregens. It’s got an Africa theme. It’s a fucking mess of a mess, almost incoherent in how the adventure is laid out.  

So, Africa theme. They ride around zebras. No joke. They hunt ostriches. They all get together to sing and dance for your entertainment. Yes. That’s right. No joke. Also, the friendly queen in the adventure wants to have sex with you since you’re an exotic foreigner. And she claws your back “during an intimate moment.” So, creepy African stereotypes and creepy sex shit. A perfect combo for your lighthearted D&D game. [For what it’s worth the African guy here at work says that the African version of “Everyone in Africa rides zebras” is that the streets are made of gold in the US. Immediately upon residence you become rich.] Ok, weirdo shit out of the way, there’s more than enough disgust with this adventure outside of these elements in order to call it bad, so, non-issue. [Oooo, what if it WAS a really well written adventure/good adventure, but was FULL of creeper stuff? What then? “The Supreme Court does not deal with hypotheticals, Sir!”]]

There’s some “you heard about a ruined city full of treasure” thing, but the adventure starts with the party on the plains of Africa and in the court of these two queens. Kind of. It’s hard to say. It’s ala a mess. There’s some description of the queens and their court and how they hate each other, and then an ostrich hunt. There’s no real “Arrival” or anything. It’s just got background on the “the Sunlands” and then launches in to “The Ostrich hunt” where your on the plains with the queens and a bunch of africans hunting ostriches. It’s jarring. There’s no pretext at all. Just: hey! Here’s scene one of the adventure and it’s not an introduction!” 

Another example of this sort of “things not said” issue follows immediately. The hunt is attacked. Now, the party is out riding zebras catching ostriches or out int the field kind of “beating” to drive them. The hunt is then attacked, the ostriches anyway, but some, I don’t know, bird monster things. But the SCENE is an advisor running up to the queen saying that the hunt has been attacked by some Ghjkdfgdfhgdef. Whatever, some foreign word that the adventure keeps dropping the fuck in because it thinks that I, the DM, wants to keep track of this shit in my head. That shit is for the players, not the DM. Anyway, the dude is yelling that a Ghdkfghdk is attacking the hunt. The hunt that is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.  That YOU ARE A PART OF. Do you now see it? The queen responds: “is it a HKDJHDDD?” No, bitch, it’s right there, look! Does it look like a Hhdjfhjdkfd?” Ok, so, not fair to the queen, it’s not her fault, it’s the designer and editors fault. It’s their weird kind of disconnect where it almost seems like two different people worked on this and a third blindly put it together without marrying the two writers content. And the fucking adventure does this REPEATIDLY. It’s a basic continuity issue. 

Good news though, you do get XP is you are good-aligned and save someone in the hunt. Yeah for enforced morality by the DM! I guess if you want to play D&D then you’ll play the fucking game the way this designer wants you to and FUCK YOU PLAYER if you deviate? 

There’s more singing and dancing by the happy africans and then the queen sleeps with the exotic foreigners.

You go visit a few villages. The locals sing and dance for you and tell you that you should leave all your gear with them since you are going to die anyway when you get to the ruined city.

The adventure is linear, with  a brief walk up a mesa, getting attacked by gnolls. Err, giant hyena people. The maps all fucked up and doesn’t show the encounters in the right place, one of them being off to the side. I guess no one cared to fix that mistake? Up top there’s a fortress. I GUESS that’s the ruined city you were looking for? It’s never mentioned that it is? Or that it’s your destination? I thought it was just a side trek, but no, it’s the object of your quest. Inside is a ruined keep with about, I don’t know, 25 rooms? Al are unnumbered, undescribed except for four. Three of those are just some dream sequence stuff where you hear a voice in your head and maybe a will o wisp does a hit and run. The last room has a devil in it for you to kill. Yeah! You freed the land from the curse and laid some ancestors to rest so they can be reincarnated as elephants! You get 120gp in coins and two objects worth a total of 65gp! I guess it was worth that ten day journey to get here. Plus that trip to Africa. How long was that boat journey here, and how much did it cost?

Anticlimactic bullshit, that’s what this is.

This thing has a couple of decent ideas. A ruined land/forbidden zone under a curse is a classic trope. WIll o’the wisps representing the souls of dead people is nice, as is their nature of just being on the outskirts of the scene/vision in the ruined fortress. All but one leave you alone, and he’s a bad guy/traitor, or, was, in real life.  A devil on a throne in the middle of te ruined fortress, sending you dream visions in your head, taunting you, while these dead people wisps float on the periphery, in a ruined and blasted Forbidden Zone? That’s great! 

It’s just terrible as implemented. It’s linear, essentially an empty adventure, ham handed in its culture use, and an INCOHERENT MESS when it comes to scene transitions. And I haven’t even mentioned it’s reliance on the “long text paragraph” to relate information; perhaps the most common sin in all 5e adventures.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages long, but only shows about two pages of text. You do get to see the intro. Literally “you journeyed here and are at the court.” And you get to see the transition to the ostrich hunt. So, VERY representative of the writing you’ll get.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/283114/The-Song-of-the-Sun-Queens-5e?1892600

Posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 8 Comments

Flying Fortress of the Celestial Order

By Radulf St. Germain
Studio St. Germain
OSR? Generic? 5e?
"Lower Levels"

The  city of  Shallow Bay  is preparing for  the greatest social  event of the year when  an eagerly-expected shipment of ball gowns goes missing. Rumors abound of goblins gathering in large gangs to cut off all commerce to the city. While  all seems like a routine job for adventurers there are hints of some sinister ancient evil pulling the strings in the background. Can the party save the Day of the Revered Ancestors and what will they find as they  become embroiled deeper and deeper into the machinations of the mysterious Celestial Order?

This 29 page adventure has a loose plot to it combined with a sandboxy format. Probably meant  for 5e, it’s presented without stats. Dripping with the kind of flavour I wish all adventures had, this things fatal flaw is its organization, an arrow that has taken down many a sandboxy adventure. I started to ask myself, during this review, “Man, is it worth it to highlight this thing and create some reference sheets?” That’s a good sign.

This thing has style! The city it is set in was founded by a Lich, overthrown many many years ago, with his phylactery rumored to still be around. The hook is a shipment of ball gowns in a caravan that gets raided … what will the local fops wear to the Day of the Revered Ancestors ball? (A little Lexx mixed up in your fantasy, maybe?) The elemental earth cult? It’s not an earth cult. It’s not THE cult of elemental earth. It’s called The Shallow Grave Consortium … and the leader sleeps in a barrow. The local bar, the Drunken Sailor, is known for its knife fights and shady dealings. The local guy who informally heads up the fisherman in town is not opposed to organizing a beating for those who show disrespect. There’s a flying fortress with a giant brass flywheel on it (it’s the air cult, chill out) and it’s been grounded, anchored via … a literal giant anchor with a huge fish … sculpture? swallowing it. And that’s not even described, it’s just shown in a little sketch drawing. Time and time again this thing hits with the sort of specificity that makes an adventure feel ALIVE. Fuck the generic Earth Cults and long live the Shallow Grave Consortium!

Over and over again. The NPC’s are given brief little bursts of flavour that a DM can hang their hat on. The cult leader is highly dramatic and listens to an invisible advisor. The raven spy looks down on beings who cannot fly. (Get it?! Get it?!)  People are described as corpulent, or noble matrons, or the Pointy Hat goblin tribe who wears … Wear huge pointy helmets and sport huge mustaches. They have no real boss.” The flesh golem that shows up is not a Frankenstein’s Monster, or even a Frankensteins Monster monster Frankenstein, but in the form of a giant snake. A noble matron thinks the mayor is a vain idiot. It goes on and on and on. The adventure elements are strong. It’s something that the DM can work with … if it does, at times, trend a bit to the absurdit side of the line, hopping over a time or two but not taking up full residency. 

It’s also trying to help the DM out. There’s a one page cheat sheet that describes the adventure. There’s a flowchart of events, since this is ultimately a sandbox plot of the villains trying to do something more than linear adventure. It even has notes on the flowchart of what happens if the current “activity” is foiled by the party. There’s DM advice in places, like suggesting fires in the windmill used to grind flour may result in an explosion. There’s even a couple of pages of tables at the end full of charts that can be used to create flavourful little houses in town, full of secrets and plots and the like. 

But, it’s TRYING to help the DM, and not actually doing so. The cheat sheet only really makes sense after going through the adventure the first time, so it doesn’t orient as much as summarize. The flowchart may be the best part, but the section headings it refers to could be labeled/organized stronger. For it’s attempts at helping it’s still kind of a glorious mess.

There’s a lot of repetition of information, and meaningless information at that. It’s using a kind of free text/paragraph format, with certain words in italics to draw the eye. That’s not the strongest way to organize, especially given the amount of extraneous text in the adventure. There’s a decent number of NPC’s, and some kind of summary sheet would have useful to help the DM during play. I don’t know how to say this and get it to come across right. The section headings and extraneous text weaken the adventure to the point where it’s kind of hard to figure out how to run it and what’s going on, and that’s with the flowchart and cheatsheet. This is a sandbox sort of issue, in general; finding a way to organize the material for quick reference during play in an unorganized play style is no small feat. 

This thing drips with flavor. It references some princes of the Apocalypse creatures, and is a better PotA chapter than a real PotA chapter. I’m keeping it as “generic” since it’s stateless, and the only stat reference is to reference some 5e monsters in the end in order to localize it. I might suggest the same for some LabLord creatures as well; it would be a helpful touch. Treasure, is, of course, light given the generic/5e flavour.

So is it worth it? Not to me. There’s just a bit too much effort in pulling things together. I will say though that St. Germain has their shit together with respect to flavour and “arc without having a plot.” You might even say there’s a nod to Rients with a flying fortress showing up to raid the town. Some serious work in massaging the text in to a format to make it more easily runnable at the table would marry that to the flavour and make it something decent to run.  I do, though, look forward to seeing future efforts by this designer to see if they can figure things out.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2. The preview is four pages. It gives you an overview of some of the factions, actors, and locations. For this sort of sanboxy sort of adventure it’s an appropriate preview, showing you the sort of information transfer, flavour, and organization you can expect. Take a look at it and note both the flavour and the extraneous text and how it’s not exactly the best at declaring where you are and what’s important.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/300908/Flying-Fortress-of-the-Celestial-Order?1892600

Posted in Reviews | 4 Comments

An Easy Task

By FEI Games Inc
FEI Games
B/X
Levels 3-5

A group of minotaurs have moved into the area. A farmer spotted them at the ruins down the road and now the locals want them gone.

I don’t know man. Really, I don’t. I apologize.

This seven page adventure is actually a (very small) one page dungeon with four rooms. It features fourteen minotaurs and fourteen dire wolves. It is minimally keyed ala Palace of the Vampire Queen. Uh, it has 4000cp of treasure. I don’t know what to say. It’s one of the worst?

Seven pages for this. One title page. One page with the adventure on it. One page with the stats for the two monsters. One page to note 4000cp in treasure. Two pages of license and one blank page. I am an optimist. Really, I am. The wurstest pessimists are always the most idealistic optimists. I WANT to believe that a short adventure can be good. There are some! I promise! But not this one.

Ok, a hunter sees some minotaurs at a ruin down the road, goes to the inn, and insists the party take care of it free of charge since they’ve been staying in the area. Of course, they can keep any treasure they find. This is the hook. It appears on the one adventure page. It preceded by a section telling us that the minotaurs have moved in to the ruin because they had good luck with their last raid. I guess that’s the background. The last two sentences is the wilderness adventure: the hunter takes them to the ruin but will not fight. The five-ish sentences that make up those three things take up half the page. The one one page that has the entire adventure. I question if that was the best way to spend the word budget allocated to this title …

It’s minimally keyed. “Room 1) 5 minotaurs.” That’s it. Nothing else. There are four rooms, all minimally keyed. The map is a small plus sign; one central room up high with three other rooms connected to it in the cardinal directions. Each room has a bunch of minotaurs and/or dire wolves in it. There is an order of battle! One of te minotaurs will ring the gong in the central room, summoning all of the minotaurs ot the battle, if, I guess, they didn’t already hear it, being 20’ away from it and all that.

Fourteen 6HD minotaurs at … third level? Fifth Level? And that’s doesn’t even include the fourteen 4HD dire wolves that are also included. A combat. Just a hack. Nothing else to this. 

The treasure is 4000cp. Seriously. And 500sp. A jewelry worth 30gp. 2 potions. “Various mundane items worth 700gp.” Ok, so, realistic, I guess? Oh, oh, and, of course, “the DM can also place any other treasure they would like.” Yeah, no shit? Can I, the DM, also breathe while running this? And speak? Just last night I was just writing an article about this”feature” of adventures. How they put in this “add an encounter of your choice” or “include any treasure you want.” Surprise surprise surprise, I see another example of it this morning. 

What’s the count at? I don’t know.

A one page adventure listing itself at seven pages. Because it is seven pages: one page of adventure and six of fluff. A hack a thon in B/X, where Hack a thons are essentially insta-death, so, no basic understanding of the game system. Also illustrated by having the third to fifth level adventure having fourteen 6HD monsters and fourteen 4 HD monsters. That will, essentialy, attack en masse. Also no understanding of how gold=xp work, since 4000cp ain’t gonna cut it for leveling purposes. That’s where most of the XP comes from in basic and it ain’t present here, especially at this risk level. Minimal keying, bringing nothing to the adventure. A hook relying on the party to be Goodies. A map small enough that order of battle doesn’t matter.

No exploration. No wonder. No joy. This is a 4e adventure pretending to be B/X.

This is $2 on DriveThru. Being one of the worst, it of course has a three star rating on DriveThru. Because reasons. You cannot, in any way shape or form, trust the ratings on Drivethru. There the weirdo page-flip preview instead of a full size one. If you squint hard you can see the map and the minimal keying next to it. That’s the adventure. The entire thing.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/300205/An-Easy-Task-An-OSR-B-X-Fantasy-Rule-System-Game-Scenario?1892600

Posted in Reviews, The Worst EVAR? | 19 Comments

(5e) The Secret of Cedar Peak

By Hein Ragas
Capybarbarian
5e
Level 1

Kingshold is a sleepy garrison town at the edge of the kingdom. Bertu Arnels, the respected herbalist in town, sent out an expedition to Cedar Peak Forest, about a day’s travel across the border, to look for useful herbs. When the expedition does not return, she seeks adventurers to investigate and make the forest safe for herb picking. Will you travel to the base camp, and discover the truth behind the horrifying Secret of Cedar Peak?

This 27 page adventure details a small seven room cave and a couple of outdoor encounters using about eleven pages to do so. Straightforward hack/explore of the usual “figure out what is going on, sneak around, kill shit” variety, it uses a good room format to support its weaker evocative and and interactive elements. Continuity problems stand out. With work this could be on the duller side of “ok.”

There’s this thing I like to call “Pretending to be an adult.” This is where you ape the behaviours you’e seen or heard about, thinking that’s the “right thing to do.” Without understanding though, it appears to be just going through the motions. What if you have good ideas, though, or at least not bad ones? Then it’s surrounded by this ape’ing. And thus, this adventure.

This is not a bad adventure, or a good one for that matter, in its core concepts. The party is hired to find some people who have disappeared, an herbalist expedition. Investigating, they visit a small village, “explore a forest”, find some caves, and kill the thing in the cave. I might call this “the usual layout for a plot based adventure.” Hired, investigate, village, wilderness, lair dungeon. To generalize, interactivity in these affairs is usually limited to a little sneaking around to get in to the dungeon and some roleplay in the village. And thus it is with this adventure as well. The usual beats happen. Interactivity is low, with a little roleplaynig and maybe sneaking up on a guard post being non-hack highlights.This doesn’t have to be a bad thing in the plot-based world. Yes, it’s a bit formulaic, and I’d like to see better, but reality is that most plot-based games and adventures follow this formula. They almost all need to up the interactivity element, but, if they can solve the ease of use problem then you’d have a great sea of Marginally Useful Generic Adventures … instead of  the great sea of crap we have today.

This adventure DOES try to excel and rise above the usual dross, and it largely succeeds. Yes, the villagers are in on it, they are always in on it, but at least these villagers have some self-loathing. And, if confronted by the party, they attack the party. But, it’s not a combat! The advice is to let the party slaughter them as the villagers die to the last. Oh, and what do you do with the three young children left behind? I was surprised, and delighted, to see the designer breaking out of the usual formula. And, if the party comes back to the village after defeating the cave monster (assuming they did not confront the villagers beforehand …) they will either find the village burned down (if they were warned by an escapee) or the villagers will throw a huge party, their relief at the end of The Situation, being palpable. Also, the party gets out of hand, there’s a fire that burns everything down, and the villagers disappear. Weird to end all plots threads on this point, but whatever, they all work as a real conclusion in one way or another. Both the village slaughter and the party/burndown show that a little extra thought has gone in to this adventure. And you can tell. 

The singular enumerated village encounter, with the smith, shows signs of life also. Is reactions make sense. Further, there’s a nice little bit of formatting with bolded heading and short little sentences that relate his responses to common questions. A similar format is followed by the room entries in the dungeon, with a short read-aloud followed by some bolded heading that have more information for certain things on the read-aloud. This sort of formatting makes it easy to locate information, allows for easy scanning, and therefore ease of use at the table. All nicely done. 

There’s some X-card warnings up front, for, I think, a little kid who survived an abduction. His mom might get eaten in front of the party by the cave monster. There are a couple of possible “gruesome” little vignettes with the kids mother/family being eaten. (As an aside, aren’t we ALL responsible for the X card shit, because we didn’t push back on the edgelords hard enough when they did their edgy shit? Or do we blame it on the indie RPG and their Psychological Growth RPG’s?) Again, a nice little element to heighten the horror. SHOW don’t TELL. And this shows. He’s not an evil monster because the villagers, or diary, says so. He’s evil because he calls people “meat” in conversations with them (Objectification! The true definition of evil!) and gruesomely eats still living people. No fucking moral quandryies there. I presume he won’t be arrested with non-lethal combat?

This is not, however, a good adventure. 

Read alouds tends to the dull side with boring words like “large cave” and other such descriptions abounding. There’s a two paragraph section on spotting a wagon. And two paragraphs up front on “roleplaying” that seems to have nothing to do with roleplaying. The start town gets one and half pages of description in spite of it having nothing to distinguish itself from every other generic border town.We do get a paragrapgh, multiple in fact, on the entire life fucking history of the person who hires them, including her life as an apprentice. All of this padding takes seven pages before the hook shows up. IE: it’s padded to all fuck out. 

This also shows up in long DM notes section. Rather than emulating the bolded section heading style, perhaps augmented by bullets, whitespace, tables, etc, it instead relies, as per usual for these sorts of adventures, on the long multi paragraph exposition, a nightmare to dig through at the table. It repeats information, telling us the same information about the “telepathic” monster over and over again. Offering justifications for people’s behaviour, or why cultists believe what they do. This is all padding. 

Worse are the basic editing/continuity issues. The blacksmith can show up one point “with the little girl in tow.” This being the first time the little girl is mentioned, I have to wonder “Huh?” Or Telling the MD that by now the party has had a few encounters with the cultists … when in fact they’ve probably had none at all. Other misses include room descriptions that don’t actually mention what the room is (the Chapel being a major offender here … just mentioning a few details and nothing much chapel like in the RA) or burying monster entries in the DM text instead of the RA. You have to tell the players the obvious/important things first, and ten bloodthirsty cultists seems like an important room detail to me. 

Or maybe not. “The rest of the cultists are found here in this room. “How many is that exactly? We don’t know. The Rest. But there’s no number to begin with. Other examples include the monsters being buried in the last sentence of a text entry, or things like that, things that make the DM hunt for the information instead of ordering the information in a logical manner that’s easy to use at the table. This is not a Nit. These are core usability issues when the text runs long, as it does in this. 

And, ultimately, the party never does really find evidence of the people they sent to go looking for. I guess you can make an assumption, but dropping a few details in a room about bodies or gear would have seemed appropriate. Combine all of this with what is an abstracted “forest/wilderness exploration” section and this is worth a pass. It’s got some ok elements that do try to elevate and show more talent than is usual in these things, but it needs to stop pretending to be grown up and learn how to relate information other than in long-form paragraph form. And write descriptions that are more evocative (while staying terse!) and look for opportunities for more interactivity. 

This is $5 at DriveThru. There’s no preview. Put in a preview! And make it a good one that shows us a bit of the dungeon encounters and a bit of the wilderness ones (if there actually were any instead of a handwave …) a bit of social. Let us know what we are buying!

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/299279/The-Secret-of-Cedar-Peak?1892600

As an aside. This takes place in a sleepy frontier town. Are there such things? Or are all frontier towns bustling affairs with people going out to homestead and seek their fortunes? And the guards don’t give a shit because it’s outside the border of the kingdom, the kingdom ending, evidently, right outside the gates. A) these people deserve what will inevitably happen to them. You keep problems from becoming End Of The World by taking care of them early. Besides, they threaten your tax base, even if they are outside your border, proper. A border that doesn’t exist since there’s no else who owns the land out there. So why didn’t the lord claim it anyway?

Also, I’d totally have some tourist traps. “Come see the egge of the World!” and a Four Corners type monument. Tours, An official “kingdom border” line. Trinket shops. The whole nine yards. Why yes, I did just take a road trip last weekend in which I passed many roadside attractions, why do you ask?

Posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 23 Comments

At the High Point Inn

By Bill Reich
Self-Published
OSR
Level 1

This fourteen page adventure is set in an inn. There’s a fight, I think, that happens? In the inn? More than that I’m not sure. I’m not even sure what system this is for. It’s very hard to figure out what is supposed to happen.

As best as I can tell, you go to an inn to stay the night, someone hires you, or tries to, for protection. AT some point during the night three dwarves staying in the inn star a fight. Or kill the guy? Or something? It’s never really stated. This is really as close as the adventure gets: “If Barnart Hartwell is alone in the Taproom, the dwarfs prevent him from sounding an alarm that might warn other inn residents. Barnart may survive an attack by these ruthless, practiced fighters.” So ….

This IS, I think, all there is of the adventure. Arrive at inns common rooms. Maybe get hired. Hear and/or engage in a fight with three dwarves.

And now on to the system. It’s listed as OSR and the cover states OSR/D20 systems. But then it talks about air, body, and power magic. That’s not OSR/d20? And a point of magic protection and two points of undead protection? That’s not D&D? Or d20? Mineral fiber and plat over fiber? Is that some system? It’s got AC, HD, and HP, as well as a single “Save” number. Weapons are d4/d8. Spells include some recognizable ones and “Darkness Globe,” I have no fucking clue what system this is for. Money is in $, 80$ and such. No clue.

The first two or three pages are oriented at the players, I think. I think it might be read-aloud. I think. It’s not formatted like that. But it does use language “Upon entering the taproom you recognize …” and other first person kind of text that seems oriented toward telling the party what they see, feel, think or do. The lack of … understanding? Formatting? Provided to differentiate the text is one problem and text that IS read-aloud that tells the party what they think or feel is another common mistake. There’s also this weird abstraction of detail that’s present. Or time dilation? “Table H is the rowdiest table in the room, what with three dwarfs playing cards and drinking by-the- mug lite. Later, as they switch to a by-the-pitcher dark brew, the table quickly fills with bronze coins. You hope that they are not mean-spirited when drunk.”  Note not only the “You hope …” text but also the “Laster, as they switch to … “ text. Rather than playing EITHER section out in the game both are summarized. The You Hope portion should be something that the players actually feel, rather than being told that they feel. The “Later …” section should come through roleplaying. Instead it’s this weird time compression. And almost all of the first few pages are like this, the text weirdly summarizing things and telling the party what they think … without any regard to the formatting. It’s almost like there should be a boxed about the first two pages of text, to indicate read-aloud.

Later, during the night, “Any PCs in the corridor come to the aid of Hobson and Bifur.” Uh, no I don’t …

There are some timelines present, and some NPC’s, as well as a summary sheet of a BUNCH of NPC’s. I THINK the party is supposed to talk to people and that there are supposed to be differing alliances from the NPC’s and the party talking to them is supposed to do something, like make the fight larger? But that’s conjecture, there’s nothing like that. I’m just guessing because there are a lot of NPC’s presented and some kind of political overview about internal and external dwarf factions. I have no idea about the timeline. Someone takes a bath at 3am? Is that relevant for some reason? The action happens before then, pretty sure, based on the timeline. 

So, the system seems all over th place. The text is all over the place. I’m not sure what’s supposed to happen in this “sandbox” expect for a fight … lethal, non, no clue. It seems like the NPC’s and timeline should interact with everything somehow, but it’s not clear how. 

This is $.5 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. Pages two and three are that weird maybe read-aloud? Page six has an adventure overview section that details the action? I think? Based on this can you run the adventure? Because the other other pages don’t really help much more. At all.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/300900/OSR-At-the-High-Point-Inn?1892600

Posted in Reviews, The Worst EVAR? | 11 Comments