Haunt of the Barrow King

By Peter C. Spahn
Small Niche Games
Levels 1-3

[…] A few weeks ago, an adventuring company named Legacy Flame came to the Oldwood to reestablish a shrine to St. Galwren—patron saint of one of the fallen noble houses of the Kingdom of Nine. They erected a stone shrine near a Jaldtic burial mound and the leader of Legacy Flame, a warrior-priest named Father Krembers, performed an ancient ritual to invoke the blessings of St. Galwren. This ritual awakened several undead creatures that had been laid to rest beneath the old barrow . .

This 32 page digest adventure describes three wilderness encounters and eight inside of a barrow. Low on descriptive text and high on fluff. The concept is fine and the execution, if most pages are ignored, will do in a pinch.  Spahn is interesting. When he hits well he REALLY hits. Think Inn of Lost Heroes. Or, we could write something mind numbing. He’s all over the place. This one hits somewhere in the middle. 

Ok, so, hang on for this ride. Long ago the kingdom of the nine gets invaded and destroyed by the Jaldt barbarians. They build a burial mound on top of a destroyed castle. They don’t know it had a crypt under it. Of some important saint of the kingdom. So, yeah, they built their burial ground on top of a burial ground. Now, some fuckwit rival murder hobos show up, with a cleric on a holy mission to bring back worship of the saint, as we rebuilds shrines to him. Which causes everyone in the burial mound on a burial mound to come to life. An undead knight fights a barb lieutenant and his clan every night, and fails. Meanwhile, the undead barb king roams the roam, kills folk, and their zombies come back to the barrow to help the lieutenant fight the undead knight. Enter the party.

So, 32 pages. For what is essentially ten or eleven encounter areas. And how can this be? Well, that rival NPC party? They get a six page write up. That seems pretty lengthy to me. Expansive.  There are, essentially, four things you can to in thie adventure. The rival party is one. The undead barb lieutenant is another. He gets a decent sized  write up also. Then he’s got a few living people in his undead horde that don’t get much and then there are some bandits at the start who get essentially no write up at all. A little inconsistent here. But, perhaps, indicative of how important the encounter is? You know what the party makes of important NPC’s though, right? 

There’s also the Victorian mania for complete inventories. Five horse two oxen and two wagons, with GP values. Or, a half page write up that lists everything of value, or no, at a campsite. Including “assorted eggs and produce (worth 10gp at the market,) 

I turn, again, to the misplaced page count thing. A disproportionate page count, or word count, reveals a design that is out of balance. The designer is emphasizing, and put effort, in to things that are tertiary to the adventure. Instead of spending time on a six page backstory, what if instead that effort was put in to the adventure proper? There’s no long backstory here, but, the same concept of misplaced effort applies, I think.

Room seven is The Crypt of Honor. The description of this page long room is “This is the resting place of six renowned knights of galwren.” So, not a description. The sarcophagi get the following description “the hawk and sword standard is carved into the lids of their elaborate stone sarcophagus and a red ruby is mounted on each.” Not much a description. And so it goes. Elaborate is a conclusion. DESCRIBE it. That’s how you write a description, with specificity. 

It’s an ok adventure that should only be a couple of pages long that is padded out to 32. I find that annoying. But, also, there’s nothing really wrong with the adventure. The undead barb warband, with the lieu, zombies, and few traumatized humans is pretty nice and a highlight of the adventure. I’m not really sure it’s going to result in much in-depth play beyond maybe one rp event that evolves in a combat, but, it’s fresh anyway. 

So, it’s fine. I’m annoyed at it, but it’s fine.

This is $5 at DriveThru. There’s no full preview, just the quick one. Uncool.


Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, No Regerts, Reviews | 10 Comments

The Dragon’s Gullet

By Malrex
The Merciless Merchants
Gold & Glory
Levels 2-5

River trade between Farholme and Nordskamp depends on the working operation of the Dragon’s Gullet, an old water lock system built by dwarves. The Gilded Spear, an adventuring group claimed the ancient complex has been cleared of danger and an expedition was sent to inhabit and operate the water lock system. Your party is hired as extra muscle to protect the first river trade boat set for departure downstream. An easy job….right?

This 22 page adventure uses ten pages to present a one level dungeon with about fifty rooms. This is a good, classic dungeon.

Ah, the classic dungeon level! A thing of beauty, seldom seen these days. Lair dungeons dominate the market, with their claustrophobic five room design. They have no room to breathe! Being little more than maybe one encounter idea stretched out. But, ah, the dungeon level … enough room in it for a murder hobo to stretch his legs! A map with variety on it! Maybe some loops and alternative passageways. Some variety to what were exploring. Room for traps, tricks, empty rooms, friendlies and monsters galore … perhaps, dare we ask, in their own zones?! And that’s what we have here. A real dungeon level.

Let us first consider the map. Essentially, this is a tunnel under the mountain through which a river flows. Except, there are two rivers, one being a man made channel with the titular locks. THis leave rooms for river encounters, on both sides as well as some hidden water areas, as well as a path down each side and down the middle. Watcherfalls on one river, locks on the other. Tunnels under, rope bridges (or spiderwebs!) over. Stairs up and down, shores, ledges, rubble and the like. And outside a couple of gatehouses flanking the carved dragons mouth tha the river runs in to. This is a good map. A whole lof variety to it. Features on it. One of the best I’ve seen in awhile. This map really helps support the adventure, providing an excellent base from which to build.

And build Malrex does. We’ve got an adventuring party camped out, that cleared out the place. Except, they are actually bandits who lied. Also, their leader has been charmed by a trog shaman and is chucking captives, and sometimes their own men, in to the river for the trogs to eat. Ouch. Deeper in we’ve got some newt-people who also don’t like the trogs. Scattered throughout are prisons who can recruit, things to talk to, enough stabbing to keep the dice rolling, tricks traps and puzzles. All of which is made more interesting by the variety that the map provides. These two bandits are on a ledge over the river about to chuck a prisoner in! You’re not gonna get that, and the game possibilities, in a plain room. This is a really good effort in the interactivity portion. An old dwarf ghost who might get friendly if you fix a broken thing. Of course. Cause thats how ghosts work. 

Let’s take the two gatehouses, on either side of the river. With a bandt lookout in them. Smoke coming from one of them … a sign to be aware. Horses camped nearby. Some light treasure, and vermin. And the bandits maybe on the lookout. Oh, sorry, adventuring company. And thus the adventure starts strong. Gak those dudes sight unseen? Capture and question? Trust them when they say they are supposed to be here? 

“A square, stone building tilts towards the river as erosion from high floodwaters has destablized its base. Cracks and holes reveal only darkness inside. A huge rusted and broken chain (1’ thick) enters the building from the west wall. The once stout door lays just inside the entrance, covered in muck and greenish moss.” The Rex of Mals can write an ok description. We’re not winning any awards here, but it’s relatively short and takes a stab a good imagery. Descriptive writing is hard and while this isn’t a master class in it, its good enough to not make me hate it. 

Malrex does get a bit long in their DM text. The formatting is good enough, I suppose, to support the length, but its getting close. Whitespace, paragraphs, bullets, bolding all work together. And, at fifty rooms in ten pages we can’t really complain about length too much, can we, given modern standards? Anyway, I find the format a bit busy to support whats there. Maybe its the blank line above the bullet starts? Idk. But, again, good enough. 

I might have wished just a little more oob, for the trogs and newt-people in particular. But, It’s a decent adventure. Decent loot, some new magic. A great map and good interactivity and descriptive text and formatting that doesn’t hinder the adventure. And even supports it at times.

A good dungeon level.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The prev iew is fourteen pages; more than enough to get a sense of the thing. 


But, also, this adventure needs more +1 swords

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Level 3, The Best | 12 Comments

Trouble in Southshore

By Matthew Evans
Mithgrathr Entertainment
Levels 3-5

The elves of Gul Nalore keep to themselves, so it was a surprise when a delegation came to the people of Southshore asking for help. Things must really be bad. But, are they bad for who you expect?

This 42 page adventure features a dungeon with sixty rooms and and a lot of words that I don’t give a fuck about. Two days of my life I’ll never get back again. Is it as bad as all that? Sure. Why not?

Ah, the elves. One wonders how they have survived so long. Maybe they give birth like seahorses or some shit and continue to exist just because there are so many of them. Because, of course, they are fucking idiots in this adventure who can’t seem to do anything for themselves. 

There’s a lot of bullshit in this adventure, so hang on. Ohs nos! Them orcs that live nearby are killing folk … and the kids haven’t come back! Please go ahelp! You find the kids, dead, and a yellow orc tribe shield. WHich was left by the black blade orcs stirring up trouble. Blah blah blah, kill some orcs and make peace again between the orcs and humans. And then hear a drunk miner talk about some lizardmen on a boat. And then see some flyers from the elves who want some people to go kill a dragon for them. Seems they love Love LOVE their giant golden elk and a dragon has moved in and started eating their one true loves. But they can’t kill it because they are fucking idiots. Err, I mean, it lives in the mountains that they are forbidden to enter. *sigh* whatever. Ok. Inside we find some turtar’s in the dragons service .. humanoid turtles which will eventually include four TMNT’s. The dragon turns out to be a wyvern with a ring that gives him a 16 INT …given to him by his adopted Red Dragon mother … who doesn’t appear the adventure unless you kill her adopted kid so she can punish the “heroes.” Ok, so, anyway, the wyvern isn’t a bad fellow, he just wants to eat the giant grubs that live in the dungeon … but they are gone now, because of some serpent people who moved in to the dungeon. And elk taste better. He’s eating one now … want some? SO, maybe, kill the serpent people and convince the elves to live in harmony with the wyvern. Unless you ate their elk friend. Ahhh, a callback to the orc situation … find the hidden thing going on and convince the “Good Guys” that the monster is actually good. Oh, shit, I forgot, the serpent people are actually transformed evil human cultists. Cause thats the only acceptable bad guy anymore. 

Our overland map features text that is hard to read. Like “I used a yellow font over a yellow background color” hard to read text. The formatting it triple column paragraph in the style commonly referred to as “Wall of Text.” All of you fuckwits bitching about the OSE house style will be condemned, in your own personal hells, to reading this shit. Yeah, I think paragraphs are great. And, when dealing with a novice writer who doesn’t know what they are doing, the OSE style will, I believe, result in a better product than this wall of text shit does. 

Let us begin the wall of text example. I shall cover just the first sentence of many paragraphs. This is the actual adventure text, not the summary. This is what you are supposed to run from. And I’m only listing the first sentence of each paragraph. “The road from Nefford to Southshore is only 15  miles, but most who journey between the two towns usually stop midway at the village of Waddleby to patronize The Sore Foot, which is generally regarded as a nice establishment.” [blah blah blah] “When the PC’s arrive they’ll find that they’re the only customers there.” blah blah blah. They’re met by a red-haired boy that looks yto be a dozen years old “blah blah blah. Inside, the PC’s are greeted by the Bbarkeep Theodon Wenz. blah blah blah. After the charatcres have had a chance to secure rooms and order their dinners, the front door flies open and the child from outside (name Timmy Schmitz) is led in by a man dressed in leather armor and wearing a green waistcoat. Blah blah blah “Alright everyone, lets make this easy says the man as he takes a few more steps to allow his masked companions to file in behind him. Blah blah blah. 

I’m not going to keep going. I fucking hate this. First this happens then this happens then this other thing happens then this other thing happens. Paragraph after paragraph. COlumn after column. Page after page. Room descriptions full of passive sentences. History in the text. Justifications in the room descriptions. 

Just go stab some people. But don’t stab the wrong people! Otherwise you won’t get a +1 shortsword. 

I don’t know. Same old shit. Tricking people. And, more importantly, punishing them when they fall for it. That’s lame. Whatever. It’s not as bad a the fucking “and then this happen and then this happens” wall of text shit. Let us consider this a record of the wreckage of my life.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is 24 pages. Enough to get a good sense of the adventure. God help you. 


Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 15 Comments

Pearly Prison of the Crocodile Queen

By Maximillian Hart
Self Published
OSE & 5e
Levels 3-5

A town has asked you to rid it of a monstrous menace, but it seems some barnacled druids have gotten to the creature’s lair first. Will you ally with the druids, aid the temple’s lizardfolk defenders, or delve straight down the sinkhole to challenge the crocodile queen herself?

This ten page adventure uses four pages to describe a sinkhole dungeon with thirteen rooms. 

So, there’s this giant sinkhole. A couple of hundred feet deep. Caves in the side of it. Old temple the the bottom of it. The bottom, full of water, is SWARMING with crocs. Including a giant one … our titular queen. The locals take some food and treasure there every so often to sacrifice. The last group didn’t come back. So you’re do gooding. Turns out some druids have started attacking the place, so, you’ve got the druids on one side and the lizardmen who live there and worship the croc on the other … all arranged around/in the sinkhole.

The sinkhole map is fine. It’s hand drawn and tries to show a kind of 3d image, with passages and rope bridges going up, own, and around the sinkhole, along with chambers and so on. It takes a second to grok but then it’s ok. And, the rope bridges and cave mouths and such, with the croc swarm looming below, make for good company. Or, as the lizardmen say, if you talk to them about the missing villagers, who it turns out slipped and fell, they “were eaten by crocodiles upon hitting the water. It was hilarious.” Nice bit of text there. The formatting here is similar to Dungeon Age’s excellent tree-colum system with boxes, underlines and bolding. It’s a nice hybrid of text and formatting to make things pretty clear. Maybe not as much as a Dungeon Age adventure, but it gets close.

Ok, so, two factions, with the druids in control of the upper part of the sinkhole and the lizardmen the lower part. And no order of battle for either. So, slaughter away with your stabbing and no one is going to come out to play. THis relates to a general lack of interactivity beyond combat. While theres a reaction table, nd some faction notes, everything else is going to be limited to stabbing someone and/or maybe clearing some rubble. At one point there’s a missing goblet on a pedestal. Obviously missing. Replacing it gets you nothing. And there are several setup like this. Prompts to do something. That result in nothing. Just stab a stab a stabboy stabbing up your stabs. You could lose a stab. You could lose a stab.

Descriptions are fact based. If it’s underlined or boiled it gets a sentence in the read-aloud. “This room extends deep into the limestone walls and becomes a natural cavern. Holes of various sizes dot the floor. Incense burning in a thurible set on the floor in the center of the room cannot quite mask the faint acrid smell that lingers in the air. A number of dead lizardfolk litter the floor” Not bad. Gets the job done. Not particularly evocative either. 

The beginning of the adventure tells us that “Chance: If the text says there is, say, a 1-in-6 chance of something occurring, roll 1d6, and on a 1, the thing happens.” Wonderful. Value added.

It’s fine. A little one dimensional. It reminds me of a 4e adventure, with a location with some quirkiness and a couple of groups of people to stab. You want that? Here you go. The promise of the map, though, is held back by the issues mentioned and the lack of depth/size to the dungeon. A larger space, a little more complexity in the map, more rooms … it would allow things to breathe. Mini-dungeons have to be spectacular to be any good at all. 

But, hang on, I want to talk about the main thing in the adventure: the fact that the bottom of the sinkhole is full of water and SWARMING with crocs! And 10k in gold under it all … So, we’re gonna collapse the beginning tunnels to block shit off, and then shoot arrows at the queen untli she submerges. Maybe we kill her. Maybe not. Anyway, then we start dumping in poison and poisoned animals. Kill all those normal crocs. Pump out that fucking water. Sure, water from the elemental plne surges “up and down” it. But, hey, thats the story of mankind. Bringing order to the entropy of the elements. At least long enough to get that fucking loot at the bottom in the most low risk way possible. Combat as War motherfuckers.

This is $4 at DriveThru.The preview is all ten pages, so, good job on that.


Posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 3 Comments

Niffel’s Landing

By Justin T. Smith

Christina Stiles Presents

Castles & Crusades

Level 1

In this excursion, the players find themselves running an errand at a whaling outpost. When they arrive, a cold fog rolls over the island and no people are about. As they explore the outpost, they discover the truth about what happened to the inhabitants.

This twelve page adventure has six sites. It is a textbook example of how to not write an adventure … while still having an editor who knows how to spell.

So, Frank killed a whale. Then he built a tavern at the site he killed it, on some rocky shore, and it’s now a whaling station. But, also, Frank didn’t say the Prayer Of Thanks, so now the whales ghost hates him. The ghost whale sings the song of madness, or some shit. Frank is now dead. Franks wife is dead. Franks son is dead. Most of the people at the station are dead. Except for six who are now insane. And Franks daughter, who the whale ghost loves. Of course she does.

This all take twelve pages. Which seems a bit much for six rooms. But what is I said seven of those were just padding? The cover, title page, license, etc. That’s only five pages, right? Except one is a full page map of the tiny island. SO, six rooms in four pages. Which is still too fucking many  pages for what you’r egetting.

There are no decent descriptions. You get some victorian lists of contents of rooms which, no doubt, is historically accurate. Which is an insult is they bear it, because the point of the game is not historical accuracy but rather fun, to which historical accuracy can contribute, sometimes, if done correctly with the end goal in mind. So, we’re not talking The THing here. No swirling mists with dead mean walking out of them. Just boring.

There is no interactivity. I mean that more than most times I say it. You get to stab a couple of zombies and six crazed whalers. That’s it. Oh, and if you wander out in to the rest of the island then you might get attacked by a zombie. All stabbin. Those six crazy whalers? They are in to factions that hate each other, hole up in opposite ends of two warehouses. But you’ll not get any good roleplay out of that because they attack immediatly. To the death. Blah blah blah. You know the drill.The whale cries out every hour with a 10% chance. If you fail your save you go mad. Wonderful.

You’re supposed to bury the whales bones to lay it to rest. If you don’t then the little girl does. So, you know, no need to actually go on the adventure, right?! Which would be a good thing because there’s no treasure in the adventure. Gold=XP in C&C, right? Not in this case, buddy.

And, while I’m on it, a Level one sidetrek that takes plac ein the arctic? A side-trek at level one? In the ARCTIC?! Uh huh. Not that they put THE FUCKING LEVEL RANGE on the cover, or in the description or anything, so you won’t actually know what fucking level the thing is for.

Oh, oh, to actually win you need to convince all of  the whalers everywhere to give prayers of thanks when they kill a whale, and it needs to be maintained for a generation and passed on to their kids! I kind of like this, in an assholey LotFP kind of way. 

The rest of island is location number six. It says that if you enter there is a one in six chance of meeting one or more zombies. This sentence is emblematic of the entire adventure. The designer doesn’t give a fuck about you. One or more. How fucking many? I know, it seems like a small thing. Just throw some in, Mr DM. But, seen from an adventure writing standpoint, why would the fucking designer not say how many zombies there are? It’s one of the most basic parts of any adventure. How many things are trying to bite my face off. But they don’t do it. Because they don’t give a fuck about the adventure. Not that there is one here anyway, since theres no XP and the little girl solves the immediate problem. But, everything about this adventure is NOT oriented towards the DM running the actual game. It’s just bullshit. 


As the page ratio implies. As the descriptions imply. As the treasure implies. As the lack of level range implies. As the Zombie encounter implies. But, hey, maybe repeat that room two backstory a few more times in the text in case we didn’t get it the first few times you repeated it. This is a one fucking page adventure. If that.

It’s 2023. And this shit still gets made. You think raging against the dying of the light has any impact? Absolutely the fuck not.

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is one page. The credits page. Absolutely fucking worthless. The point of the preview is let the potential buyer get a feel for the adventure to see if it fits them. Showing me your fuckign credits page is a fucking insult. 


Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, Reviews | 10 Comments

Through the Foglands

By David Maynard
Self Published
Level 3

The ambitious King of Octavia has promised a title and a portion of profits to any prospector who can find the source of the lustrous ore recently panned in the river near Walton’s Point. This boundless and “empty” land, previously only thought of as a curiosity only relevant to scholars for its Elven ruins and odd weather, is on the verge of annexation by the crown. Its residents are scrambling to profit off of the discovery – or to avoid displacement. Kingdoms of yore sold their souls to assert dominion over their neighbors. Will history repeat itself?

This wilderness pointcrawl has about 26 locations and a small dungeon with about thirty rooms. Decent formatting and descriptive text compliments it, with rival parties and a timeline augmenting play. A decent adventure, if slightly … generic?

First, the good. A decent adventure. Travel through the pointcrawl wilderness to another town. There are things in the forest that interact. So, the goblins want loot to let you pass … maybe divert back to that ruined elf city to find some? Or, the two rival parties wandering around ar ein your way. Or, the witch of the wood will make a bargain with you for something else if you go fetching. So, a decent amount of the wood feeling like it s real, like the things in one location impact the things in a another location. 

And the descriptions are relatively good, especially when they come to rooms. “A dry fountain peeks out of rubble and dust. Or “Thick hewn stone blocks and roof tiles are scattered on the eastern side of the tower strewn about the forest floor.” This is all decent imagery. A black pudding “glomps” its way somewhere. Just a few selected words and the place does an ok job of coming alive.You can talk to a lot, and there are little places to explore along the way, a ew rooms at a select number of stops in the wilderness. 

So, a decent little adventure.

I think my issues with this adventure are two.. 

First, the theming is a little sparse. So while we get the title “THrough the Foglands”, we don’t actually get much in the way of fog. The kind of misty environment, with low visibility. The old growth rainforest of the pacific northewest, with fog creeping up. If you take THAT, for example, and then, for almost every encounter, try to incorporate that feeling in to things. Maybe not the fog, proper, but at least the vibe that kind of otherworldliness gives you. There are hints of it, here and there, but it’s not frot and center. Hitting this theme, over and over again, would have, I think, elevated all of the encounters and make them that much more evocative., This is where I get my somewhat generic statement, from earlier. Without that strong theming coming in then its just another encounter with a ruined tower. And, thusly, the adventure is somewhat weaker. 

There is also some weakness in the overall situations. I mentioned a linkage between locations, loosely. This is, by far, not the strongest part of the adventure. There’s a mechanism, that I am particularly fond of, of explaining the situation through the text and encounters … as opposed to, say, some summary text of what’s going on. It works well when its pulled off right. I THINK that’s whats going on here … but not in anything like the best way. Take the overall hook. I thought, from the adventure summary, we were going up river. No. while it’s never really explained, we’re actually travelling from one town through a forest to the second town where the gold in the river is. Once there we get a paragraph about panning for gold. If you make your check you find the source of the gold. Done. Nothing more. 

Likewise the witch of the wood. While its supposed to be involved, I believe, in a major way in the adventure, its kind of almost like a separate encounter. The linkages to the other parts, how they make sense and so on, is done very well. Or the holy order of knights in the dungeon ruins. I thought they’d be outside. But instead there’s just a note or two inside. And they don’t really seem to give a fuck about much. It’s all more than little disconnected, the smaller “point” situations from the larger issues. Given time, highlighter, and notes, you could make things clearer. And, also, there are few to no cross-references. You’re taking me to see your leader? Great … which room is that/

 And there’s A LOT of fucking statues in this thing. ?

So, we’ve got a decent little journeyman effort here. It needs more consistent theming and a better way to integrate the larger situations in to the text. But, hey, it’s better than most.

This is $5 at Itch.io


Posted in 5e, Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, No Regerts, Reviews | 4 Comments

The Sun Orb

By Malrex
The Merciless Merchants
Levels 4-7

Bellamar, ancient mage of great power, jealously guarded her secrets, especially her signature spells. She created several orbs, each a tiny world of their own, filled with mystical creatures and traps to protect her most treasured spellbooks and experiments. Upon her mysterious death, the orbs have become scattered across the lands and lost in time….until now.

This 24 page dungeon features a sun temple with about 25 rooms, and an extraplanar area with about fifteen more at the end. A bit puzzle/riddle heavy. Malrex can get a bit lengthy in his DM notes for rooms, but it’s a solid adventure that does nothing wrong. 

You’re after a spellbook full of sun spells, probably. And the way to get it is to go inside a magic orb by touching it. Inside you see a temple … with a lot of sun theming. 

I always have a hard time with these sorts of reviews. Ultimately, it’s ok. It’s not doing anything wrong. Maybe a little lengthy in the DM notes for some rooms, with stretches of text (decently organized, if long) that stretch for a column or more for the more complex rooms. And, also, I’m not terribly excited for it. I think a lot of your own views on this are going to come down to differences in personal preference. Seeing so many adventures, my standards are impossibly high. This adventure is certainly exceeds  most, even of the older stuff, and in many ways reminds me of the better old adventures. Or, maybe, is evocative of them. It’s a fine journeyman effort. 

I’m struggling with the room descriptions. “The doors open to a brightly lit marbled passageway that ends at a whitewashed stone door. The marble boasts swirls of gray and golds intermixed with a chalky white. Golden runes are etched on the floor.” That’s fine. I think you can see, maybe, the comparisons to the older adventures in that description. This is not minimalism and there was clearly an effort made to bring the environment to life. But, also, I find it a little dry … just as I do most of the earlier adventure descriptions. As always, I think this is the hardest part of writing an adventure. Bringing an environment to life in the DMs head. You have to envision something and get it down on paper in such a way that the DM reading it has their mind come to life. This is hard. For many purchasers they are not going to be worried about this. The description, above, is enough. If we ignore design/story/plot/situations, as a lofty goal almost unobtainable, in our criteria, then we’re left with ease of use, my usual gripe. The single most common complaint is that adventures are hard to use, and thus my emphasis on that. If you eliminate that and write something that’s not a nightmare to use (which should be allow hurdle …) then I’m left with: what makes me excited to run this adventure? And, generally, that’s going to be the descriptions. That’s what’s going to make me excited to run it … if I leave out the situations/design criteria. And that excitement about running it is what’s going to get it to the table. Sure, great situations and/or design will trump almost everything else, but that’s not something I’m going to harp on. If I did there would be VERY few entries on my recommended list. For all the bitching about the standards, my criteria is rather low, and yet few things make it past. This one does.

There’s a lot of theming here, which translates, in a way, in to a lot of puzzle like elements. Doors that open only at certain times of day (Sundial!) or straight up riddles. Darkness and light being used in a variety of way to elements to the adventure. A prism, in a room full of mirrors. A fresco giving hints on  how to pass a room without damage. It’s a decent integration of the theme of the temple. Maybe trending a bit to the “challenge dungeon” trope a bit, but, it’s a temple and there are riddles. What ya gonna do?

At one point you can defeat a (godling?) in his temple (nice art there) and go through a portal to a sun god mini-dimension, fucking around a bit. 

My notes for this adventure are almost nonexistent. I don’t have much to complain about. And, also, not a lot to gush over. That puts us solidly in the category of a fine adventure that just isn’t hitting the highest of highs for me. IDK, maybe it seems a little rushed to me?

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is thirteen pages. More than enough to determine if this is for you or not.


Posted in Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Review, No Regerts, Reviews | 33 Comments

Rites of Weeping

By Harry Menear
Self Published
Levels 2-3

Deep in the woods, where the pines grow tall as churches, a god-thing is dying. Her children are gone, taken by the plague, and what was once her temple is now their tomb. In desperation, she prolongs the life of her last remaining servant, transforming her into a vile instrument of grim necessity — a yellow-eyed horror that preys upon the inhabitants of the local village. The servant comes at night, dragging its victoms, screaming, to the black lake beneath the sodden earth. There — amid the rotten husks of plague-ravaged monks — they are caged, nourishment for a dying thing that dreamed she was a goddess.

This ten page adventure has a small lair dungeon with five rooms. Great room descriptions come to life while the rest of the surrounding adventure descriptions reek of a bit too Try Hard. I might run this as a lair side-trek.

As I write this I have a leg of lamb sitting in my fridge. I saw it again this morning when I grabbed a jar of olives. I bought it as a special food. Then I got sick the night I bought it for and didn’t make it. It’s been sitting in the fridge since then. Getting greyer. It stinks. A lot. I think about it sometimes. That little lamb was raised for just once purpose: me eating it. Everyone who worked on it. The dude who raised mom, the transport company, the farmer, the people at the slaughterhouse, the grocery people, buyers, distributors. Everyone. They all exist in a big long chain with the end result being me eating that leg. The thing that didn’t happen. It stares back at me, reminding me that it has failed in its purpose.

Exactly like the fuckwits who spend too much time on layout. “I want it to be pleasing!” That’s fucking great. More power to you. But you can’t lose sight of goal: the adventure as an ADVENTURE. To be run. When your pretentious layout garbage takes over and contributes to me NOT running the adventure then you’ve failed. Don’t worry fuckwit, you can still make it look nice. “Ahhhh, but it’s all subjective!” wails the maddening crowds of layout idiots. Sure, in as much as absolutely everything in life is. But, also, maybe the fucking moron who buys your work and takes enough time to write up something about it could be given just a tad bit more credence than the fucking echo chamber you’re in? No? Ok. We arrive at todays review.

Menear can do a couple of things right. He’s got a decent overall aesthetic going on, in the adventure. The theming, as it were, of all the elements, rooms, and people and such, of the adventure all work together fairly well. The setting, and each room, all make sense together and contribute to the overall mood. That’s fucking great! We get consistency throughout. 

And dude knows how to write a room description. “The tracks end at a rough stone arch, doors hastily mortared shut with lyme and ash.” Fucking lyme and ash man! Great specificity. Brings the entire thing alive. Or “Flickering candlelight, dripping water. Wet stonework caked in mould. Smells of sweet rot and Petrichor.” Flickering candles and dripping water … with some sweet rot? Sign me up! There’s some great use of adjectives and adverbs in this. Great specificity. The kind that I’m really looking for to make a room description come alive. 

The first words of the actual adventure are “The boat is leaking.” Perfect. The game is afoot Watson! On the river you come across thee sullen, cock-eyed fisherwomen smoking pipes and srinking coarse bramblewine, outside their huts, watching the river go by, in the rain, with goats, chickens and muck-smeared children running up and down what passes for a street. I’m not doing the thing justice. It’s really good. Sets the mood. A great description. 

I’m down man.

Well, until I’m not.

There is a definite talent for setting a mood. And the room descriptions, the evocative part of them, are top notch, without relying on gore and explosion sounds to make them come alive. But then, also, some of the descriptions are just REALLY try harding. The main creature of the adventure is described as “Hunched, yellow-eyed embodiment of a dying god-thing’s will. Consumed by virulant plague. Stinks like a leper colony and screams with a voice like tearing paper and gushing boils. Wants to take people and cage them above the Weeping Lake as sustenance for its god.” I note that there is no actual description here. I don’t think I can tell the party what they see. And the tearing paper/gushing boils stuff reads nice but I don’t think that translates to something I can do for the players. What the fuck does a leper colony stink like? This needs to be grounded. 

The text here is two column with some fuckwit font choice. And, I swear to fucking god, half the page is green. Like, once column has a green background. And it looks like the text in that column is yellow. Who the fuck thought this was a good idea? With your fucked up font. The main text is good. The rooms have a little overview. There’s good use of bullets, bolding and whitespace. I think it runs a good tight ship in terms of formatting, combining both a more traditional descriptive style with the good elements of the OSE house style. But, man, slapping down that green? With text on it? In that font? Shove it up your ass. 

There are some design things in this that I kind of like .. and am maybe questioning. The main enemy has 9hd and reappears, in the main dungeon room, in 1d6 turns after you kill it. That’s a little fast and a little much for levels 2-3. But, also, the main map is a loop, so we can do some avoidance stuff here. And, you don’t actually need to kill it in the adventure. You don’t know that, but, you can “win” by just rescuing some people. And, also, the main room is a lake underground. You take a boat from one shore to another. So, you could be stuck on the far shire when the creature reappears. It’s got some interesting design choices here. I might put the monster down a little longer and maybe keep the hints it is coming back. But, if you want to go all LotFP style, then you can.

You’re also rolling, every turn you’re in the dungeon, to see if the creature moves to a different room. I don’t know man. That’s a lot of fucking rolling. Maybe you hear sounds in the darkness. Maybe it serves as pressure to keep the party moving and provides some tense situations. But, also, that’s a lot of rolling. Every time I see an adventure that wants rolls every turn I ask myself if this person actually ever plays D&D. 

This thing is short. A little village play to get the adventure going. That part is almost presented in a perfunctory manner … where it could be a little longer or more involved. And then a five room dungeon. This is absolutely a side-trek lair. And for that, yeah, groove on. It fits. It kind of fits that petty god/folk horror thing that I like in a lair adventure. It’s not 100 Bushels of Rye, but, with with, it could be. Descent design and good room descriptions. A great vibe. Something meatier. Less head-up-the-ass on layout and controlling the nonsense descriptions. But, it’s still Best quality. 

This is $3.70 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages. You can get a look at the layout and such, and that great intro the village (that ultimately doesn’t pay off) but no room descriptions, which is where I think the strength of the designer lies. The village intro description, though, give you can idea of what to expect.


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The Sepulchre of the Serpent’s Servant

By Miles Adams
Self Published
Levels 1-2

An ancient, crumbling crypt overrun with vermin is now home to a band of goblins, but the temple beneath the crypt contains dark secrets.

This fourteen page digest adventure features a two level dungeon with thirteen room in about eight pages.It’s a pretty basic goblin affair. There are hints of better things to come with the designer, based on elements of the room description

It’s a humanoid lair. B2 had humanoid lairs. What’s it doing that B2 doesn’t do? Orcs in a Hole  man. Except this time it’s goblins. A bunch of rooms on the first level with goblins in them and then a couple (four?) on the second level with an old temple and mummy in one. 

The format here is interesting. A room title. A short one sentence italics … overview? “The stench of death. Moans in the darkness.” That don’t do shit … except give a certain vibe to the DM. That’s what vibe the designer is going for in this room. And …. Meh? I mean, ok. I get where you’re going. But, also, why not just make that the rooms vibe? Via the descriptions? 

Then we get the bullets, with some nested bullets under those for more info, like treasure carried by the bulleted monster. With some bolding to draw the attention to a word. A stat block in an offset box and maybe another section with some more information if there’s a random table or something. It’s basic, easy to scan and find information. And, probably, in this case, implemented incorrectly. More on that later. But, it also has some extraneous information, like “The goblins keep the toad well fed so they can pass it by.” Great. Why do I care about that, when running a game? Or, where the fucking doors lead. You mean, the thing the map shows? You almost never need to include exit/door information. And, then, some of the bullets are out of order. Room one’s first bullet is that there is a giant toad in the room. And bullet two is that the muddy floor conceals the toad. We dont do things this way. Obvious things first. First things first. The floor is muddy. It hides a giant toad. That’s the way we order information, the the manner in which the DM is likely to need to use it.

Before we get to my main comments, let’s talk first about randomness in an adventure. I feel like I’ve talked about this sixteen hundred million bajillion times. Randomness in an OSR adventure is not arbitrary. It’s there for a reason purpose. It feels like people say “Oh, OSR has random tables in it. Here’s a random table. Now my adventure is OSR also!” No. In certain situations it makes sense to have some randomness in an adventure. A giant room full of trash that you search could reveal some loot/objects in a rather arbitrary manner. If you have multiple corpses, or graves, or something. Enough tha keying each, individually, could be a pain, then randomness might make sense. But, let’s say there is ONE corpse in the room. And you loot it. What’s the purpose of having a random table to show you what is on the body? The table takes up more space. And, there’s no reason for it. Whatever the body has is what the body has. Put put ni the fucking things you were randomizing. If you’ve got a scene based adventure and write four scenes as potentials on the way to the dungeon, and you roll to see which one the party encounters … why the fuck are you doing this? To waste three encounters worth of content? 

But, mainly, I want to talk a bit about the room descriptions and how I find them uninteresting. This is a common complaint of the OSE format and/or bullets. The usage of these, for organizing, does not remove the need to be evocative in your descriptions. 

The general, “always on” descriptions used for the dungeon rooms are found on a normal page … and not the fucking map, etc, where they should fucking be. And they are not bad. A cool, damp, dank, earthy smell. Ceilings of timber, 8’ tall, falen bricks, handling root, dripping water. Floors of black flagstones, broken and uprooted by mud, roots, and slime. Sconces of coiled serpents. Sagging dark green stone block walls, collapsed by expanding roots. These are not bad at all! But they are lost by being put up front and not someplace the DM can always reference to beef up a description. How often ar eyou going to remember to go back and look at that page, while looking at the page you are running, in order to incorporate it? WHich is why you put the fucking things someplace they will always be seen. OR you put them in the room proper, in your description. Pick one or two and go with that in that room. 

There are rooms here which could not be bad. “Smokey, fetid, crawling with lice”, says a room. With an oil lamp hanging from a ceiling. Lean in to that fucking smoke. Hanging in the air. Hazy, Choking a bit. With debris. The floor crawling with lice. And goblins lurking in it. Instead it comes off a little busy and boring.

Or, The SInking Temple. Which is labeled Dark, Dank, Roots entwined serpent columns sinking in to a muddy mire. And a corpse floating FACE DOWN in it. (Nice!)  But I’d lean in to the ankle deep water, and maybe some slime and debris, leaves, roots in the water. Go harder on the vines and columns. 

So, conceptually, you can ALMOST get to a decent room.But it just never makes it there because of the choices made with te format. 

In the end it’s just another goblin lair with little to distinguish it.

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


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Gilded Dream of the Incandescent Queen

Gilded Dream of the Incandescent Queen
Footprints #25
HDA Terrible Sorcery
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 3-6

Nearing the end of her life, she explored every option to extend her years: magic mirrors, lichdom, medicine, even Infernal bargains. Nothing was satisfactory. Finally, she built the sanctum and attempted to transcend mortality itself. It didn’t work out.

This is one of the adventures in Footprints issue #25. And, as it turns out, was also at least partially developed in a contest on my Adventure Design forum. Which I didn’t participate in or even realize was going on until two years after it ended. My bad …

This 21 page adventure describes a two-ish level “castle” in the sky with about forty rooms in it. It’s doing everything right … and yet leaves me nonplussed. Maybe the Dwarf Temple problem.

One of the opening sentences to this is “Many NPCs in the adventure have useful knowledge about local dangers – parties who don’t gather information and put the pieces together might make a fatal mistake! Thus is the game played.” So, surprise surprise surprise, Terribly Sorcery gets it. 

So, queen lady tried to become immortal by building a stairway to heaven, literally, from her cloud castle. It worked kind of like one would expect. Now the vil part of her broods in her throne room. Oh, also, rumors say the castle has something that can turn base metals in to gold. Let’s take a look, shall wel?

We’ve got a mostly functioning caste here. There are cloud butlers and marble courtesans running around. And some rotting corpses. And some ‘angels’ “the gilded ones” who’ve descended from on high having come DOWN the staircase. And a decent number of other weirdos to be found in the cells and dungeons and palace proper. The major groups get a little run down of some basic personality and desires – which is good for the more generic ones like the butlers, angels and courtesans. Our angels? “Culturally insensitive tourists with holy

Powers.” Noice! And the remains of the queen in her throne rooms? She wants “To increase the misery in the world, even her own. To be praised, flattered and obeyed. To live forever. To be beautiful again.” Nice stuff there. Realistic and runnable as an NPC. This is all supplement by a decent, if somewhat layout-expansive, wandering monster table good enough to add sufficient variety to the DMs imagination during play.This is how you add colour, people.

Treasure, both mundane and magical, is well described, generally, and a mix of unique items and book items. The map is …decent for the limitations given: the base outline is a triangle and shows us some features, like light and such. (And it’s worth noting that some rooms are bigger on in the inside … like the 2 mile diameter ocean inside of one rooms, complete with multiple islands. That’s a nice addition.) I might have found that the “always on” dungeon dressing, marble, etc, would be better served as a note on the map page rather than only in the text. I like general features somewhere I can reference them quickly.

Writing is relatively decent here. If, maybe, a little .. static? Low energy? “11 worthless remains are climbing up the pillars to catch and eat a group of 19 sunlight moths resting on the ceiling.” If I look at that description and I really THINK about it then it could be pretty cool. It’s certainly better than the vast majority of descriptions written in rooms in adventures. They are doing something, both crawling up the pillars AND trying to eat something, so, great job! Maybe a few better adjective/adverb choices would have given it a little more energy in the imagination. Likewise, let’s look at this room description: “CHAPEL – Hung with white and crimson banners, lit by golden candelabras. On a marble altar rests a glowing red cross which bleeds constantly, covering the altar and overflowing into a floor drain.” Again, if I really think about this then it seems pretty nifty. And it is ABSOLUTELY better than most of the garbage I run across. (This is what praise from me looks like. Its not the best food ive ever eaten in my life. Why is that the case?) But, again, it seems a little … ossified? Again, I think some better adjective and adverb choices. And, again, I will point out that I think this is the hardest part of adventure writing. Making a description really jump off the page and live in the imagination of the DM, immediately, is hard. 

Certainly, we get a kind of mythic element to the adventure. There’s the golden stairway to heaven, which is described well and FEELS like what it’s meant to be: a major major location. A mythic place. And, likewise, the dungeons below have some shit equal to the stairs. Mythic things and rooms that you’re like “Damn. Yup. That’s what some soul scales are, where they live, and who guards them!” The ability to create, and communicate, the truly MYTHIC in quite well done. The designer understands the need to do this in an adventure and has the ability to do it.

The environment is a little austere, with marble hallways and the like. I wondering if my lack of enthusiasm here is because of that. There’s a tendency to make dwarf temples, and indeed anything dwarf, somewhat austere. And I think it’s quite difficult to communicate the grandeur of the austere in the written word. Magnificent desolation, and the like ot the southwest landscapes … how do you do that? It does seema lot simpler to appeal to those baser dark and dripping caverns with streams of blood and gore. Given the austerity of the place. “The hallways are polished white and grey marble, trimmed with gold and silver highlights. Furniture and artwork is clean and well-cared for. Soft lighting permeates the sanctum, like being indoors on an overcast day.” Maybe? I don’t know. It’s got a decent amount of interactivity. Mythic things. Good wanderers and decent map for its size. The rooms are decently written, and yet I’m not very excited here. Which is why I want to turn to the austerity excuse. 

I think this is worth checking out, especially since Footprints is free. I’m just not sure this every makes it to my table? 

Free at Dragonsfoot at:


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