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I bought this stuff and read it so you don't have to.
Updated: 20 hours 9 min ago

Blue Crystal Mine

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 11:11

By Matt Kline
Creation’s Edge Games
Swords & Wizardry
Levels 1-3

An elven smith has recently relearned the long-lost secret art of crafting with the blue crystal known as azurite. He’s promised to craft you a few magic weapons, provided you can get him some of the crystal…

A fourteen page adventure with eight rooms in an old mine. I wish this adventure, and all of its cousins, did not exist. Boring, adding nothing of interest or indeed any detail beyond the barest of bare bones, but expanded upon with great vigor of writing. There is no reason for this to exist, let alone be charged for.

Eight room abandoned mine, four bandits in the entrance their leader in another room and a giant spider in a boarded up barracks. The back half is caved in, with a couple of giants ants and a crystal imp back there. There’s an arrow trap on a door. I have now provided you 95% of the content of this adventure in far fewer than 14 pages. I know, I’m prone to hyperbole, but, seriously, I just described the dungeon to you. The actual adventure offers almost nothing else that I didn’t just describe. The text is expanded upon, but, I’m not even sure it adds that sort of mundane detail in which I loathe so much. It’s just circular, describing nothing in quite the verbose manner.

An empty barracks room with a few generic things in it. The same, bt this time the room has a giant spider in it. The same, but the bandits leader is in it, who, of course, chalks up the slaughter of his men to them fighting … so there’s a pretext for him not leaving his room. Everyone/thing attacks on sight. There’s no nuance. There’s nothing interesting. Open door. Monster attacks. Kill it. Move on.

When you buy an adventure this is exactly the sort of thing you are afraid of: nothing of interest. Look, an adventure doesn’t need set pieces in every room. Or ANY room. But you have to add SOME value. The fourteen pages of this adventure add almost nothing to the three sentence description I offered earlier. This is like one of those procedurally generated news stories. Write an app to generate maps and random dungeon with random dressings and charge $1.50 each. Churn it out and ‘win’ by flooding the market and making it impossible to find things of value. THERE’S NOTHING IN THIS.

 

It’s $1.50 on Drive Thru. The preview of four pages, including the cover, and shows you nothing of the room design.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/214985/Blue-Crystal-Mine-A-Swords–Wizardry-MiniDungeon

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

10’+1: The Flooded Temple

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 11:14


Welcome to Tenfootpole +1. Today you can expect the same old vitriol from Bryce, as well as a dose in the form of another review of the same adventure from The Pretty Girl. Lucky You!

We Begin!

By M. Greis
Greis Games
OSR
Levels 1-3

In the flooded temple is hidden a great treasure, and the adventures are in race to get there first, but the ancient temple is the home of Death’s Messenger and several cults each with their own agenda. Will the adventurers survive or be dragged off to the lands of the dead?

Review 1 – Bryce Lynch

This is a seventeen page adventure in a three level abandoned temple with about 25 rooms. There are multiple factions, puzzle-like things, weird monsters, an evocative environment, a moderately interesting map and MOSTLY terse text, at least for the DM notes. This is a good adventure. As I told The Pretty Girl yesterday: if all adventures were at least this good then I probably wouldn’t be reviewing adventures.

There’s this old almost forgotten temple in a canyon. Think of a slot canyon, like in Zion, or Petra. At the end of it is a temple, carved in to the soft rock. There’s a small stream running in the narrow canyons, and it flows in through a large crack, flooding the lower level to two feet. Inside are kobolds, at deaths door, victims of plague, they come here to die as a part of their death rituals. There are lizardmen, fishing. There are bugbear teens, undergoing their adulthood rites. None are hostile. The kobolds want to be left in peace to die. Filled with puss-filled bubos, they represent more of a trap (the plague) that is solved by roleplaying, sicne they are too weak to fight. The bugbears assume other people in the temple are undergoing their adulthood rites also. They tell ghost stories and boast by their campfire. The lixardmen would really like the other two groups gone, and will pay 1sp a head for kobolds. Then, in to this mix come some Dragon cultists looking for the PRETEXT. Again, not necessarily hostile .. but perhaps the parties pretext is to find the object first? IN which case it might be the party instigating.

Multiple factions are supplemented by a map that really allows for more complex explorations. There are, I think, like six staircases in the place, in addition to an open three-level area with balconies around it. This allows for stealth and a hunted/hunter thing to go on with any of the factions or the cult, once the party turns hostile. I think I counted four or five ways to get in to the temple besides the front door: a hole in the roof, the stream crack, a couple of windows … really nice sandbox design that allows for the exploratory and strategic play styles.

The faction monsters all allow for roleplay … that can then potentially end in combat, usually with the party instigating for some reason. In addition they all have a little detail, tersely communicated, and then some extra bits which are GREAT. It’s not just kobolds. They are dying/near death. And not just near death but from from plague. And not just plague but with bubos full of pus. Likewise the bugbears. Who are are on a adulthood rite. Who have ritually painted faces described. Who tell ghost stories at night around their fire. It’s just an extra sentence but it add SO much to the adventure. It’s what I’m referring to when I say things lie “plant an evocative seed in the DM’s head.” That’s the sort of content I want to pay for. Not reams and reams of text. Not railroady or dictatorial. One extra sentence that brings the adventure alive.

Puzzles, roleplaying, tactical options via the map, a timeline/order of battle for the cult that enters the temple. It’s all great and it’s clear it was written by someone who UNDERSTANDS how D&D works. This is further cemented by notes. XP for Gold notes. XP for rooms explored, and how it can push the party deeper in to a dungeon. The guy gets it.

Monsters are either book, such as the kobolds, lizardmen, bugbears, or new ones with the new ones being mostly of the tentacle-monster variety. As I noted earlier, the humanoids have something about them to bring them to life, while the new ones have great little combat powers that can really help mae combat evocative without being a drag. This is generally supplemented by some rooms have terrain effects; things under the water, etc, to spice up combat. 4e did this a lot but it felt forced, like a wargame. This does it in such a way that it feels natural. The new magic items are great and have a ”effects front” style. What does it do, then some brief mechanics. A Frogs Breath vial, that when uncorked has a greenish mist that flows out and can ID magic items … but then you need to recapture the mist. Great! A little twist to make things fresh and fun again … with just a hint of folklore.

This is a danish translation and it shows sometimes. A few of the puzzles are not formatted in the best way and you feel like you have to fight a text a bit in those more complex areas in order to figure out what is going on. There is some awkwardness in wording in a few other places, but it doesn’t distract enough to matter and overall it’s a testament to the translator. I might note, as well, that the word choice in places relies on conclusions. A smell is “foul”. I get what they are going for, but, that’s a conclusion. Describe the thing and then let the party make the determination that its foul. The readaloud is best when it’s not describing room dimensions but being evocative, and the DM text is thankfully short in most places. The introduction text is long, describing the factions, etc, but, read once, it does a great job of cementing the flavor in to your head, painting a picture so you grok it and need never look at it again. Which is exactly what the hell that shit should do. The boat captain mentioned in the “journey to the temple” section could have used a one or two word personality, as well as what happens to him/the boat when the cultists show up. But that’s really nitpicky of me.

As I look through my notes it seems like I made several notations on each page about little things the designer did right. If I were doing a second pass on this I might clean up the readaloud by making it shorter and a little more evocative and cleaning up the language and formatting in the more complex puzzle rooms. It’s system neutral, with no monster stats, which is LAME. Just stick in some LabLord stats for christs sake. If the designer had done that then this would be a GREAT adventure with almost zero prep. Read it once in 15 minutes and run it. As it is now you gotta state everything.

This is $2 on DriveThru and I think that’s a bargain for the adventure you are getting. The preview is six pages long, about a third of the adventure. It will show you those designer notes on xp for hold, some decent hooks (standard stuff, but well supported for the DM without being too verbose), faction information on page three (listed as page four) and in the last two pages a good sample of the adventure text. I really like what you are getting here: a classic exploratory adventure with some great roleplay and simple timeline elements to spice things up, with evocative descriptions.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/214529/The-Flooded-Temple–an-OSR-adventure

 

 

Review A – The Pretty Girl

The Flooded Temple
By M. Greis
Greis Games
Total Score: 13

 

Optimal Applications Experienced GM Able to role-play NPC’s, take advantage of creative ques, and comfortable generating stats for their chosen game system easily. Moderately Experienced player group Must understand how to play and enjoy non-combat encounter

 

Rating Breakdown GM Complexity 5 Player Amusement 5 Graphics 0 Language 1 Maps 2

Ratings Meanings

Optimal Application – Circumstance where this module would provide maximum benefit. All scores assume that the module is with the group most likely to enjoy and benefit from it

GM Complexity – Degree of effort required to generate a delightful game in optimal application of the material:

  • 6 – GM could open the document with no preparation and run a delightful game
  • 5 – GM would need to read through the campaign and expect to spend 1-2 hours preparing for each 4 hours of game play
  • 4 – GM would be required to reorganize campaign somewhat and smooth over some shortcomings spending 3-4 hours preparing for each 4 hours of game play
  • 1 – There are some innovative sections (encounters) that could be inserted into a different campaign, or linked together in a fully original way, but the material in its entirety cannot be utilized as is without investing a significant degree of GM effort and creativity
  • 0 – Material provides no more value than a random encounter table while presenting such an arduous unraveling it would be foolish to attempt running

Player Amusement – Quality of material presented that has the possibility to delight the optimal player group

  • 5 – Thoughtful pacing and ample opportunities to feel immersed in the game world, “Better than “Cats”, going to see it again and again”
  • 2 – It’s fine
  • 0 – Relationships between players and patients with the game itself will be challenged. Material creates multiple opportunities for rule quibbling and general discord

 

Graphics

  • 4 – Usable during the game to share with players
  • 2 – Useful only to GM
  • 1 – No graphics
  • 0 – Of no discernable purpose and in the way – crowds space

 

Language

  • 4 – Succinct and evocative
  • 2 – Conversational but clear
  • 1 – You should have hired an English Major to edit this
  • 0 – Very wordy/ incomprehensible

 

Maps

  • 3 – It’s a shame that you are trying to keep some information a surprise as the maps are so delightful you want to hang them on the wall and show them off
  • 2 – There are maps, they are legible
  • 1 – There are no maps
  • 0 – The included maps create logical inconsistencies with the written material that are difficult to catch
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeon Magazine #141

Sat, 07/01/2017 - 11:16


The Sea Wyvern’s Wake
By Richard Pett
Level 5

Savage Tide adventure path, part the third: a sea voyage. This installment is hard thing to review. It’s heart is in the right place but it suffers GREATLY from the three-column Dungeon format. Combined with the word-bloat common to Dungeon it makes this thing very hard to run. But … it has great elements. The party is hired to be “ship #2” in a two-ship expedition to a colony on an island and this adventure deals with the voyage. “Ship #2” allows for the party to make their own decisions but for there to a lifeline available. Run the ship how you want and if things are too bad then ship 1 is there is bail you out. And, of course, vice versa in certain situations. There’s an allotment of NPC’s to spice things up on board, some generics to die horrible, and some locations to visit along the way. “Hey kids, Meteor Crater is right on the road to the Grand Canyon!” Linear, but not exactly a railroad! The NPC’s have decent motivations and are interesting enough to get them involved with the party. As always, they could be organized better for use during play … a typical failing. But, still, recurring folks on a three-month voyage is a great thing to have! And their detail is PLAY focused, not just generic trivia that will never come up during play. There’s too much detail in place, such a entire column of text on “securing a vessel” when much less would have sufficed in an adventure that’s a follow on to capturing a vessel. In other places a little more could have been included, such as better help in recruiting crew and provisions in town before the party leaves. Similarly, there’s a small section, a column or less, on ship combat, but it suffers from the Dungeon 3-column text block problem, making it hard to reference during play. There are a few other nits, like a priest who dies a day after getting sick to reveal a slaad … nice, but if it were dragged out a bit it would be even nicer. Also, a stowaway assassin that takes a DC30 to find if the party searches the ship … because there’s an event built around them. The players should be REWARDED for thinking of searching the hold, not punished because it’s on the DM’s ToDo list for later. The thing is full of nice little vignettes and encounters on the way to the island. In short, I think it’s a pretty damn good sea/travel adventure, one of the best I’ve seen. It needs more expansion before town is left, and reference sheets for important things like NPC’s, combat, etc, and a complete rewrite of the encounters to pull out important details … but it’s heart is in the right place. It just needs a complete reworking to be useful …

Swords of Dragonlake
By Nicolas Logue
Level 12

2p backstory
Holy fuck, what a mess. This is an investigation in to a missing person … at a theater. Ug. Fucking Magical RenFaire shit. Anyway, there re about a thousand NPC’s, each of which get almost an entire page to describe them, along with an entire section on Gather Information checks for each one. MASSIVE amounts of text and a unfocused writing style make this one a bear. “In addition to the dressing rooms, the PC’s may decide to investigate the grid-like iron catwalk and rafters above the stage from which the moving scenery pieces [long list] and heavy sandbag counterweight are suspended.” Yes, Nicolas, they might. Which is why I, the DM, and looking at the “Fly Rail and Grid” section of the fucking adventure. This kind of crap just clogs things up. Scene/Event based and a mass of text make salvaging this one a losing cause.

Vlindarian’s Vault
By Jonathan M. Richards
Level 18

Oh man … can you accept the fact that the city has a storage facility/warehouse that has a bunch of slaadi employees? If so then do I ever have the Grimtooths adventure for you! You’re pleaded with to rescue a guys mate from a vault where she’s being held captive. There’s some nonsense about them being disguised silver dragons, but that’s irrelevant. This adventure JUMPS in to things immediately. Seriously, the keyed locations start on page 2 and I’m not sure I’ve EVER seen a Dungeon backstory/into that short! And the intro even includes a bullshit plan involving a magical shield and portable hole to smuggle the party inside the storage vault! It’ all feels a little Harry Potter/Gringotts, with a healthy dose of Grimtooth. Walls of Force that appear and disappear, teleport circles, rolling boulders. And every guard is either a slaad or devil, with the boss being a beholder. The maps a fucking disaster and needs a cross-section to clarify the confusing relationship between the levels and corridors. I’m going to forgive the abstracted treasure because the entire thing is so ridiculous. I love it! No gimping. High level. Absurd enemies and deathtraps! A glorious glorious mess! A little (lot) restatting could make this a fine low-level adventure also. Hard to recommend to seek out, but if you NEED this sort of adventure then this is IT.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Binding the Wind

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 11:16


By John Mcnabb & Matthew Roth
McNabb Games
Generic/Universal
Level ??

Piracy is an omnipresent threat while sailing the open seas, and none are more formidable than the treacherous slavers that seek more than simple cargo. Often putting their newly captured stock to use in the rowing banks of galleys, these predators prowl the trade lanes and get rich off the suffering of others. Among the flesh-traders, the Iron Windrunner is a ship of no small renown. It owes its fame to its namesake, an air elemental restrained in enchanted iron bondage. Thanks to a complex system of gauged pipes, this living wind engine propels the galley to nearly unparalleled speed on open sea while keeping the traditional oars for finer maneuvering.

Eight Pages! Either this is a tightly written masterpiece or I’ve been ripped off. What are the odds?

It’s a pirate ship with a captured air elemental. Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? My life is a living fucking hell.

You get: a detailed explanation of the ship. A paragraph on each of the half-dozen notable NPC’s. There’s nothing else here but reams of “hot notes” describing tactics and behaviors. There’s NOTHING in this. Nothing is particularly evocative. There’s nothing special about the fucking ship except it has got an air elemental. It takes eight pages to do what one paragraph could do.

So, there’s your two problems: it’s not a fucking adventure and it’s boring as fuck. It is, at best, an encounter.

In retrospect the cover says “ENCOUNTER” on it. The publisher’s text doesn’t say shit about that though. I fucking HATE IT when people don’t disclose what the fuck they are selling. That fucking joke Castle Greyhawk adventure wounded me deep.

And it’s boring. It’s just pirates. They swing up alongside, fire ballista, board the ship … we, as consumers, are paying for imagination. For inspiration. Far too often we get shit. I feel like this thing is the equivalent of paying for an orc guardroom.

“1. Guardroom. Four orcs at a table shooting dice.” I’ll expand it to eight pages later. You all owe me $1 now. Pay up.

It’s $1 on DriveThru. The preview is two pages long, showing the cover and title page. Note that the cover has FUCK ALL to do with the adventure, except, you know, pirates.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/213667/Binding-the-Wind

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Perils of the Sunken City

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 11:16


By Jon Marr
Purple Sorcerer Games
Dungeon Crawl Classics
Level 0 Funnel

The Great City is old and faded, a pale reflection of its former glory. Life is a challenge for most, but for the weak and unconnected, the city is a place of unrelenting hardship harboring neither hope nor promise of escape. With one exception: the Sunken City. Most find death in the crumbling ruins that stretch beyond sight into the mists; once rich districts now claimed by swamp and dark denizens. But for the desperate few, the ruins offer treasures the Great City denies them: fortune, glory, and a fighting chance!

This seventeen page funnel has about thirteen to twenty encounters areas and a small starting locale. It has a writing style that, while not terse, does an excellent job of communicating the flavor of the encounter. This is combined with a layout style that makes the mechanics of areas easy to find. There’s a good mix of encounter types, from mundane to undead to weird, with a couple of the encounters being truly excellent pieces of design. I dub thee “Easy to Run!” … if a bit bland in some of the corners.

The publisher’s blurb does a decent job of introducing the scene: a great city, overtaken by the swamp. On it’s edge is a small settlement from which scum (IE: adventurers) set forth. Condemned criminals seeking pardon, apprentices, etc, all form up small bands and head off. It’s an environment that appeals to me, the small insular murder hobo community with its own culture. Purple Jon does a good job here of communicating the culture of the place and it’s the first example of a descriptive style that’s rare … and very good.

I’m fond of quoting a section from Spawning Grounds of the Crab-Men, a room that has an ld retired hill giant named Old Bay. He’ll pay for dead crabs and his cave smells of butter. The room is a couple of paragraphs long but if you read it ONCE then you’ve got the vibe and can run it from memory. It’s sticky. I talk a lot about terseness in descriptive style, all for the purpose of helping the DM run the thing at the table. The ying to that yang is sticky. You don’t have to be terse if you can be sticky. That’s dangerous territory though since EVERYTHING is likely to be sticky to the designer. But when it happens it’s great to behold. This adventure is sticky.

The little outpost of murder hobos can be read once. The little section on the approach to the sunken city, with six or seven locales, can be read once. The four or so outside encounters can be read once. The main aboveground encounter can be read once. It all stays with you, at least enough so that when you look at the map you can recall it. This is all supported by the layout and formatting which makes it easy to find the mechanical bits. “Oh yeah, that’s the room with the tentacles that do weird stuff … “ and in the text the bullet format and bolding makes finding that “weird stuff” trivial to locate. The writing did an excellent job of giving me the vibe while the layout & formatting did an excellent job of making the mechanics & specifics easy to find. IE: It supported the DM, exactly what it’s supposed to do.

I want to focus on one encounter as an example of good encounter design. It’s one of the best in the adventure and I think many could learn from it. There’s a grotto underground. The witter glitters with glowing scarlet crayfish (window dressing.) There’s an island out in the middle … with something sparkling on it. You see a massive shadow swim under the water. TEXTBOOK tease. Everybody, from the DM to the players, knows that fucking water is a deathtrap … and yet … what’s that sparkle? It’s the kind of shit that makes players eyes light up. Wacky plans ensue. D&D is played. The treasure is a real treasure, not a rip off DM screw job. There are some things around … stalactites, giant braziers that could be boats … This is GREAT design and, again, once read it stays you and the mechanics of the treasure and monster and so on are easy to pull out of the (column) of text.

That room does something else, it provides some unexplained stuff, a mystery, about the monster. This happens routinely in the adventure; things are introduced that have a mystery to them. A giant ‘Warden’ who stalks the entry. A demon in a pillar that teleports. It’s not missing information, its writing in such a way that DOESN’T explain, but at best just hints at, letting the DM run with things and expand as need be. This is the kind of writing that fires the imagination.

The maps are clear with just enough art to contribute to helping the DM recall the rooms. There’s even a cross-section or two to help the DM understand some elevation elements … Excellent! But, alas, all is not well in Sunken City-ville.

Some of the encounters are a bit … mundane. Possemmen are great! Armadillo-cros are great! Yet Another Skeleton Encounter is less than stellar, as is “Generic Slime creatures.” This isn’t much of a condemnatio; most adventures have some rooms that are weaker than others. It’s just that the more mundane rooms could have been kicked up a bit, perhaps with more environmental/room details to make the encounters a bit more fun. There’s also a bit of a screw-job encounter, an arena the characters are forced in to and then a dungeon/hole they must enter to escape the certain death in it. It’s got a lot going on in it, with lightning walls, ghosts, spikes, death traps, and so on, but it FEELS forced. DCC published adventures can tend to the linear side of the spectrum but generally don’t feel forced. The arena encounter in this does.

This is $5 ar DriveThru. The preview is four pages and shows off the writing for the like murder bobo-ville and the general locales on the way to the sunken city. It does a good job showing off the “sticky” writing style. I challenge you to read those four pages and then look at the map and start running the game in your head. Should be trivial. It’s a travesty it took me this long to review a Purple Sorcerer adventure.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/102457/Perils-of-the-Sunken-City-DCC-RPG

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeon Magazine #140

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 11:11


The Bullywug Gambit
By Nicolas Logue
Level 3

Savage Tide adventure path part two. When the synopsis contains “the party must then race to …” then I’m predisposed to not like it. “Stilt-walking monks” is something I would use if I were lampooning a genre. You are tracking down the tool from the first adventure. First have to journey to a village, but rowboat, sailing ship, or overland, varying by days to reach the village. Your choice is meaningless since nothing changes in the village. In spite of this the village scene is a good one. Rabid animals tearing each other apart, a bay oil slick on fire … the read-aloud sucks shit but the concept is a good one in spite. It doesn’t help that everything is all mixed together in the DM notes, making pulling out useful information difficult. It’s as if someone managed to successfully describe, in generalities, the vibe from the DCO intro … but buried it in the DM text and all specifics were instead terrible generalities. It’s full of embedded backstory shit, but it’s ALMOST got ahold of something good with the savagery vibe. This sort of “Rage virus” like 28 days later thing is pretty nice. There are a few challenges back in the main town, you know, the one you raced to to prevent your employer from being killed in revenge, making your way through some parade encounters including the ridiculous stilt-walking monks. Finally, you get to stop a bullywug attack on your employer’s house … which is very poorly handled, described like a typical exploration adventure instead of a more lightweight assault-type type adventure with tactics, etc. The outline of this adventure and it’s concepts are not bad and in some cases have some very nice imagery associated with them. But the endless embedded backstory, boring read-aloud, crappily organized DM text all contribute to something hard to run. A rewrite of this chapter could be something to look forward to.

The Fall of Graymalkin Academy
By Mark A. Hall
Level 9

An assault/looting on a magic school that is now a war zone, with four faction vying for control. Kind of Hogwarts if the final battle went on two months and has settled down in to a less fierce campaign. Dead students, magic books, little magical features. The map could have used some shading to show which areas were under whose control. Another good idea that needs at least ? of the words eliminated and the rest rewritten to be more evocative. The faction play combined with a wizard school battle aftermath make this interesting. Summoning circles, greenhouses, labs … the entire Hogwarts is here to explore.

Heart of Hellfire Mountain
By Dave Coulson
Level 20

Convinced/hired by a fire giant king to wipe out an evil temple in the nearby mountains. This is just a simple temple assault where the defenders are fire giants and devils, with little advice about the defenders responding. These sorts of things remind me more of mini’s gaming than RPG’s. You CAN do assaults RPG-style, but these high level ones, especially, just seem like excuses to combine kits and stats and make EL-appropriate encounters. *sigh* high-level D&D …

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Trouble in Waterdeep

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 11:14


By Eugene Fasano & James Hutt
Arcana Games
5E
Levels 1-3

An urban Waterdeep adventure.

21 pages of linear crap (with sewers!) that dips in to “barely comprehensible” territory wrapped in lipstick art & formatting to make it look decent. It embodies the more recent design style that calls for scenes instead of relying on player-driven interaction. Hackneyed, barely comprehensible, sudden scenes springing up, and poor DM support round things out.

The cities poort section is suffering from a plague. The players enter, have a couple of scenes to find poisoned grain, get led to the sewers to find zombie workers digging tunnels, and are led to a noble house to learn everything is masterminded by a bastard son who is killing everyone there to cover up his tunnelling for a longevity amulet.

The very first ‘scene’, past the hook, exemplifies the style of design. Two guards stand at the gate to the poor district. They have no personality, or even stats. You can’t bribe them. You can’t intimidate them. You can’t get in. You HAVE to go to the next scene, which has a merchant with a stuck cart. Helping him gets you his papers to let you in. This is SHIT for design. Linear, doing exactly what the fucking designer tells you to do. D&D on autopilot. Just sit at the table and roll your fucking dice and keep your ideas to yourself you POS player scum! It’s the DM’s story! Fuck. You. Real design would have given us a few details about them, supporting the DM in roleplaying them. It would have allowed you to stab the fuckers. Or put a building nearby to climb on to get in. Or Let you bribe them or intimidate them or befriend them. It would have ALSO provided the stuck cart. Then the PLAYERS get to decide how they want to approach the entry to the district, with the designers having provided the supporting material for the DM to respond.

Worried about catching the plague? Have no fear! The characters CAN’T catch the plague, according to the text! Recall folks that this is consequence free D&D; you have to eat the poisoned grain for WEEKS to get sick! Yeah!

There’s a nice vignette where a couple of noblemen retainers are handing out bread to the crowds. There’s a pickpocket, and a cream, and one of them chases after. The crowd rushes forward to get their bread, women and children in danger of being crushed … and that’s it. It’s a nice scene, lots going on, lots of potential for improvisation (completely unsupported by the DM text, of course) … and no consequences. There is no payoff. This is followed by a family wanted to get past a barricade guarded by two retainers. It’s just left hanging, with their stats. It’s so poorly supported that it’s almost minimalist. Imagine the four paragraphs of text were “2 guards won’t let a family carrying bread through a barricade. Their son is sick on the other side and the guards say everyone inside is DOOMED.” That could be an interesting wandering monster encounter in another adventure. In this telegraphed thing though it’s clear that it’s so poorly written that things have been left out and assumed. Of COURSE the party will attack, I mean, stats were provided and everything!

The next section starts the party in an infirmary; it’s just assumed the party is there. This sort of “now you are here” stuff happens all the time. The bad guys are all half-orcs. I’m not a paragon of social justice but fuck man, why? It’s the fucking laziness that gets to me. Like the exciting adventure (linear) in the sewers! Yes, the next section is all about sewers! One room the party overhearing a bad guy talking to some half orcs from outside. Stats are provided for ‘Gar’ a half-orc. Is that the dude? No, it’s supposed to be a human and the stats are for a half-orc. Who the fuck is the ‘Gar the half orc’ stats? It’s both linear AND incoherent, a great accomplishment!

It’s $4 on DM’s guild, or if you go look on Reddit you can find the designers pimping a free download version. This thing has all the trade dress of a WOTC adventure and doesn’t even reach THEIR low standards of quality. The preview is three pages and will get you a view in to the guard scene and the pickpocket scene. It’s a good preview in that it shows you what’s typical for what you’ll find inside.
http://www.dmsguild.com/product/205194/Trouble-in-Waterdeep–An-Urban-Adventure

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Against the Goblins

Mon, 06/19/2017 - 11:07

By Matt Kline
Creation’s Edge Games
Sword & Wizardry
Level 1-3

A foreboding dream of impossible foes; goblins with control over fire, disease, and death, leads to a tiny village on the edge of the wilderness threatened by three goblin tribes united by chaos and a legacy of hate.

This 65 page adventure has three goblin lairs near a village. There’s a terrible hook/pretext, and the writing is long and drawn out for what are, essentially, three standard goblin lairs. It rises slightly above generic by including a few extra features in a few rooms. Three lairs, two with 25+ rooms, stuffed full of goblins, means rough going for 1st levels and extended periods in the supplied village. The longer time in the village is refreshing, even if the three goblin lairs are a bit samey … just because it’s always goblins. As “generic first level goblin” adventures go it would be an uninspiring thing to fall back on … but I can’t get over the expansive writing that drags me down mentally as I try to imagine finding things while running the adventure. There are better choices.

The worst part of this thing is at the beginning and is something that can be safely ignored: the hook. You have a dream about fire and goblins and a certain village. You have it every night. If you ignore it you take damage … and eventually die from it. Look, I know there’s some give and take in hooks. We all pretend and compromise and find some pretext to want to take the DM’s shitty hook. But this kind of TERRIBLE advice on how to deal with people not biting is bad for adventure writing. Somewhere, someone is going to read this and think it’s an acceptable way to run a hook. Why the fuck this would be proffered as a solution is beyond me. “So, you don’t want to play D&D then?” would be better advice, as would pulling out a boardgame to play. I fucking hate this kind of shit. It’s not helpful for a new DM solving problems at the table and in facts hurts them. There’s no excuse for it. But, it’s easily ignored by most.

The intro and village take up the first seventeen pages, with most businesses getting a column or so of text. Given the amount of time the party will be healing, that’s not entirely inappropriate for a homebase, but I think it’s done all wrong. It focuses much more on trivia then on memorable bits. For example, some long-ish historical anecdote on how NPC Bob got his name/nickname. Long boring trivia, including most physical descriptions, don’t make folks memorable. The NPC’s need something to hang their personalities/peculiarities on. There’s a few side quests in the village, from killing rats (ug!) to wolves (ug!) to finding missing creates (ug!) Side quests are great, but something NOT hackneyed like rats in the basement. Further, the village has between one and THREE monster attacks night, from rats to wolves to zombies to bears and so on. More than a little excessive and would result in the town in a state of panic at that frequency. I think. Then entire village just comes off as generic, with the text expanded with boring trivia. There ARE a couple of investigatory bits, which can provide some assistance down the road. IF you find the goblins body then this other thing changes. Or IF you talk to the druid then she talk to the woodland creatures and you get a heads up on the goblin attack, and so on. It’s ALWAYS a good thing when the parties actions have consequences, especially when they see positive results.

The lairs are a small tower, some rate tunnels and a necromancer’s cave system, with the later two have 25-ish+ rooms in them. It’s mostly the usual stuff with guard rooms and so forth, with the text expanded upon with boring mundane details and and what the goblins usually do but not right now embedded history that is USELESS during a game. There are exceptions. A room with a dretch in a summoning circle, or a room with a pit in the middle. The latter, in particular is a good example of mixing up the terrain to make combat a bit more interesting. Chucking a goblin in a pit, or avoiding that fate, is great fun. A room described as having a table and chairs is boring mundane description if the room has nothing else in it. A room with tethering bookshelves described is potentially interesting combat terrain if combat happens there. The lairs are their best the bridges, ledges, pits, and summoning circles are in the rooms … things to make them more than just a room with five goblins … that takes a column of text to describe.

The random mundane treasure tables, and the few new magic items, are a delight and I would have liked to see those sorts of elements used more rather than the emphasis on the mundanity of the dungeon description and de rigueur text.

It’s $6 on DriveThru. The four page preview tells you almost nothing about the style of adventure you are buying, unfortunately. The last sentence of the last page, three, is fairly typical of the writing style throughout, with lots of detail about things probably don’t matter.

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/150651/Against-the-Goblins-A-Swords–Wizardry-Adventure?term=against+the+goblins&test_epoch=0

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeon Magazine #139

Sat, 06/17/2017 - 11:15


There is No Honor
By James Jacobs
Level 1

The first part of the Savage Tide adventure path. I look forward to the tedious underwater rules and the magic item gifting to send the party Under The Sea. Hey! Surprise! But not in this adventure! This one is just a bunch of little railroad vignettes until a final “dungeon” in some thief guild tunnels. First you have to go fight some dock workers to get a ring. Then you have to use go to vault to use the ring to get in. They track down a chicks brother. Then fight off undead in some abandoned tunnels. Then track him down again, get ambushed by thieves guild, and then attack the thieves guild. It reminds me of those “How to write an adventure” articles. Start things off with a fight, include some roleplaying vignettes, etc … but all in the context of a linear story. The room descriptions are, of course, mixed up with history and irrelevant backstory, clogging them up. Want a linear adventure? Here’s one. It’s not too odious, if you’re in to that stuff.It’s also not particularly good. Perhaps the best part is when the party is trapped in some tunnels, surrounded by undead, and have to explore/escape while being sometimes attacked. It’s a nice claustrophobic feel … that’s still too long. The roleplay segments are not supported well, the set pieces are not supported well, blech.

Requiem of the Shadow Serpent
By Anson Caralya
Level 9

A fifteen room COMPLETELY linear cave under the pretext of being a troll lair but have yuan-ti at the rear. The first few rooms are a “test” to “try the mettle of intruders.” Ug. A lame pretext by the designer to just throw shit in and solve some imaginary continuity problems, you mean? It falls in to the trap of needing to explain everything. A nice little painting, with snaked designs showing patterns in patterns, has to explained as a they enjoy painting it as pastime and tormenting the trolls with the design patterns.” NO ONE CARES. The trolls are dead. It’s linear. The yuan-ti are dead. What the fuck is the point? Nice treasure, but this MANIA of explaining is a disease.

Maure Castle: The Greater Halls
By Robery J. Kuntz
Level 17

Maure Castle bitches! I LUV WG5. Hmmm, I need to go back and look at it again after seeing this entry in to the castle. The map is one of classic old school complexity, the kind truly made for exploration. The dungeon level has things to learn and puzzle out, especially with the help of Augury, etc to fill in the gaps. It’s full of weird paintings, statues, cryptic messages and the like, all positive. It’s also FULL of monsters being released from stasis, the ethereal plane, etc, which is a schlocky way to handle creatures and I don’t recall WG5 resorting to that, at least not to the extent that it’s done in this one. It feels like almost every room has “a guardian placed here by Wizard Bob.” There is a trap or two that could be straight out grimtooth, anti-grav, through an illusion ceiling, to a ceiling of spikes, that make you bleed to death, while putting you to sleep. A little of that goes a long way and Rob doesn’t really cross the line, except with the stasis monsters/guardians. The writing feels wrong, and needs to be tightened up. This isn’t really something to seek out, unless you’re a Maure Castle fanatic, and even then, its one of the weaker levels.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Treasure Vaults of Zadabad

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 11:17


By Carl Bussler & Eric Hoffman
Stormlord Publishing
Swords & Wizardry
Level 2-4

Hot wind snaps the black sails of the Soulcatcher as an eager voice calls from the crow’s nest, “Land ho!” Ahead lies the island of Kalmatta, your destination, home to plague colonies, marooned pirates, madmen and secrets no mortal mind was meant to uncover. It is also the location of the ruined city of Zadabad and its famed treasure vaults. Whether fortunate or ill-fated, you have in your possession the Rod of the Crescent Moon, a relic of dead religions and forgotten kingdoms. It is also the key to unlocking the vaults. But finding the lost city is a challenge many have accepted, but none have survived. Fetid swamps, harsh jungles and unforgiving mountains hide your prize. How far will you travel and how much will you risk to uncover the treasure vaults of Zadabad?

This is a 64 page hex crawl on an island, looking for a lost city and its treasure. Pirates, big game hunters, natives, tombs, a lost city, giant animals … it’s all here. Any hex crawl on an island will force comparisons to Isle of Dread. To its credit, this is about as far removed from Dread as you can get while still containing the major bullet points of native, pirates, lost cities and giant animals.

The natives are the descendants of a former plague colony. The pirates have a little town and will trade with you (a refreshing fucking change from the usual Attack On Sight pirates.) The toombs, and several other sites, are mini-dungeons. There are resources to exploit and mine/trade. It’s got a little of that Isle of the Unknown weirdness. I’ll summarize everything as saying it’s got a little Land of the Lost vibe going on, sans Sleestaks. The mixture of the tropes is refreshing.The plague village, the big game hunters, “friendly” pirates, teleporter circles and ancient tombs. All with the goal of exploring the island to find the lost city and its treasure vaults. There’s a hint of whimsy at times, with a knob turned to eleven, a heavy metal axe, and In The Garden of Eden all appearing in the lost city. For those that are turned off by this meta, it’s mostly confined to that one area and easily avoidable.

The adventure has two (three?) problems, both not new issues. First, the encounter text is laid out incorrectly. Yes, I said incorrectly and Yes, that means that there is a right way. It engages in a form of description in which things are explained in order. FIrst let me describe the trees in two paragraphs, then let me describe the acorns in two paragraphs. Then I will describe the Giant Ape statue that looms over everything and glows bright red. This is not a format that is helpful at the table. As you turn to an entry and begin to scan it, in order to run it, you either get lost in the beginning paragraphs or miss something. “Oh, yeah gang, there’s this giant glowing red ape statue that’s 90’ tall towering over everything.” That’s not cool. The descriptions need to be laid out in a manner that help the DM pull information out. That could be done with (SHORT!) read-aloud that mentions the major features. Or a brief summary in the first few sentences of the DM text. Or by bolding words in the various paragraphs (IE: highlighting it for us) or by using bullet points or indentation. There are many options but the result needs to be a text that assists the DM by making the information easy to find.

There’s a treasure room description on page twelve that’s a good example of this. The room is dry. There are intact paintings on the wall showing X, There are several chests of silver bars. Then there’s a section on the problems involved in moving heavy silver bars long distances. THEN there’s a separate paragraph telling us there’s also a mannequin wearing a colorful robe. Well, FUCK. I wish I knew about that earlier. This isn’t an isolated occurrence. Half column encounter descriptions mix the relevent with the irrelevant, mix up the important information, and generally show little care about how the information is organized in order for it to be used well. Which is a shame because some of it is good.

It’s got a great unique and colorful magic items, lots of new monsters, but also leaves out things like “what happens when your the dead woman back to life… you know the major feature of multiple encounters.” But the other major miss comes from the nature of the hex crawl proper. There are very few encounter areas that lead to other areas. The hunters and pirates have rivalry, and some teleportation circles, but there’s not much that leads you from encounter X to encounter Y. Rumors, partial maps, inscriptions, etc. The effect is a party just wandering around the island, exploring every hex so they don’t miss something and/or find the lost city … because no one else knows about it. In Dread you know about the Central Plateau, but here you just wander about. I’m not sure that exhaustively searching every hex on the island is “fun.” I wish there was more clues to things integrated in and maybe some words about seeing what’s in the surrounding hexes from the hex you are in. That would both reduce the tedium and provide some nice roleplaying as you find giant poop, or smoke in the distance. A brief paragraph at the start describing the general layout/overview would have been nice also. These factions exist doing these things, etc.

If you like Dread and you have a highlighter then this should be ok for you. It’s better than most Dread hex crawls and you can certainly make something out of it, with effort.

It’s $8 on DriveThru. The preview is four pages and doesn’t show you anything other than the table of contents. http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/176644/The-Treasure-Vaults-of-Zadabad-Swords–Wizardry?term=zadab&test_epoch=0

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Trail of Stone and Sorrow

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 11:14


By Zzarchov Kowolski
Self-Published
Neoclassical Geek Revival/OSR
Level 1-3

Something wicked has emerged from the mountains and begun turning things to stone. The villagers are scared and have begun casting a suspicious eye towards a foreign wizard.

This is a rather short adventure, at eight pages (with three being title page filler), and focuses on the blurb: something is turning things to stone and there’s this wizard nearby … It s good little adventure for tossing in to a one-night party, with strong social elements for the party to roleplay and a mystery for the party to look in to that should not lose the party. The text could be formatted better for information transfer, but, it’s also only four pages long and is a decent little adventure for that size.

The wizard is rich, he’s foreign, and he’s a wizard; three strikes and the Salt of the Earth point their finger at you. Following the breadcrumbs, with the wizard or one of the other clues related by the villagers, leads to a trail or crushed vegetation, hoofprints, and/or stoned creatures. Following the rail leads to the creature. There are notes to convert to OSR, which is easily done on the fly.

More than a side-trek and less than most adventure, this is probably a single night adventure. Roll in to the village, get hired and talk to folk, then start in a clue and follow it to the end of the trail. To its credit you can enter the adventure from many points: the wizard, the stone creatures, rumors, and the adventure is open enough that starting at site three does NOT mean that one and two are not relevant anymore. It’s more than likely that the party will revisit locations several times for what is, in essence, a social adventure.

The situations presented are pretty strong, if a little long. The villagers distrust the rich, foreign, wizard, for all three of those reasons. That’s a pretty good hook in to roleplaying them. The wizard is relatable and yet suitably wizard-like in his esoteric studies. The farmers under attack are frenzied, sobbing, in grief, and shock and horror, which again comes across well in the writing. The creature has a good little hook: it turns things to stone AND does a mind transfer from the victim in to the creature body. That’s some gaze attack!

It’s only four pages but, still, needs a highlighter. The writing gets a bit long in places, or, maybe, I want a different word. It could have been bolded or indented in places in order to make the organization of the information better. The goal, of course, being for the DM to scan the text quickly to find the important bits during play.

It’s Pay What You Want on DriveThru, currently at around $1.80. The preview shows you three of the four adventure pages (five if you count the map) so you’ll get a good idea of the adventure and the writing style.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/141915/The-Trail-of-Stone-and-Sorrow

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeon Magazine #138

Sat, 06/10/2017 - 11:19


It’s interesting, I’ve noticed another tonal change in Dungeon Magazine. The last few issues have contained adventures with a variety of styles. Linear, combat focused, more traditional styles. Accident or purpose? Who knows, but I do find the uptick in useful content refreshing. I’ve not been lothing my weekly review nearly as much.

Urban Decay
By Amber E. Scott
Level 2

Be aware: I’m fond of urban campaigns. Wererats. In sewers. Oh boy. Short & straightforward, the party learns some ratcatchers are missing. Checking in with the guild find the guild leader missing. A three room sewer reveals a wererat, which leads to a three room scow with another. End. I applaud the terseness, by Dungeon standards. This has a modicum of a low-tech/grunge feel to it, with a half-orc selling meat pies made out of rats and a “pigeon swarm” as guards in the sewers, as well as a giant cockroach. It’s nice theming. The NPC’s also fight to the death, for the usual reasons of fearing their superiors. Still, there’s room in this for roleplaying, bluffing enemies and the like. It’s getting pretty close to the platonic form of the lair-based/event adventure, but the roleplaying available and low-tech/low-life elements make it a cut above. It would make a nice little thing to dump in to an urban campaign.

The Weavers
By Richard Pett
Level 10

A long-winded linear adventure. Bob pleads with the party to stop an impending spider infestation in the city. You follow a linear trail, having fight after fight. Pretext after pretext for combat. Dude doesn’t answer his door and has a “guard drake.” Thugs don’t like people asking questions. On it goes. This is augmented by MOUNTAINS of justifying text. There has to be multiple paragraphs justifying the guard drake. Bobs mansion has a museum and there has to be a tour, to no purpose, so each room is described. The adventure goes on and on like this, as you follow the line,

The Mud Sorcerer’s Tomb
By Mike Shel
Level 14

This is the … fourth? version of this dungeon, I think? 2e (Dungeon #37), 3e (this issue), 4e and 5e. It’s a Tomb of Horrors like trap & temporal stasis dungeon full of puzzles. As I said in my d#37 review of the 2e version, the first room is a good example of what’s inside. Three names are on the front door in platinum letters. Examination reveals the letters of the last name “Elomcwe” can be depressed. Pressing “welcome” unlocks the door. By making this a Level 14 adventure it requires a pretext for gimping all of the players spells. Spells like augury, commune, contact other plane, etc were all originally used to AVOID death traps, but in this dungeon they, and others, are all gimped so the players can’t use them. This is a clear indication that the adventure is written for the wrong levels. Relying on Temporal Stasis is also a technique to disguise weak design. The puzzles, however, are top notch. A room with walls covered in eyes, all crying and moving. The tears are acid, making searching the walls for the secret door difficult. The adventure also illustrates the problem with the Search check. Previous editions had an element of player skill in the searching. The DM dropped hints in their descriptions, the players followed up and discovered things. In 3e this was abstracted to The Search Check. Just roll the dice, or take 20, and don’t bother with the more interactive portions. Rolling dice for routine resolution is boring as fuck. Once, running 4e RPGA at a con, a dude rolled his diplomacy to recruit an army of floating eyeballs from a bunch of wizards. “Uh, nope. What do you actually SAY?” I asked. “Uh, you’re one of THOSE dm’s. Can’t I just roll?” was the reply. This moment has stayed with me an excellent example of how mechanics can ruin play. Anyway, this is close enough to a clone of the D#37 adventure to be the same, except with the 3e mechanics. The 2e version, in play, should be stronger, because of the mechanics issues.

Challenge of Champions VI
By Johnathan M. Richards
Any Level

As with all of the others, it’s just a series of encounters for the players to overcome. It gets its “any level” designation because everyone in the contest gets the same stuff, provided in each room on scrolls, etc. Thus this is, essentially, a series of player challenges rather than character challenges. IE: the fun part of D&D/Combat As War. Generally the straightforward way is the worst way to tackle these situations, so ideas like “I stab it” are likely to be poorer choices than using your noggins. Creative play is encouraged. Still, I’m not really a fan of these. They require a game world with adventurers guilds with tryouts and a higher magic content than I’m comfortable with. As rooms that encourage open-ended play they are great though.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Rotating Labyrinth

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 11:18


By James Eck
MindWeaveRPG
d20
Level 5

This fifteen page “adventure” centers around one gimmick: a rotating gear-like maze. A large & interesting map has to be constructed by printing it out, glueing it to cardboard, cutting out other parts and glueing to more cardboard. What you then have is a large dungeon map with some sections, circular, that can rotate entire portions of the map. And some other circular sections within those larger circles that ALSO rotate. This is combined with some sliding stone slabs that cut off access to areas, secret doors, dark portals that imps come through and some windows that give glimpses of a devil at the center. It’s a one-trick pony, the maze, with little else to recommend it beyond that. It IS a very nice trick though. And I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for gimmicks.

The dungeon has three rooms: the entry room, the prison room, and a treasure room. The entry room has a large stone statue and is the only room lit. It speaks to you, essentially introducing the purpose of the maze: to keep a devil locked up. The treasure room has a couple of unique items. The jail cell in the “middle” has a devil. It’s not quite true to say the rest of the dungeon is procedural, but it’s close enough. The circles turn. The slabs move. There are some dark portals that bring in little imps when you encounter them. And so it goes. Wander about. The maze changes. Maybe encounter some imps. Wander about.

The five rumors provided are directly related to the maze. The maze changes. There’s no light. There’s no water. Clues on how to prepare. The descriptions are bland. There’s not a lot to describe, but, even then, it’s “iron bars block access” and corridors dry & cold with smooth granite. It’s bland. The initial room, with the statue, is the best, along with “dark blobs on the walls” that the imps come through. There’s just not much to this.

And that’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s generic nature means you can drop almost anything in to it. Looking for an item? Or an oracle? Or a person in prison? The maze can easily be co-opted to insert your own plot point/thing in to it. Maybe that humble ant from DMG1e is locked in the center. But .. it’s a bland environment. Random corridor findings, more window dressing, SOMETHING to liven the place up more is needed. There’s a suggestion to include a rival adventuring party but, even then, this would need more. A four to six hour session of wandering around in corridors isn’t my idea of fun.

Enlivened a bit, I could see this as being a level of a megadungeon or a mythic place to go fetch something from. There IS prep time in this, in constructing the physical map. If you build the map AND liven the place up a bit then this would be a nice little thing. It’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a good maze and reminds me a bit of the Maze Runner movie. The map/rotation alone is worth it to have, then you can gut the place for your own adventure. Would you pay a buck for a kick ass map? That violates some core Bryce beliefs related to Setting Expectations when purchasing and Only Review Adventures … and I have ripped products apart for those two reasons. But …

If you view this as a map, and only a map, with all of the text really describing the physical characteristic of the map … then it shouldn’t end up on Tenfootpole … but it would be a cool thing to build off of if you were looking for a map to co-opt for your own adventure.

It is Pay What You Want on DriveThru. The three page preview doesn’t really show you a good example of the writing but there IS a video of the physical construction in which you can see the map and how the wheels work. It’s really quite nice, and the map and the rotation ARE the highlight. http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/209116/Rotating-Labyrinth

God, I’m such a hypocrite.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Pipeful of Trouble

Mon, 06/05/2017 - 11:13


By Bret James Stewart
D-ooom Products
Labyrinth Lord
Levels 1-3

All is not well in Brierfield. The idyllic halfling village has fallen prey to unknown bandits and marauders. These peaceful victims of shattered loves and broken dreams need a band of heroes to save them. Are you willing to help them in their time of needs?

This 51 page adventure describes a halfling village, a small 26 room dungeon nearby where some bandits live, and a trial that (maybe) follows. It’s full of long tedious backstory, long tedious read aloud, long tedious DM notes … and not much else.

Bob the halfling loves Lily. He’s rejected, turns to banditry, and eventually steals a family heirloom. The villagers track the bandits to their lair, then the party shows up and they hire them to take care of the bandits/get the pipe. The bandit lair has them in it, a small sections with gremlins, and an old abandoned dwarf section with vermin. If you bring the bandits back alive then there’s a trial. This all takes 51 pages. You’d have a better adventure if it took five, and I’ve no doubt you do SOMETHING better in one. The problem is that the designer doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing.

Come to Utah and dream a little dream with me, Picard-san, while you play your flute. Imagine a village. Build it out, in your head, in exquisite detail. The full live of the people, their routines, what they wear, why they wear it. Get DEEP down the rabbit hole. A leads to B because of C, over and over again. Spend a week, non-stop, doing this. It’s alive in your head. Now, run this village as an adventure. Record it as you do so. Village, bandits, trial, the whole thing. Now, transcribe the session. Take your week long dreaming of background and reasons and combine it with the transcription of the session. You would have this adventure. AND.YOU. WOULD. HAVE. WRITTEN. A SHITTY. ADVENTURE.

This fetishizing of REASON is the problem, along with the associated detail that comes with it. The problem is not the dreaming. Or the transcription. Whatever floats your boat to help you be creative and design the adventure. The problem is that this crud makes it on to the written page. It all has NO purpose making it to the buyer. The purpose of the adventure is to help the DM run it at the table. Mountains of extraneous detail does not help the DM do that. Backstory does not help the DM do that. Evocative and terse writing helps the DM do that. The designer is intimately familiar with the adventure. It had lived in their head a long time. The buyer doesn’t have that benefit. The goal of the designer is to communicate a vision to the DM *BAM* fast and deadly. An instant explosion.

Multiple pages of backstory doesn’t do that. Want to include it? Great, put it in the appendix. You know how many cocks I had to suck this week at work? No? Well tonight I have to run a game. And you have given a massive amount of text to slog through. You’re not helping. Then, I get to a new room. And have to slog through more text. “What do you see?” the players ask … well, hang on, I’ve got two pages of read aloud to get through, and we all know EVERYONE will have gotten bored after three sentences. This. doesn’t. Fucking. Help. Get in. Get out. Quick. Evocative.

Here’s a section pulled from the intro to the dwarf caves: “Soon after construction began, the dwarves contracted the plague. The disease was strong and fast acting. All of the dwarves died, including a pair that left the complex intent on travelling to their clan for help and perished in the wilderness.” That does NOTHING. How does it advance the adventure? How does it to lead to fun & exciting play for the players and/or make the DM’s life easier? It doesn’t It’s yet another cock I have to suck in order to get through the day. How about this little gem, pulled from another room: “Although it is not evident, this room was the servant’s quarters for the scullery staff for the dwarven complex.” So … it’s irrelevant? I’m sure whatever little dream you dreamed of the life of generations of people coming through this room was a nice one, but it has not place in the adventure. It. doesn’t. matter. You’ve done nothing.

More is not better. “Just in case the DM needs it” is not a valid excuse. This text bears down on the DM, hiding relevant details, making it harder to pick out the ACTUAL content for the room hiding behind all of that trivia. And that’s what it is. Trivia. This happens over and over and over again in this adventure. The inclusion of trivia and backstory and useless detail. “Mary likes to wear yellow dresses.” Who the fuck cares? Is that relevant? Does it make Mary relevant? If she dressed in a cow costume then at least it would be memorable to the players. One of the bandits says “barely” a lot in conversation. That’s a good detail. It gives him personality. Everything else, almost every physical description, all of the intricate backstory, it’s useless. A page to describe an NPC bandit is not helpful. Putting five bandits in a table with one sentence each for personality IS helpful. It helps the DM find it, it summarizes just the important bits.

There is the occasional bit of nice detail. An NPC personality. A word or two to describe a room. The entire “trial” idea at the end for running a “consequences” portion … including maybe a hanging. That should cause things to sink in a bit with the players. But it’s all fucking buried behind the useless detail of backstory or prescribed actions that read like they came from a session transcript. Detailed juror thoughts are not needed. Just include a few words in ONE sentence, maybe two, and move on. Leverage the DM. The wandering monster tables, for example, do a decent job of providing just a little extra “Umph” to the encounter. Skittering out of weeds, charging through the party, etc. They still take an entire page for six and are about twice as long as need be, but, still, short enough to wade through quickly to the good bits.

Understanding the purpose of a published adventure and the ability to focus your writing via editing, are two basic skills that all designers should have. Almost no one does. This leads to the shovelware industry we have today. Wanna buy an adventure? It’s probably crap. Knowing this you don’t spend much, driving prices down. Steam gives refunds, if the online stores did also maybe the state of the industry would improve. I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from writing, but fucking christ, before you make us try and play it can you PLEASE make an effort to find out HOW to write an adventure?

It’s $5 on DriveThru. The preview is eleven pages long. You’ll get to see the massive backstory and the massive intro read-aloud. This is fairly indicative of the writing style present in the rooms and areas and should give you a decent example of the detail/backstory problems prevalent throughout the adventure.
http://www.rpgnow.com/product/208342/A-Pipeful-Of-Trouble

(If should be clear that sucking cock is a metaphor, stemming from the Assistant Crack Whore Trainee meme. Hey if you like sucking cock then more power to you. And if you don’t, well, then the metaphor should be clear.)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeon Magazine #137

Sat, 06/03/2017 - 11:19


Siege of the Spider Eaters
By Tim Conners & Eileen Connors
Level 1

A short adventure with “good guy” arenae. Arriving at a village, the party finds it encased in webs with giant spiders on it. Inside the villagers relate a large number of them are missing. A lair is found, with spider eaters in it who are attacking the peaceful aranea who live there … and who are also the missing villagers. A guy in town brought in the spider eaters, so it’s back there to free the rightful mayor and kill the other guy. The implied morality is a little lame; it would have been nice to at least have the option of fighting the aranea also. The town sections are massively overwritten. Accepting the morality tale, the fifteen-ish room aranea lair is NOT a disaster. It has some elevation changes, kid hostages, a giant paralyzed aranea queen full of spider-eater eggs, a cocooned hydra, and an old pirate treasure. The variety is nice and while the read-aloud is boring and the DM text too long it is a cut above the usual dreck. Another one that, with some tweaks, could be salvaged. If it were, it would be a good example of the “initial encounter, roleplay, lair, big bad guy/followup” style.

Tealpeck’s Flood
By Peter Vinogradov
Level 6

You ride through an underground canal on a boat and kill things in this mostly linear dungeon-float. The water has piranha swarms in it … which is pretty cool. The dungeon claims 25 rooms, has columns of read-aloud and lots of extra detail for rooms that have nothing in them. It all ends with a large color & symbol puzzle. It’s a Disney dark ride, with combat. It’s hard to get past the linear canal gimmick and rooms stuffer with water-themed ghouls, water themed ogres, water-themed trolls, etc.

Man Forever
By Jason Nelson
Level 15

This starts out well. Kind of. Town is in an uproar: there are rumors the local lord is a vampire. Investigating the rumors via roleplay/town interaction is a major part of the adventure. The local lord is a little fishy. The local ruins point to the lord. Everyone in town, including the minor officials, have a slew of anecdotal evidence pointing to him as a vamp. It’s actually three hags casting charm person, dominate person, and modify memory over and over again, along with their Hagspawn Berserker minions who all wear rings of chameleon power. That parts all pretty lame. The hags live in a little compound under an illusion pond that is probably just one big pitched battle when discovered. The whole “town in riot” and a mob marching to the lords manor with pitchforks and torches is great. The concept is great. The social portion is quite cumbersome to run, being not organized very well, and the hag stuff at the end is a big break from the rest of the adventure … it could have been handled in town or something better rather than just a lair hack/pitched battle. And I can’t see ANY reason for the dominate/charm/modify memory garbage. Subtle events, rumor, and innuendo would have been a much better method.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Dwarves of Copper Gulch

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 11:13


By Ian McGarty
Silver Bulette
Swords & Wizardry
Level 1-3

The Dwarves of Copper Gulch have returned! They seem to be a bit less industrious than before and you will have to figure out why.

This is an eleven page adventure in a small dwarven hold with around 28 rooms on two levels. It’s been taken over by goblins, who think they are dwarves. If I’m being generous, then the content is marginal. From layout to encounters to the core elements, there’s just not much thought.

Most of the adventure takes place in five pages, with two more for maps. You find a journal, or heard a rumor in a tavern, or find a map. All centering around hearing about an old dwarf hold that is rumored to be full of treasure if you can get past the traps and labyrinth of rooms. There is no labyrinth of rooms or even any traps. Instead there are goblins who think they are dwarves. Quick to anger, quick to laugh, and able to be reasoned with.

The formatting changes from one column to two. The rooms all run up against each other with no paragraph break between rooms, or bolding of their titles, making it difficult to pick out the individual rooms. The wandering monster table intro implies multiple creatures … but the table has one entry, labeled “1.” The front door is, evidently, locked with a puzzle lock. It’s not clear. There’s a handout with letters and numbers on it, but no indication of what the handout represents. There’s just this handout titled “Door Puzzle handout” that is a matrix of letters and numbers.

The treasure is all +1 axes and shields and so on, with no effort to describe or make unique. The final room has a silver statue of a bulette in it, with full stats. Does it do something? Does it come to life? Is it underneath the pit in the throne room? Absolutely no indication of any of it.

In summary: an “adventure” with no real efforts at hooks, no real efforts at formatting (Fuck man, just spend 15 minutes more on the layout to bold some room names and stick in some whitespace!) The “adventure” consists of, essentially, looting the place without getting caught by the “dwarves” …I guess? There’s just nothing here. A few monsters, some boring old room descriptions … nothing. It’s almost incoherent.

It’s Pay What You Want on DriveThru, with most of the adventure available in the preview. Page two shows the wandering monster table .. with one entry, while the bottom of the page shows the puzzle door with handout following. Page five is a GREAT example of the formatting. Whitespace on the previous page, none on this one and everything running together.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/210391/Dwarves-of-Copper-Gulch-a-Swords-and-Wizardry-Compatible-Adventure

It’s 9:12am and I need a fucking drink after this.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Broken God’s Pain

Mon, 05/29/2017 - 11:12


By ???
Unbalanced Dice Games
OSR

The Old God has awoken. He feels the pain of being broken and wants to be free again. He has cursed the party to find his body and make him whole again. They must venture into the caves and face foes who will thwart their every move. If the party has the wits and the will they will succeed. The Old God demands success!

This is a 64-page adventure in some caves with about sixty rooms in it. There is some pretext about an old god and a new god and worshippers, etc, but it’s really a funhouse dungeon with a large number of mini-areas with almost no relation to each other. Charming, a product of madness, youth, or a fantasy education that stopped at age twelve without any hint of Tolkien or D&D. Fantasy as written by Tom Sawyer. Overly written, no effort at layout, unrelated encounters … and the type of pure simple imagination that I’m not sure anyone is capable of once exposed to “mainstream” D&D. Troll? Art project? Youth? I have no idea.

There’s no layout to speak of. It’s all single column with a large font. Room names are bolded. Monster stats indented. A few pieces of art in a simple, charming/amateur style. The hook? You dream, and are transported at fantastic speed over the sea past seas monsters and ship to find yourself on a rocky shore next to a village with a voice having said “Come and find me.” The starter village is a mess, with events mixed in to keyed locations in a small eight keyed location that takes four or five pages to get through. They worship a sun god the priest knows nothing about, there are bat themed (The New God) hints all over the place and the people grow hostile when the Old God is mentioned. This is all crazy … except the village god setup IS a good one. The kids play “bat and mouse.” There’s an old bat mask in the church. People get angry at the talk of the old god. Eventually a girl leaders the party to the caves. Inside they get a vision/voice telling them to find the old gods eight parts and join them together. It’s completely obvious with no attempt really at a serious pretext. The old god/new god thing isn’t really going to come up again, except in the form of a few cultists you fight.

There’s nothing from the books in this. No treasure. No monsters. All fresh content. It reminds me, in a way, of the writing style of Tracia, Dungeon of the Bear, and of my favorite adventure The Upper Caves from Fight On! Magazine #2. Treasure? How about a cup that burns water like it’s a torch. A little doll the size of finger. Held in the palm of the hand, it does a little dance that heals 1d4 hp once a day. A green gauntlet that causes plants to wither. A stale loaf of bread whose crumb feed you for a day. A stick that turns in to a shovel and back when you will it. What the fuck? For real? A fake eye that glows red … if you stick it in an empty socket you get infravision. Almost all of them are non-mechanical; describing effects instead of the mechanics they produce. +1? That’s boring. I’ll take the fucking stick shovel ANY day over a +1 sword. It preserves a sense of wonder and mystery. There’s cursed armor in Upper Caves/Fight On #2 that shouts “Here I am! Here I am!” when you get close to undetected enemies. No mechanics. Just a description of what it does in plain english, just like in this adventure. The treasure is MAGNIFICENT!

The encounters proper, have little reason to them. Two or three rooms at a time might be related, like a trap that deposits you in to a room, or the three rooms related to shadows: in one you pass through a weird wall that mucks with your perceptions, in the second you fight some shadow monsters, in the third you’re offered the chance to rid yourself of your shadow. Or a vampire hunter which you meet in one room, see a group of slaughtered bodies in another one, and an empty vampire coffin in the third. The relationship between the rooms and the pretext, the old god and new one, isn’t clear at all … if it’s there at all. I get the feeling this is more a funhouse dungeon. Not with puzzle rooms, per se, but with a series of rooms that exist BECAUSE. Why is there a piece of the old god in a bird cage hanging from the ceiling? Because that’s cool. That room, the cage shocks you. If you break it to get at the part inside then you lay 1-2 normal chicken eggs every 12 hours for a week. When the hell was the last time you saw a curse like THAT in an adventure?

Here’s a section of text from the tempt in the caves. There are fourteen sentences in three paragraphs and these are the middle three sentences: “The men attack with their knives while the large manunbat shouts orders at them. When half the men have been killed it will reveal its true nature. The arms and legs will fall away and it will become man sized. It will remove its head to reveal that it is a plant skeleton that was wearing a costume.” They attack with knives. It shoults orders. It’s plant skeleton in a bat-beast costume. It’s a simple on-forced style of imagination that’s going on. And room after room after room delivers this style of imagination. A board/plank bridge that breaks under weight, of course! A crazy guy with one arm and leg that fires blow darts from a ledge and hits you with his crutch. A bald hermit sitting in a chair in a glass globe. Vignettes in a cave … it reminds me of one of those lost childhood adventures, with Pirates of the Caribbean and so on.

Based on my standards and continually harping on usability at the table, this is hard to recommend. Ignoring the hook/village, the encounters can be arbitrar at times, with a plank on the bridge breaking and the character left hanging. Or an earthquake sealing the party in. It’s text heavy, and the encounters CAN be inconsistent with many working better than others, but they ALL are imaginative.

It’s $4.50. The preview on DriveThru shows the table of content and the last page shows the “dream” hook. I wish it had also shown one of the encounters, so you’d know more of what you are getting in to with it.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/138421/Broken-Gods-Pain-A-Low-Level-OSR-Adventure

Go buy it, if for no other reason that I have someone to talk about it with!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dungeon Magazine #136

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 11:13


Hey, I’m on vacation in California! I finally get to go to Death Valley!

Tensions RIsing
By Ryan Smalley
Level 4

An airship has crashed in a hollow mesa and you’re sent to get some papers from it. The mesa entrance splits and goes three directions. There are two factions, and some random monsters, in the mesa caves with goals ranging from “kill the other guys” to “fuck up that airship.” The airship captain lives and refuses to leave, repairing his shit, you all take off and have one last encounter as the two factions launch an attack as the ship takes off. The map is kind of “trident linear” and does a good job privind a path/ways to engage with the three factions. One factions betrays the party while the other … doesn’t? It’s unclear, based on the finale encounter. There’s nineteen rooms and the adventure sometimes manages to put four on a single page, a singular accomplishment for Dungeon Magazine! A shit ton of text is taken up with prescribed tactics with some “Mr Bob had intended to use this room for X but instead Y and Z” nonsense. The basic setup with wounded factions trying to off each other is a nice one. You could probably have a nice adventure on one page, or one sheet.

And Madness Followed
By Greg A. Vaughan
Level 10

Iconic setup. Iconic location. Iconic situation. Shitty padded text making it all hard to run. I REALLY want to like this one. Raiders appear when big storms arise, according to the shitty hooks provided/dying man in the caravan. Tracking them back (100 miles … uh … that’s a bit long ..) has a massive temple appearing out of thin air at the end of a valley during a storm. That’s suitably classic! Inside are some monsters, intelligent foes, and the raiders. IE: MAYBE some factions. At some point while exploring the temple the storm ends, the raiders come back, and the place disappears from the material plane. Killing the raider leader breaks the curse/solves all problems. The map is excellent and reminds me a bit of the garden level of barrier peaks, with its mixed indoor/outdoor space, balconies, and so on, along with a shit ton of roof entrances to the temple. The switch from “exploring the temple” to “being hunted inside by the raiders” is a nice switcheroo also, changing the tone. It also includes an explicit section about who will talk to you … although starting everyone as hostile and those creatures being displacer beasts and chokers (when the fuck did D Beasts become intelligent? Talking chokers were some underdark nonsense, I think?) will both make things a little harder. Paragraph read alouds and long unfocused DM text sections detract from getting use out of it. “The other six hold only the barest bits of bone and shreds of cloth. This displacer beasts that occupy this room licked the lacquer from the corpses like giant candies before consuming the bodies.” Great. Does the adventure take place while they are doing this? No? And they’ve completely consumed the bodies? So everything in the LONG background paragraph is irrelevant to the adventure, as well as those sentences? Perfect. Glad you were able to pad out your Pay Per Word score. This needs a complete edit with a magic DELETE key, then you’d have a decent adventure.

Gates of Oblivion
By Alec Austin
Level 18

There’s nothing to this. Go to a shadow plane, visit three clearings and have a fight at each. Then you go inside a monolith and have a bunch more fights. Then you have a boss fight so you can save the world from darkness. It looks like it’s just an excuse to have a bunch of nightshades/nightwalkers in an adventure. It’s just mini’s combat.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Dread Machine

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 11:15


By Gus L.
Self Published
Labyrinth Lord
Level 3-6

This 52 page adventure describes a cavern and the machine at the heart of it, that can resurrect the dead. Three’s a small region presented around it, with the cavern locale having about five encounter areas, each with about five more keys, and then the main area with about twenty-one keys. Gus has a very descriptive and evocative writing style, although it gets verbose. The maps are cramped, but the entire thing is imaginative and full of interesting rooms to get in to trouble. He does a great job on imagination but this could use a good trim to make scanning/use at the table easy.

I sometimes talk about hooks appealing to players, and this adventure is a good example of that. Anything can be a quest, but if you can integrate your adventure in to what the PLAYERS want then they’ll be a lot more motivated to not jack around and be involved in the adventure. At some point resurrecting the dead is going to come up, either because of some plot of the characters or because one of them died. That’s where this adventure comes in to play: it features a giant machine rumored to bring back the dead. And it does! Instead of it being a screw job the party can instead find a machine that uses souls to bring the dead back to life. The ‘souls’ thing is going to limit it’s power, but even that opens up more hooks for the players. This is more than the usual fetch quest or hired by blah blah blah to do something. There’s personal interest at stake.

Gus does a good job with creating evocative environments with his writing, interesting things in the room/areas to interact with, and encounters in which there is potential energy. Farmers, hunting the party for a perceived slight, led by Pops Bonder. Zombies lurching hungrily, trailing eviscerated innards. A black pueblo under a curving cliff wall. A room braced with massive tree trunks waxed to a high sheen. An artificial wall covered in a maze of gears, pistons and metal plates. Gus presents a situation and dares you to go forward, giving the players a choice in their doom. An obvious blade trap over a door invites you to climb the wall and try to disarm it. A room has a whirling vortex of blue energy. A catwalk is covered with a slick oil … with a tantalizing view at the other end. The encounters invite the players in to them, almost daring them, tempting them.

The entire place feels coherent, alive. The farmers in the surrounding barren yellow plains make sense. The caves around the Dread Machine fit in with the farmers and the machine. The rooms of the machine are tied back with theming that’s obvious and not buried. The place feels different but not in a gonzo manner … at least until the machine proper is reached. The treasure, both mundane and magical, get just enough description to make interesting and more than throw-away items. A destroyed staff of the magi with some power remaining (inside a blast crater in the mud), a lump of golden metal (formerly a delicate thaumaturgical calculator), a gold ceremonial shark mask inlaid with mother of pearl.

The writing, colorful and evocative as it is, is also verbose. We’re not talking Dungeon Magazine standards, but it’s not uncommon for there to be two encounters per page, each being about half a page. There’s a header/summary at the start of each, so it’s not quite as bad as I imply, but it is still quite lengthy. The Secret Shrine has four paragraphs of text to describe a shrine with a treasure hidden in an idol. Two paragraphs paint a rich picture of the room while two more describe the hiding place and the treasure. “If the totem’s head, a twenty pound hollow ovoid of iron plate with indistinct features, is placed on the altar, the altar’s secret compartment slides open with a hissing gush of steam” That’s a great description. Or “Above the altar is a rough metal totem cobbled together from plates of black iron, welded and joined with thumb sized rivets.” Again, another great description. Almost EVERY sentence is a great description. But there are too many. It makes it hard to scan the text and find what you need to describe NOW.

There’s an attempt to mitigate this with a header section for each room. It describes the rooms appearance, smell, lighting, traps, treasure, and inhabitants in a little offset section. In theory this would be great. In practice … not so much. The summary attempts/descriptions are not particularly strong. “A dusty shrine to evil gods. Racks of skulls line the walls around crude totem and alter. Secret door on East wall to #3.” Both the initial “dusty shine” sentence and the “secret door” sentence are redundant. Instead telling us it’s a “crude black iron welded crude humanoid totem” and an “chromed sacrificial altar with pipes”, or something similar, would have helped. The players just walked in. What do I need NOW? Then the summary can kick in. And while they debate I can then scan the main text, which can call out important features with bold, or underline, or reformat so the more important sections are near the front of the sentence. That there fancy font don’t contribute to readability either.

The maps are a bit of a pain also. They range from half-page to third page creations. “The Black Pueblo” gets a little half-page isometric thing, trying to show the interior and exteriors of a location with ceiling access on moth rooms. The shading used to do that makes it seem a little busy. The map of the main location, a traditional map, has four levels snugged in to about a third of a page. It’s readable, but just, and a squinty chore that doesn’t exactly contribute to ease of use.

This is grade A highlighter fodder. It’s evocative. It’s got loads of interesting encounters. But it’s too verbose, which tends to hide what is going on in the rooms. The writing needs more focus on the editing side. I LUV those painting with a lot going on in them, every time you look you see something new. This adventure is like those paintings. Wondrous to enjoy, but if I tried to give you directions using the painting you’d get lost.

It’s free at Dungeon of Signs blog. Take a look at page eight for a nice wandering monster table, full of color. Pages eleven and eighteen have good sample maps to illustrate my points. The Secret Shrine room is on page twenty. Take a look at the summary section and then revel in the descriptions underneath.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_4yfZaJH0e5Y2k5RzEtSURjUTA/view

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Tall Witch

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 11:16


By David Pigndolli
Daimon Games
OD&D
Level 1

It presents a classic adventure, with a mission assigned to the characters by the priest of a small village, and rumors of the coming awakening of the terrible Tall Witch.

This 26 page Pay What You Want “adventure” has five encounters, each with a witch, filling about twelves of its pages. The witches are interesting. The magic items are interesting. I just can’t get over the page count.This is wrong of me. It’s Pay WHat You Want.

Every 333 years a witch hatches fully grown from a giant egg near this certain village. The villagers then get terrorized. The time has come and the local priest has declared a big rock on the sea shore to be the egg. The party needs to go fuck it up. On the way there you either meet a young lady who’s mule is broken or a young lady drowning off the shore, if you approach by boat. You find the egg missing. On the way up the cliffs you meet three more young ladies, all witches.

The witches are fairly interesting. All dressed in strangely nice gowns … a tip off if ever there was one. The first pretending to be lost on the road, her mule having a broken leg nearby. SHe leads the party in to quicksand, the purple flower in her hair allowing her to walk on quicksand. The second pretends to be drowning near the shore, wearing a gown of sea algea. They come off as more sorceresses and have a fine OD&D feel; they’d fit in great in Isle of the Unknown with their weird powers and such. One, when she dies, leaves a pool of water that never dries up. Nice. Each witch encounter takes two to three pages to describe, with a generous margin, font, and random tables.

Treasure includes the aforementioned flower that lets you walk over quicksand, eggshell pieces that could allow you to teleport, and the bronze head of a child that talks to you and if you feed it blood can do more.

The location of the witches is the most confusing part. One on the road, one at the base of the cliff, and three more on the way up to the top of the cliff? This is more of a point-crawl/scene based adventure, but I found it impossible to visualize the witches in relation to each other. IN a 26 pages adventure you’d think that even a small ¼ page map could be included.

It’s hard to bitch too much about a PWYW. Yanking the witches and/or the village to dump in to something else would be nice; I do find the OD&D nature of the witches nice. Then again, this could easily be a 1-pager, or 1-page front & back, STILL be PWYW, and lose very little of its flavor

Is it your bag baby? Fuck it, It’s PWYW and I’ve paid a lot more for a lot less.
The preview on DriveThru is 26 pages long: the entire adventure. Page 7 has the “hook” with the village. Page 8 has the first witch and the first few paragraphs are worth looking over to get a feel for the “airiness” of the witches. The next page, none, gives a good example of the extra detail that bumps up the word count: tables for attack & disease.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/209714/The-Tall-Witch–OSR-adventure

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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