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Updated: 1 week 10 hours ago

Salvation

Mon, 12/02/2019 - 12:15
By Darvin Martin Design Mechanism Mythras Level 3

Jesra Vorak, a renowned Fighter from Greymoor, hires the characters for a perilous adventure into Ravenholm. On a mission to find her family sword, Salvation, and destroy the enemy that inhabits her ancestral home, Jesra seeks only the most heroic allies. Many dangers await the characters in Ravenholm, most of them unknown; Jesra is determined to fulfil her destiny and cleanse her bloodline of its darkness or die trying. Will the characters become legendary heroes, or be doomed by the Jesra’s obsession?

Well jackass, you’re the one that tosses yourself in to these situations.

One encounter has a merchant on the road in a wagon. His wagon has 30 feral cats in it. They are all polymorphed lesser devils. Do you NEED to read the rest of the review now to get a sense of the adventure?

This fifty page adventure uses twenty pages to describe the lands around a small castle and the castle proper, containing a vampire. It’s an escort mission for a DM Pet NPC and it’s heavy on facts, mechanics, and long paragraphs on the beach that go nowhere and hide the sunset. Yeah it’s fucking Ravenloft, but I’m not going to review it like that.

Are RPG’s about the story the DM is telling? Are RPG’s about an antagonistic DM? Are RPG’s about the DM at all? Are RPG’s about the pedantic way some people roleplay their characters, forgetting they are a part of the group? No, RPG’s are about the players and their characters, together. The story is emergent but it IS about them. 

This adventure is not about the party. It is about an NPC. For this adventure and everything in it is centered around a DM Pet NPC. You get to escort her to her ancestral homelands, find her ancestral sword, travel her ancestral lands, and visit her ancestral castle and kill her ancestor, the vampire dude. Along the way you will be subject to a long masturbatory description about her ancestral sword, that only she can use. Along the way you will face numerous challenges … that only she can overcome. And then of course you will face ol grandpappy vampire dude, who only she can kill with her sword. This is fucked up. We’re not talking Giovanni Chronicles here, but it’s still pretty fucked.

The actual design of the adventure fights play. In the initial village you have to make skill checks to convince the guards to let you in. You are sworn to note tell your real mission, but everyone is a very skilled lie detector and hates you if you lie. And if you tell the truth they probably kick you out. In the village you have to find out that there’s a well with a secret door in it. But it’s a random rumor on the rumor table. So you probably won’t hear it. And if you do then there are guards near the well who don’t want you messing with it (ok, that’s ok, it’s a roleplay/crazy scheme opportunity) and then inside the well you have to have a character who can see in the dark and THEY have to succeed on a perception check. How many fucking secret doors are going to put the door to the rest of the adventure behind? Jesus H Fucking Christ, do not NOT want the party to play the adventure? You know what’s going to happen, the DM is going to fudge it. So why the fuck is it in the adventure? There are a lot of better ways to handle this shit.

There are long Long LONG sections of italics text that make my eyes bleed they are so hard to read. Save your fancy fucking fonts and make do something to make the text easily readable. 

Mechanics and details are embedded in in longform paragraphs, hard to pick out and hard to find during play. Bolding is absent. Does this room have a monster in it? Let me spend ten minutes reading all of the rooms nearby to see who reacts …   this is a thing of NIGHTMARES.

On the plus side there is a room that rains holy water. There’s a 40% chance it spoils when exiting the room. So, continual rain of holy water with 40% of it spoiling is still … yes, that’s right, an infinite amount of holy water! Vampire Dude here We Come!

In spite of my assholery, there are some ok sentences in this A typical room entry might contain:” [] room is badly damaged, showing signs of impending collapse.Mouldy parchment lies around a stone bookshelf set against the south wall, and the remains of a writing desk sit to the west. A door carved with the Vorak crest leads north.” That’s not a terrible description. I did cut all of the pedantic dimensional data and this IS one of the shortest room descriptions. But it’s not terrible, if you ignore the following paragraphs with the mechanics that are hard to pick out. And the 30 polymorphed lesser devils. 

This is $7 at DriveThru. There’s no preview. It should have a preview. Everything should have a preview. And the preview needs to show meaningful parts of the adventure, not the title page and the masturbatory backstory. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/257909/R1-Salvation?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(Review) Red Dead Redemption 2 is a bad game

Sun, 12/01/2019 - 15:03

Heresy!

I know, hang in there and keep an open mind. It’s not a good game and is, in many ways, a bad game. And I promise I’m not branching out to other game genres. I just had to get this off of my chest.

I’ve bought a PS4 twice now with the explicit purpose of playing RDR2 and have been unsatisfied with the controller in what is, essentially, a shooter, and have sold it. I’m a PC gamer and thus when that version came out I bought it and have been playing it for several weeks now. 

 RDR2 has an excellent open world, full of people and an environment and subsystems that can really bring the world alive, from hunting, to cleaning your guns, to brushing your horse, just to name a couple. The sheer number of different activities you can engage in is mind-boggling.

The voice acting for the main character is excellent, as is much of the voice work, character animations, the script, and for the most part the story. The camp you are a part of, the people and how they interact and what they do, is top notch. Really some of the best I’ve ever seen.

And yet I think it’s a bad game. This comes from two core components: the gameplay and the mechanics. Mechanics first.

The game is slow and tedious. Doing anything seems to require substantial travel time between areas. Even after unlocking fast travel it’s slow to return to your fast travel base, because of choices made. Travel by stage and train requires long load times with useless animations. Further, your character and horse feel sluggish. “Real world physics!”, I can hear the shouts ever from here deep inside the volcano lair. Maybe, but tedium in sacrifice of fun is not a good choice on the designers part. It’s their job to solve those problems. Looting bodies takes forever as you watch a slow animation scene. There are parts of the map where you can’t run forcing you to suffer through long slow tedious walks  and mini-animation scenes. 

Even a month on the game crashes at least twice a day for me, and I don’t play a substantial amount. I’ve got a decent rig, why do I suffer with slowdows, crashes and stutters? I bought the game through Epic and couldn’t get it to work, requiring me to return it and repurchase through Rockstar proper. Even then I need to run a third party CPU app to keep it from pausing because it can’t manage its CPU itself. And I STILL suffer from pauses and stutters, but at least its playable now.

Moving on, all of those mini-games? Pointless. Hunting is tedious and the upgrades it provides are unneeded. Poker, dominoes, mumblepeg, photography, and a seemingly nonstop amount of other activities from collecting flowers to collecting dinosaur bones … all of that is useless. It doesn’t actually get you anything meaningful in the game. They are just tacked on little items, useless. 

The core story missions and the side missions suffer from a lack of depth. The side missions, popping up from time to time in the world, are some of the more interesting parts of the game, from a variety standpoint. Dozens of interesting little vignettes. That generally are just “go collect X things” or “give me something” or “go talk to someone.” They feel formulaic and shallow in the extreme. Interest setups that have no depth and whose formulaic approach to them shine though almost immediately, taking the luster off of them. Go watch a youtube video of all of the setups/intros for them and you’ll have a better experience … without the tedious travel they require. 

The core story missions, while having some interesting depth behind them, if the pointlessness of mans existence (Dutch)  is depth (and I think it is, from an existential standpoint) are problematic. They are rail shooters. Watch a slow cutscene. Engage in slow travel. Engage in slow button-press activities. Then engage in what is a rail shooter. And, in many cases, have your weapons taken away, or be forced to use only your handguns. 

For you see you no choice. You WILL engage with just your handgun, in spite of having a shotgun on your horse. Weapons WILL be locked in the stores until you get further along in the story. And, if you dare engage with the mission in any way other than the railroad your forced on to, well, the game will fail you. The best example is when the house you are hold up in is attacked by a rival gang. You are outside shooting the other gang. The game tells you to return to the house. If you stay outside to shoot some more the game fails you, telling you that you didn’t return to the house.

All of that choice, that big open world, everything in it .. .it’s just an illusion. This is a rail shooter. A sluggish rail shooter. 

I’m reminded of a Deus Ex game. The big selling point was you could go through the game without killing people. Well, except for one boss. You see, that boss fight was farmed out to a sub in development. It was the typical boss fight stuff, figuring out how to kill them, etc. And that’s what this game feels like. It feels like the big open world was developed and then mini-games were farmed out. And the story action scenes were farmed out. And because of this none of it is integrated well. 

The game is not satisfying. It is frustrating for what it COULD have been. Yet another example of a railroad story told by a DM. The emergent story is always better.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(D&D 5e) The Tomb of Black Sand

Sat, 11/30/2019 - 12:08
Jacob Hurst & Donnie Garcia Swordfish 5e Levels 4-5

Deep in the forest plants and animals twist and crack and seem to fill with stars before they vanish, screaming into nothing. A tomb has appeared, and lumberjacks argue about its origin over drinks at the Red Squirrel Inn. Some say it’s new, like a freshly grown cancerous lump; others say the twisting earth revealed an ancient trove of bone and unimaginable treasure. No one can agree, but townsfolk have begun to go missing, riders in black have been seen on the roads, and some say the candles are singing.

This 56 page “slightly larger than digest sized” adventure features about twenty rooms in about twenty pages, with generous art. Detailed, evocative, interactive, and frustrating, it can sometimes be hard to get a handle on the larger and more complex rooms. And it also presents a GLORIOUS vision of a lich lair. Flawed, but worth having.

Frank wants to be a lich and then an arch-lich and fly around the universe collecting power, ascending to higher planes of being, etc. He does some research, finds out that he needs willing sacrifice victims, and sets out. #1 is his true love, who truly does love him and truly sacrifices herself willingly. He then builds a place and starts luring other “willing” villagers. It’s a nice set up and he, a CR21 Lich, is in the dungeon.

The intro mentions, but doesn’t explain, some keywords that will be familiar to the OSR but less well known in the 5e world. Mythic Underworld. Combat As Sport, Answers not on the Character Sheet and, of course, running the fuck away from a CR 21 lich when you’re level four.  I might question the ability of the general 5e public to grasp the adventure, but I shan’t be the one to pander to the lowest common denominator in this review. It’s got a solid head on it.

Supporting material is pretty good. The nearby village is well done. Brief quick hits of places and NPC’s, just enough to get things juicing. A good percentage is focused on the adventure at hand with some personal flavor to brighten them further up. Bolded words and good use of section breaks make it easy to follow. Information that add character is specific, not abstracted. It feels like a place that you can run, when you first glance at it. The hooks are great as well. And, uh, maybe in a first, ALL of them. Six of so, one paragraph each. In one the local curate summons you. He’s afraid that if words gets out about the missing villagers and the mysterious tomb that just appeared then his superiors will start up a witchburning inquisition … since they are already suspicious of their worship of a moon goddess aspect … Perfect! Makes PERFECT sense. Ties in well to the moon goddess. Which ties in well to the actual “tomb.” Or, a mining & timber business deal gone bad. WTF? In an adventure full of undead and a mysterious tomb? Fuck. Yes. Life is better when the world IGNORES the zombie army beyond the wall! The local color in both the hooks and village are EXCELLENT. I WANT to run it, and that takes some fucking skill!

The place is interactive as all fuck out. Dig through pits of undead. Candles of different colors that you can light and mess with. Piles of skulls. A trapdoor full of sand. A pool of banshee tears. Yes. it’s ALL the tears of a banshee. Hmmm, maybe that needs to go in my evocative section? Anyway, this place has it all: Trance, stilts, throw-up music, an albino that looks like Susan Powter, Teddy Graham people. 

And it brings the fucking noise in evocative. I already mentioned the pool of banshee tears, right? Piles of skulls holding candles on top of them. Pits of bodies. Brief hits of mosaics on doors. Windows that shine the light of elysium in. Black sand, everywhere, subtly moving towards one room. Oh, you got mixed up in it? Skeletal hands reach out of it! How about creepy villagers, in only gossamer garments, draped with that ancient jewelry from Frodo’s barrow? Oh, how about a voice, barely heard, saying “This way. A little further.” O! O! O! That’s creepy! 

The map is good, and has some atmospheric effects embedded in it, little keywords for the DM to emphasize, like the sand, cold, or precision of the construction. That’s a good tool to help keep things fresh in the DM’s head during play, so they can relate it to players to enhance the atmosphere. Likewise, it does a good job with cross-references to other locations.

And now for winters discontent.

It feels like something is wrong with the formatting.

It’s using a series of bolded keywords to draw the eyes attention, with some [brackets] to contain some additional info on those items, along with section headings that stand out to give additional information. Something similar is used in the small village/NPC section, to draw the eye via bolding. Here, though, it feels like the longer rooms, and many of the rooms are longer/more details, loose their essence in a forest for the trees type situation. That format, combined with the two column, the digesty size, and the more complex/lengthy rooms seems to be a problem for me. I have problems conceptualizing the rooms and groking them. They becomes a series of individual elements I have to pick out instead of a ROOM with elements. The entrance room, one, for example, is small and the format works well. But as the adventure moves to room two it seems to cloud up. I’m gonna let this review sit for another day and see if anything clicks.

Ok, coming back to this I think I can run it. The bolded words, issued as brief impressions in the initial descriptions, maybe with some [bracket] comments tossed in, and then interactive DM->Player play beyond that, with the section headings providing more details. It works pretty well. What’s missing, I think, is the creatures. They still seem out of place, or somehow not fully integrated in to the rooms/descriptions. It FEELS like you get a good room description but then there’s a “oh, uh, yeah, and there’s this banshee in here also”, or something similar. So, in summary, the two-column digesty bolded keyword format works, but takes a bit to grok … and I think you’re gonna have to make some notes for the more complex creatures to appear on the map.

Speaking of … 

There are a couple of aspects to the adventure that are a bit subtle. It’s doing this thing, that I’m supportive of, where the “plot” and/or background data is conveyed through the keys. It’s a part of B2, G1, and other products and is a nice way to integrate things without a huge amount of backstory. In this case, though, one additional paragraph could have helped a lot. Essentially, the interaction of some werewolves and the banshee, along with a couple of other smaller points that are meant to impact play. Likewise, there’s a section of text which covers the rituals being performed inside of the “tomb.” This is generally self-contained on one page but is may be in more of a story mode (in spite of it being well numbered bullets) and less in a “actual play” mode. Step nine states that when a sacrifice gives up completely their body becomes ethereal and runes appear in two locations. What a great effect to happen during play, while the party is in 4 or 6! It’s certainly flavorful, as presented, but there’s another section, on the Lich’s extras, which is essentially trivia. Breaking that out to “actual play” notes, or including those AP notes on the map, would have been a cool thing and better integrate them in to the adventure, errr, help the DM do it. The sacrifice flow states that people wit in the chapel room for a week, but the chapel doesn’t mention this. Nor is much given to the “items of shame” that are a center of a lot of the adventure. I might quibble, also, with a couple of smaller decisions, like explicitly stating that, in the sand dune room, you can’t see the far door from the entrance door. Temptation and curiosity are great player qualities to exploit.

FInally, let’s look at the goal of this adventure. Why are we here? To save villagers? You’ll get a few out. Cash? Ok, but 5e is not a gold=xp game. Helping a couple of brothers save their sister? Maybe. But, solving the issue of The Tomb, proper,  isn’t going to happen (not that I can see anyway) without something being done about Mr Lich. Hmmm, maybe I need to reread … maybe dealing with his girlfriend is good enough. As a kind of Thing That Exists, it’s good, but that’s not the general flow of 5e. 5e tends to be more story and plot oriented. The challenge is marrying the more OSR-centric flavour to that end. 

This is a complex place. It could be tweaked some, or notes added, to ease actual play. But it’s a worthwhile environment to have for OSR play if not 5e play. Can your players handle a scenario that is not a TOTAL AND COMPLETE SUCCESS?

The PDF is $10 over at DriveThru, with a print version available at Swordfish. The preview is fourteen (!) pages long and does a good job showing you the type of content you’ll get. Check out preview pages 7 (real page 18) for the entrance first hallway. And then preview pages nine through the end for a complex room. Putting the room, the elements, and NPC together is a little rough.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/290848/The-Tomb-of-Black-Sand?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

War of Wolves

Wed, 11/27/2019 - 12:21
By CS Barnhart Mad Martian Games OSRIC No Level Given

The peaceful villages of Eastern Thanegard are under attack. Fenrir raiders have taken up arms against Einheriar colonists. Or have they? And if they have can they be stopped? These are the tasks Thane Egil has assigned to a small band of adventurers. Travel east, interview the victims, track down the culprits and deliver the Thane’s Justice. But all isn’t what it seems and foul sorcery and blood thirsty revenge may be behind the recent uprisings. Can the brave adventurers uncover the truth and stop further bloodshed, or will war consume them and the Thanelands?

This 26 page adventure is a hunt for wolf barbarian raiders who are a whopping and a whoomping every living thing in town. It’s core ideas are decent, if not good, but the designer has, rather euphemistically, no idea how to write an adventure.

Essentially, you’ve got some bandits who are impersonating the local Wolf Barbarians. They rob and raid, leaving the blame on the barbarians. The thane has you assigned to stop the wolf barbarian raids. You figure out it’s bandits about the same time you’re slaughtering them, and then face down the leaders and an evil wizard allied with them. It’s an oldie of an idea, but still a goody.

The execution in the idea is what is lacking. There’s a regional map provided, for the party to explore. But there’s no scale provided. The adventure mentions hexcrawling  the map, but, again, no scale on it. The map, which has incorrect location keying on it (Editor!), lays out a number of locations and and provides for some wanderers, even with a little color to them. But then the locations, proper, are then laid out in “plot” order. First the village that was just burned. Then the village that will be burned the next night. Then the bandit camp. Then the bandit HQ. Then the evil wizards lair. You’re clearly meant to do the adventure in this order. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, except in the mismatched styles used.

It’s initially laid out like a sandbox. It’ mentions hexcrawling. But then it switches styles to linear plot adventure. Then, the five actual locations, are detailed in a very conversational format, like it was a plot adventure. This is the village. These are the people. These are the reaction rolls. Then the baddies show up. Then the baddies do this and this. Then a fight starts. The next encounter on the linear path will detail consequences, like questioning people from the last encounter that leads to this encounter … at least sometimes it does that.

NPC’s and local color are very inconsistent. The first village, burned out, gets a few NPC’s to talk to. The wanderers have at least a little color to them. But then the second village, not burned down yet, gets no local color or NPC’s at all. Then, the integration of the “events” in to the main text, in long paragraph form, just like how all other information is presented, makes following the adventure hard. You need to hunt to pick out information. Or maybe you don’t if you just run it like a linear railroad, running “one paragraph” at a time. 

And then information for the DM is inconsistent. At one point you can track baddies. “How many” is a natural question for a player to ask. Nothing provided for the DM to help them. Or, where do the tracks go? At least some page cross-references would have helped. Instead turn to encounter three and do the math, provided you remembered that encounter three, which you have no reached yet, has the formula for calculating how many baddies. And then, the placement of the “questioning of the prisoners” in the NEXT section is weird as fuck. It’s not actually the next location, it’s more “what happens after the last battle” formatting. Weird as all fuck, that.

Information is sometimes spread out over pages that makes it hard to follow. Guy’s Chaotic Henchman blog had that excellent series of articles on basic layout that would have helped with that.

I think perhaps beefing up the wilderness section with scale would have helped. Describing the villages, bulleting out or using whitespace to call attention to differing sections and important information would have helped. Sticking “event” information in a separate section for each location, or at the end, would have helped. Adding more local color to the locations and/or sticking in NPC’s would have helped. Handing this adventure off to other DM’s to run and then really interviewing them to ensure you understand what was confusing and what thir problems were would have helped.

I shall make no mention of the 8th level wizard, by himself, with 42hp. WTF is the CON on that dude?!

But, it does have some interesting design. If the designer can learn how to write, edit, layout, and form coherent sections then this guy could be going somewhere. Those are all skills you can learn, I think, much more easily than coming up with good ideas, which they have already.

Also, THERES NO FUCKING LEVEL PROVIDED FOR THIS ADVENTURE! We the consumers, are generally buying an adventure based on level. It needs to go in the DriveThru description, and maybe put it in your level AND in the adventure title page also, for future reference.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is the first six pages. So you don’t get to see anything of the actual encounters, but you do get to see the regional map and some of the “page overrun” formatting issues. Show some encounters in your preview. That’s what the preview is for: to give us an idea if your “real” writing style is worth the $5 to us. And the “background” information is generally seldom representative of encounter style.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/294713/Ice-Kingdoms-War-of-Wolves?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Forgotten Grottoes of the Sea Lords

Mon, 11/25/2019 - 12:11
By Keith Sloan Expeditious Retreat Press OSRIC Levels 6-8

More than a century ago, the evil Sea Lords ruled this region. They were cruel men, devil-worshippers who practiced vile rites and were the terror of folk across the seas. But, like most tyrants, they were at last thrown down, their strong places sacked and destroyed. Now, they are little more than a name of fear and loathing. Little of them remains, but sometimes an isolated hold or other location is discovered, most filled with plunder from decades of their reign of terror. Your party has acquired a treasure map purporting to show the location of one of the Sea Lords old holds. While most were sacked and plundered long ago, this one seems to have been missed. With luck, perhaps some of their vast treasure remains for the taking!

This nineteen page adventure contains a two level dungeon with about 120 rooms, at a density of about eleven to a page. It is, essentially, a minimally keyed affair with brief expansion of details in areas. “Book Standard”, where that is defined as the usual monsters and +1 shields, expanded with a few new ones in each category. These sorts of adventures always make me dream of what might have been.

This adventure forces a key question in a way that few others do: where is the minimalist line located? Let’s say I create an interesting interactive environment, but use language that only a first grader could understand … is that a good adventure? (And I don’t mean that as an insult, but rather to illustrate clearly what I’m going for here.) Plain language, tersly delivered. 

We can see in this some of my key design points. Terse generally means it’s easier for the DM to run. Great! Interactive means there are things for the party to play with. Great! Appealing to the lowest common denominator in language use? Well, there goes the Evocative pillar out the window. 

But this isn’t just a list of random die roll monsters thrown on to a map. There’s design here, hence the interactivity. Pits that lead to elsewhere, dangerous traps. Factions in the dungeon. A great map with multiple levels and areas. It works and fits together well.

Keith must be the perfect writer for XRP; their styles seem to marry well. The minimalism in the writing tends to be a “feature” of many (most?) XRP adventures. I clearly don’t get what Keith and Joe are trying to do. Or maybe I do and I just strongly disagree with it. Strongly. 

I would, an do, assert that the purpose of the adventure is aid the DM in running it. A key portion of that is jamming an idea in to a DM’s head. Stabbing in an idea. Making the DM grok it at a fundamental level. The DM can then riff on it, expand it, and fill in the edges of it. They then bring it alive to the party as the idea runs wild in their mind. That requires decent writing. “This tomb contains eight rough- carved stone biers, upon each of which rests a sea wight.” That does not bring the room alive for me. It’s not bad, and it’s certainly not being TOO verbose, which is the more common problem. But it doesn’t make me excited about running this room. It feels like a slog to do this, room after room, for a hundred rooms. I want something just a little more colorful. Just a handful, five or six, extra words to bring the place alive. This seems like it is fact based. “There are X things here on Y objects.” I think I want something almost like impressions. Fuzzy descriptions. Some balance where the important parts are preserved (eight sea wights) but there’s some impression delivered that fills my mind with mystery and wonder and it races to fill it in and imagine it. This ain’t that. At all.

There are other touches, though, that are great. You can pick up “hangers on” spirits that follow you around and, of course, too many is a bad thing. The map is great, with multiple entrances and areas and loops. The faction concept is always good, although it could be better implemented here with goals, reactions, and orders of battle. There are a few things, outside of the factions to talk to, and while “betrayal” is too common, at least some will just run away with the loot instead of killing you. 

There are some general atmosphere notes up front: “The air throughout is cold, damp, and smells strongly of the sea in the worst sense, with a heavy smell of briny rot throughout.” This would have been great added to a map, to always keep it fresh in the DMs mind to add to rooms and hallways. And a wandering chart noting that a monster appears from a nearby room is good also … but that requires to DM to them go hunting for a nearby room. 

Indicative of the language issues are two common things: a large wooden chest and the Room Titles. “The liches Lair”, while factually correct, conveys little of the atmosphere that I think a good description should contain. And using the words large, small, red, black, and so on should, generally, be minimized. There are better words to use than “large wooden chest” that would have conveyed a more evocative environment.

This is $14 at DriveThru. For $14? No. But, let’s say it was ALWAYS on sale for $7? Well, no, not unless you’ve got a hard on for this minimalism. AndI know some of you do. The preview is four pages. The last two show you the first level map (great map!) and the first eleven rooms. Good preview. It’s indicative of the writing you’ll find within.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/274219/Advanced-Adventures-41-The-Forgotten-Grottoes-of-the-Sea-Lords?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(D&D 5e) Temple of Old Faith

Sat, 11/23/2019 - 12:11
By Matija Pilepic Eight Pointed 5e Level 3

Blood on the traitors’ hands never dried. Instead, it flowed from Cup until it bathed the temple and valley in a flood of profane holy blood, thick and dark and hateful. Life withered and rocks crumbled under the weight of sin. And when the last of the murderers’ grandchildren died, Cup of Hands stopped bleeding.

This fourteen page adventure features twenty rooms in five pages. It’s a delightful surprise of evocative text, interesting situations, and usability. It can also be maddening at times. This designer, their first effort, is about 80% of the way to Rock Star.

There’s some backstory here and, in fact, I’ve replaced the normal publishers blurb with a paragraph from the backstory, which I find much more interesting. A gods avatar, murdered, three holy relics stolen, one, the Cup of Hands, flowing with blood, as the blurb states. Pretty fucking badass. The entire backstory, in one column that’s a super fast read, is written in this almost mythic style. It sets the place up well, creating a vibe immediately in the DM that gets them oriented. They then view the rest of the adventure through that lens, that feeling that the designer has imbued in to them, and everyone benefits as a result.

Creatures are unique. There are only two stat block present in the adventure, for Blood Bests and Voiceless. Voiceless, with a name that harkens back to the Madlands, are some kind of zombie undead and/or puppet undead. Blood Beasts are composite creatures, hybrids each different. This is represented by two d12 tables that modify the base stat block and give some physical attributes. A centipede with long rubbery arms, for example, giving +AC and Venom from the centipede, -AC and +Range from the arms. A new stat block format is used, with the intent of being clear. And it IS clear and concise, easy to read. The designer saw something they didn’t like, traditional stat blocks, and did something about it. This is a thinking person. I might quibble some with the random hybrid table. It’s inclusion is good but I might have included a one page summary sheet of fifteen or so beasts, rolled on the table, with their stats already adjusted. I like the option of random, for further expanded play, but I also want something I can use NOW. 

There are a couple of other appeals to randomness in the adventure. Rooms have a 33% chance for a random “evocative element” to be present, like howling wind, etc. Again, I might have just done this up front; the random element adds nothing. There’s also some random “number of creatures appearing” in various rooms. So instead of 3 Blood Beasts it’s d4 Blood Beasts. Again, functionally no difference and the random element adds little. 

But, a major feature of this adventure is both the evocative writing and the formatting used. I’ll reproduce the first room here, in toto:

1. TWISTING ENTRANCE

• Fat and grotesque vines and branches

• Wet soft ground soaking through boots

• Heavy damp smell sticking to the skin

Pretty sweet. Wet soft ground, soaking through boots? Fuck Yeah! Fat grotesque vines? Fuck Yeah! The bullet format makes it easy to pick out these individual elements. The strong language imparts the vibe of locale. This isn’t the only way to get an evocative and easily scannable encounter description; there are many paths to that goal. But this one works for this adventure, generally. When you come in the locale for the first time you can hear Blood Beasts feeding on bodies in a courtyard beyond. Fuck Yeah! HEAR! Setting up anticipation and putting people on edge! Excellent use of both language and design principles to create an impact.

Well. Usually.

The bullet format fails at times because of small things. One room is separated from another by thick vines … but that’s noted in the later room and not the former .. better to note these impediments on BOTH rooms, if you expect people to go both directions, or in the “leaving” room is two rooms are directly connected. There’s also a bullet or two that should be higher up in the list. A black pit in the ground, we’re told, and then later that there’s a Voiceless kneeling in front of it. The pit may be the more detailed feature, but the Voiceless is more noticable and likely what the party will see first. First Things First in encounter description is almost always a good idea. Likewise, monsters could be called out more in the bullets, they sometimes seem to fade in. Mostly, thought, there are points at which things don’t get fully explained. One note tells us that a trap is rearmed, and we’re left to infer from “eyes turned to jewels by electricity”, in a body description, that the trap is electrical. Just another edit pass, perhaps by a third party, would have done the trick, IMO.

The map is another issue entirely. It’s an evocative map, meaning arty. It’s not that’s its bad, or I have no soul, but it’s not as effective as a more traditional map. I’m not saying that a more traditional map should have been used; the more artistic map helps convey the vibe of the adventure and I’m all for overloading and layering a vibe. But there are elements that are not clear. In particular, the connections BETWEEN the various maps. There’s a tunnel in once location, and maybe some stairs in another … but they don’t come across well AT ALL. Further, it’s sometimes hard to tell is things on the map are “artistic” or real features. Again, more clarity is needed, without, hopefully, resorting to a full on traditional map. (Which I like, but clearly the designer is going for something else in this case.)

English is a Second Language here. I didn’t have a problem with the adventure, it’s language use is pretty good. But it can be jarring to some to see preposition drops or some of the weird english plurals mishandled. Again, maybe an editor would help. And, once again, I don’t think it matters enough to be an issue, at all. 

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $4. It’s worth that. The preview is six pages and gives you a good idea of what you’re buying. Nice overview sections with flavour included, as well as room encounters. This is well worth checking out, especially for good, but non-traditional, 5e.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/293815/Temple-of-Old-Faith?1892600

Also, some jackass gave this 3 stars at DriveThru. Pfffft!

Also, man, I gotta finally learn how to use wordpress, this <p> shit is killing me!

Here’s another sample entry. I feel like the vibe, a pool of coagulated dead people?, isn’t really communicated well. The individual elements are strong, but someone the “main” vibe doesn’t come across. 

2. POOL OF DEAD COAGULATION

• Outer wall ruined and submerged

• Smell is overpowering

• CON DC12 or vomit for d6 rounds

• Severed arm floating, holds a scrollcase with a random magic spell

• d4 blood beasts lurking below surface

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Shipwreck at Har’s Point

Wed, 11/20/2019 - 12:14
By R. Nelson Bailey Dungeoneers Guild Games OSR Levels 1-3

Nothing much usually happens in the sleepy fishing hamlet of Har’s Point. Recently, however, a ship has crashed on the rocks outside of town. Now rumors concerning treasure it supposedly carried are running rife amongst the fisherfolk. Some of these rumors hint that dead sailors from the ship are now walking the nearby beaches at night. Even more concerning, a mysterious stranger has been spotted around town. A few inquisitive adventurers might be able to discover what exactly is going on in Har’s Point.

This sixteen page adventure details a couple of locations in and near a seaside village and a few events related to a … sahuagin attack. It’s more a “sixteen page overly wordy outline” then it is an adventure. And it’s pretty brutal as well for the level range given. What was U3? Something like 3-5?

Well, the little sahuagin bastards have, once again, lost a religious artifact and need to find it so they go a raiding. You’d think their gods would punish them more, given how much they seem fuck things up.   But no, they keep hanging around, showing up in every sea adventure EVAR.

There’s a shipwreck which, ostensibly, occupies the party. While messing about with it and staying in the village to do that, some people go missing That you probably never hear about. And then eventually a weird woman shows up. And then eventually the sahuagin show up and try to kill everyone. I know, right? So, the party is in town. They want to go out to the shipwreck, that has lots of rumors of gold on it, and of dead sailors wandering the beach at night. To get there they have to take a little boat. Which costs 400gp to buy, ten times the going rate. Or, I guess they can steal one. But then, for the last two hundred yards to the shipwreck (its on a reef) there’s a 50% chance each turn it capsizes, likely killing everyone because you take 2hp of damage each turn you’re in the water. AND there’s a 5 HD giant eel that prowls the place and attacks anyone in the water. Don’t worry, if you’re a seaman background then it’s only a 30% chance per turn of capsizing! What the fuck man! 200 yards of this? Once there you find no gold, but trade goods. “Ah ha!” sez me “Even better! Goods from foreign lands!” Alas, there are no details given. Just “trade good” with no value. 

The sahuagin are searching the shore/land around the wreck, looking for their lost artifact. They search three hundred yards a night. The text explicitly says they search an area that is six miles from the south of the little village to four miles to the north of the little village. Ten miles. At three hundred yards a night. That’s like, what, two months? But wait! They end up attacking the village on like the third night. So … I don’t know what the fuck is going on. 

The idea of events is a good one, for a general outline of an adventure like this, but it seems ass screwy in this. The events take place over three or four days … and yet the party is likely to hit the shipwreck quickly and probably move on. It’s like it wasn’t thought through, with the capsizing thing. I like the sort of a “locale and general outline with events”, almost like a little sandbox, but …

The first event is the disappearance of two beachcombers, at night. Who are killed and eaten in an isolated location. Which means no one knows they are dead. WHich means the event doesn’t really impact the party. It’s the same as listing “Bob & Martha thought about having sex but decided not to.” How the fuck does this impact the adventure? Leaving a bloody mess, near the boats, or on the way to them, or somewhere else … THAT would serve as some sort of inciting event to get the parties ass in gear. As written, though, it’s a non-event. “But Bryce”, the whiners say “you can change it.” You’re damn right I can. And I would, too. You know what else? I’d also write my own adventure instead of using some poor quality thing like this. It’s the designers job to do this shit, to inspire the DM, to give them the ability to run a good game … if not then what the hell are we paying for? SOme stats out of the DMG?

The church is the center of social activity in the town, we’re told. That’s it. That doesn’t play in to the events. That doesn’t play in to the townfolk. It adds no local color. No local color is provided. It’s a good fucking idea, but you have to then anchor that with specifics. When the party come in they are having a wedding, or a town meeting, or something else, going on all the time. WHile the baddies attack there’s a sewing bee at the church. WOrk it the fuck in for vecna’s sake!

There is, essentially, no treasure to speak of. Instead we are provided with milestone/goal XP. Which means that the party has to read the DM’s mind to figure out what they are supposed to do. “Ha! You didn’t figure out that the crown was what the baddies were looking for! No 200xp for you!” or “No, the chick dies, you don’t get your 200xp for that.” There’s multiple problems here. First, the fucking system is gold=xp, so that’s how the party is going to play unless the DM is up front with them that there is no gold here. Second, the party can’t succeed unless they know what they are supposed to do. Are we do read the goals out to the up front? I’ don’t have a problem with that, if we’re goal based, but it also kind of kills the game flow, IMO, given the SPECIFIC milestones mentioned. Compare to more modern systems, like 5e, where the milestone system is used and it’s more “complete chapter 1.” Finally, it implies there’s a right way and a wrong way to play the adventure. I hope you’re goody good who help fishermen for no reason, because anything else and you’re not getting XP from this adventure. It’s bullshit. It’s like saying “Ha! You were supposed to roll low on all of those to hit rolls instead of high! Suckers!”

And since I’m on a tear, let’s talk about rumors. The rumor table is laid out traditionally, with fifteen or so numbered rumors. But not all rumors are known by everyone. Only the fishermen know some of them, for example. But, you have to sig through every rumor to find who knows what, it’s not organized at all. Organizing it by “Everyone” “FIshermen” and so on would have made much more send.

In the end this is just another poorly organized adventure with too many words laid out in a long text paragraph format with little to no though made to usability. IE: the usual.

This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages. The only worthwhile page is the last one, showing you part of the village description. It would have been better to show the actual encounter areas so people would know what they are getting for their sixteen page $6 adventure.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/289789/Shipwreck-at-Hars-Point-DUNGEON-DELVE-SIDE-QUEST-1?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Geir Loe Cyn-Crul

Mon, 11/18/2019 - 12:15
By Anthony Huso Self-published OSRIC Level 9

The entrance to Geir Loe Cyn-crul is a towering doorway hidden in the crook of a precipitous ridge. As a manifestation of greed supplanting ancient veneration, the doors have been torn off and cast aside.

This 78 page adventure describes a one level dungeon with 103 rooms in about thirty pages. The fundamental ideas of this are (mostly) quite good but it fall down somewhat in execution being, as the designer notes, a hack & slash job. As a strategic puzzle it’s interesting in that regard. As a more traditional adventure, only the vibe delivers on promises.

This is a different thing. It reminds me, somewhat, of a few of those Frontier Settlement adventures where the party is faced with hundreds of humanoid foes. It’s got a strategic bend to it that it going to fit better as a high level adventure. Every ten rounds, inside, you have an encounter, with about a third just being cave crickets. One area has 12,000 piercers in it. Another has a couple of hundred trolls. The rooms, chambers and halls are cyclopean in size. It gives the feeling of some of those scenes in Moria and could, potentially, support a small army deployed inside of it. Like, maybe, a small PC army in support of their mission …

It’s one level, with those cyclopean halls and chambers, and a couple of “Warrens” attached to the core chambers. You really get the sense of size from the map. There’s also a great ruined thing going on … but also it’s lived in. Imagine this DID house the Throne of the Gods, and over the years it got ruined and support of the location has stopped … but it’s still guarded by some who are doing their duty. That’s what you get here. Cyclopean halls, ruined, but with the loyal guard still repesent … as well as a fuck ton of vermin and interlopers near the edges. Huso delivers on the vibe. The map works well with the text and the concept to deliver on a feeling of sad majesty and the glory of days long past. 

And it is a mother fucking hack. Almost every encounter is just pure combat. The 200 trolls, multiple giant guards with dragons, drow with “hydras”, chamber after chamber stuffed with monsters that amount to one or two sentences and then a long stat block and a longer treasure block. Again, seen as a strategic challenge it’s interesting, but as an “adventure’ it feels much less so. 

The map is both glorious and frustrating. It’s provided in page-sections at the back of the book, so, like twelve pages to deliver the entire map. High res and a full map are available on the designers blog, though you have to dig a bit (or google straight to it.) It delivers on the promise of the ruined Throne of the Gods, and has height in places as well as multiple routes in/through areas. Solid. Frustrating as you try to piece it together holistically, especially as certain lair maps spill out in to other map pages. An overview would have helped. Creatures are located on the map, squads of smaller humanoids or individuals for the larger ones. This is relatively good: you can figure out if someone can see/hear/react to the parties incursion/noise/light etc. I did find it VERY hard to read though. The floor is grey colored on the map and sometimes that blended with the, rather smallish, monster letters that made it hard on my eyes and non-trivial to locate the nearest monsters. Size/dimensions are also approximate, with the scale given on the map compass and no traditional square grid overlay on the map. Too small and/or busy, I’d guess. It’s a bit disconcerting. It both feels like it supports the cyclopean vibe but also that it has abstracted the map in a pointcrawl type of thing. It IS a traditional map, just without the grid. But it feels pointcrawlish, perhaps because of both the scale of the halls and the lack of a grid. DIsconcerting, and the monster letters don’t work well in execution even though it IS the correct methodology to take. 

Uh … I think everything in this is hostile? There may be one wanderer that is not immediately hostile if the party is strong. Otherwise every wanderer is of the “it attacks” type. Likewise IU think that just about every creature encountered is hostile. In a traditional adventure that would be a minus, but this almost feels like a, idk, Battlesystem thing? Approached as such, as a strategic campaign of war, it makes more sense. In that same sense, the exploration element mainly revolves around the next time the party gets ambushed. There is a puzzle of two and those are pretty well done. And with divination magic the party should get by pretty well. It is, after all, an adventure for levels 9-12. Order of Battle is noted in a few places when it is not obvious from the map which creatures will react. 

There are a couple of puzzling choices. One has stars that drop off in to a VERY deep chasm. This being high level D&D, though, the party can easily get to the bottom. A line or two about that would have been nice. Likewise I think that a page or two about “strategic campaign play’ could have been in order, giving the DM advice on how to handle various aspects of assaulting/supporting this place with an army, literally or figuratively, of followers. A missed opportunity.

Huso’s got a striking aesthetic in his products. It works well. The vibe in this is excellent and the art and map helps with that. The writing supports that and while generally on the terser side of things it does get conversational at times. That supports the vibe, but the challenge it support the vibe with the words AND make it obvious. The language seems a little too forced a few too many times. Much of it comes across as window dressing, but, that supports the vibe. 

Run as a strategic puzzle this would be interesting, but you’re going to have to support that play style yourself. Run as a typical exploration adventure it is quite lopsided to combat and falls down on the puzzles/roleplaying/interactivity. It DOES support a high level play style though, only gimping the party in maybe two ways: fliers get the attention of doombats and piercers while fucking up with the Throne of the Gods kills you and no Wish will save you. I can live with those.

I’m disappointed. I recognize the vision, and it being partially implemented. Going more in one direction (strategic) or another (exploration) would have helped with this. As would some tweaking to the actual writing to maintain the vibe while increasing clarity.

This is $10 at Lulu. There’s a preview available but it requires Flash, and I ain’t got flash at Lulu.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/anthony-huso/geir-loe-cyn-crul-digital/ebook/product-24229481.html

(Also, FUCK! I was gonna put the Throne of the Gods in MY megadungeon!)

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(Pathfinder) Dark Days in Stoneholme

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 12:14
By Jonathan McAnulty AAW Games Pathfinder Level 3

Waves of supernatural darkness sweep over the subterranean city of Stoneholme, quenching lights and bringing with it foul creatures of shadow. After heroically defending a group of dwarven children from being ravaged by a group of these shadow beings, the PCs are approached by Shtawn Deppenkhut—one of the king’s own advisers—and are offered the task of finding the source of the darkness that threatens the city. The PCs investigation takes them through the Underworld to hidden caverns, where demon worshipping priests offer living sacrifices in an attempt to plunge Stoneholme into everlasting darkness, a first step in destroying the hated city once and for all, but as it turns out the priests aren’t the only ones behind this unfolding plan to destroy Stoneholme.

*Withering Sigh*

This thirty page adventure details an eleven room dungeon in the underdark, and a couple of linear city and “journey there” combats. It shows no understanding of formatting or organization, other than the stat block. Wanna fight? That’s all you’ll be doing here.

Evil McEvil-man hires the party to look in to some evil. He’s got an evil plan and, for some reason, hires the party to meddle, no doubt to further his evil plan. This is like, what, the six billionith time an adventure has done this? Whatever. It’s all crap anyway. SO you save some dwarf kids from baddies in the streets, get hired to look in to a warehouse, and from there get hired to go through the underdark to kill some goblins in their lair. Then you find evidence that … some fellow dwarves were behind it all! Oh the humanity! Errr, dwarfmanity.

The typical massive amount of stat block place is present. Also present are HUGE amounts of poorly formatted DM text. Just long paragraph blocks full of words running on and in to each other. The paragraphs are all left justified as well, so you can’t really tell where one ends and another begins. Excellent for for making your content as incomprehensible as possible. Seriously, this thing has NO idea how to format a paragraph or convey information. To quote Gauntlet “I have not seem such bravery!” or something … 

Information is repeated time and again for no reason. Dwarf construction is weak-ass stuff, wil recent constructions breakings. Huh. I thought the trope was the opposite? Shadow rats, which could be cool, get no description at all and instead are just black looking rats. There was some real opportunity to generate horror and mystery with them, but no. Not to be. At multiple times in the adventure there are DC check gates. AT the end, find a DC14 letter to reveal the dwarven conspiracy, the rest of the adventure/dungeon essentially just being a pretext for this skill check. I wonder what would happen if the party failed it and the DM didn’t fudge it? That would be fun.

This is just crap on top of crap. Linear design. Fight a monster because it’s in your way and you’re on the way to that final skill check. Combat after combat. Tactical information but no real exploration or interactivity. Boring ass writing that’s not evocative at all. Absolutely NO attempt to make the text usable by the DM at the table, instead just vomiting words with no thought or care to their presentation.

This is $7 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages, but you don’t get to see anything of the adventure, just the preamble. As shitty a preview as one could possible provide while still providing a preview. These things just scream “Look! I paid for a pretty background text and art!” while giving you absolutely no idea how useful the actual adventure is. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/145615/U01-Dark-Days-in-Stoneholme?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Necropolis of Nuromen

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 12:28
By Justin Becker, Michael Thomas Dreamscape Design Blueholme Level 1

… introduce a group of 1st level characters to the thrills of Underworld exploration as they attempt to unravel they secrets of the evil necromancer’s lair and deal with some bandits, too.

Yes, this line is for you.

This 22 page adventure features a two level dungeon with about thirty rooms. Classic encounters harken back to a time when D&D was fresh. Inconsistencies, and twice as many words as needed, require highlighting and notes to use it as intended. 

Sweet cover. And that cover is indicative of the mood created by the adventure. There’s a malaise, or ennui, presented in parts of the adventure. A feeling of weariness. Not in the designers, but an intentional effect in the setting they have created. The cover, the Harry Clarke illustrations (does ANYONE do elves better?) the elves wearying leaving the world, the downfall and doom of the mage Nuroman; the elements combine with the writing style to produce this effect. A magical world of folklore, a weariness in it. It’s done well.

The elements present in the encounters are classical ones. Bottomless pits, rushing underground rivers, skeletal arms wielding swords, or skeletons dicing at a table. There are statues to fuck with and riddles to learn secrets to elsewhere in the dungeon. A sparseness of creatures is balanced though by the wanderer table, and I suspect we could all learn a lesson from this. Is all monsters were lair creatures, and sparsely populated, then the wanderers push the party forward, limiting their careful explorations. Ten creature encounters, about half of which are avoidable and/or triggered by a careless party. There’s a good mix of interactivity and creature encounters, with roleplaying possibilities present in a few and others, as noted, avoidable. 

There’s a decent amount of treasure, probably the correct amount for a Gold=XP game, as well as other rewards like stat bonuses and being labeled “Elf friend” by the elves. It’s always good when the party receives accolades when they choose to be good. Magic items are all generic book items and that’s a major disappointment. Not OD&D, but book monsters and book magic treasure means Holmes. Which is what Blueholme is, but it could have been better.

The adventure is plagued by two major issues: excessive trivia and inconsistent details. The later first.

Early in the adventure there are sections describing the forest, the town, the people, the road, and so on. Buried in that is a small section describing a rocky hilltop, ruins, and a black hole in the earth. Then it quickly switches to another rando forest section, leaving those two paragraphs behind. Later on when the dungeon environs proper is reached we get a second, much weaker, description of the area. It has none of the mystery and melancholy of the first section. It doesn’t feel like a writing or editing mistake, but rather a layout issue, lie someone took one of the most effective “dungeon entrance” description and just pasted it in at random earlier. All of that melancholy is lost in the actual dungeon entrance section, which is much more genero ruins oriented. To continue with the entrance, the hole is described as 100 feet deep with last fifty feet choked with rubble. But then, the actual “room one” at the bottom has none of this. It’s not the bottom of a rubble filled pit. It’s a room with a river running through it and you can see the remains of the bridge collapsed in it. And the map shows a room that is, essentially, devoid of rubble. The adventure does this repeatedly, the map and text disconnected and different parts of the text disconnected from each other. Perhaps the two designers did not marry their individual efforts well? Double Doors, mentioned in the text, are single doors on the map. Doors that can’t be closed are represented as standard door symbols. The different elements just don’t make sense together. This, then, is basic consistency checking that an editor can provide. I can be hard on editors, but MOST adventures, even bad ones, can pass some basic consistency checks. 

The encounter writing, proper, is full of trivia. I suspect the adventure could be trimmed of at least half its words and the end result would be better for it. I am, frequently, met with a common response to his criticism: “More is better, right?” and it’s cousin “The DM might need it.” No. These are not true. Excessive detail gets in the way of the DM actually running the adventure during the game. It requires a highlighter, notes and a ton of prep work beforehand. If the trivia were NOT present then the DM can focus on the elements of the adventure that actual impact the play of the game. Scanability it much easier. Everyone is happier. 

The devil, of course, is in the definition of “Trivia.” What is trivia vs what is needed to run the room, or add flavour to it. Because, of course, we want all of the flavour with none of the trivia. Room 3 is titled “The Old Armoury.” Given that this is a ruin, and that has been properly established, and that it happened in an instant, what would you, gentle reader, then make up about the room, in play, if that’s all you had to go on? The first line of the “The old Armory” is “Here Nuroman’s guards stored their shields, armor and weapons.” The adventure does this over and over again. It will introduce a room and then tell us that the Kitchen is where food was prepared. We know that. It’s a platonic quality of ‘Kitchen.’ This is a classic example of superfluous text that gets in the way. (In fact, I think the classic online example wherein I was introduced to the concept did indeed involve a Kitchen. On rpgsite?) A centipede “that has crawled in through some unknown fissure.” Again, detail unneeded. This is an attempt to explain WHY, and those attempts are (almost)always unneeded. It’s a giant centipede in a dungeon. Vermin need little explanation, except perhaps in extreme circumstances and even then perhaps only if it provides some springboard for the adventure. Coins litter the ground “where they fell from their owners frayed purses.” Worldbuild, history, justifications for what IS. “The magical bones must be defeated before the treasure can be had.” Yes, and while technically correct we do not have a line in each room that says “the door must be opened before someone can walk through it.” Padding, conversational padding. I’m not heartless, throw in some goodies every once in awhile, an aside, or something. But too much and you clog up the text, as is done here.

We do get abstractions though. A scabbard is ‘macabre.’ That’s a conclusion. A good description would make the DM and/or players think “man, that’s macabre!” The challenge is to NOT resort to a conclusion and to communicate ‘macabre’ in a terse manner. This is GOOD detail, the kind that impacts play. The adventure needs more of it. At one point there’s a key hanging on the wall. Only it’s not recognizable as a key, just as the lock it fits is is not recognizable as a lock. That’s it. Nothing more. What does the thing look like? What does the lock look like? Nothing. That’s exactly the sort of thing you SHOULD be spending your word budget on, the things that directly impact the adventure and it’s actual play.

What this all leads to is a foul smelling room, that is then described in two paragraphs as an elegant dining room. Halfway through the third paragraph we’re told it’s befouled with harpy excrement. Well shit, that’s the sort of detail that goes in the first paragraph. Things immediately noticeable should (generally) go higher up in the description where the DMs attention will immediately be focused and thus be able to communicate it to the players. While they interact and ask questions the DM is scanning the next section of text. You can’t make a DM read four paragraphs of text, during the game at the table, before they describe a room. It takes too long and it’s too much to hold in your head at once. 

I will make one more Monday Morning Quarterback observation. In one particular room there are skeletons at a table, engaged in a dice game. It you touch the dice they come to life and attack. BORING! They should instead invite the players to dice with them. Then, things could devolve in to a combat. A bit of the ultra-violence is always an option in an RPG, but it’s almost always advisable to have something else BEFORE that, or that leads to that. Plan B, stabbing the fuck out of something/someone, is always an option. It’s the fact that a Plan A also could exist that gives RPG’s some of their charm.

I’m not gonna Regert this, but it’s close. If only the writing could be gotten under control in more places.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $3. There’s no preview, but it is Pay What You Want, so essentially you could just buy it for $0 to get a preview. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/110292/BLUEHOLMETM-The-Necropolis-of-Nuromen?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Mystery at Morfurt

Mon, 11/11/2019 - 12:15
By Todd Pote Arcana Creations S&W Levels 1-3

Hey, I was told I’m not supposed to be ashamed and embarrassed to note I have a Patreon. It still feels wrong. If you join, then you get to read my daily musings about my continual guilt over the subject, self-doubt, and procrastination. That sounds like fun, right? https://www.patreon.com/join/tenfootpole?

Several children have gone missing from the village of Morfurt and they seem to have disappeared without a trace. The villagers fear that evil has returned to the ruins of an old abandoned tower. Answering the plea for help, the Earl of the region dispatches a party of adventurers to investigate.

This 28 page adventure features a twenty room dungeon in an old tower. It has three themes: abandoned, hideout, and old secret area. That’s a good mix, but the massive read-aloud, history trivia, heavy mechanics, and low treasure make this quite skippable.

You spend some time poking around a village, and then eventually wander up to an old tower ruin. Inside you hopefully find a little hidden path and make it past the “ruined” appearance to the part of the tower used by a gang of slavers. Eventually you’re confronted with a dark hole in the floor and/or bars over an underground creek, both leading to a secret area that has several obstacles and the only real treasure.

Read aloud is MASSIVE. Half a page in some cases. That’s poor design. It’s overly descriptive, trying to describe too many things in too much detail for an “initial” burst of data about a room. “There’s a 12 inch by 6 inch by 18 inch chest in the room.” No, the room is decked out bedroom, or there’s a small trunk under the table. Done! Individually, a detail may be ok but then you layer detail on top of detail on top of detail, in the read-aloud, it very quickly violates the Keep It Short principal. Further, it detracts from the back and forth between the players and the DM that is a key to a successful D&D experience. (Hmm, does this go for ALL rpg’s? Or just “exploratory” ones?)

Similarly, the DM text gets VERY long as well. Trivia and mechanics, for the most part. The ogre like saffron on his desert. The innkeepers other daughter lives in the nearby village of Kraughton. The bars were built ages ago by the priests that used to live here. These add nothing to the adventure at all, but they do detract from the ability to run, making it harder for the DM to find the text they actually NEED while searching past this trivia. Yes, many things COULD be useful, but unless you can make a strong case of it being useful at the table then Fuck. Your. Worldbuilding. I’ve got a game to run. Now. And it’s in the way. 

Have you ever wondered how much you can get for pumice stone? Well let me tell you, at least 200gp is you mine the vein in this adventure! At one point there are bars and we’re told each can take 15 points of damage before they break. Of course, this isn’t in a combat situation so the mechanics are entirely superfluous. Inclusion of unneeded mechanics, again, clogs things up. Further, let’s say it DOES matter to the adventure … do you still need it? Is it enough to note the bars exist? I suspect the answer is No, you don’t generally need it. Unless it’s key point in the adventure where the party is trapped and time is short and the situation tense; a constructed vignet. Otherwise we run in to that garbage from other official adventures where each door and object in an adventure had a break DC and hit points. And man, is that ever fucking tedious …

And then there’s other decisions made that are mind boggling. There’s a couple of timeline events embedded in descriptions in the village. In one home/business we’re told that in two days time her child will be the next to disappear. Why not remove this to a separate timeline area instead of embedding it in a room description where you have to hunt it down? I’m not looking at the Weavers Hut while I run the adventure, I should be looking at a timeline or reference table. And in other areas there’s a maddening lack of detail. One room is full of a pile of bodies/bones, and yet no mention is made of it at all in the text. Every fucking party that goes in is going to look at it … but no aid to the DM is given. Then there are the confusing text descriptions. The text tries so hard to make things clear, in detail, that the minutia gets in the way of actually understanding what’s going on. At one point there’s a dry, slick streambed, in a channel I think, but you’d never know that from the text description. And after reading it three times, I’m still not sure of the layout. The amount of treasure is quite low. Maybe 2k and almost all in the final hidden area. This could be confused for a Milestone system adventure instead of one for Gold=XP systems.

There multiple areas, abandoned, hideout, hidden, are nice, especially the inclusion of a hidden area with a treasure for those that push past the boundaries of the hideout world. There’s a detail or two that is nice also, especially in the “abandoned” section, with skeletal arms sticking out from under rubble and so far. Putting monster stat blocks in a sidebar is a good idea, but you have to deliver on the RA and DM text also to make it a usable adventure.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages and shows you nothing except some long boring droning background data. A good preview needs to give you an idea of what you’re buying, which generally means at least a few encounter descriptions. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/288397/Mystery-at-Morfurt?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Sinner’s Manor

Sat, 11/09/2019 - 12:05
By James Eck Mind Weave 5e Level 1

*sigh*

This nineteen page adventure details a four level manor with about twenty five rooms in about five pages. It’s just combat encounters in a non-keyed long paragraph descriptive format. Combined, of course, with counter-productive skill checks. A few interesting details show some potential, but this is just Yet Another Garbage Product.

And I’m the asshole. I’m the jerk faced jerk because I protest the torrent of shit and vomit that erupts like a firehose in to my face. How bad is this adventure? It’s got three stars on DriveThru, THAT’S how bad. 

So, old manor house in a town. Abandoned for multiple centuries. Rumored to be haunted. Over the years people have gone in to never come out. Still standing intact. Some dude in the town is obsessed with it and wants you to investigate it out so he can move in. Inside are the seven deadly sins. You go from room to room, finding one and then fighting it. That’s the entirety of the adventure. A straight up hack right out of the worst that 4e ever produced. Maybe worse; those had terrain.

I’m pretty sure that 5e still pays lip service to the three pillars concepts. Combat, roleplaying, and exploration. This is just combat. Nothing more. Any joy or wonder that D&D has is entirely non existent in this adventure. There’s nothing to explore, nothing to interact with. It’s just rooms with combat.

Oh, I’m sure it THINKS its exploration. But there’s nothing truly to discover or interact with except the monsters. 

And the format, oh my. The section headings in the text are by floor, and then by room. So, First Floor and then a subheading Kitchen. Of course, the map is numbered and doesn’t have the room names. This means the room numbers are put in to the text of the paragraph and you have to look there. Further, those subheadings? There’s not one per room. The Serving Room, not described, is mentioned in the Kitchen subheading but not elsewhere. This is not an isolated event, most rooms don’t have any description at all and are just mentioned in passing.

Why are they mentioned in passing? Why, to pad out the text by describing the doors on the map. The north door is open and leads to the Kitchen, for example. You know, THE THINGS A FUCKING MAP TELLS YOU. 

A house, with windows, yes? That you can look in? The text makes a point of telling us repeatedly that kids throw rocks at the glass. Well, no windows on the map, or even a hint of them in the descriptions. There’s absolutely no thought at all that has gone in to thie as a real environment. Mostly.

There IS a decent idea or two. A fireplace has ashed out on to the floor and there are ashy bootprints across a rug, as if someone was pacing. Oh course, you see the someone probably before you see the bootprints, and they attack you immediately, so the impact is lost, but the idea for a creepy descriptive thing is a good one. Broken glass from windows on the stairs. Again, a pretty good detail. 

These little bits show some promise, but they are VERY few and VERY far between and do very little to redeem the lack of interactivity and terrible format.

And you don’t even get real treasure. You’re told to put in a CR2 hoard. THAT’S THE FUCKING JOB OF THE DESIGNER! That’s is LITERALLY why we’re paying you. (Or, well, turning to a pre-written adventure in the case of a $0 or PWYW adventure …)

Oh! Oh! I almost forgot! Skill checks! It’s full of useless skill checks! In fact, the skill checks run COUNTER to the adventure. In general you make a skill check in this to determine how some rando body you find died. And the details are creepy. But if you don’t make the skill check then you don’t get the creepy. Is that the point? To NOT creep out the players?  No, of course not, you want them shitting themselves with fear. But you hide that behind a skill check. 

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1.You get all nineteen pages in the preview, so it’s a good preview. Page four of the preview (page two of the text) shows you the long-form descriptive stye that is indicative of the writing in this adventure.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/292525/Sinners-Manor?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Temple of the Bear

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 12:16
John Fredericks Sharp Mountain Games Labyrinth Lord Levels 5-8

Explore the TEMPLE OF THE BEAR in hopes of rescuing a hostage. There they will confront an evil wizard and his minions who hope to bring back a forgotten, evil cult.

This thirty page adventure contains a dungeon with fifteen rooms and a couple of outside encounters in about nine pages. It’s just long-form paragraph descriptions of each encounter location. Low interactivity, poor usability, uninspiring descriptions. The usual trifecta.

The DriveThru description does not have a level range. The cover does not have a level range. What does have a level range? The back cover. Which is only available once you purchase the adventure. It’s not even clear to me why these things have back covers. Isn’t that used for marketing purposes in game stores/bookstores … and don’t these products exists only as PDF’s? So the designer is slavishly following some template without regard to the actual purpose? And it results in a blind buy without knowing the level the adventure is for? 

Villagers are missings. The party, I guess, is somehow motivated to look in to it; the pretext doesn’t really exist in this one. Except … someone missing is the mayors daughters boyfriend. She’s 18. The mayor lets the party take her with them on the adventure. WTF? Seriously? I’m NOT giving my 18YO daughter over a group of murder hobos! Didn’t he see The Last Valley? Jesu Christo! 

From there we switch to the road in to the forest … which only leads to the dungeon, so if you kep following it then you’ll arrive there. Big mystery, I guess? Anyway, you get attacked by owlbears because forced combats are evidently a thing in Old School D&D. Oh, wait, they are not? There’s a thread on a forum RIGHT NOW about character death in D&D and the impact of forced combat mindsets? Oh. Well, bad design then I guess.

Oh, wait, fuck, no, I forgot. The town? It notes how it’s a good starting location for the party/campaign. Note again the level range if 5-8. I guess you’re either starting at 5-8 or you bought this adventure for the two paragraph town or the designer has, once again, not given thought to the context the information is being presented in. 

Information in the encounters is relayed in long form paragraphs. Multiple paragraphs per room. With lots of padding. Ensuring that you need to scan everything to run the room. And that the adventure text will be padded out. To nine pages. In a thirty page adventure. “First bob will do this and then he will do this and then he will do this and then he will do this.” Yes. Perfect. Exactly the sort of writing I expect.

A certain trap takes three paragraphs to describe. It’s giant jaws that snap down, kind of like a giant half-open bear trap. Three paragraphs. 

An evocative description in this is “After encountering the monkeybears, the party will come upon the Old Shrine. This area has a stone altar, a broken pillar, and broken stone benches.”

Interactivity is confined to traps, monster fighting and a ghost you can talk to. 

Monetary treasure in this adventure consists of 77gp and a 20gp gem. That’s a joke, right? This is a Gold=XP game, right? LabLord? Yes?

This time I promise I promise I promise I’m going to remember the name Sharp Mountain. Next time I promise I promise I promise I won’t tell myself “its been awhile, maybe they are better now? I should check in …” No. No I should not.

This is $2 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages and shows you nothing of the adventure, so you have no way of understanding the encounter quality before purchasing. Which, while bad for the consumer, is great for the producer


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/292194/The-Temple-of-the-Bear?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Mud King of Stoney Creek

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 12:13
Created with GIMP By WR Beatty Rosethorn Publishing S&W Levels 5-7

Beavers have dammed up Stoney Creek… but the villagers who went to break up the dam have not returned. Perhaps something sinister is going on here?

This nineteen page adventure details a small wilderness with ten locations and a troll cave with eighteen more. I might call it a Lair Adventure & Environs, since it’s a small-ish location and is … a lair. It’s firing on all cylinders with good usability, creatures doing things, good treasure, and decent interactivity.   

Do I like Rosethorn? I recognize the name but I can’t recall previous quality. Anyway, this one is good. The monsters have arranged for a beaver dam in a remote section of a road. They they ambush travellers who are camped for the night in front of the new lake. In the village, a couple of villagers went up a month ago to clear the dam. They didn’t come back. Then two weeks ago four more went to look for the first. They didn’t come back. Then a mob went up with all the villages weapons. THEY didn’t come back. Ouch! One of the hooks has a trapper going there to bust the dam, and looking for protection, which could also slot in well as to Why The Local Lord isn’t Involved; he hired the trapper. Then again, at levels 5-7 in OD&D the party is pretty Big Shits themselves … which I choose to ignore. 

There’s a nice little wilderness area described around the dam, lake, road, and cave. It all makes sense. A dam, a stream, a stirge tree, an attacked campsite, an inviting campsite, a lookout. It feels like it all works together well and makes sense together. A lot of this can be summed up as “they are trolls, they don’t care about the piranha/stirge tree/razorwire.” Take the beavers. D&D being what it is, you could spell a conversation with them, and the designer has provided notes on what they knew. Along with other creatures you might capture, just a few bullets on what they can relate. The piranha are attracted after a few rounds. They patrol the banks for a few rounds after a feast. Too much blood and MORE piranha show up from pools deeper in to the caves. A retreating troll might shake a tree full of stirge; he doesn’t care about them. A stirge, injured, flees to not return. It all kind of makes sense. 

And then there’s some monster actions mixed in. The troll, fleeing, might shake the stirge tree. A goblin, fleeing, might jump in the water … and get attacked by the piranha. Another might be thrown in elsewhere to attract the piranha and creature a diversion. There are some charmed trolls inside … but charm works both ways; they tend to ignore the party is they don’t directly attack them or they are ordered otherwise. It’s this very neutral way of writing the adventure that leads to opportunities. 

Obstacles present themselves. The aforementioned streams/pools of piranha … I mean “NeedleFish.” In the water there is some razor sharp wire strung as obstacles to overcome. Treasure is stored in a steaming hot 180 degree mud pool, or deep in a pool of piranha or a water monster. These are open-ended, with no suggestions given, just something for the party to devise a way to overcome. And it doesn’t FEEL like it’s a gimpy set up, it feels like this is natural and how things should work.

For the most part. The razor sharp wire is pushing things a bit as is the existence of a MU with charm in service to the troll king. I’m not sure the Charm MU is really even needed; it doesn’t feel like the charms provide that much of a needed background explanation.

Treasure is good. Magic Lead. Weapons with names and (brief) histories. Items described sometimes with non-mechanical states, like chains that cannot be broken. Mundane items also get a little description, adding to their flavor. There’s a wandering monster table that has them doing something. There’s a monster reference stat chart at the end. The map is interesting, for a lair, with water features, terrain, collapsing tunnels, various levels and the like. Good job on it. There’s probably enough treasure, also, which is rare for a GOLD=XP game. You’re not gonna level, but there might be 40k or 50k, which is good for a lair. 

On the weird side of things, it sometimes engages in tables for the sake of tables, it feels like. A goblin has four possible reasons for being outside. A water monster has a table of random special abilities and weaknesses. The wanderer chart is a full page … which is great from a usability standpoint, it’s easy to find. But in all of these cases it feels like there’s more content than is needed/expected. That’s not bad, i just found it a bit strange.

The map and text, while both good, could work together a little more. In particular light is strange. Room ten mentions it is lit … and also that room six is … but room six doesn’t mention that. With a simple map, like this, you don’t necessarily need to note light/sound on the map since it’s easy to scan ahead in the text as the party leave down the hallway to the next room. Nut … it’s also nice for those details to somehow be conveyed to the DM ahead of time. It’s related to the “outside vista” issue where the party can see a lot of an environment at once, looking down on a ruined keep for example, but no overview is given, focing the DM to scan everything to tell the party what they see “in one go.” 

These are minor though. The evocativeness of the writing is the major shortcoming. And by “major shortcoming” I mean the area for most improvement that the adventure has, not that it’s a major problem. The writing is terse and the environments well described and interesting, but the writing is also a little flat. Hmmm, no, not flat. It’s not generic. But it also doesn’t really spring to life in your minds eye. And let’s be clear, I’m being kind of a jerk here. The language use is fine. But of course I want everything to be perfect. Tersely writing an evocative description that springs to life in your mind is not an easy task. Again, not that it’s bad here, but it could be better. Have I inserted enough qualifiers yet?

This is easily a Best. When you want an adventure and go to DriveThru to buy something THIS is EXACTLY the sort of thing you are hoping for. I wish every adventure ever written were at least as good as this. Yeah? Fuck it. This is my new baseline. I now hold your Rosethorn adventure up as the platonic example of a journeyman quality adventure.  Writers could do A LOT worse than emulate the format & style of this adventure. There may be other ways to achieve the same thing, but this thing is easy to relate to.

This is $2 at DriveThru.The preview is five pages and shows you outside encounters and a few inside, including most of the piranha pools, the fleeing goblin, troll, stirge tree, etc. It’s a good representation of the type and quality of writing/adventure you’ll be getting. The last page, has room I3, and shows some of the “not flat not the best” writing I spoke about. 

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/290849/The-Mud-King-of-Stoney-Creek

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) The Convent of the Weeping Moon

Sat, 11/02/2019 - 11:15
by Nick Smith Black Arts 5e Levels 4+

On a misty hill, far from the hustle and bustle of the big cities, lies the blasted ruins of a long-forgotten Convent. A village living under the shadow of the darkened moon. An Innkeeper’s daughter and her fiancé missing. The PCs are asked for help. Have the tentacles of an ancient, long-banished heresy resurfaced, to glide silently through the Convent’s moss-covered stones?

This pleasant surprise is a 44 page adventure detailing a three level ruin with about sixty rooms in about twenty pages. It does a decent job being spooky, evocative, and interactive. While it could be organized better it’s much better than most. It’s not great, but it’s better than most.

Check out that cover! Not the usual garbage soft-genero-fantasy cover here! Striking and sets the mood well. My only comment would be that the impact from the lit window is distracted by the white text of the adventure name. The window ends up being almost unnoticeable. Too much emphasis there, though, and the players will probably fixate on it. But … Did you need to put the adventure name, descriptions, edition number, mature audience warning, and publisher on the cover? Not to be too big of an ass here, but … this is a PDF only product. While you might want those things on the cover if this were to be sold in a traditional game store … is it necessary for something that will only exist as a filename? Or, even if it’s a boutique printing, like Lulu, folks have already selected the adventure, you don’t need to convince them. The DriveThru blurb text in the description does all the work that the cover text usually did. Not that I really give a shit but it points out of the possibilities that exist for a product as PDF only, or boutique print only. If you’re gonna go out of your way to have such striking imagery on your cover then why muddy your vision? Anyway, this is the height of nitpicking from me, and a terribly shitty way to start a review of a decent product. 

This adventure does a lot things right. Maybe not to the full extent it could, but it hits a number of points high enough. It’s specific in its descriptions. It provides evocative text. It has a fair amount of interactivity, and it’s usable enough at the table … with a few notable exceptions.

You arrive at an inn. The reticent villagers eventually tell the party their plight. The party trapses off to find the innkeepers lost kid & fiance … even though everyone else in the inn thinks they just ran off together. As they get close to the ruins they catch a glimpse of them in the moonlight, an eerie light in a high window, and hear a bell tolling in the distance. Coming over the last hill they see the convent fully. Not intact with the eerie window light as you first saw. No, just a ruin with most walls less than chest height. 

Reticent villagers. Most of them think the couple ran off. They don’t want to help the innkeeper search anymore. Pretty believable in context. It’s a lie, of course. The innkeeper doesn’t have a daughter and the inn regulars do this to send selected travelers to the cult in the ruins. The regular villagers are scared as all fuck. The bell the party hears is the innkeeper ringing the village bell to warn the cult people are coming. (And it’s spooky as all fuck also, in context.) Moonlight, mist, darkness, ruins, a lonesome bell. The brief glimpse of the convent, which then is ruins in full vision, is a great introduction to the Mythic Underworld concept. You Are About To Enter Someplace Else. Beware! And then, when you get back out of the convent, you get to deal with the 0-level NE villagers who tricked you there. Hapless evil fuckwits, noncombatants who put up no struggle. What cha gonna do with them orc babies? There’s not a direct advice on this, but it’s mentioned and, in context, its done well. It’s a consequence to the adventure and that always makes them feel more immersive.

In the ruins there’s the old office of the old mother superior. There’s a hidden compartment. It has some old parchment, the mummified hand of a child, and weird little figurine. Something to find. Something creepy. A pedestal with a moon phase puzzle, simple, just match it to the current phase of the moon shining overhead. Things to open, as simple as that, interactivity is obtained. The cultists have a brief mention of some order of battle/responses, as well as the briefest of tactics advice (fake surrenders, etc.) Just enough to help the DM out without it droning on and on and on. The maps are well done for being relatively low room counts, there’s a side view present, and the mundane treasure is well described. Crystal decanters with perfume. A silver covered mask with moonstone inlay. (Theme!) But I didn’t notice much in the way of magical treasure beyond simple book potions. (But they are, at least, in green and red bottles. Again the extra word of specificity helps immensely ground imagination enough to let it soar.)

The NPC’s in the inn, at the start, have short little descriptions, just a couple of words on appearance and maybe a sentence or phrase on what they think happened. Not a life fucking story, but information directly relted to the fucking adventure at hand. Imagine that! Likewise, what they have to relate to the party is presented in bullet form, easy to find and relate by the DM. This is all great.

Let me now skip mentioning other good details and shift to what could be better, because I am never satisfied.

The first level is mostly ruins. Chest high walls AT MOST. This brings up the Lord Of All I Survey issue. When the players can view an area at a distance and take it in then there should be some notes about what they see. Notable features, etc. The alternative is the DM scrambling through a dozen room descriptions or more trying to figure out what they see, in response to that question. When the players can see a lot then the designer should help the DM with the notable features they see. A pool of water NE, Stairs in the left center, etc. I THINK the map covers most of this, but it could do a better job showing the elevation change (implied by stairs) between the two halves of the ruins … an important detail for some secret doors and potential multi-level combat that is going to take place. I should also not that most of the adventure takes place behind the aforementioned secret door. That’s generally a No No. Putting your adventure behind something that the party can fail at (finding a secret door and/or solving a puzzle in this case) means we have to cheat to keep playing. Better to do something else to hide the doors. (ALthough, the issue is somewhat mitigated in this case because there are two possibilities, finding the door and just solving the moon phase puzzle, but, still.) It does something similar in another place in the adventure, putting a body behind a secret door and then stating the DM should fudge it since its important for the party to find the body. Well .. then why’s it behind a secret door then?

Read aloud gets long in places. This is almost always because the read-aloud is including follow-up information. The text tells you that you find, among other things, a small figurine. And then it goes on to fully describe it. That lengthens the read-aloud and REMOVES interactivity. A key part of D&D is the back and forth between the players and the DM. Describing the figuring in the DM text keeps that back and forth and shortens the read-aloud. And, again, read-aloud isn’t always bad but long read-aloud IS always bad. People pull out their phones and attentions wander. Monologues are not engagement.

There are a couple of other issues also. The cultists inside really need a small section on what they know, etc, oto handle the inevitable torture/speak with dead that happens when players capture/interogate prisoners. And the stat blocks, especially for the cult, get long. Condensing the stat block is an age-old problem … but important to solve nonetheless.

The most serious issue is, though, the general style used to format the room entries. There’s a small section at the rear which describes this. It’s trying to use background coloring and other offset words to highlight and bring attention to section breaks and so on. It doesn’t really work at all for any room that has more than a little complexity to it. Room nine on the second level is the perfect example of this. Long read-aloud. Multiple read-aloud sections. Plain text breaking it up with words like “a normal perception roll reveals” before more read-aloud. A whole lot of conditionals for things the party might look at that are, esentially, headers for read-aloud. It tries to break this up with line breaks. So, previous read-aloud ends. Empty line. Plain text that says something like “the open coffin:” then another empty line. Then the read- aloud for the open coffin. Better, I think, to eliminate the additional empty line. That makes the read-aloud belong to the text more, instead of it just being a page of paragraphs and sentences broken up by empty lines. The background-colored sections then intrude also in to this mix … without much reason. Why do the Iron Doors to room 14 get background text but the open coffin doesn’t? The format doesn’t work.

5e reviews are a pain. Do I grade on a curve? There’s so little decent for 5e that I want to. In the end I shall not! And I regert that decision not!

This is $5 at DriveThru.The preview is four pages. It gives you four pages of the actual adventure, so it’s a good preview, giving you an idea of what to expect with your purchase. You can see room nine of level one in the preview. It’s a good example of how the format, which works ok elsewhere, tends to break down on the more complex rooms. 


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/291250/The-Convent-of-The-Weeping-Moon?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Plague, War, & Famine 1

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 11:15
By Peter Rudin-Burgess PPM OSRIC No levels given

Can the characters save teh(sp) starving city folk? Can they defeat the impending invasion?

This fourteen page adventure details six scenes in eight pages. While not exactly linear it has more in common with modern plot-based adventures than a more open older style. It’s also an absolute MESS in presenting information. One of the worst.

It’s listed as OSRIC … but it also makes reference to the players using their skills and players with strong social skills and using first aid skill, etc. This would lead me to believe that it’s a conversion … ah, yes, I see now on DriveThru that it’s available for a slew of other systems. The usual conversion issues are present: no fucking treasure means no XP and the combat, if used, tends to be forced. Neither are good in OSRIC. The OSRIC gang would probably be ok with the adventure, mechanically, since it’s only mechanics are some stats for some new monsters. But there’s also no level given on the cover or in the publishers blurb or anywhere in the adventure, except for it saying “this is an introductory adventure.” I guess that means level one’s?

This is more of an adventure outline than an adventure. The first scene and last scene are required and then the middle three depend. There are two abandoned ships in the harbour locked together and your mission is to tow one back. Thus the three additional scenes: if you board ship one, board ship two or just tow ship one back. Each of the scenes consists of MANY paragraphs, over a couple of pages, describing “first this and then this” types of things in a very abstracted way. I mean, Bloody Mage/Stink in Golanda abstracted. It’s all very high level, there’s a lot of it, and it’s not organized very well. The delete key is a designers best friend, and removing text and highlighting other things with bullets, indents, etc would have made the different sections, and important text stand out more. I really do mean the comparison to, say, Stink in Golanda by BM … this adventure is just barely there in the most abstract way.

The first scene has the party in a hold listening to a combat above them as they come in to port on a ship. Then they get involved in a food riot and given their mission to go out to See A Ship In The Harbor and tow it back, since it contains much needed food for the city. “At some point someone accuses the party of stealing food or cutting the food line” is the extent of the food riot and food line description for the town. Like I said … REALLY high level and then it’s combined with A LOT of information, most of it superfluous. 

Each “scene” has an optional combat, so a kind DM can ensure that NO combat happens in the adventure. It’s all “the floating could attack the parties ship” and so on. At one point there is an opportunity for the party to get in to a fight with about 400 2HD/3HD bug-monsters on one of the ships. That’s something you don’t see everyday. It’s handled terribly, but I applaud the “We done fucked up!” opportunity. It’s in the last scene, the return to port, that critical information comes to light: there are bug eggs hidden in the flour on the ship they’ve come to tow back. At least I think there are. The adventure says about as much “there are bug eggs in the flour; it’s their plan to get them in to town that way”, but that’s it. Nothing more. Further, it mentions several times that the ships are tuck together but gives no mechanics or words of advice AT ALL on how to unstick the two ships, even though it’s likely to be the parties first line of questioning. 

And did I mention that the tug you take over has 96 slaves below deck rowing? I guess this was Zweihandler conversion? I tend toward a rather pragmatic style of D&D play, but even as a player I usually don’t let slavery go unmurder-hobo’d unless the DM fiats my inability to.

I don’t understand the decisions that adventure designers make. I suspect most are just overly enthusiastic about their creations. Which is great, but I wish the final products were better. It’s not one of the worst I’ve seen … but it’s a breathe away from being one of the worst.

(I should note also that I’m pretty sure this is an English as a Second language adventure. There are some misspellings and grammar issues, but while noticeable they don’t make the adventure unplayable in any way. The long form text descriptions and abstracted adventure do, though.)

This is $3 at DriveThru. There is no preview. And what do we say when No Preview comes a calling?  


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/290406/Plague-Famine–War-1–OSRIC-Compatible?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Psionic Crucible of the Fat Cannibal

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 11:18

By The Bugbear Brothers

The Bugbear Brothers

5e/OSR(!)

Levels 3-5

The bastion of the North, Xaefen Keep, has succumbed to darkness. Recently, there have been whispers of forbidden psionics that have taken root in the citadel. It is feared that this vile new craft is being used to torture the minds of young squires and madden them, thereby undercutting the Crown’s power. The renowned knight, Ervin Greystyle, also known as ‘The Axe’, has recently ventured North in order to investigate these troubling rumours. It has been several weeks since Ervin’s last correspondence, and he was due to return many days ago. The last letter Ervin wrote to the Crown contained a cryptic, macabre reference to a ‘gluttonous baron’ and his ‘mage juicer’, who reportedly dwelt in the lower crypts of the Keep. A reward of 500 gold pieces has been issued by the Crown to any who would confirm or refute the ravings contained within Greystyle’s last correspondence. There isn’t much time left now…

This 28 page adventure details a ten room dungeon in about nine pages. It’s got some good ideas and tries to be original in both treasure and descriptions. It also drones on too long in it’s read-aloud and DM text and is constrained by it’s smaller size. It’s notable for what it could have been.

This thing is so un-generic. It’s not using the generic fantasy tropes that are seen everywhere. It adds more detail to just about everything. It edges over in to Eberron territory, probably. There’s a fat cannibal baron. There’s a wizard addicted to potions. The local villagers are afraid of the Wendigos that plague their village at night, gaunt figures with decayed deer heads. They are engaged in pacifism, led by their local priest, in the hopes their god will save them. There’s a magic item that consists of a pair of of sow’s ears. And another that consists of a ghouls finger. And a pool of water around a column that if full of cloudy eyeballs, floating. It has a hut, underwater, of translucent glass, held down by “thick black tendrils and vibrant green roots protruding from the sea floor.”

And that’s only a sample. The environments here ARE interesting. They are new places with new things that the party has likely never encountered before, like the pool of eyes. The magic items are unique and well described. Mechanics are not overly emphasized in magic … that ghoul finger wants to return to its shelf … at a speed of 60’ and push 300#. Hmmm, now can I, as a player, exploit THAT? And that’s a good item. 

Haunting choir music, a woven meditation carpet, the scent of rot permeating your nostrils. Thick hemp straps. Note the use of adjectives and adverbs, the way these things are described. Not large or big or small or red. This is excellent use of language in order to add more to a description, to paint a vivid picture for the DM. “One of these paintings is molding and teeming with cream coloured maggots-some in the midst of hatching, others fully grown-chewing at its outer edges.” Sweet! Oh, did I fail to mention the cariboo skulls lined with nails that some prisoners affix to their own skulls in their madness… the faux-wendigos? This is good shit. It’s not all great, there’s are some “large” room contents and the like, but it’s got it where it counts.

What its also got is a case of Mouth Runneth Over syndrome. The read-aloud is long. The DM text is long. And long for interesting reasons. 

It’s not the usual irrelevant bullshit detail. There’s a thing that 5e adventures sometimes do where the read-aloud fully describes the room. If there’s a bookshelf with an interesting book on it, in a hyperbolic example, the initial read-aloud describes the bookshelf, the book, and also tell you what the books contents are. In other words it assumes a certain amount of follow-up and just infor-dumps the entire thing up front.The first room, that one with eyeballs, is a good example. The entire first paragraph does NOT describe the first room of the dungeon. It’ describes the ruins outside that you come upon. Oops, guess that should maybe be in a separate section, to make it easier to find, etc? Then it tells us of a room dominated by an obelisk. And it describes in detail the damage to the obelisk. ANd then the moat around it, filled with clounded eyeballs, with irises of various colours. From their state of decay it’s clear they’ve been here some time. The description goes on about some murals, but lets pause and just examine that obelisk and moat descriptions. The damage detail would be perfect for a follow-up in the DM section, as would the eyeballs, cloudy, and iris details. By NOT infor-dumping you encourage back and forth between the players and the DM. They ask about the pillar, you reply it looks damaged, They examine more closely. You describe more. (Someone, somewhere wrote an article/blog on this that was very good, but I can’t recall it.) The moat. I look at it, it’s full of something. I go over and look closer. Eyes. Ewwww! I look at the eyes, they are cloudy … with scintillating irises. Ewww! 

The adventure also engages in a lot of if/then clauses in the DM text. IF the players do this THEN this happens. Ray’s book on editing covers this, and other common writing issues, pretty well. These sorts of writing mistakes are common in this adventures and the designers would have benefited greatly by Ray’s book. The DM text proper is also lengthy for other reasons, mostly through some sloppy writing that takes a more conversational tone. That style is ok in places, all work and no conversational asides make DM Bryce a dull DM, but when it goes excessive it make the DM text long. And long DM text is hard to reference during play. 

There are also other missed opportunities. The village nearby, with the “Wendigo” problem, is given very little attention. Serving as a base and intro to the adventure it could have used quite a bit more. And better organization than a simple paragraph dump of information. It’s got good roots but needs more to bring it alive. A missed opportunity. Likewise … and I think I realize the gravity of what I’m about to say, this thing is constrained by size. Expanding it, a bit better design and integration of the areas, and you would have something that people would talk about the way they talk about Thracia. No, it’s not Thracia, not close, but it had that potential. 

On the nitpicky front, it’s got a random Big Bay Guy location chart. I don’t get why people do that, for multiple play throughs? In this case it can be a little justified since there’s a kind of map puzzle in one room that can show you locations … and creatures moving about in the place adds some life to the place. Generally though … it’s something that raises my eyebrows as a sign of ill things to come. 

It’s also got this weird System-less thing going on. It lists itself as generic/agnostic and OSR. And then mentioned exhaustion checks. And advantage. And lists DC’s for stat checks. That’s 5e. But is it, really? I suspect it’s just the designers home system which is a mash up of many things. The DC stats checks will wrankle the hard core OSR crowd, but it’s all easily ignored/converted on the fly by even an ok DM. 

And there’s no level range on the cover or in the product description, you have the buy the damn thing first to learn it’s levels 3-5. Not cool.

Nonstandard. Imaginative. Some decently evocative writing. But suffers greatly from Too Many Words. And, a couple of large missed opportunities. And sup with that title? It feels randomly generated.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $1.50. The preview is four pages and shows you nothing. Bad preview! Suck! Show us a room! Give us a sample of what we’re actually buying! Oh course, in this case it’s Pay What You Want, so you can get the entire thing, but, still. 

Cannibal?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

(5e) Citadel of Terror

Sat, 10/26/2019 - 11:17
By Paul Riegel-Green & Ben Burns new Comet Games 5e Levels 1-4

Spring time has arrived, the fields planted, the trade routes are opening and the Orc raids will be coming soon. It also means the arrival of the mysterious but powerful mage Melius. But this year, he has yet to make his appearance. What chance does the small city of  Adwick have against the ravaging hordes of Orcs without the wizard’s assistance. Every day that slips by, causes the leaders worry and concern. You and your small band of adventurers have been tasked with traveling through the abandoned ruins of Rochdale, then into the swamp known as The Moors. To seek out Melius’ tower and discover what has become of the wizard.  What evils lurk in the ruins? What dangers will The Moors hide? What will you find at the Citadel of Terror?

This 68 page adventure details a wizards tower with about twelve rooms as well as a couple of overland encounters. It’s massively overwritten, both in DM text and read-aloud, and is one of those “make a skill check to tie your shoes” adventures. At least I got to pay $15 for it …

I’m supposed to be nicer. I’m supposed to explain more. I’m supposed to describe why things are the way the way, or should be, in detail. I’m supposed to do a lot of things.  And then something like this comes along and saps all of the life out of me.

It starts with the party being ambushed by 24 orcs. “That’s a lot” I thought “for level 1’s.” Not to worry, it’s not an actual encounter. A calvary of gnomes and halflings on war dogs come to your rescue. Well Buckher, some strings are more obvious than others. 

This then degenerates in to the town where the party is sent to find a missing wizard in his tower. And it’s all done in third person read-aloud. “He tells you that …” “he explains that you have been selected” “when you enter the bar the dwarf behind the counter welcomes you and introduces himself as …”  Jesus. H. Fucking. Christ. Abstraction. Filthy fucking abstraction. Read-aloud, when used, should immerse the listener. Abstracting to the third person and abstracting thing like “your welcome” is utter bullshit. Specififty is key. He raises a tankard drains it and slams it down spraying out “Your Health!” through foam. Contrast with “the swarf behind the counter welcomes you.” Abstracted vs specific. 

Not to mention the fucking length of the read-aloud in this. It drones on and on and one, in spite of people not paying attention to long read-aloud. There’s even a faux-study by WOTC proper! But out designer friends don’t know that. 

This is joined by the WAY TOO EXCESSIVE dm text. Mountains of it. Mountains of mountains of it. A five goblin fight takes a page. Some stirge around a pedestal takes two pages. Excruciating if/then clauses. 

You need a DC 16 persuasion to have the bartender tell you about the missing wizard. The most mundane of information. That’s in his own best interest to relay. And skill checks of this type are generally set low. But not in this adventure. But don’t worry, they are everywhere! And All of the conditional clauses take up lots of extra room! Are you an elf? There’s a special line for you in the column long perception check results … your DC is 2 lower than everyone else! THis is a total and complete lack of understanding of how skill checks are supposed to work. No doubt learned from other badly written  adventures. 

One of the outdoor encounters, with five goblins, has a master goblin thespian pretending to be an old woman. I’m pretty sure that’s not meant to be literal, but it still trends the wrong direction. And DC 19/24 skill checks at first/second level? Is that even possible in 5e?

No real overland map, in spite of their being an entire swamp to cross with multiple random encounters in it. Or an entire series of woods encounters … that are essentially linear since you get led to each and need to find some rings at each to get in to the wizards tower. 

And the actual writing? “They appear to be dead.” Well no shit. That means dead. This REEKS of just about every bad writing/editing decision you can make. What’s the name of Ray’s editing book? These people need that bad.

And our 8th level wizard, who can’t rescue himself … I just can’t go on. This. Is. Bad. 

This could easily be a one page adventure and loose nothing, in spite of the massive limitations of the one page format, it’s that overwritten. It concentrates text in all the wrong areas, giving painstaking room descriptions that are meaningless to the adventure. 

It is for designers like this that I feel sorry. They had an idea. They want to do good, I’m sure (doesn’t everyone?) but they have NO idea how to get there. No doubt they had some design principals … as evidenced by the massive skill check text, but they were the wrong things to concentrate on. Also, I applaud their eschewing of DMsGuild. But, man, ya gotta actually learn how to write an adventure. It’s got nothing to do with the motivations of the NPC’s or the balance of the encounters or how correct the rulings are. Usable at the table, Interactive, Evocative. This is none. 

Also, where my Terror? I was promised terror!

This is $15 at DriveThru. And for $15 (fucking bullshit!) you get no preview. So it’s a blind buy. Of $15 crap. To be clear, price is pretty much irrelevant if the adventure is good. But when they are bad, and they are almost always bad, the fucking $15/pdf shit stings. ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE”S NO FUCKING PREVIEW!


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/286774/Citadel-of-Terror-5E?1892600

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Purging Woth Nrld Oekwn’s Muddy Hole

Wed, 10/23/2019 - 11:13
By Jay Murphy Vanishing Tower press 1e/BX/etc Levels 2-6(!)

A gasping faithful of the Grim Gauntlet, gripping bloodied mace in gashed hands, lies wounded in the forest. They have just crawled out from their failed mission within the “Hole”. A trio of fanged-mouthed humanoids killed their party before they escaped with their life. Robid has sworn to destroy this forgotten shrine of evil. Will the PCs help?

This forty page digest adventure describes about twelve rooms in about fourteen pages. There’s a small cave complex combined with a small weird temple complex … petty-god ish. Good interactivity and evocative writing combines with spotty organization. 

When I first looked at this I misread it and thought it was for OSRIC. As I was looking it over I thought to myself “Jesus, the OSRIC guys heads are gonna explode”! Then I looked again and it was 1e/BX/OSR systems. Ok. We’re talking a tone here closer to OD&D than 1e or generic B/X. Not really gonzo, but with a healthy, healthy non-standard monster and situation mix. “Petty God temple with Trogs” maybe describes the tone?

 The tone is very OD&D: lots of new monsters and new magic items … no book items at all. The situations are weird. A sickening yellow membrane across a doorway. A harbinger in the dungeon. Dismembered corpses scattered about … with the things you need to desecrate/shut down this temple. It’s weird mix of trogs and petty gods stuff … it sets a dark and ominous tone with the text.  A room is barren, with the heavy smell of wet earth. Corpses ripped up, parts missing, with maggots infesting them and maggot/wing/wasp things festing on them. The smell of ammonia precedes the pink slime monsters. There are weird alters and things in the dungeon to fuck with. It’s a good mix and sets the tone for “weird” without it being gonzo. 

Treasure seems light for anything but level 2’s … and the first monster encounter is with 11 2HD monsters in a room blocked by monsters … that’s gonna be rough for level 2’s. Blocking monsters can be a problem in older editions of D&D. Or, maybe, it sets a pretty strong level range if there’s no way around them or clever way through them. It also does some weird things with information in place. “If Bob is with the group he’ll tell the party that his buddies died in the next room …” Well, if Bob is with the party then they may have asked that before getting to this room. Having the Bob section tell us what Bob kbnows is far better than digging through the text for each room to ferret out what someone knows.

The organization of the text is …  inconsistent. Some rooms do a decent job or organizing the text for the DM. Room two has two dead bodies that have attracted Muckwings (stats for muckwings) (order of battle notes) (body 1 descr)(body 2 descr.) That’s a decent layout. You’re likely to se ethe bodies and then the monsters when you enter, and then you’ll search the bodies and the layout reflects that.

Another room, though, mentions the smell of ammonia first (good) but then monster stats. And then mentions a small hole in the floor the size of an apple. THEN it mentions the back wall being dominated by an upright stone coffin. Then it covers reaching in to the hole. Then the same paragraph covers the coffin and it opening. It’s all over the place. First things first then second things second. Jumping all over the place with your room text forces a complete reading for the room … which is not good at the table during play. Other areas tell us that pink slime encroaches out in the hallway from the room. Well, fuck, that a detail that should be on the map or somehow otherwise noted prior to the room so the DM can run it correctly. 

But, it’s certainly original. And full of evocative writing and interesting interactive encounters. And is non-standard as all get out. If you want something a little different then I’d Regert this … but the somewhat tortured writing in places and lack of clarity in others makes it a tough recommend on the Bryce Lynch “On the Best” scale. A scale which is unfair to original works like this.

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is GREAT. You get some art samples (which do a good job conveying a Darkest Dungeon tone and brining the monsters to life) and you get to see about seven of the room. Note room two in particular. Can you tell me what items the bodies have and if they are pertinent to the adventure? Check out room five and see how the bolding clases with the monster bolding … and that giant hand/head alter. Pretty spiffy!


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/285390/AA03-Purging-Woth-Nrld-Oekwns-Muddy-Hole?affiliate_id=414579

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Goddess of the Crypt

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 11:15
By Vagabundork Self Published Into the odd

This small dungeon combines subtle Egyptian and Mayan themes, weird fiction, non-Euclidean geometry and a touch of gonzo oddness.

This 24 page adventure details a fifteen-ish room dungeon  in about twelve single-column pages. It’s interactive, evocative, and tries hard to be useful to the DM at the table using a nested tree-like description format. Commitment to a vision is a good thing. Too much commitment to a vision is fanaticism and not good. You gotta know when to sacrifice. This don’t.

A great many of my positions can be thought of in terms of a spectrum. You’ve got two extremes and a middle point and I’m generally encouraging people to move off of their position near an extreme closer to the middle where a great band of “good enough” surrounds the “perfect” midpoint. This is usually confused as “Bryce wants everything spelled out for him” or “the reviewer favors minimalism.” No, neither. 

The descriptions in this adventure are pretty well done. They’re evocative. This isn’t achieved by droning on and on. This is achieved both by good word selection and leveraging a “less is more” attitude. Many things lose their wonder when overly explained. Magic items, Wonder. Magnets … how do they work? One interesting technique, used here, for being evocative is to remain mysterious. Our brains want to fill in detail. They want to explain. By giving them the right degree of detail, in the right way, they leap to explain and imagine and fill in. The main description for room nine, The Crypt, is “Scales cover the ground. An altar in the southeast corner. Murals of religious scenes: snake as deities, snakes as priests” It’s not much but revels, in a way. I’d summarize it, but it’s already essentially summarized for you with crypt, scales covering the ground, an alter and freaky murals. And note that the freaky murals are DESCRIBED. It’s not just “murals of victory” or some other abstraction, as many adventures provide for. No, it’s specific: as deities, as priests. It’s not the only way to get to an evocative description, but the combination of specificity and starkness does a great job.

It’s also fairly interactive, pillar two of the Bryce Watchwords. More than just stabbing things. There a great set of snake jaws that make up a door with gears to move them. More than trap, a trap wto PLAY with. An alter of snake bones (in that crypt, great detail, again) that releases toxic gas when disturbed. Jars hanging from an intertricate techno ceiling with fluid in them … and proto snake things as well.  A wall covered in lichen and vines … and a hidden power cable. There’s so much that reveals itself to further examination … and reckless play. Check.

[Note: this next part has some comments about Engligh as a Second Language. I would not say this adventure has language issues. Far from it. But some of the choices made in formatting remind me of non-Engligh Subject/Verb order … and I see things available in Spanish as well. It’s an academic comment, not a usability one.]

And then there’s the “Helps the DM run it”, of which a major part is the DM’s ability to scan the text and locate the information they need. This adventure is trying a format I’ve seen a couple of times before, with nested bullet points to describe things. Major thing. Then a nested detail, and then maybe a nested detail of that. It’s not a bad idea. The top-level bullets helps bring the eye to the important details while it’s then easy to find additional information about those things by looking at the nested/indented bullets. 

The adventure has a couple of problems in its specific implementation though. First, it’s gone overboard on the nesting. There are four or five levels in some cases. And three is pretty frequent. This end up making things harder to understand. I THINK I get what is going on. It’s almost like it’s one of those modern grammar teaching lessons where you break a sentence down in to clauses and make a tree-like structure from it. Now, let’s assume you did that for EVERYTHING in the adventure. That’s not the case here, but imagine it. It’s trying to follow some quite strict rules about nesting of detail … and has made that the assumption that this is good. Well, yes, it’s KIND OF good. But, by strictly following those nesting rules you’re loosing sight of the overall goal: usability. This reminds me of those adventures that always put a Sight, Sounds, Light, Door, Smell, taste, etc section at the start of EVERY. SINGLE. ROOM. regardless of if they need it or not. Too much implementation of a decent idea. Instead, focus on the overall outcome, usability, keep your general technique in mind, nesting, and sacrifice the technique when it detracts from the outcome. In one section there are some While Apes. That’s the top level. Ok. Second level nest: chained to the walls. Well, ok. Third level nest: they are food for the goddess. Uh … was that necessary to nest? White Apes-? Chained t o the wall, food for the goddess would have worked also. Even better: White Apes chained to the Wall-> Food for the goddess. Then the important detail “there’s fucking apes chained to the wall!” is immediately apparent. The adventure does this time and again. It needed to add a little, the obvious shit, to the top level nouns and combine a bullet of two. That would substantially condense the adventure. 

In other places the nesting looks backwards to me, with the important details deeper in the nest. A door-> Make a dex save to open it using tools->if opened make a dex save vs death->success: leap backwards to avoid being buried by snakes. The snakes falling from the ceiling is the important bit (so many they smother you!) but it’s buried. It should be moved higher up. Likewise there are other details that seem to be in a weird order as well, like a stone circle in room one that left dangling near the end. And for its attempt at usability, I still have no idea what “1g” and “1p” refer to in the monster charts, or which door in room one is stuck and which isn’t. Still, it’s trying, with cross-references and all.

I think it’s a great attempt. The format needs some polishing, but it’s got potential. And the evocativeness and interactivity are certainly present. 

This is free at the designers blog. Which is interesting in and of itself. 

Magick Is Free
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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