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REVIEW: The Owners – Sylvester McCoy is a Dark Doctor in Gripping New Thriller

Blogtor Who - Mon, 03/08/2021 - 10:58

Sylvester McCoy plays against type in The Owners as a seemingly genial country doctor with a terrible dark side   2020 will be a year that leaves its footprints across the world for decades to come, even as it retreats into history or even nostalgia. People will undoubtedly look through years and years of Box […]

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Categories: Doctor Who Feeds

It’s Two for the Price of None with this Week’s Big Finish Doctor Who Lockdownloads

Blogtor Who - Mon, 03/08/2021 - 09:30

Big Finish have doubled up on the Doctor Who Monthly Adventures fun for this week’s FREE downloads, featuring Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy! As previously announced, while the UK remains in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Big Finish is releasing free downloads. These full-cast audio dramas – or #lockdownloads – will be available for […]

The post It’s Two for the Price of None with this Week’s Big Finish Doctor Who Lockdownloads appeared first on Blogtor Who.

Categories: Doctor Who Feeds

Weird Revisited: Four Sinister Sorcerers

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 03/07/2021 - 16:00
From the world of the City, here are five wielders of magic to challenge any party of adventurers:

The Algophilist: He’s older than current civilization, and he wants to make you hurt. His mistress is a goddess of pain, dead since the sinking of Meropis. Every tear evoked by her devoted servant, every scream and anguished cry he draws forth from his victims, brings his goddess incrementally closer to raising. Having learned (and suffered) at his goddess’ several hands for seven times seven years, the Algophilist knows numerous and varied ways to get his sacrifices. He can be met anywhere where the shadows make it easier for him to find victims, but he’s discovered a “backdoor” in and out of the alien city that overlaps with Hoborxen and often strikes from there, taking whoever mets his fancy to his sadist’s dungeon demiplane.

Hieronymus Gaunt: Lich and bon vivant (bon mourant?) currently on a world tour of debauchery and mayhem with a gang of followers in a stolen elephant-shaped hotel. In addition to his own sorcery, he's got a store of stolen magic items from all over the world.

Cheroot: Croaker (medicine man) and mugwump of a large hobogoblin tribe in the Steel League. He holds court in a large dump outside of Sunderland where he nightly incites the ‘goblins to ever greater crimes against humans. He wears a worn tophat which has the power to animate anything it is set upon (as long as it stays on it)--and Cheroot can command the animate to his service. The trash heap where he makes his throne is actually a garbage golem which will rise and fight for the shaman if needed.

The Unpleasant Woman in the Basement: What she lacks in looks, she doubly lacks in personality.  She squats like a gigantic toad amid the packages, correspondence, and pneumatic tubes in the basement mailroom of a midtown office building in the City. She's been there for fifty years and three building owners.  Those who displease her die in bizarre accidents or by suicide.  Nightgaunts fly at her whim. Scorpions will grow from her shed blood.

Class Matters - The Slayer player character class From Mayfair Games Demon Box set Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st & 2nd edition or Your OSR game Campaigns

Dark Corners of RPGing - Sat, 03/06/2021 - 17:55

 "FULLY COMPATIBLE WITH AD&D 2ND EDITION. Eons ago...they were imprisoned in a vast inferno for fomenting a conflict amidst the gods themselves. Now, they're loose and free to prey upon the will of man. Run out of challenges? Try matching wits with the embodiment of all evil. The Demons sourcepack includes: * 48 pages of hole-punched monster descriptions, covering the demons and the inhabitants of their inferno lairs, for your players to add to other game materials; * An 80-page game master's booklet; * The 64-page Infernicum Mallemancia, an ancient book of demon lore that provides your players with all the clues they need to tackle and defeat their diabolical adversaries; * New character classes, including the demon-summoning Thaumaturgist and the demon-hunting Slayer; * Rules for half-demon player characters; * Dozens of new spells and new magic items; * A Full color, 22 "x 34" map; * A complete adventure; and the most powerful spells in fantasy role-playing!"


Things have been very busy with a full on Hostile & Cepheus Engine rpg campaign ongoing on the other blog. But there's a great deal of player pressure to get back on the Dungeons & Dragons  or Advabced Dungeons & Dragons train. So last night out came the Demon box set binder. Started looking into the possibility of using The Demons I & II  box set as a sort of backbone with several of our on going campaigns. The demon slayer class is an old favorite of ours & it fits very well with what's an on going series of campaigns where demons play a sigificant part. 



So there are several reasons why the slayer class works in a number of areas when it comes to demon hunting, slaying, & banishing demons. The slayer is a  fighter subclass. The slayer uses the same skill progression as a paladin & has the same saving throws used by clerics. 
 They can work as a wandering bounty hunter of demons working the land for their ever going hunt against the Infernal. The fact is that slayers have to be very wary of the infernal or demonic taint that comes with dealing with the powers. And this leads into the lawful alignment aspect of the slayers. They can only be one of the three branches of slayers, white slayers who are lawful good, grey slayers  lawful neutral, or black slayers lawful evil. They will work together against any demonic or infernal threat. So this isn't a case of a Sith vs Jedi war or issue unless the DM needs there to be such a war. 


Slayers gain several abilities that help them in their struggle against the infernal; Detect demon within 12", Turn demon as if they were a cleric three levels higher then their own has no effect on other undead ( let this slide in several games), & they can cast wizard spells from a list within the demon box set that helps them in their battles. 
From all appearances these fighter subclasses are a wandering slayer of demons or the infernal. Slayers  have very little interaction with the infernal or the divine & those that do Fall. They lose all abilities if they have truck with the powers of chaos & the demonic. How do slayers work as a class for old school Advanced Dungeons & Dragons or in OSR games?! Well that's pretty simple actually. The slayer class is good for those players who want to do a rotating guest spot within your home campaigns. The guy or gal who wants to play once in a while for a Gothic or even a modern style of horror game. For OSRIC the slayer class could be used with impunity at the table top. With a game such as Castles & Crusades?! The slayer is going to require a bit of fiddling but its a pretty easy bit of kit to fit them into the mix of a C&C campaign. 

Slayers are the PC class that shows up like Jedi knights or Boba Fett in a campaign when that half demonic wizard shows up on his nightmare. The slayer has been tracking him or her for ages & now he or she has shown up in your game. 



Slayers should never be used with matters of the gods unless minions or  demon lords or ladies show up. They will not be impressed by the gods or by infernal or demonic royalty. Slayers want one thing the slaughter of the demonic full stop. From time to time I've used slayers as villains within games as well even the lawful evil ones intentions or goals are 'good' in a sense. The brutal methods they employ however are nasty & dangerous to the lives of PC's around them. Slayers at the table top level are a polizerizing force we've found. There are some players who love the 'lone wolf' aspect of the fighter subclass. And there are those players  who hate the class with a vengence. The slayer is a very polerizing figure at the table top. 
Slayers are never going to get their due at the table top level but paired with a paladin of equal alignment. These can be very nasty combinations indeed. The lone wolf nature of the slayer means that eventually in our experience that they will leave a paladin behind. 
Its too bad that given the storied legal history of Role Aids line we'll never get a slayer PC supplement. There is far more that can be done with this fighter sub class then merely as an NPC murder weapon or plot device. The slayer class represents a very in niche within a niche PC class but its one that can be used to great advantage with a clever player & DM. 

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Sulphur & Snuff, D&D adventure review

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 03/06/2021 - 12:16
By Rook Self Published OSR Levels 1-3

A wicked theatre, a blue-skinned vizier, an imprisoned demon, evil noblemen and lots of torture, mutilation and cannibalism (and more within!). Sulphur and Snuff – A Devilish Performance  …

This eleven page landscape adventure features about twenty rooms in a debauched theater in a city. It successfully creates the debauched theater environment, but, is more locale than adventure. A certain degree of motivation is missing.

The closest analog I have for this adventures design is the one page dungeon contest. If you took a bunch of the better one page dungeons and strung them together in to one project then you’d have something like this. One page dungeons are interesting because of how they force the designer in to new and more interesting choices and really focus the efforts. And they suck because they are artificially limited by what you can fit on one page … and they can slip, far too easily, in to pretentiousness over delivering the goods. You have things like Stonhell or The Fall of WhiteCliff which take one pages and fit them together to form something more. This adventure is like that.

You get a one page overview map and a page or so of overview information integrated in to it, along with a page or so of “what does eating a demon organ do to you?”, “things people are talking about” and random people walking around the theater tables, etc, as well as monster stats all located in the rear. Then you get little mini-maps, each with three or four locations on them, blown up, with the text for the locations on the page surround it. The map, proper, has some color on it, noting doorway types, as well as some icons in the room, Blue Medusa style, to help trigger the DM in to what is in the room and how to run it, as well as what might be in the next room and splashing over in to this one. It’s an effective layout style for this sort of thing.

The rooms, themselves are written fairly well, both in terms of evocative writing that helps the room/situation spring to mind as well as presenting situations that are going to be interesting to interact with. The situations are familiar enough that the DM can grasp them, or, perhaps, the writing is good enough that the situations SEEM familiar enough to grasp and run with them … which would be either good writing or good design or both. Outside the theater, for example, we get a throng of locals fended off by two theatre guards in half plate. Prove your worth to get by them; 25gp. Or, the first real room, the foyer. Dimly lit, deep red carpets stretching out over the floor, walls lined with dripping black wax candles, a woman with a noble accent heard arguing with a clerk in a barred window, another guard trying and failing to hide a large streak of blood on the floor. You know this. You know these situations. Either because they are familiar to you or because the writing has CAUSED them to become familiar to you, you know them. They are inside of your head. You know how to run them. You know the attitudes to take. And if you know this then you can relate it to the players. And that is the entire fucking point of the entire exercise. Decent writings, good situations, they combine to form something greater than the sum of their parts. 

Blah blah blah blah blah blah. There’s more of the same. A pusher in the alley, bored and jaded nobility. Secret torture club. A demon on stage in a magic circle that is also being tortured for the delight of the social circle milling about in the main theater.

There are some challenges here though.
First, your gonna need a place to set this that has a fuck ton of jaded nobles. This place is stuffed like Biohock is full of rich assholes. But while BioSHock could put all the assholes in the world in their libertarian utopia, you’ve only got one city/kingdom to work with here. 

Second, there is some issue with the point of the adventure, and I think the designer recognizes it. They talk about it being a heist, a kidnapping rescue, etc, and not a dungeoncrawl break down the door, kill, loot, repeat adventure. But, then, we get to the SUPPORT of those other play styles. Lets say you wander about until you find the torture room or the treasury. Ok. The entire thing is written in a kind of a non-committal style, at least with regard to how things can/should go down. We get a very neutral description of a place with few comments on what can happen when the party fucks up or how to support those heist/rescue play styles. There are no real personalities to the NPC’s, or many “named” NPC’s, for that matter. The reaction to violence is given about three words … there’s just not enough here to support play beyond “go in to room and look around a have some fun isolated in this room.” It needs more … interconnectedness. 

“A languid, alabaster noblewoman reclines in a basin of blood. It seeps onto the floor as she

rises to meet the players. She is the Baroness Melvelia. She is a detached gossip and for d4 HP worth of fresh blood she will answer one question the PC’s might have about the adventure. She apathetically and effectively knows everything and will answer truthfully.” Well, Hello there! …. in my best Jerry Lewis … “Hey Laaaaaady!” How much do you really want to get your questions answered? Man, do you invite a woman like this to your parties? I mean, she’s interesting to have around, but you’ve got to get those blood stains out of the carpet and the apathy … ug, what a let down when you’ve got the tunes pumping!

This is free at the designers blog. I’d check it out.

http://foreignplanets.blogspot.com/2021/02/sulphur-and-snuff-horror-dungeon.html

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

On Artifices, Deceptions, and Dilemmas

Hack & Slash - Sat, 03/06/2021 - 01:07

Hi all!

My new book, Artifices, Deceptions, and Dilemmas is out in PDF on DTRPG. It will be on Kindle and in Print on Amazon by early next week, and on DTRPG in softcover and hardcover by mid-march.

It turned out—well—people seem to really like it. There's a huge preview on DTRPG, and the video below is a pretty thorough walkthrough of how useful and beautiful it is. If you are wondering why I don't post as much lately, I personally drew well over 100 illustrations for this book. Here are some samples.





It's already got several 5 star reviews. Here's a video review of a preview copy:


You are already a great Dungeon Master. You run a game really well.

What's the difference between a room and a chamber? What's the difference between a mausoleum, a sepulcher, and a crypt? Would disarming traps be more exciting if you understood how those complex mechanisms worked? What does a magic trap look like? What does a solar room look like and what's usually inside?

What's in it?

Over 100 Illustrations of Lavish environments Guidelines for escalating threats while respecting player agency Hundreds of ideas for tricks and traps.

No longer will your players complain about traps or unfair encounters. Now when they meet their doom, they will blame themselves for their own foolishness! Be as cruel and devious as you want with these guidelines on how to do so fairly!

Looking for something to spice up an encounter? Pick one of hundreds of options of traps, rooms, walls, tricks or more! Fill rooms with ease, design encounters in ways that give your players the freedom to put their own characters in hot water!

What's it for?

Referees who run games and understand their role in facilitating the groups adventure. This book provides guidance on how to create encounters that respect players and allow you to make encounters as exciting and dangerous as you want, without fear of being unfair. Imagine a group excited to discover a trap. Fill in your gaps of knowledge raising your confidence and making you a master ready to lead players on an adventure.

These objective procedures give referees tools that fire a desire in players to dive into your creative world, discover its detailed history, and make their mark on it. Artifices, Deceptions, and Dilemmas gives you the tools to eliminate doubt and provides a library of ideas that will take you decades to exhaust. It will be a vade mecum, at hand for every environment and dungeon you create. Design a dangerous dungeon, concoct an ingenious trap, develop a diabolical arena, all with confidence and without concern. Give yourself the power, all with simple and clear guidelines!

This is a book used in every game you run. Your next campaign, the one after that, the one after that. . . Not one wasted word. Every page is crammed with content and creativity. No filler. Tools that describe devilish traps and devious decoys. Explore your own Artifices, Deceptions, and Dilemmas today!

Buy it now, Today!

Hack & Slash 

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Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Forgotten Smugglers Cave #8: Reef Cavern

Zenopus Archives - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 16:29

This is an installment of The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, which starts at Area 1.



Area 3

Area 9


8. REEF CAVERN: The tunnel south from from Area 3 (Grotto) slopes gently down to this area. Any thief passing through it will recognize faint markings in smugglers' code indicating danger in the water. The passage opens up to a rocky beach, smaller than the one in the Grotto, on the edge of a much larger water-filled cavern (roughly oval-shaped, 200' east-west, 100' north-south).
The cavern is dimly lit by weird purple and green lights shimmering beneath the surface of the clear, gently-rippling water, the source of the light being an expansive cold-water reef of glowing, strangely-shaped corals, among which dart a variety of creepy but harmless fish. From the shore, the bottom rapidly drops off to a depth of about 15 feet. To the east, a hundred feet across the water, is a darker area where it looks like there may be an exit. The water is cold and brackish, being a mix of fresh water coming from the east and sea water entering through unseen underwater passages. 

The rowboat from Area 3 will travel 10' per round with 1 or 2 people with improvised paddles, or 20' with 3 or 4 paddling. However, unless it has been re-waterproofed, such as with the pine pitch in Area 7, it will leak and sink within 5 rounds, or 10 rounds if 2 or more characters continuously bail. The empty barrels from Area 7 can be paddled at only 5' per round, but will not leak. If anyone enters the chilly water, purposefully or not, assume they can swim adequately in normal clothing (10' per round) or leather armor (5' per round), but sink in metal armor, with a 50% chance each round to remove it, or take 1d6 points of damage from drowning (these rules are adapted from those in the Sample Dungeon).

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. Scattered about the reef are a dozen of the the Sea-Changed (link goes to the full write-up for this new monster; abbreviated stats are below), ordinarily quiescent. However, any activity that disturbs the water may attract their attention; throwing rocks only has a 1 in 12 chance, but each round of boating or swimming has a 1 in 6 chance. If so, 1d4 of the Sea-Changed will rise to the surface and attempt to inflict "the sea-change" on the living (which happens on a successful hit followed by a failed save versus poison). Once a character is inflicted, no more attacks will be made on them; if all characters are so affected, the Sea-Changed will return to the bottom. The change causes the loss of one point of dexterity per day as the calcification spreads, and upon reaching zero, the victim will be transformed into one of the Sea-Changed, and then drawn back to the reef.

The Sea-Changed (12): DX 6, AC 5, HD 1+1, AT 1 claws or weapon, D: 1d6 + save vs poison or inflict calcification (lose 1 point of dexterity per day until transformed into one of the Sea-Changed), undead (turned as zombie; any that are successfully turned will return to quiescence in the reef); 1 in 10 have pearlescent eyes (roll on the gem table for value).


The Sea-Changed by Lore Suto

Crusty Bones Locker.  Barely visible in the middle of the coral reef is an ornate, padlocked chest, so covered in calcifications that it has become an immovable part of the reef. Even if unlocked, the lid will not open; the only way to get at the contents is to smash through the top. Inside is a mixture of 500 gold coins (500 g.p.) and 50 small pearls (10 g.p.), one of which is a red pearl (heals 10 HP once per day; fighters only; from the Blackmoor Supplement).

There are two exits from this area, north and east, which can be found by following the links on the above map; if there is no link, the area is not yet posted. 

Chronologically on this blog, the previous post installment was Area 7 and the next posted installment will be Area 9.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Link Love: My Favourite Things This Week

Knitted Bliss - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 11:00

www.knittedbliss.com

My Favourite Articles and Links This Week How to write a gratitude letter, and why you should. This was a very interesting read – “I tracked down the girls who bullied me as a kid, and this is what they had to say”. Ooh a movie club! This sounds like a great idea. “I forgot

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Categories: Knitting Feeds

Order online – Vinyl Copy of Doctor Who Time Lord Victorious – Echoes of Extinction

Blogtor Who - Fri, 03/05/2021 - 09:30

Big Finish, in association with Demon Records and BBC Studios, today announces that the postponed limited edition vinyl starring David Tennant and Paul McGann will now be released online in April 2021. The vinyl copy was planned to release in UK ASDA stores in November 2020, this very special double-A side LP conclusion to the […]

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Categories: Doctor Who Feeds

BIG FINISH: Russell T Davies’ Lost Doctor Who Story to be Released on Audio

Blogtor Who - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 15:30

Big Finish have announced plans to bring Russell T Davies‘ long-lost Doctor Who script The Mind of Hodiac to life in audio form First conceived by former showrunner Russell T Davies in 1986, The Mind of Hodiac has only recently been rediscovered, almost 35 years later. This long-lost Doctor Who story features the Sixth Doctor and companion Mel Bush, and was […]

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Categories: Doctor Who Feeds

Diluting Appendix N

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 12:09

So there is a new Appendix N book out. Which makes sense, I suppose. After all, who can get enough of the authors that Gary Gygax so famously listed in what was once an obscure corner of the 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide?

Mind-bendingly stellar authors like A. Merritt, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, Roger Zelazny, L. Sprague de Camp, and Fletcher Pratt– authors who not only had a direct impact on the development of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons but who defined fantasy for ALL of the game designers creating the first big wave of role-playing games. And I have to say, it is nice to have a big bunch of Appendix N packed within the pages of spiffy paperback. Or it least it would be, anway. As none of the INCREDIBLY INFLUENTIAL YET CRIMINALLY OVERLOOKED authors I just mentioned appear within these pages. 

In their place are three authors that are “sorta kinda almost” Appendix N authors due to their appearance in the anthology Gygax gave a nod to, Swords Against Darkness III.Omissions are one thing and borderline inclusions are another. And I suppose it would be fine if that were the end of it. But for some reason, stuff that doesn’t even have a tenuous connection to Gygax’s list shows up in here.

I don’t get it.

Why are C. L. Moore and Clark Ashton Smith present in a volume that purports to be a compendium of Appendix N stories? The Appendix N list is the compelling time capsule that it is precisely because of its idiosyncrasies. There are no valid grounds for embellishing it– unless the book isn’t really about Appendix N as it is, but rather Appendix N as someone would like it to be. Appropriating the title and subtitle of my PHENOMENALLY SUCCESSFUL book would seem to argue for the former, but the sleight of hand here of casually introducing new literary landmarks as if they had always been present is another thing entirely. Bebergal wants it both ways. I doubt he bothered to read my book before co-opting its title to his purpose.

Anyone who had read it would know why the hatchetmen associated with traditional publishing are INCAPABLE of shedding any light on this topic at all. They are, after all, the ones responsible for suppressing the fantasy canon in the first place!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Twilight: XXXX

Sorcerer's Skull - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 12:00
With Twilight: 2000 on it's way back in a new edition, it seemed like a good time to think about retro-apocalyptic alternate histories other than the official one.

Twilight: 1945
Germany gets the bomb, but it isn't enough to save the Third Reich, just enough to take basically everyone else down with them. The players are allied troops stranded in Europe, just trying to make it it back home.

Twilight: 1984The worst fears of the early 80s are realized and there's a limited nuclear exchange, but enough to send everything crashing down. Here the action might be stateside, in the fractured United States (much like the state of the U.S. envisioned in the regular game).

Candy Jar Books Launch Children’s Books Giveaway to Celebrate World Book Day 2021

Blogtor Who - Thu, 03/04/2021 - 09:30

Cardiff-based publisher Candy Jar Books are offering a wide selection of their children’s books for free from today as part of their Great World Book Day Giveaway, including several titles set within the Doctor Who universe World Book Day has been celebrated annually across the globe for almost 25 years, although this year’s event will be rather different to […]

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Categories: Doctor Who Feeds

The Robots of Death Reborn: D84 Returns in The Robots Volume 4

Blogtor Who - Wed, 03/03/2021 - 15:30

Spring into action with Liv and Tula Chenka through the twisting tales of The Robots Volume 4   Storylines are today revealed for the fourth volume of adventures on the planet of Kaldor, due for release in June 2021. These epic episodes encompass buried secrets, escape under the cover of darkness and a deception that […]

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Categories: Doctor Who Feeds

The Spire of Quetzel, Forbidden Lands adventure anthology

Ten Foot Pole - Wed, 03/03/2021 - 12:11
By Chris McDowall, Patrick Stuart, Ben Milton, Karl Stjernberg Free league Publishing Forbidden Lands

Wind dies. Pale grass grows in spirals. Lichen forms blurred iridescent sigils on cracked stone. Black trees curl their trunks and crook their branches as if bowing. The Spire is driven through the skin of the world like a pin through curling paper. With every step toward the tower, it writhes and warps like a hallucination. It seems infinitely tall, like something in a dream. There is one silver door, marked with a pavonated eye in iridescent blue and green.

Forbidden Lands is some Modipheus RPG that tries to emulate OSR play, I think. I don’t know. What I do know is that they snagged a lot of Name Brand designers to write a volume of adventures for their game. That’s one way to get a decent base of adventures for your new game!

I don’t usually review anthology stuff, collections of adventures from many designers. I never feel like I give any one adventure enough attention and so I do a disservice to them all. In addition, you’ve got the issue of “How Much Did The Publisher Fuck With Their Creations” to deal with. But, I think I’ve found a new work method that might help me do better reviews of these anthology things. So, off we go!

Adventure 1 – The Spire of Quetzel – Patrick Stuart

This thing is 23 pages long and describes about ten locations in about eight pages, with the rest being monster descriptions,  events, etc. Locations can be a bit of a misnomer; while some of the keyed locations are “normal” rooms, as one expects, others are more situations. “You are in a huge maze” or “you are in a huge greenhouse.” Patrick is a very good writer and uses language quite effectively to paint dreamlike images for the DM that I find quite evocative. His situation/encounters are also highly interactive. This feels like a process done right: imagined and then put down with mechanics as an afterthought, instead of mechanics driving the system. “I need a CR5 encounter” is the bane of adventure design.

Looking at those last two senses of the introduction gives a good summary of the descriptive style “With every step toward the tower, it writhes and warps like a hallucination. It seems infinitely tall, like something in a dream. There is one silver door, marked with a pavonated eye in iridescent blue and green.” This is an adventuring site, no doubt about it! This is what you yearn for! Adventure awaits! Not just some bullshit dry location, but someplace WONDROUS. And an eye, pavonated like a peacock feather. Note the relationship to the queens name: Quetzal. And then, the first encounter, a couple of bird creatures, peacocks crossed with archaeopteryx and Birds of Paradise. Demons. I, dummy that I am, still did not get it. Not until I saw an art piece. They are Vrocks. This is a strength is a good designer and Patrick does it wonderfully. Not just a Vrock.  Not just a bird demon. No, he creates a description that causes you to totally rethink your preconceived notions of what a Vrock is. Turcotte did this with his devils and undead in his Jarls adventures on Dragonsfoot. It’s not a class of creature. It’s not a demon, or a vrock, or a bird demon. It’s not some genetic classification of monster. These are Grumis and Nachtrapp, weird creepy intelligent old men in brilliant giant peacock bird-creature form. Through specificity the soul of an encounter is gained.

Those demons also highlight the interactivity of the adventure. They guard a staircase. (Specifically, a spire of gilded bone leading up, with a keening wind echoing down and a pale light gleaming from above, with long-dead bodies strewn across the floor and hung like pennants on the walls. Tell me you can’t see that in your head are not excited to run it!) Anyway, those bird demons. They guard it, but they don’t want to. You cna talk to them. There are a lit of bulleted talking points for them, making them easy to run. They have a neato little entry describing their personalities, voices of hoarse whispers laughter of a goat coughing, non stop talking from them, the tone never changing, speaking as if discussing a minor poet in a library, no matter the intensity of the situation, never verbally upset. That’s a fucking NPC you can run!

There’s this kind of art nouveau quality to the descriptions, and they extend to the magic items, like The Feathered Blade: a dagger, it’s handle of lapis lazuli, carved in the shape of an eyes, it’s blade one metallic silver feather. If you wound a flying creature with it then it steals the ability to fly from it and grants it to you for a day. Neato! Fuck your “there’s a +1 dagger here.” 

On the negative side, there’s quite a bit of long italics sections, generally for the room overviews. I assume this was the publisher “helping.” M<aybe some house style? It sucks because it’s hard to read long sections of italics. The monsters also appear in the end of the adventure. Generally, I’d be ok with this, but, given that they are so unique, with their personalities built in, you really need them “in” the room page to be able to run the adventure well without page flipping or some such. The formatting feels … I don’t know … normal? SOme of the rooms, particularly the “situation” rooms, are complicated and the text is pushing the limits by what can be accomplished for easy running in a “normal” paragraph layout style. (I wonder if this is digest form? Maybe that’s a contributor also?) It all feels very awkward. THis is exacerbated by some mistakes in the layout with line spacing and paragraphs and mushing things together so they appear to be a part of a subheading rather than, for example, general notes on a location. It feels like the vodka soda of layouts. Basic.

The Bright Vault – Chris McDowall

This sixteen page adventure describes a 24 room dungeon with three monsters in it. It’s high concept and empty and the kind of adventure that makes me feel like I’ve wasted my life when played.

Which is, perhaps, a bit harsh, but true. There is some sharp dividing line for me in adventures. Well, at least one anyway. On one side you have these sorts of exploratory adventures. There are things to do and places to go and loot to steal. It feels like you have a purpose in being there, if only to snag some phat loot. We might also include many plot adventures in this category, seeing as you have something to do in them. And then you’ve got the other side of the line. The museum adventure. You go some place and look around. It doesn’t feel like there’s much else to do in the adventure, or, rather, there’s not much purpose in doing anything. These feel, I don’t know, pretentious? Empty? Hollow? Like, what the fuck is the point of this place? There were a couple of adventures in Raggis Grand Adventure Plan that fit in to this, as well as some Ed Greenwood adventures and a host of indie game adventures. And, this one.

So, 24 room dungeon. It has three demon spawn siblings in it. There’s a bodyless aura-thing protector spirit there interacting with you also. One room is a treasure vault, but the aura-thing will only let you take one item. That’s the adventure. Three child-like demon-spawn, mostly innocent in nature, and an aura-spirit that lies to you and them to keep them inside the place. I guess you can kill the demon spawn, but why? Why even go in? Why even interact with anything? 

A lot of rooms are empty, or might as well be. You go in a room and the aura-spirit says “this room is blah blah blah” and then uses the [mural, fire, whatever] to test the party and question them and find out more about them. Ug. At least, the first third of the rooms has specific cues for te aura to talk to the party, I guess because there are “Faces” on the doors to allow for that. But, given that the aura is meant to tempt and lie, especially to the spawn, then it seems … disconnected? 

So, central conceit: poor.

And then there’s room descriptions like “A large wicker basket fills the room, thinly lined with straw.” and “A dusty library filled with even more dusty books.” Masterpieces of evocative writing, to be sure. This is augmented by one of my favorite design choices: I couldn’t be bothered. “Roll 2d4 precious treasures and 1d6 valuable treasures to be placed here.” *sigh* Just put the fucking god damned things in man! The randomness doesn’t nothing to enhance the adventure and all you’re doing is shoving more work off on to the DM. 

The Hexenwald – Ben Milton

This eleven page “adventure” is less adventure and more “five witches in the forest you can talk to.” As such, there’s little to say about it as an adventure.

Bens writing is inconsistent, with some stellar descriptions like “The path north into the Hexenwald ends at a wide pond, buzzing with insects and covered in green scum.” Buzzing insects and green scum add a lot to the visuals of that description. In other places though we get things like “A wooden hut stands on stilts in the middle of a wide still pond.” The vodka soda of descriptions for a witches hut.

The witches themselves get about a column or so of description each, with their personalities and their relationships to the others. Frankly, this is a textbooks example of how something like a mind map could be useful for showing complex interpersonal relationships at a glance. Otherwise, you’ll be digging through the text trying to ferret out their relationships to each other. 

There is a little section at the end that relates events and/or quests that the withes can give the party, mostly against another of the five witches. This, then, could be thought of as the adventure. Here are some places. Here are some people. Here are some things that could happen. I get it, and it’s one way to do it, but I think that the adventure aspects could have been done better and have been brought to the forefront. 

There are some decent ideas, generally one per witch, in this. A hut full of lit candles everywhere, with runs inscribed glowing on them. Put one out and a smoke servant appears. Nice!

Graveyard of Thunder – Karl Stjernberg

This thirteen page adventure details a small eleven encounter cave with The Last Thunder Lizard in it, dying. IE: elephant graveyard/whatever that episode of the D&D cartoon was. Along the way you get a lizardman Last Guardian Of The Caves and an orc chief looking for the Phat Loot. Some nice elements here.

Big field. Mesahill in the middle. Lightning striking all around a a section of it, centered on the hill. I’m in, cause if that ain’t a great big pointy arrow I don’t know what is! And, that’s a strength of this adventure: bringing the wonder and some situations that are interesting without being explicit set pieces. Beyond the lightning field, I’d like to call out a couple of notable standouts.

Encounter one is outside the cave/hill, and, infant, outside the lightning field proper. Some tents just outside of it, with Mr. Orcy McOrcerson camped out, with his men. He heard about this place and wants the loot. He will tail the party, and/or “lead” and expedition the way Kuz did in to the Tomb of Horrors. The orcs hosw up a few more times in the caves, as warning corpses or abandoned scouts. However, they are really a missed opportunity. There was a chance here for an obsessed orc leader, KHAN!!!-style wanting to get in and squandering his meager resources of bodies. Instead we just get a couple of words on them and no real sense of how they could be used to better effect than they are. 

There’s also, in more than one place/manner, some good tension building. In one place you find a body with dart in its neck … a good clue for the party AND building tension for whats to come. In another there’s this cast off line (two, I think, in separate places) about hissing in the darkness to scare off adventurers. Again, the hissing is a missed opportunity and the ability to leverage that in to a full on tension building adventure is missing.

The whole things comes off as a very journeyman effort. Good usability, like moving from the general description in the read aloud to the specific in the DM text, is done well. But in other places there are large gaps, like the absolute lack of any monster descriptions. Instead we get their history and backstory, when we should be getting a decent little one or two line description by which to make the party shit themselves.

Summary

Anthologies are a mixed bag. They seem like a good thing, but seldom are, due to inconsistency in either writing, design, or tone. There’s some House Style bullshit going on, like the italics for read aloud and shoving the monster stats, etc in the rear of the adventure. A little too rigid if you ask me. And you are, since you’re reading this. Still at $10, you might get a good adventure out of it.

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages and show you fuck ll, except for the last page, which is the first location key for Patricks adventure. From it you can glean the encounter/formatting style. Very poor preview.


https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/258599/Forbidden-Lands-The-Spire-of-Quetzel?1892600

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