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Scourge of the Tikbalang

Sat, 09/16/2023 - 11:11
By Zzarchov Kowolski Self Published OSR/NGR Level ... 2?

A vicious Tikbalang has been reported in the area and it is terrorizing the village. The townsfolk are too frightened to attempt to hunt down the beast and the village elder is cautious about emptying  the town of defences, since there are pirates in the neighbouring village. A heavy reward in golden  treasures is offered if the rumours can both be proven true and solved by bringing the head of the beast to the elder. If the beast is not slain, the villagers may need to kill those it assaulted, lest they give birth to more Tikbalang. It is hoped that, if the original beast is slain, the children will be born as normal human children.

This sixteen page adventure describes a simple situation in a small primitive village. It’s got that air of believable humanity that Kowolski excels at, while also being a bit simple for the page count.

You are summoned to small primitive fishing village. A young maiden has been attacked in the jungle by a tiklabang and is preggers! All is lost unless you kill the best so her child will turn out human and not tiklabang!. Her fiance came upon her just as the beast disappeared. Another young lady has been attacked also. A local hunter has seen tracks in the forest of its hooves. The wise woman has has a vision of it. Oh, uh, her fiance didn’t actually see the beast. And he thought the sounds he heard sounded good, not like an attack. The other chick needs to be te center of attention. The hunters brother is sweet on the preggers chick. And the wise woman is VERY senile. Yuppers. The headman is trying to keep a bunch of people from getting killed, especially the first chick and the hunters brother. Cause the fiance is a corn fed lad in his 20’s with a fucking machete, leader of the village militia. A good example of what Truth s in an adventure, I’d say. There’s something going on, but its not exactly what the surface might appear to be and the party is going to have to dig a bit to get there. A far cry from the very earnest villagers we find in nearly every other adventure. This is the way the world actually works, people doing their best with all of the pettines and greed seeping through where possible if they think they can get away with it. The party isn’t so much heroes as much as cleaning up a fucking mess that is dumped on them. This is life. And, the mess can be cleaned up by grabbing a horse head … the only one of which is available is in the next village, 2km away, which is currently occupied by pirates! The journey is the destination in man Zzarchov adventures, just as it is here.

There’s this air of believability, of relatability, in the adventure. The hulking young man with the machete, ready to kill his fiance if she cheated on him. The actual lover, who goes crazy is confronted too hard, attacking the party against all odds, with a small iron knife. The  entire thing comes across as imagined first. “This is the what could happen, this is the way life works” and then put down on paper and turned in to an adventure. The concept not constrained by the game system. And these are, i think, some of the best adventures. 

This is a sticky adventure. It’s a relatively simple one, so its got that going for it, and the concepts and people involved are easy to remember and run. One quick read-through and you don’t really need the book anymore. Which is a kind way of me saying that you can’t run this at the table using the book. It’s just free form paragraph formatting. That;s not reference material you can use at the table. But, making the content sticky is a valid methodology as well and it works here, partly because it IS such a simple adventure. 

A few more villagers would have been nice. And, the attack on pirate village is not really detailed. No map. No events. Just a note that the captured villagers wont be happy to see the party either, for fear of being blamed for the horse theft. 

I’m going to regret this. Like Old Bay, this thing is going to stick around with me forever. As a side trek one pager it could be great and I’d think of it that way. Not really verbose, not really wasting words, but, the stickiness of it makes the book not needed once you know it. And while you COULD run it based just on my review, why not buy it, since it’s a charity adventure?

This is $4 at DriveThru.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Cosmic Gate

Wed, 09/13/2023 - 11:11
By Gustavo Tertoleone Black Dog OSE Level ... 4?

a secluded village in the mountains holds the entrance to an old complex of rooms where secrets from the holy church lie dormant. Getting in there can be a difficult task, but the occurrences in the village above it can turn the task deadly impossible.

This 52 page adventure, with no level range provided, describes a dungeon with thirteen rooms. More LotFP than OSE, it is STUFFED full of treasure. Some decent Indiana Jones puzzles and a smattering of monsters lie in WAYYYYYYYYY too much text. Another skip.

Ok, so, you got this village. 44 normal villagers live in it. They have a church with a dome. Inside the dome is art work a thousand gp. Oh, and the dome is covered in gold worth 100,000gp. 100k. Fortunately, for the party, the villagers are mostly infected with astral larvae, so, go ahead and kill them all and take all that gold. I guess the villagers are there to keep the party from just doing whatever they want, but, really, only 44 humans? I mean, parties routinely slaughter kobolds more than that in number. Once you get in to the church catacombs you’ll find them STUFFED with artifacts. And I mean STUFFED. Dozens of unique items. THis thing goes above and beyond in being a monty haul … a word I have not seen used in quite some time.

The village is supposed to be a part of the adventure, but, other than the priest name and “44 villagers” we are getting no information at all, except a How Is This Villager Crazy table. They hunt the party if they think they know the villagers are infected or they see the party trying to dig out the catacombs, which take six days, so, you can expect a villager hunt. There are also some mushrooms growing on cow dung that can give the party ESP powers, to help track down the larvae infested villagers, I guess. It’s a nice touch and would add a lot … IF more were done to bring this villager to life. Like, a name or two maybe? As is there’s nothing. N O T H I N G.

And that’s a problem. 53 digest pages for thirteen rooms. And how can this be? Not because of the Kwisatz Haderach, that’s for sure. No, it is room descriptions that take two pages. And page after page of artifact descriptions. It’s the usual culprits. A LOT of backstory for things in rooms. We get the full history of the bat-man thing that lives in room one. That contributes nothing to the adventure. And this happens time and again, with room entries, in simple paragraph format, going on and on with backstory that does not contribute to play at the table. This combines to create the usual mess that you have to fucking dig through to find information. And, that includes trying to figure out which rooms have creatures in them. You have to really dig to figure out if there’s something in the room thats going to eat the party. No Bueno. “A long time ago, a bat, attracted by the smell …”

Read-aloud, while sometimes good, can tend to be long. And it’s in italics. And it’s in some weird fucking flourish fucking font. WHich means you get to struggle through the fucking shit. It’s hard as fuck to read. Don’t fucking do that! Try to keep the read-aloud short AND DON”T USE FUCKING WEIRD FONTS! I don’t really give a flying fuck if this is a coffee table book. I’m trying to use it at the fucking table and I can’t do that if I’m struggling to read the fucking text that I’m supposed to be fucking using. 

And, while a minor point, there is a fundamental lack of understanding about randomness. The old wound. “Roll to find what artifact the party finds and if its magical.” That’s not how we do things. That’s not the point of randomness. You, designer, roll, on your own. Then place it in the text. I note that this would ALSO cut down on the amount of fucking pages and text to dig through. If you want to make a cess pit with ALL of the treasure in it, and roll to find which treasure, over time, as the party searches, that’s fine. But, in that case, the treasure actually exists. You’re just rolling to find the order (and how many wanderers show up in the mean time …) But NOT to figure out if a room HAS a treasure. 

So, long, long LONG entries. Hard to read-read-aloud (which, generally, is not bad in being evocative in this adventure) and a lack of any form of formatting at all to make things easier on the DM. Padded to all fuck and back with a conversational style. Some decent vibes here, with Indiana Jones style puzzles (not traps) and a nice monster selection. 

Also, fucking christ, entities form outer space in an adventure? Europe in an area between SPain and France? The Church? This seems like a Lamentations adventure. Especially since A Fungus From Outer Space is now the most overused trope in fantasy gaming thanks to LotFP.

This is $8 at DriveThru. The preview is six pages. You get to see a bunch of blank pages and table of contents. Shitty preview that gives you no idea, as a DM, of what to expect. And, of course, no fucking level range anywhere.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Lair of the Wild Hunt

Mon, 09/11/2023 - 11:11
By Brian Binh Pufferfish B/X Levels 4-6

Vahden is a sleepy, little sheep-ranching village in a valley on a market road. A wizard’s tower overlooks the valley, but the reclusive wizard, Chageth, hasn’t been seen in years. In recent nights, livestock and travelers have been found burned to death. Witnesses have seen a “huge, horned hunter driving a pack of fiery hounds” across the valley at night.

This sixteen page adventures features a small tower/fort with dungeon with about thirteen rooms. The descriptions are both dull and confusing, especially for a site of this size. A case of trying too hard, perhaps?

We;ve got a small tower thing on a hill with about six rooms in it. There are two separate dungeon areas connected, one with three rooms and another with about six more. There’s a nice side-profile map, and, for a small hill fort/tower thing, it’s got some interesting features that let it be more than just a simple ten room flat dungeon map. I can’t tell you how over I am of simple flat ten room dungeon maps.

The tower is infested with undead fire blobs, and has an ogre wizard inside that is a kind of shaman undead hunter that is trying to get rid of them. There are a few encounters with the blobs till you reach the main dungeon levels, where the undead pick up dramatically. You get both the undead former wizard owner and the barrow mummy thing that the fort was built over. So, stabbing undead, maybe talking to to ogre, and fucking with a machine inside (thats making undead flaming blob things) is the interactivity here. That’s kind of low, even for an adventure of this size.

The major malfunction here is in two parts: the descriptions and the … formatting? Layout? The descriptions are essentially non-existent. The False Crypt room gets “The Malevolence (viscous, vicious, grey goo): This mass of hate puppets an empty Sarcophagus and three skeletal warriors in its sticky strands of viscous ooze.” While this is not the worst description, I want you to notice the lack of scene setting. There’s nothing at all about the crypt. AT ALL. And this is par for the course here. While there’s a kind of hybrid OSE format going on (bolded keywords), the choices for what to describe aren’t done real well and there’s no real overview of the room. Further, that description would probably work better if it started off like “Viscous vicious grey goo (the Malevolence …” Starting with what you see and noting the creature in bold in parens instead. And, ug, don’t get me started on the creature names. The Malevolence. Dark Thoughts. Raging Dreams. Foul Hopes. I’m not hating too much on the names, but, rather, how they are used in the adventure. While going through the text you can’t tell whats flavour text and whats a creature name and whats something that is expanded on further. Is foul hopes a creature? A vibe? Something else? And the formatting, with the bolding choices and sidebars, while it is trying to be helpful, just gets in the way, making it harder to slog through and find things instead of making it easier, cognitively, on the DM. 

I really, really, hate the lack of descriptions in this one. And when there are descriptions we get things like “Barrels (many shattered) Pool of ooze (grey seething, knee deep)” That’s not enough. The formatting might work if the vibe were set better with the word choices, but, also, why not just describe the room? Give it an actual description that sets the mood. 

So, does it make me angry and feel ripped off? No. It makes me sad. Just another lost dream of a dreamer. The designer made an effort, clearly. They tried, but went a little overboard on the formatting and needed to focus more on the room and creatures, giving them a vibe, and then working a little more on the interactivity. Thirteen rooms in sixteen pages. ?

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is BROOOOOOKKKEEEENNNNNNN!!!!


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Lost Mines of Drothumstone

Sat, 09/09/2023 - 11:11
By Christopher Wilson Self Published OSE Levels 3-5

King Nothrim’Ston and his kin founded the dwarven mine of Drothumstone some 400 years ago.  The hope was to build a new citadel and companion city to Zolotoheim.  Trusted by his friend and fellow adventurer, Tasadantilis, Nothrim’Ston was given one of the keys to Tasadantilis’ exradimensional space: the looped scepter. But Nothrim’Ston succumbed to an insidious mental illness that affects many dwarves.  Pushing his clan harder and harder, the dwaves recklessly pursued the gem deposits and veins of ore in the mountain.  It all ended in a single day as they stumbled upon something that had been better off buried…

This 121 page region has a “main” dungeon as well as a dozen or so sites spread out over a mountain hex map. It feels disconnected from itself, both in the hexcrawl and in the dungeons. A heavy dose of trivia and lack of exploration elements don’t help any either.

Blah blah blah, ancient dwarf mine. Go find it and loot it. The hex map for the mountain region has a road on the left side that leads to several adventuring sites. The actual mine is on the right side, with several other adventuring sites scattered throughout the map. No quite haphazard and probably things that the party will stumble upon, more or less. IE: a giant lake is in the middle of the map and a couple of sites are around the shore, where they might be seen while skirting the lake. Not a bad way to handle things. There are a few sites out in the nowhere, but, whatever I guess. The actual dungeon maps tend to be rather simplistic. A star pattern and so on. Not a lot of map terrain and, in some of them, hard to make out features. The joy of digest format, I assume. 

The actual mine in question doesn’t start until page 82. That doesn’t have to be bad, if you’re doing a kind of sandboxy region, which this thing is trying to do. The wanderer table feels a bit short for that, with most of the entires being a simple attack description with a little variety in how they attak. They erupt from the earth and attack. They come out of a cave mouth and attack. Better than a bare table, I guess. The other sites are … weird. There’s a variety of them, mostly ruins, cabins and an occasional outpost with a couple of other mines and lairs. I’m struck by the … mundanity? of it all.  Here’s a boring outpost/ It’s keyed. Which are boring. Why is this done this way? Yes, hobos are gonna hobo, they could fuck up anything. But if we don’t expect them to then we provide a minimal description rather than doing a full key. This cabin has three rooms. Let me fully key it! And have nothing interesting to say about the cabin to interact with or move the game forward! 

The room descriptions are in OSE style, which some folk won’t like. But, like all styles, it depends on the designer. And the room descriptions here are … you guessed it … boring! How you can make a majestic throne room boring in its description is beyond me. The bolded words. The extra descriptive words. All boring. A mundanity that you are continually fighting against. A full page NPC description for no real reason. Why?

And those descriptions? Disconnected. I’m not talking about the paragraph after paragraph of free text descriptions for general location information, which is bad enough. No, the rooms. We’ll get a description of a room, OSE style, and then at the end of it we’ll be told that this is the lair of a filth monster covered in filth. It’s like the monster and the room are disconnected. What if you just wrote up a bunch of room descriptions, without monsters, and then rolled on a monster table for each room and put that monster in the room, without thought to the room description? That’s what this feels like. Are cockatrice neat? No? You wouldn’t know it from this dungeon. And true interactivity is poor. Stab shit. Find a secret drawer in a desk or a tunnel under a statue. Which are great, but, also, that sort of interactivity can’t be all you have in something. There’s no real sense of exploration or wonder in this.There’s so much trivia in the descriptions, things explained and detailed for no reason. Who cares that the left kitchen cabinet has clove and nutmeg in it if it doesn’t contribute to the adventure?

A quick google shows that this was written in June and published in July. That’s not enough time to really playtest it, I think, and really not enough time to edit this, I think, for 121 pages of content. And by edit I mean “agonize over every encounter and description, hate yourself, throw it down six times only to pick it up later and work on it.”

Look, this isn’t the worst thing ever written. Not by close. It looks like dude tried and was excited about it. But that’s not good enough. You are competing with every adventure ever written for every game system, ever, since 1970. Fifty some years of content. Why should I pick a mundane adventure? Why should I ever run something other than the best ever produced? Something interesting to play, easy to run, and evocative. I am ALL for supporting the new over the old, hence the emphasis on new adventures oh this blog. But not to the extent that it makes my life hard and is less fun/easy to run. If you are not producing the best work of your life then are you publishing it? 

This is $6 at DriveThru. No preview … suckers! 


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Rot Beneath Winterbrook

Wed, 09/06/2023 - 11:14
By Stuart Watkinson Kirilot Generic/Universal Level ?

Something doesn’t smell right… Civilisations rise and fall and the bones of heroes turn to dust. In a time before written words, when power was the only currency,  something wretched was killed on the banks of the river. It sank into the mud and festered. Even the most cautious of travellers seek to rest their weary heads from time to time. Their sore, tired feet enter the cold, quiet riverside village expecting to find rustic hospitality but are left wanting. There is rot under Winterbrook.

This 32 page digest adventure is another sandboxy village thing. Less obvious than the last one, it’s 32 pages for what should be a one page adventure, given the content presented. It’s not overly bad, but it also doesn’t need more than page. At least it’s not the fucking well that’s poisoned this time …

Yes, I now judge things based on page count. Or, rather. How well you can bring an idea to life beyond a simple synopsis. Putrid necromancer corpse under village mutates worms in tunnels that drives villagers in to mad cannibals. Situation made worse by the local well meaning zealot cleric and her followers, who have a real “drink and eat the burnt dead” thing going on.

Ok, make your own adventure from that. I’ll wait … la la la, la la la. Done? Ok. The blacksmith has a daughter that makes swords. The local militia leader has one eye and some history books. There are “sacks” of worms in the tunnels that can burst open in to worm swarms, as well as larger, 2HD worms. The final room in the tunnels is kind of alive and can squeeze the party, blood gushing out, worm sacks breaking and so on. Ok. That’s the extra detail that this adventure provides that is kind of meaningful. Everything else is trivia.

And I am seriously NOT going out of my way to cherry pick here. Night one the villagers eat a stew with the ashes of dead people in it and on night two they breathe in the smoke from a funeral pyre. Night three they kill a crazed cannibal in a basement ritual. That’s it. That’s all the extra you are getting. Cannibals? Fun with them? Nope. They are all locked away. Fun villagers? A good mob situation? Nope. Just a table with six randos on it. 

AT first I thought we were getting a good Black Mass thing going on. A crazed priest. A zealot layperson. A village that wants to believe. But, nope, you’re brining all of that yourself. There are hints of it, but nothing more than that. And a lot of “This person will believe any side that makes a good case …” Is there anything ON that good case? Anything to help the priest run as an opposing faction? No.

I’m not even sure how this adventure gets going. You’re in the village. Sure. You stay a night? Sure. The villagers eat the communal stew that night. It’s not until night two that they burn a body and breathe in the smoke, and someone asks for help. Why the fuck is the party still in the village pas night one? Look, I am be handwavey with a lot of stuff, but you’re clearly trying to do a build up thing here, but you’ve got to find a way to keep the party actually in the village past a single night of rest if you want to actually have a build up. And there’s no reason for them to in this one.

There is an off-hand comment that, if the party just go on their way or don’t do anything, then things go bad in the village and it influences what people say about the region in the future, and for the DM to introduce that in their game. That’s good DM advice, regardless. Make he world real by tossing in exploits, or lack thereof, tha the party has been around. 

So, it’s an adventure, I guess, because it says its one. It takes 32 pages to cover what I put in a couple of sentences. Maybe a paragraph. That sounds like a one-pager, at best. The rest of the information provided doesn’t really add to the adventure at all, not in any way that is meaningful. To quote, again, the Kitch Example, you have to tell us why this kitchen is different. Why is it meaningful that it is different from any other kitchen in the world? 

Oh, and there’s no real treasure. And the magic book you find, the Book of a Thousand Deaths, gets no real description. Not physically, or not what it might contain. LAME! LAME! Lame! Lame! LAME! Ten fucking dollars my ass …

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is seven rando pages. Good idea for variety. But, art and map heavy, which limits the utility of he preview. That Temple of he All Seeing is ok,  doesn’t overstay, but also says nothing of meaning since this is the SECOND time we get all of this information, after the NPC entries tell us the same thing. WHich is par for this adventure.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Earthworms Have Wings

Mon, 09/04/2023 - 11:22
By Thomas Scott Ingle Self Published LotFP Level ?

Level range? Why do you believe that you, as a consumer, deserve a level range? Tell me about your childhood trauma that led to that belief?

The morning after a pair of young, orphan boys (Harry, and Measel) pretend to be wizards casting a pretend spell, their odd words come to fruition, and the superstitious adults of South Chapel accuse them of practicing black magic! But all is not as it seems… Are the boys really responsible for the ills suddenly befalling South Chapel? Could it be dark spirits from the Old Sminkle place? …Or is it something else…? The only way for the Pcs to find out is to explore South Chapel and investigate the strange goings on…!

This 34 page digest adventure describes a village with people in it going mad. It has a bunch of descriptions that are not needed and A LOT of text that obfuscates what is really going on. In the end, it’s a go nowhere adventure. You’ll find no joy today me buckos. 

You arrive at the village and there’s various mobs hunting two little kids, to hang them for witchcraft. Gallows and all. Seems there are now worms flying around with wings. You wander around the village while the DM rolls on the “weird shit” table until everyone mutates and/or all of the villagers go crazy in a riot. Seems that there is a meteorite in the pond in the center of the village, causing it all. THis is, of course, two massive tropes: that there’s an outer space meteorite causing shit to happen in a Lamentations adventure and that the town water source is poisoned. The usual for a Lamentations adventure, or, any crazed villagers adventure it seems. 

The individual buildings and farms, in particular, are too well documented. The names, ages of everyone and some little blurb about thor backstory that almost never bears any significance to the adventure. Wasted space and wasted cognition for the DM trying to run this. The VAST majority of shit could just be described by a villager table. After all, their import is in the fact that they are mobbing, not that they grow cabbages. “[they all] work the farm, shearing sheep, milking goats, spinning wool, churning butter, and making cheese” Wonderful. My game is enriched. 

A couple of locations are different though. You get a full accounting of the church and of a three story haunted house. A FULL accounting. In WAY too much detail. Paragraph after paragraph for rooms. A bunch of words that mean nothing for the adventure at hand. And, you literally just wander around the village. While the DM rolls on the mutations table to see what weird shit the villagers do. That provide no clues to the adventure. I guess you just stumble on the water source, if you do at all. This all comes after a disaster of an intro, full of text, that, I guess is meant to be run as the intro to the village but is so long, at multiple pages f first this and then this, that I don’t see any sane person could use it. For that matter, the wandering around the village part is not really supported at all either. No good mob tables or anything. And, when we get to the items in the adventure? “Roll to determine one or two forgotten magic items.” Jesus people, this is not how randomness works in an adventure. Just place the fucking items. Don’t waste the creativity on things that won’t be placed. 

It does allow you to bring villagers out of their crazed state by splashing cold water on them. That’s a nice touch.

Otherwise, this is just a MASS of text that doesn’t really support the main adventure at all. Just mountains of it, that you get to dig through, while trying to run a village hunt without any support for the hunt proper. Another wasted PDF that makes little baby Jesus cry.

This is $5 at DriveThru. The preview is five pages. That’s not enough to really see what’s going on, but you can get a sense of the tedious writing style from it. Imagine that throughout.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Great Dwarf Road

Sat, 09/02/2023 - 11:11
By Simon Carryer Simon Carryer Games Labyrinth Lord Level 3

The Great Dwarf Road! A fabled trade route beneath otherwise impassable mountains. For years it brought wealth and prestige to both sides of the range. But now it is shuttered and abandoned. Home to black forgotten things, crawling subterranean creatures and freakish outcasts. Only dire haste or desperate ambition could prompt someone to attempt the road.

This eleven page adventure details seven areas in Moria, with around eight locations per are, for about forty locations overall. It’s one of the better “lets travel through Moria to get to the other side of the mountain” adventures, although it lacks that feeling of scale that text and media Morias have. 

I generally don’t review one-page dungeons; there isn’t really enough going on. But, a collection of one pagers that make up a larger context? That’s Stonehell, and I’m all in for that. For some reason you need to travel The Great Dwarven Road to get to the other side of the mountain. Maybe there’s a blizzard up top with giants, or Saurmon is watching with his crows. Whatever. In you go! It’s got a familiar mix of encounter objects in it, from an entrance door that is stuck closed, to a broken bridge over a chasm. No balrog, but you do get a dragon! The water is the water is now a flock of harpies, ready to lure you off the cliffside, and so on, so, it’s not a Moria rip-off but rather a kind of Inspired By A Trip Under a Mountain. 

The maps are a highlight of the adventure, at least in terms of Moria-like. You get a series of of them, one for each of the seven main areas, presented in an isometric kind of view. He does a great job with terrain, from aquaduct/canal like things to same level  stairs, towers, debris, and elevation features. More than most, this helps bring that complex Moria-like environment to life. The individual area groupings are on the small side, maybe seven or eight rooms per, so you can’t have that looping complex map that exploration adventures provide. Your going from point A, one side of the mountain, to point B, the other side. And that maps supports that style of play well.

It’s a one page dungeon format, so, you get one map per page. Surrounding the map are the individual adventure keys, with a couple of page sin the back to help support things, like magic item descriptions and wanderers and travel times between the major areas, etc. 

The implications here should be obvious. The magic items are all decently described, after all the product take a page to list them all and gives them each a paragraph. Mantaster is “A crude cleaver on a long haft, adorned with grisly fetishes and trophies of past victims. For the enemies of Man, this weapon is a famous relic. It twitches and throbs when a human is within 60’ …” Neat little thing and an ok description. Or a curled horn of beaten bronze, covered in a blue-green patina. Like all of the best descriptions, they seem to be imagined. While there are mechanics, they don’t overshadow the item … and therefore the players lust for it. 

The individual encounters here are decent. The creatures are engaged in activities sometimes, like bickering, Or they have something going on … like being infested by parasites. Ick! Each map is generally themed. The dragon map. The cultist map. The goblin map, and so on. There are others in those areas also, but you do get a good zones vibe going on. And the interactivity from the encounters is pretty decent as well. A pool full of tiny parasites … that you can barely see. That’s a little different than the usuall Stab It/Talk to it cycle. The harpies are on a cliffside, and the bandit leader is paranoid of traitors. This is a good example of including just a little bit more in the description, a few words, to help the DM bring the encounter to life and give it variety. And he does it pretty well.

The writing style is supported by evocative descriptions …; where evocative is defined as … a little bit more to the environment. “The red light of cooking fires, the sound of murmuring voices, and the smell of woodsmoke spill from the arched entrance. Ropes and pulleys hang overhead.” That’s not so bad. The main gates are rain-wrm and of pitted iron, towering. And, eve the monsters, from the “man-legged centipede” to an ogre that “…  is elderly and gaunt, his face a mess of scars, one of his eyes a horrible wet hole.” We’re doing well here!

What’s missing here, though, is the scale of Moria. Hmm, no, not the scale, but the VIBE that comes from the scale. The art/maps and text descriptions don’t really convey the tower buttress or collosol emptiness of the halls. The maps HINT at it, bt there’s not much more than a hint. You never get the sense, at all, of the massive undertaking fallen. That void of nothingness and hints of the majesty of days of old just doesn’t come through at all. Perhaps, we can reframe this somewhat by calling this “just another mountain tunnel” instead of the appeals ro Moria. IN this case things are a little better, from a vibe (although Moria still hangs heavy in the back of your mind) but now we’re on the Just Another Tunnel Complex thing, and, while this is an ok zoned dungeon, it  still doesn’t really FEEL like a place.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $3. The preview is seven pages and more than enough to get a sense of the adventure. Good job.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Castle Rabid

Wed, 08/30/2023 - 11:11
By Kormar Publishing Kormar Publishing OSR Level 3

Deep in the forest, a forsaken keep holds treasure and the secrets of a crown won and lost. Seek fortune in the dust of fallen nobility, navigating through beastmen, a chaos cult, and bizarre sadists from beyond this earthly realm. Beware the horrors of CASTLE RABID!

This 25 page digest adventure features a three level dungeon with around 35 rooms. Beastmen, cultists and alien dero are highlighted through a bullet heavy, but clear and evocative writing.The themes are inconsistently displayed, but the individual rooms are solid.

Beastmen mean Warhammer! And, I guess, weirdo druid-like cult people also mean Warhammer? And Dero! A fine take on dero! To quote their description: “albino knee high freaks, black saucer goggles, totally hairless” And, they bring a little bit of tekno to the table with their pneumatic exsanguinators and etch-a-sketch writing tables that they are always taking notes on. We toss in a few “hulking mutants” and we get the low down: dero come up from underground, do some experiments and are taking notes while corrupting the former bandits in a ruined castle, with some cultists thrown in to help control the masses of unwashed they have to deal with. All in the form of a standard three level dungeon crawl. Which, I think, is an issue. But I’ll get to that …

So, Gart the hunter got this hunting lodge/inn thing on the edge of the forbidden forest. His daughters gone missing. He’s pretty sure its those smelly unwashed religious tyes that took out the nearby ruined castle. Or, in the designers words “Gart is a fine hunter, but he’s getting old. There are six other kids that need wrangling. He offers a wagon and two draft horses, Bert’s dowry, to anyone who can return his daughter to him alive.” Later ol Gart is referred to as “Father of the year.” 

This is the first sign in the adventure that the designer gets it. Those sentences are enough to let me know that something in this adventure is going to be worthwhile. It might be a shitshow of formatting and long text, but dude knows whats up. Joke adventures sucks. But adventures that know that they exist in an absurdist world? It is rare indeed when those are totally fuck ups.

The formatting here is going to be controversial. It’s bullets. Like, HARD. CORE. bullet points. Like, three per room or so. SOmetimes more. SOmetimes less. The pure unadulterated lack of shame in JUST using bullets is wild to see. It’s jarring an offputting, but I can’t argue that it doesn’t work.  The first one is usually what you are going to get from approaching a door to the room. The sounds or smells or something. Pretty nice. And then the second is what you would immediately notice. Like, the big ass fucking ogre in the room, who “Supposed to eat trespassers, but has a taste for pack animals and would love a captive audience for his terrible jokes.” And then maybe a tertiary description of the room. “Walls strewn with torn banners, crooked elk heads, and rusted polearms. A skeleton is impaled on one of the elk horns. Rotten smelling furs piled in the center of the room as a bed.” So, first things first, then whats obvious, then the details of the room. That’s exactly how you’re supposed to write the fucking thing. Uh. Like, exactly. I don’t think I’ve seen it done with such rigor before, at least not without those terrible “Light: Door: FIrst Sight: fucking headings that I loathe so much. 

And the writing, the imagining of the room, it’s pretty good. That’s the first room of the dungeon I’ve quoted above. The ogre gets a little detail. Pack animals, captive audience. It could help bring him to life if needed. And the torn banners and CROOKED elk heads? That’s great. Rusted polearms. This room has been IMAGINED and then described. That’s exactly what a room should be handled. A skeleton on an elk horn is just that extra bit to let you know your’e playing D&D. I’m really pretty happy with almost all of the room descriptions, much more so than usual. Not over the top, but a really good job of imagining it. Like those Dero, reimagined as a kind of tiny Grey alien. And cultists wearing furs and animal horns. Beastmen that are beastmen. It’s done well.

There’s no order of battle, which is kind of bad. Treasure seems light? There are a couple of hoards to be found, with spotty treasure description. The  maps are pretty plain affairs, about ten rooms per level.

If I’ve got a problem with this adventure (and I do) it’s that the vibe is off. 

I don’t know how to better explain it. It feels disconnected. From itself? I don’t understand it as a … lair? The beastmen. The cultists. The dero. The other people running around …. It just doesn’t come together as a whole. The individual rooms? Fine. But they don’t seem to be working together. I don’t mean that there’s a red dragon in one room and a gold one in the next room. It’s just that it doesn’t feel like one complex. It never feels like a home to beastment, or cultists, or dero. I don’t know why. SOme sort of disconnect between the rooms? Again, the writing is good and the theming should be, in theory, great, sith the cultists, beastment, dero triad. But they really don’t ever seem to … riff off of each other? No. I don’t know. They feel disconnected form each other. Yes, I know I’ve said that a few times now. I don’t know what I’m trying to say.

It’s a decent adventure. If the disconnect thing wasn’t there then it would be a REALLY good adventure.

This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2.50. The preview is all 25 pages. You can kick some ass with this one, and it doesn’t deserve the three star rating it has on drivethru.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Tomb of Firkin

Mon, 08/28/2023 - 11:11
By Simon Miles Dunromin University Press OSRIC Levels 3-5

Thelkor Boghammer and his band of Dwarven murder-hobos opened up the tomb of the Gnomish Firkin family a few months ago. They had a bad time of it and the sole survivor, Tutlin, is drowning his sorrows and desperate to sell the map he made of the tomb to any eager adventurers he comes across. His map contains a clue to a secret way he never realized was there – can any more noble adventurers decipher the clue and find the riches without being slaughtered by the Undead guardians? Or, failing that, could your characters do it? 

This 46 page adventure contains a dungeon, with three themed areas and about sixty rooms. Long read-aloud. Long DM text. Nothing to do but stab people. It harkens back to the old days. The bad old days.

Come and listen to my story about a man named Bryce, A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed … Do you remember how the jungle used to go? Back when the OSR was fresh and new? I do. It was hell. I mean, it’s hell now. It was a different hell? Instead of the Flavour System of the Month system we have now it was more of a Slog Through Meaningless Text style. Lots and lots and lots of read-aloud. Lots and lots and lots of DM text. And not much actually going on in the dungeon. Lots and ots of stabbing, I guess. And that’s what we got going on here. Lots of text. Mundane to the point of simulationist. A bad time.

Abstracted text. “You are all sat in the Inn considering your recent experiences and wondering what you might do next. The discussion turns to rumours and legends you’ve heard …” Yeah, sure , it’s fucking intro. But we don’t abstract text. And we don’t use the word “you”. No second person writing in adventures. Ever. We right specifics. That grounds the adventure. And no, you don’t need to describe every fucking thing. But you DO need specifics on some things. Like  making the fucking intro something that I’m not going to sleep through. “You stand at the crossroads of a hallway …” Jesus christ man, I thought this shit was known? I thought it was fucking obvious that you don’t do this? But not in this throwback adventure. It’s like the last ten years have not existed. Same old same old. 

And there’s read-aloud. Lots and ltos of read-aloud for every room. And there’s DM text. Lots and lots of DM text for every room. It’s perfect. The players will be bored while listening to the read-aloud, the boring read-aloud, drone on and on and then they can be bored again while the DM tries to scan the mountains of text that make up the DMs notes for the room. Fucking paragraph after paragraph. Wall of text levels of writing in places. It’s fucking insane. Again, it’s like the last fifteen years have not existed. I’m not sure how someone can be so disconnected. I mean, I don’t follow the crowds too much on social media, but I know enough to know which way the fucking wind is blowing and what the trends and lessons are. But this … How do you publish on DriveThru, for OSRIC, and still be this out of touch with what you need to do in an adventure?

“There is no hazard here and everything of value has been robbed out. The plinths are solid stone.” Yeah. Sure. Mountains of read-aloud for that. And mountains of DM text for little to no interactivity. Just that the room is empty. That the barrel is full of water. That the crate is empty. You can stab things. You can stab a lot of ghouls. That’s fun, right? And then you can stab a lot of hobgoblins in the second part of the dungeon. And then you can stab a bunch of goblins in the third section of the dungeon. Stab stab stab. Stab stab stab. “The hobgoblins in this room will respond to the hobgoblins in the other room in two rounds.” Well, great. Maybe put that fucking information in the room where we need it? 

“The floor of this chamber is …” That’s how, I don’t know, 80% f he rooms start. “This chamber is … “ It’s fucking padding man. 

There’s just nothing here man. Mountains of text to no effect. A throwback to the bad old days. You gotta make an effort man. You gotta get better. You gotta make at least a small effort to learn what to do. I mean, you kow enough to use english and not random gibberish, right? And to write from left to right? Why not expand that jut a bit and figure out how to present a good adventure for the DM? That would be effort? Ah

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is ten pages. You get to see no rooms. But, take a gander at that writing. Imagine those are the rooms. You’ll get what you need to know from that.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Flames Witnessed at Temperance

Sat, 08/26/2023 - 11:11
By  D. D. Gant Self Published Labyrinth Lord Levels 1-3

Dreams of the sleeping wizard seep into reality. Manifest familiars war over the fate of a remote islet.  An infinite garden houses an escaped experiment.  The god of purity is fooled for his blessings.  Into the nightmare we go.

This sixteen page adventures features a small island with around ten locations. It’s all a dream, with no death possability, but a lot of novelization language and a little heavy reliance on anthropomorphic animals, trying for a fairy tale/dream vibe. It’s minor high points don’t save it in any way.

*sigh* ANother dream time adventures. The sleeping wizards dreams invade reality blah blah blah. Go in to his nightmares and “kill” him to wake him up. Blah blah blah. How can you have your pudding if … I mean, how can you have an adventure when there are no consequences? This is one of those things that, as a player, I tune completely out on. I don’t really give a shit when there are no consequences. Anyway. People on shore see a light on the island and off you go to figure shit out. Once there you meet a bunch of animals who can talk and are intelligent and maybe tell you to go to the forest and kill the wizard. Once there you enter his nightmare and kill him, waking him up. There are also nightmare descriptions for the other nine locations on the island, although why you would go back there is beyond me. You enter the nightmare in the forest. The forest is one location. The dude is in the forest. Seems pretty straight forward to me. 

This thing is FULL of overly dramatized prose. The kind of shit that is supposed to be full of imagery, if you were reading it in a novel. But this isn’t a novel, its an adventure. One of the entries starts “In defiance of expectantly calm conditions …” Seriously? I’m supposed to run something that starts with that? One of the encounters is called “The tree will remember” and has a statue in it. That does nothing. The trees do not enter in to the location, except the statue is in a grove of trees. Yeah, super meaningful dude. I am inspired. “Half-buried crab cages entomb expired crustaceans where the gulls cannot reach.” Why do we care that the gulls can’t reach the crab bodies? What the fuck is the point?  “Under the spell of the beckoning nightmare the adventuring party find themselves stumbling out of the shady grove …” This isn’t writing. It’s not adventure writing anyway. Passive sentence structures. Overly purple prose. The writing needs to be clear, direct, not passive, and targeted at running the game. “Where the gulls cannot reach. *pffft* Garbage.

There is one section where things just do not make sense at all. In a lab there’s a table for a snow globe. The globe is never mentioned anywhere. Just a table for a globe. Ad it’s written, at least in one of the entries for the globe, like you can enter it. But there’s not enough to run that. And, where the fuck is the globe anyway? Its like the designer left out a paragraph. 

There’s a decent bit of thing or two in this. A potion of bees! You turn in to a swarm of bees for two turns. Kind of a nice reimagining of a gaseous form. And A rat who dons a repurposed chainmail coif over fine silks and waves around a sewing needle in command of his fellow rats. This is in a room with a familiar toad who ready to release a tamed tabby on the rats. Decent little vignette there, but maybe a little too much Watership Down for me. I just don’t get the anthropomorphic animal thing. The wanderer table has “Deer wearing prayer bead necklaces clip-clop out of a nearby room.” That’s suitable creepy for me though.

It’s all a dream. Who cares. The writing would be fine if this were a novel, but it’s not. You need to get the dream vibe to the DM, who can pass it to the players. You want an Annihilation vibe. You don’t do that by tormenting the DM who has to wade through the passive, purple prose. 

Then again, who cares, it’s all just a dream anyway.

This is free at DriveThru. The marketing blurb promises more like this from this designer. Oh boy.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Isle of the Bleeding Ghost

Wed, 08/23/2023 - 11:11
By Jordan Thompson Self Published Shadowdark Level 1

Years ago the infamous pirate Captain Marrow led a campaign of terror across the high seas. The Pirate Queen hid her plunder on a remote island before killing her own crew to preserve the secret. Only a single map of the island survives to this day, with clues pointing to a treasure hoard within Captain Marrow’s Grotto. Within the caves, would be thieves are met with perilous traps and restless undead

This eight page adventure details a seave cave with seventeen rooms. Mermen, crabs, and skeleton pirates cavort about while the party blunders through one simplistic encounter after another. If the encounters made sense, then the good writing and formatting would be a credit. As is though, they are wasted.

Looks like a certain someone has been riding Piratesof Caribbean. Again. All that treasure on the cover photo? “Trinkets, gemstones,and doubloons totaling 350 gp.” Enjoy your slog, suckers! But, seriously, this thing is written well, its just nonsensical.

Map is fine for it’s size. Lots of varied terrain, and an underground river always adds a little flair to the game. The room descriptions are a sentence or two, up top, followed by a couple of bullets with some bolding. It’s a clean and easy to read format, maybe it uses whitespace a little too liberally, but, otherwise, it helps the DM locate information well. Which is what the fucking formatting should be doing. It’s the entire reason for formatting. 

The descriptions sprinkle adjectives and adverbs about in a way that adds colour without droning on and on. A rock stickup out of the water is “littered” with treasure. Crabs skitter. Pools teem with sea bass. There are piles of polished bones. There’s is the occasional miss here and there, and the word giant, and a few other boring descriptors, pop up a little too much, but, dude knows they SHOULD be doing. Which is more than most people can say. This extends in to the wanderers, with skeletons running cackling in to rooms, or mermen dragging the corpse of a castaway away, in to the briney deep. Perfect little descriptions, just a few extra words, and they help bring the wanderer to life. Two Teeth Tim (human, optimistic) is an NPC, a castaway, you can meet in the dungeon. As well as One Leg Charlie, the careless halfling. Great little descriptions. You know how to run these dudes. They spring to life in your mind. They are memorable. And the designer does it all in just a couple of fucking words. Why is that concept to fucking hard to grasp for other designers? 

Ok, so, decent formatting and descriptions. No real serious complaints. So how was the play?

I think not.

It’s level one. You find a treasure map to the pirate treasure. There are castaways. How did you, at level one, get to the island with the dungeon on it, that the castaways can’t get away from? Now, I understand, you think I’m nitpicking here. But, I want to to consider that this is not in isolation. This sort of design inconsistency, the lack of thinking things through and how they integrate, is present throughout the adventure. It’s almost like this adventure was never run, or the designer has not run it in any serious way. That issue would come up immediately, right? Room two is skeletons sitting at a dining room table furnished with the fetid remains of a feast. They animate if the table is disturbed. Room three is a kitchen with two HUMAN cooks. What?! They are making the food for the dining room? Why? No clue. Fetid food on the dining table? Why? If there are cooks that make it regularly? The cooks are hungry? Why? Why are they there? Theres no mention of human slaves anywhere. It’s just nonsensical. “I guess this is what is happening now.” This sort of disconnected stuff is all over the place.

How many HD is a giant octopus? They are bad as sin OSR, right? There’s on in this adventure. And one or two traps that would be quite appropriate in a Grimtooth book. WHich I’m fine with, but a little out of place these days. Hmmm, the final pirate queen boss ghost screams blood at you. Thats nice. Otherwise, enjoy stabbing shit. I guess you can talk to the various castaways you meet. To little effect. They are essentially just trivia. So … stabby stab stab to your hearts content … there is little in the way of interactivity beyond this. And, continueing a long tradition on this blog, there is no Isle. Just a dungeon with an isle implied.

If the designer can figure out how actual D&D gameplay works, the meta, then there could be a future here. 


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Tragic Curse of Grimhill Fort

Mon, 08/21/2023 - 11:13
Aleksandar Kostic  Reverse Ettin Games Shadowdark Level 1

A terrible storm is brewing – you must find sheltef rom this accursed weather, and quickly! Veldmark, the nearest town, is over ten leagues away, so your only choice is the ruined fort on a nearby hill. As you approach, a faint cry echoes from deep within the decrepit structure. The hair on the back of your neck stands up in warning, but perhaps it was just the wind. Perhaps. Gathering up your courage, you enter the halls of the Grimhill fort.

This eight page adventure features a small fort with twelve rooms. Surprisingly decent for such a small adventure, with a touch of specificity that is rare to see. Perhaps one day the designer will do something good?

Yeah yeah, I know I know. I said no more Shadowdark. But, then, someone told me I was doing it wrong. She told me that the good stuff was on itch and DriveThru was a cesspool. The back half of that statement is certainly true, so, we’re testing out the front half. That means three SHadowdark reviews incoming, all recommended to me personally. If this is true then we’ve got problems. I don’t know where to look other than DriveThru for the cultural adventure zeitgeist. Plus, I mean, I make about $6.50 a month in referrals from DriveThru. In another six months or so I can go out drinking! (DId I mention my Patreon? I promise to spend it all on lottery tickets and drinking from brown paper bags under bridges. https://www.patreon.com/join/tenfootpole?)

This looks like a contest entry, it being limited to eight pages. Of which the designer decided that 3.5 should be useless shit like a cover, credits page, and half a page of backstory on a dead dudes body. And while I’m on a roll about density, let me cover the full page map that only manages to squeeze in twelve rooms. Yes, it’s isometric. Great. How about trying to make a real location next time, with a few rooms in it? And, the intro states you’re seeking shelter because you’re ten leagues away from the nearest place to sleep? I think not. EMpty space does not exist. I don’t know, maybe it’s the local lords hunting range or something. Otherwise, someone, or twelve, is living there.

And, that will be, very nearly, the last bad things I say about this one. It is surprisingly decent.

The first words of the adventure are: “A: Main Entrance” with three bullets that say “• Wooden signpost that says “You are not welcome here!”.• A gust of wind knocks a few branches and pebbles from the ruined walls above.• Sturdy oaken door, slightly ajar, squeaks loudly if not opened with caution, DC 9.” There’s some newlines in there so it reads easier, but, still, this is a very pleasant surprise! On two fronts! First, the fucking thing starts the adventure keys. No fucking around with all the usual padding that plagues adventures these days. “How to play the game” or “How to read a fucking stat block” or “ten pages of bullshit about a generic town.” Oh, no. Just the cover page, the blurb page, a map, and then the rooms keys. Noice! But, less meta and more pragmatically for play, check out that description! A nice wood sign. A gust of wind to add some drama. A squeaky door to reenforce it. I understand these are simple things, but, they are specific and therefore evocative. Its starting us off with a vibe. 

This continues through all of the room keys. “WIND HOWLS through cracks in the stone walls” Absolutely it does! A chandelier hangs from a beam, with pigeons having built a nest in it. Yupyup! I maybe would have made them cooing pigeons, or ruffling pigeons, but, whatever. There’s more. A bloated corpse floating in water, full of leeches and flesh-eating snails. Groovy!  And, then, when we get to a creature, some bandits in this case, we get “Two nasty-looking ruffians are yelling at each other, arguing, while the third one enjoys the show.” That a pretty short sentence, but sets up the room well. Why the fuck can’t more adventures do this? One sentence for a description and one sentence to add some action to the static description. Boom goes the dynamite! 

There are misses here. More than a few. In one room we barrels of “stolen good, worth 200gp but they are heavy” Yeah, sure, the heavy part is good. But “barrels of oats” is as short as stolen goods is and more evocative. BE SPECIFIC! And, there are some wolves that attack anyone carrying a torch. Seriously? Isn’t that the opposite of animal behavior? I guess because the bandits abuse them? And no order of battle for the bandits? Pfffft.

This is not a terrible adventure. Especially, when it comes to Shadowdark. It doesn’t feel like some ripoff thing published for a cash grab. The designer needs to stop fucking around with gimmicks though. Make a real dungeon/location. Stick in more interactivity than just stabbing shit and opening boxes. The Holy Blade: An ornate blade mounted on a jeweled iron handle” is boring. Better than Sword +1, but describe why its ornate and what/where that jewel is. Hellfire this is not. Do better. But, also, nice job not making a total shit-fest!

This is Pay What You Want at itch, with a suggest donation of $2./


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Wicked Little Delves – Vol 1

Sat, 08/19/2023 - 11:11
By Joseph R. Lewis Dungeon Age Adventures OSE Levels 1-3

These are three one-shot dungeon delves. Each delve features nine rooms or locations full of challenges and interactivity. Each delve has only one type of monster, but they are complex, and there are lots of them!

This 22page adventure features three little dungeon, each with none rooms. A cellar with spiders, a little prison with Boom Hounds, and a little sea cave with crabs. Lewis is a master of the craft, with great descriptions, interactivity, and organization. These are a little small for me to get completely behind, but, for an evenings entertainment as a stand-alone, I thin they set the standard.

A feel like I’m coming off of writing a thousand shitty little reviews that don’t go in to much detail about what is bad and why. I just say “they’re garbage” and move on. Now, I think, I have the opposite problem. I’m faced with something decent and all I can say is “Hey, it’s pretty good.” But, let us endeavor to persevere! (Also, it’s the Friday morning of GenCon and I’m finishing this up before heading downtown to the con, so, you know …)

Lewis knows what’s he’s doing. In every way. He consistently pops out decent product. He understands D&D, he understands writing, and he understands what is needed in formatting to tie things together. This particular product, a compilation of three short adventures, exemplifies his ability. I’m only regerting it because they ARE a little short for me I know its unfair, but, also, I think these set the standard baseline for what to expect from an adventure. If you’re not at least this tall then perhaps hone things up by writing for 5e or something. If I wanted to grab an adventure to run tonight I wouldn’t hesitate to use one of these as a filler. 

I guess I should start with the formatting. H’es using a three-column style, with one room per column. We get a little room name and the dimensions, a little door and light summary, then a little section hat could be read-aloud or a summary for the DM. A few words are underlined. Those are expanded upon below in bullets with their own descriptions in more detail, notes about interactivity and so on. There are cross-references to other pages where needed, and monsters noted in red to stand out. Bolding and underlining some in to play. In other adventures I could bitch about almost all of this. Room dimensions? It’s on the map! Light and doors? Pfft. But, he integrates them in to the text easily, not wasting space but instead using ALL of his whitespace to effect. The room name is short, so he puts the dimensions right after that. No wasted whitespace after the room name and the ability to insert the dimension without impact to the text. A billion different types of formatting? That can be confusing. But not here. He knows why and how to format to get his point across without it feeling like it so over the top tha the text is now confusing to read, distracting. Three rooms per page?! Heresy! But, his rooms are stuffed with interactivity. The column and bullet format makes it easy to run the room and find what you need. It doesn’t FEEL like a wall of text or useless trivia but rather that the room is stuffed with shit to interact with … and also without it seeming like it is useless interaction. It’s his format, he owns it, figuratively, and shows he’s the master of it.

He understands the dungeon interactivity. His anderers do something interesting, allowing the DM to brng some life to an otherwise what could be boring wanderer. It’s not overblow. It’s just a few words, but they are FOCUSED words. Spiders “sleeping in a flooded sinkhole in the floor, releasing bubbles.” You can run that as an interesting encounter, even though its just a wanderer. And he does this in entry after entry. Just a little, and enough to riff on and findf fun with the players. 

His treasure is great. A compass, a black leather tricorn hat, a silver cutlass. Gold-red coins … whose scent attracts predators! ANd likewise the magic items. A crystal goblet that purifies an liquid placed in it. Powerful. Not presented mechanically. It has wonder. And yet, it’s crystal, so, you really carrying it around the dungeon with you? People trip and fall all the time in the dungeon. A magic rabbits foot. You can reroll a save. But one of your items vanishes in a puff of rabbit fur and muted screams. Groovy! It’s short and oh so wonderful for adding colour to your games!

In one adventure, a sea cave full of crabs, you have the opportunity to get the blessing of the shark goddess. At least, the person who has killed themost crabs gets the opportunity. And if so then you might become a were-shark. And, in one room: “When a were-shark touches the skeleton, it whispers, “Who dares disturb my slumber?” If the were-shark speaks nobly and mentions the crabs, then the ghost of the giant shark appears and slaughters all crabs nearby.” Fucking groovy, right?! Not really hidden depth, but just below the surface and ready to go. These don’t exist all over the place, it’s not set piece after set piece or gonzo after gonzo.; There’s just shit to explore in the rooms and fuck with and it FEELs like you’re exploring. 

Lewis knows what he’s doing. Like I said, I’m being a little unfair here, because of the length of them. But, also, like I said, these are perfect little things for dropping in on a random night where you want a one and done and don’t need something overly involved. I wish all of those shitty little adventures I review were as good as these.

This is $4 at DriveThru. Preview is none pages, which gets you a look at the first adventure, the spiders in the basement. That’s more than enough to get a good idea of what you are buying and see what he does well.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Tomb of the Baboon King

Wed, 08/16/2023 - 11:11
By Sage Paoilli, Dean leonard, John R. Brennan Armored Storyteller Publishing OSE Levels 8+

The civilization that once worshipped the Baboon King no longer exists, and only a few scattered ruins remain. None remember its name. A few rare scholars and priests deciphered fragments of the ancient city- state’s history. The humidity of the region devoured most scrolls and painted images left behind. Only the stories recorded in worn stone provided a clue into the past.

This 33 page adventure details a dungeon with 24 rooms. I kept thinking I was in a 5e adventure instead of an OSR one. It’s fine, I guess, as linear dungeons go. Whatever. It’s so bland and yet polished that my eyes have glazed over in looking at it.

I don’t know why your level eights are afraid of a baboon, king or otherwise. AC0 with 101hp, I guess. Along with a 4d6 bite and two 6d6 claws. Meh. What is that, more than a huge red dragon? Or a Trex? Sure thing man. I guess  this is one of those “Bryce doesn’t know classic fantasy fiction” things again, where Conan or Elric or someone masturbated a bunch of baboons and now we have to think they are cool or something.

The map is terrible. It’s too small to read. It’s one of those full color things, with detailed floor tiles. A garish monstrosity that you can’t make out any detail in, or even the room numbers. And it’s linear. Yea, linear. So you are almost doing, like, 24 rooms all in a row, in a straight line, to make it to the end of the adventure. That is SOOOOOOO anti D&D that I don’t even know how to describe WHY it is. There’s no exploration. No choice. No unknown. No mystery.Just a boring nonstop of first this and then this happens to you. Who the fuck would want to play something like that? Room after  room in a straight line. I’m not sure I even made dungeons like that when I was eight. 

Let’s see … book magic items. A wilderness and dungeon wandering table in which 95% of the entries have a sentence or two of text that amounts to “They Attack!” Yup, we’re doing everything right it seems.

The encounters, the rooms proper, are … something. Basically it amounts to a surprise in each room. In this room your surprise is: water pours in to flood the room. In this room your surprise is: walk the CORRECT path of wisdom on the floor tiles. In this room your surprise is: poison gas drives you crazy. In this room your surprise is: wait, it’s just some monsters attacking if you open some caskets. That’s the first four rooms. Then there’s eight mummies. Then a spear trap. Then the ever-present falling portcullis and bronze golem. And then vines in the room. It’s all the same. It’s shit you have seen a thousand times before implemented in exactly the same way it’s been implemented a thousand times before. 

For each room you get a paragraph or two under the heading of What Is Noticeable and a whole lot more text, many paragraphs, under the heading of What Is Not Immediately Noticeable. Nice idea. Terrible implementation. Rooms take a page. The first room takes a page and a half for a flooded room trap. There’s a one page stat block in another room. This is just TERRIBLE. What were they thinking?! There’s three of them. Did NO ONE stop and say “Hey maybe this is a bad idea.”  

I’m just incredulous. AT level eight. In B/X. OSE is basically B/X, right? Level eight. How the fuck do you make a level eight D&D adventure boring? How do you put a challenge in every room and STILL make the adventure boring?1

GenCon is in two days. Dear baby jesus, please let me find some joy there …

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is four pages. You get to see that first room. It could be a longer preview, but, I guess it does show you a room.


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