I can’t say I’m not immensely pleased with the verdict.
The writing is evocative without being verbose. At one point there’s a captive centaur forced to fight an opponent to the death. He continues trampling his opponent on the ground “long after the cheers of the crowd have ceased.” Recall, this is a warrior blood cult. Ouch! That’s the kind of writing you get. In this adventure. It doesn’t drone on and on with endless descriptions of room contents or wether the doorway is eight foot tall or nine foot tall. Instead the writing conveys the SENSE of he place. And because it does it can leverage every life experience the DM has had to allow them to fill in the blanks. The horrified onlookers. A blood warrior, sullen with his jaw hanging open, averting his eyes from the massacre. A guy a little too much in to it. All of that can brought by DM to expand the locale as needed, reacting to the players. Good location descriptions don’t describe an locale, but rather the SENSE of the locale. ““Rough-looking men interrupt gulps of ale and bites of charred rabbit with rambunctious laughter around a sizable fire pit.” Indeed!
That same writing then turns around and uses white space, bolding and bullet points to great effect to organize the text. A small text paragraph to convey the sense and then bullets to expand the mechanical aspects. This allows the DM to scan the text quickly and effectively to locate the information they need to run the adventure. The dichotomy of adventure writing is that you get to ignore ALL sense of grammar and style in order to convey the sense of the place … but it has to be perfectly organized to allow the DM to easily run it at the table. This adventure does that.
There’s a nice little time table presented that shows what’s going on at the camp when. Locations have brief notes related to the time table that don’t get in the way. There’s an order of battle for some rooms. “The guards in room 5 might hear a prolonged combat …” or … “If an alarm is raised then …” There’s a summary sheet of monster stats so you’ll have them all at your fingertips when running this. It’s almost as if the designers *gasp* oriented the text so it would be useful to a DM running it at the table! Oh the Humanity!
The rumor table is in voice for the beleaguered people whispering tales of the raiding warriors. The entire place is written as a neutral living environment, a module, not necessarily entirely dependent on the PC”s actions. Up to the point that their blood sacrifices finally work, they raise a god, and it slaughters all of them and eventually maybe blots out the sun. The wanderers chart has a couple of allies and/or prisoners on it. (Even if “33% chance every 10 minutes” seems a little frequent …) The map has some loops in it and feels like caves in a canyon. (Or at least a fantasy version thereof.) The magic items are new and interesting.
There’s mount presented for a Paladin (that’s one of the potential hooks) that FEELS like a paladin’s mount. Aeyron, grandon of the King of Horses! Fuck yeah man! Now THAT’S a paladin’s mount!
Little rattlesnakes. Giant snakes/ Cauldrons of boiling blood. Death match games. It’s conan turned up to 11.
Bryce lynch has reviewed just about every OSR adventure under the sun. His harsh verdict on what makes an adventure ticked is second to none and I have seldom, if ever, disagreed with him. To be ranked among the Best by what is one of the few opinion leaders in the decentralized Sandbox of the OSR is a great honor. Already the sales are flooding in.
Check out The Red Prophet Rises here. Now in softcover AND pdf!
Update: T’is the Reviewing Season. T.Foster gives the adventure a positive critical review.
[…] In general, I like it. I like the set-up with the obvious bad guy cultists on the surface and the more mysterious and weird stuff hidden underneath. That’s a pretty standard D&D adventure trope (e.g. Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun) but it’s one of my favorites, and the way they’ve handled it here doesn’t just feel like a rehash of earlier work. I like that the villains seems really villainous but without dwelling so much on the gore and cruelty that it feels like they’re reveling in or getting off on it. It feels like a situation that could be straight out of a Conan story, which for me is a good thing. I like that the canyon is described in an open-ended manner so there are several different ways the players can approach and deal with it, that there are several flavorful NPCs and potential rival factions, and that there’s a suggested timeline of events to make the location seem “alive” (and not just have everybody sitting in their rooms waiting for somebody to come kill them) but that it’s not fixed on rails: there are some implicit or potential “scenes” but none of them are fixed or mandatory. I like the way the room descriptions are written and organized, with an introductory paragraph followed by bullet-points enumerating special features and/or possible actions and conditions in a very user-friendly manner that seems like it would work very well at the table – better than when reading. The way the room descriptions include the possibility of different conditions depending on when and how the adventurers encounter them (e.g. that various NPCs and monsters may or may not be present) reminds me a bit of some of my favorite adventures like Dark Tower and Snakepipe Hollow (the latter a RuneQuest adventure).
On the minus side, though, it feels really overwritten to me – like they’ve taken a situation worth about 20 pages and filled 40 pages with it. The setup feels to me like something that should be a pretty minor adventure – that should fill one or two sessions of play – but the authors have gotten carried away and added too much to it. The adventure details 43 locations, every one of which is described sufficient detail to make it at least potentially a significant and unique encounter. This seems overdone to me: since there are so many rooms and every one of them is something new and different and active there’s no real “downtime” – no rising and falling action, but rather it seems like it’s “all climax.” It feels to me like the authors have crammed too much into the package – that they had so many good ideas and wanted to include all of them – and I think the adventure would’ve worked just as well (and would probably also be easier to run) if it had about half as many encounters, or at least if there had been more “mundane” stuff mixed in as palate-cleansers to help pace the big moments. […]
It’s good to see the Conan-vibe is easily recognizable without being derivative. Both Bryce and Foster seem to appreciate our use of layout for maximum usefullness at the table. He makes a comment earlier in his post where he asks why we chose Gold & Glory for the system while the vibe of the adventure is much more AD&D 1e or DnD Basic.
Since we did the adventure under the Merciless Merchants label which publishes adventures under the Gold & Glory system, we wanted to make sure our existing fanbase would be able to use Red Prophet Rises alongside the rest of the catalog. If there is sufficient interest we might bring it out under Labyrinth Lord rules later on. Of course, given that the many species of DnD are interchangeable, there is really no reason you wouldn’t be able to use this for OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord or AD&D with a bare minimum of adjustment.
As for his criticism, to me that’s a feature, not a bug. As Foster later remarks, “Being in a position that an adventure has too much interesting stuff that you need to trim some of it out to make it manageable to is certainly preferable to the all-too-common alternative of boring adventures that offer nothing that hasn’t already been seen a thousand times before or incomplete adventures that the reader/would-be DM has to effectively co-write to turn into something decent and usable.” Amen. We wrote this thing and charge you money for it so it had better be packed to the rafters with awesome.
That being said, of course the cavern complex has locations like armories, barracks, storehouses and animal pens, but even here you can sometimes expect the unexpected. The Red Prophet Rises is filled with awesome and I like it that way.
Check it out for yourself folks!