Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Adventure Site Contest: Review #1 Olglias’s Folley

 Why does one keep an old blog around?  Because it might be needed someday.

Today is such a day.  Ben Gibson of Coldlight Press, author of the esteemed NAP module "Tower of the Time Master" has emceed an adventure site contest with a very respectable 18 entries, which I'm reviewing to provide feedback and highlight content fitting with the classic adventure gaming style of play.

The rules of the contest were two pages of space for writing the adventure site proper, the goal was to provide a location suitable for putting into a hex map for players to encounter and explore, taking up to perhaps a full session of game time but not much more than that (and possibly less).  

I'm pretty lax on process so my review order is alphabetical by file name as submitted, which may differ from the name of the entry proper - easier to keep track of progress down the folder.  

For review criteria, my main two are very simply: 1) do I think this will work in play as written or with very minimal customization, and 2) Do I like it?  #1 is much more important than #2, as there are many things that work quite well for other people but I wouldn't run myself because it zigs where I zag, and that's no penalty.  But it's also impossible to avoid whether you personally like something or not when reviewing it.  So if you've submitted something that I think will work at the table but that isn't quite my bag - that's nothing to be worried about at all.  If you like it and would run it, that's what matters, and also why I didn't come up with any bullet points of criteria to try and influence how people converse with their own muses.

And with those explanations out of the way, on to review #1 "Olglias’s Folley" 

By: Kevin Conyers of Flooded Realms Adventure Press

Ruleset: Old School Essentials Advanced

Recommended Levels: 7-9

The Gist: an odd couple consisting of a cloud giant and his human MU buddy set up a lair of sorts around a ravine-pond fed from magically translocated "water" - mostly normal-ish H2O of the variety Bobby Boucher could appreciate, but with some extra-planar sources possible as well.  What lives in the pond depends upon the liquid du jour, and so offers some encounter variety to go along with the fixed locations in the small lair map.

Both of the fishing buddies are no longer around to maintain their elaborate fishing hole; its decaying status quo can be explored (and looted) although in their absence some other dangers have moved in.  While its possible (unlikely, but possible) for the party to come to understand what became of the giant, the fate of the MU is incredibly unlikely to become known.  For most parties, both members of the odd couple will be hidden depth that never gets explained - which is fine, good even, for minor spots such as these.  We get along just fine in the world without ever knowing the "why" of circumstances around us, and our speculations are sometimes more entertaining than the truth.  If you desire players to understand a location's backstory however, you'll need to come up with something having more visible threads to pull on than the site text itself provides.

Monster Roster: a good mix is provided by the author of treasure, some vanilla monsters, and some specials.  If the players can rotate the pond water and want to go fishing for an extended period of time, they could hook some memorable fish stories of their own.  I suspect this part will also remain hidden depth, however, unless random rolls provide something that hooks the players into wanting to burn more time here.

Treasure: for the land portion, which is much more likely to be interacted with, there's some likely-to-be-found art objects and jewelry that most players, even at these levels, will consider worthwhile for what amounts to a quick exploration of a few rooms.  If they manage to unlock the hidden depth, better treasure awaits them including an insane "fishing pole" destined to become a cleric or druid's favorite weapon.  For the time investment, treasure is good.

Do I think this will work: a qualified yes.  It has a high floor - I don't think this will fail for any DM.  But the best parts of the module are a bit too clever in that the author puts a barrier between each instance of what unlocks the best parts of the module and players either obtaining the clue at all, or understanding those most likely to come into their hands. Something as simple as not having the human MU write his diary in "phonetic giant" could make the difference. I could see players saying "we'll put this in our backpack and get it translated later."  Once they do that, will they want to come all the way back here on the info its given them?  Maybe.  But maybe they'll have new fish to fry by then and it will go into the "if we're back that way again someday" pile.

Players simply don't have a great batting average at making non-intuitive connections in real time, if they don't know what they don't know.  A DM has to be a bit obvious with at least one instance where the players can understand this place is different than all the other more mundane hex locations even if they don't know why, yet.  Otherwise I think its quite likely a party trapes through this as another decaying hex-ruin with one obvious lair monster and associated treasure, quickly moving on oblivious to all of the gems the author's put in.  Is that a fail?  No, not by any means.  Most lairs are just like that.  But is it what the author and any DM excited by the contents is hoping for out of it?  Also likely no.

Do I like it: Yes, I think the imagination here is great and it's the sort of change-up pitch campaigns need periodically where everyone can just have some fun and some whimsy.  There's potential for player memories and stories here, especially players who enjoy fishing IRL.  It does a great job of being memorable without overstaying its welcome or trying to be more than it is.  A lot of DMs don't know when to stop writing, and Kevin puts the pen down at just the right moment.


1) Underwater treasure hoards using the book rules (at least in AD&D) generally don't include scrolls, and this one has two.  Sure, you can handwaive in "water proof tubes" (not mentioned here specifically) but I think it's best to allow environment to dictate treasure types.

2) The crumbling bridge seems a tad arbitrary in how its set up and executed.  Something necessary in cause-and-effect - even if just something that makes sense in hindsight - is missing.

3) It's only the type of water that changes out magically (?) so I'm not sure why pond-floor monster hoards would switch in and out as the monster roster does.  This seems like a hole in the design (or perhaps just the text) that doesn't do anything good but has the potential to take players down theoretical rabbit holes for no payoff.

4) This isn't to Kevin per se as I'm picking at a bog standard gamer culture convention, but can we please retire the "surprisingly lifelike" description of petrified creatures?  If we want players to understand they're seeing some formerly live creature whose been petrified, then just decide that stone to flesh produces obviously not-statue statues and put that right into the description given to players - "the stone form of someone who's clearly been petrified by magic is 20 ft to your north".  Because "Gee that statue is surprisingly lifelike" and the ensuing entirely pointless verbal dance (that burns time for no useful reason) that occurs between player and DM is so, so tired.  This fools no one and serves zero purpose.

FWIW, IMC magical petrification produces a "statue" that looks entirely similar to normal statues and not distinctive in any way.  It's not amazingly lifelike, it's in whatever style of sculpture would be baseline common/normal in the culture and time of the person being petrified - whatever stylistic flourishes those may be, lifelike or very un-lifelike.  


  1. Hey, thanks for the reveiw! I think given some of the feed back that this one is a good candidate for a slight expansion and republication. The point about things being too hidden is noted, as I tend to complain about esoteric nonsense in modules as well. Ben pinged me on it too, and I think having Oglias's bones on the shore to Speak with Dead would add a lot of value to this adventure.

    As for nitpick 3, it should be explained in the module that the reasons the monsters change out is that it's not just the water that switches. Each pond environment is maintained in a demi-plane until the wizard wanted to fish it. Basically inter dimensional fish tanks with automatons maintaining the stock. But I neglected to include that it seems. I didn't want players entering the demi-planes themselves as they are just fluff to justify the insanity of this place.

    Thanks again, looking forward to reading the rest of the reviews!

    1. That extra info makes sense - the fish tank explanation helps tie it all together. Thanks for submitting (and reviewing the others as well)