Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Adventure Site Contest: Review #8 The Glen of Shrikes

The Glen of Shrikes

By: GiantGoose

Ruleset: Unspecified, but looks like OD&D/AD&D mash up (?)

Recommended Levels: Unspecified, but I'd guess early mid-levels (4-6) if the party has six or more characters (including henches) and the DM wants some parity for the harder locations.  

The Gist: It looks like a forest hex set in the Wilderlands, with several bite-sized locations detailed having light connections; each stands alone and yet can build into at least some of the others.  GiantGoose also seems determined to use the psionic rules, as that rare power is heavily featured in this 6-mile hex, including at least one way for the players to become endowed! 

It starts off with the the general status around the hex so the DM has an overall picture, proceeds to a nicely put-together random encounter table that includes a few little dynamic details, and since it's fey of course one entry is a satyr-elf conference on inter-fey relations.  It then goes to give some motivations or desires for five of the persons or groups likely met, giving the DM a quick-hit on how to portray them if encountered.  This is all good stuff.

As this is wilderness exploration, you also get some info about what people can (or can't) see while they're traveling around.  Nice touch.

As for the specific hex encounters, you get:

  • a tree with a murderous bird that has some nice treasure bits on its prior victims
  • a bandit outpost that's willing to be bought off - an under-utilized encounter resolution today as compared to the early days (read the adventuring section of the PHB where players are told to always consider if it's better just to pay a toll than fight and burn resources)
  • a touch of weird, with a druid sage living in a tree with mental intelligent pears
  • the magic shop no party member will expect (technically not a "shop" but can trade)
  • guarded evil elven psi-mages floating in deep meditation, one-half of a group that corrupted long ago
  • a fountain with a twist - it's OD&D/Wilderlands...gotta have a fountain somewhere that functions like a chance card in monopoly.  The area inhabitants synergize nicely with it.
  • an obelisk giving hints and danger about secrets and conflicts mostly forgotten - the writing in here is really, really nice with each room/area having a distinct threatening feeling yet never swerving into D&D cliches

The writing here is just really good.  Descriptions paint a picture but stop just short of telling you what you feel about it.  When what you just read makes three or four different yet cool scenarios for what that will mean, or what will happen next, pop into your head that's the holy grail.  "Evocative" is now cliche and too often results in "overwrought".  Goose isn't trying to be evocative, he's deftly provocative; this is a higher form of D&D writing as it will:

  • help the DM run something they weren't thinking of before reading the product
  • less likely to be a mirror presentation of another DM's sessions running the same product
I use both styles; evocative has its times and places. There are encounters and locations where I am trying to convey a very specific mental image I'm seeing as I write it, evocatively.  This works better in dungeons, IMO, where connectivity is closer/denser and the reader seeing an author's mind's eye speeds up understanding how this piece affects other groups or areas when reading them in turn.  But instead of the dungeon apartments found underground, hexes have big beautiful yards separating neighbors and benefit more consistently from several possibilities and little mysteries. 

And for the love of a d20, will someone please play in a psionics campaign ran by this man?  He's jonesing for it.

Monster Roster:  It's varied and well put-together; monsters chosen are up and down the power range and fit into the terrain.  Some lesser-known or -used types were selected from supplementary or 3rd party sources and they fit will as deployed.

Treasure: Many of the encounters could produce magical treasures of low to medium power, and a few choice bits supporting future adventures (looking at you, tuning fork set to Limbo) are possible.  It's doubtful a party will gain all of them unless they're depopulating the hex down to bedrock, but you don't necessarily have to kill the current owner to benefit from an item.  Cash will look a little light in comparison to some other entries, but I think it's reasonable for exploration of a 6-mile hex.

Do I think this will work: Yes

Do I like it: Yes, I think these entries compare favorably with stuff like NOD.  

Nitpicks: Only a couple

  • the maps are essentially the opposite of loopty-doopty, but the locations are so simple it's a minor sin.  But if putting out more hexes, try to work in a location or three where the (non-hex) maps aren't quite that simple.  If you're not limited to 2 pages that's a great way to spend the extra space.
  • While it can be difficult to peg a wilderness hex for "levels", the rule system used should always be given.  If it is a mashup, that's fine to say also.

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