Top critical review
Threat not credible. Rairoad track plot. Bland setting.
on January 24, 2001
The author of this ï¿½adventureï¿½ has attempted to dismiss criticism by acting as if players disliked the fact that it was ï¿½plot-basedï¿½ rather than site based. This is not what people are complaining about though, and I hope the people at Wizards are listening. Iï¿½m quite angry actually- and feel as though I wasted my money and time. I donï¿½t think the adventure can be saved without rewriting it from scratch, and we have elected to leave it unplayed. Our playdays are too precious and too few to waste.
While the author claims this to be a plot-based adventure rather than a site-based (supposedly free roaming rather than locked in and steered by dungeon walls), the so-called plot is so rigid and linear that the offers fewer choices for players than the average dungeon crawl.
The encounters in the town appear to have been chosen randomly, with no thought given to building a theme or ambience, unlike The Sunless Citadel, which did it very well, and a number of quality Dungeon magazine adventures, or The Tomb of Horrors, and other such quality adventures. Details people, details! A few economically chosen words or description can give us the unique flavour of this town, as opposed to any town. That uniqueness is one thing that helps players to believe that they care why they are there. Sadly, this could be any town.
The story doesnï¿½t build. A good plot-based adventure would reveal clues to the greater ï¿½puzzleï¿½, so players can gradually get a sense of what is going on and enjoy solving the mystery through sessions and talking about them between sessions. But Speaker uses the 80ï¿½s Donkey Kong video-game formula, where one encounter points only in the direction of the next, until finally in the last battle, the plot (what there is of it) is revealed to the players. Also, being so linear, it is very easy for players to pull the game completely off track by visiting one of the obvious encounter sites way too early.
The ï¿½surprise false endingï¿½ is ridiculous and I think would be difficult to play. I mean, imagine what happens when you play it. Itï¿½s 3am, the Cheezy bowl is empty and everyoneï¿½s tired. Youï¿½ve just wrapped a boring adventure, the town has feasted, and youï¿½ve read the epilogue. Now everyone is yawning, stretching and snapping their books shut ï¿½ then you tell them that no, everything theyï¿½ve done is worthless, because monsters are walking the streets now. They need to play 1 or 2 more games of this to finish.
Lastly, letï¿½s talk about the villain. The villain and his plan is the engine behind any plot-based adventure or action story plot. Think of your favourite adventure movies ï¿½ Die Hard or Wrath of Khan for example. They had strong, intelligent villains. Now try to remember a villain from a forgettable one, like Under Seige 2, or Hard Target. See? Itï¿½s so important to have a great villain in a plot-based adventure. Sadly, this is really lacking here.
Semi-spoilers ahead, so stop reading if you donï¿½t want to see them. When the villain is finally "revealed" I'm left with more questions than answers. The villian's "plan" made me wonder, if the players hadn't shown up, would it have had any impact on anyone but the town in which it was set? Even in the context of Greyhawk, I donï¿½t get why some apparently genius, dark dwelling denizen would suddenly say, ï¿½Iï¿½m going to take over the world!ï¿½ starting his global conquest by dominating the people of an inconsequential small rural town! Even if you did, wouldnï¿½t you try to keep the demons from walking in broad daylight until you had a better hold on things? Why THIS town?
Upon reading the final page, I wondered, if the party hadnï¿½t shown up in the town, would it have affected their world in the slightest bit? Not really ï¿½ the threat isnï¿½t credible, neither is the setting, and the plot is a railroad track of seemingly random encounters. Your money is better spent on Dungeon Magazine.