Wednesday, 29 January 2020

[REVIEW] The Abandoned Tower

The (An) Abandoned Tower

The Abandoned Tower (2020)
by “Ed S”
Published by FEI Games Inc

Small, dodgy homebrew adventures are the realm of the pleasant surprise, the rough gem, the underappreciated talent, the enthusiastic beginner effort, the artsy amateur project. Then there are these things. They are small, dodgy, and... yeah, they are small and dodgy. I buy them and usually don’t bother to review them because what’s the point. This time, they have gone too far.

The Abandoned Tower (called An Abandoned Tower in its DTRPG listing) is an 8-page adventure written by “Ed S” (more on this later). It is a marvel of engineering. Two of the 8 pages are dedicated to the OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a. Some publishers try to shunt this off into a half-page section – not Ed S. He lets it stretch, comfortably, over ¼ of his adventure. One page is reserved for the Credits & Thanks section, where the author thanks, among others, E. Gary Gygax (spinning mightily), Wizards of the Coast for their OGL/SRD, Open Office Writer, Dungeon Painter Studio, PDF Architect, Microsoft Paint, GOOGLE Search Engine, YAHOO Search Engine, LuLu Printing, DriveThruRPG.com, and more. This page also includes the three maps for the (an?) abandoned tower. This has some fancy-pants objects placed here and there, but in a classic TSR blue map, it would be three circles with a spiral staircase symbol each, an exterior stair, and two doors.
Credits & Thanks
But how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? I am glad you asked, for the next four pages are dedicated to the actual adventure (including a quarter-page illustration of a rose of all things). When I call an adventure’s margins “generous”, I mean it. This adventure has generous margins, and a font size to match. So then we get to the actual adventure, which begins with 1¼ pages of read-aloud text describes how the party is led to “a modest but well kept cottage” in the village of Blue Lake, and how the village elder, Shem Long, makes a long-winded speech to the party about investigating this “old abandoned tower” in the woods, and offers them a 30 gp merchant voucher (“can go up to 35 gp”, he notes, parenthetically). After the introduction, we get ½ page on the Lakeside Inn, where the party will be sleeping. “The bar, tables and chairs are all well worn but stable.” Unquote. There are rumours, and “The rest of the night goes by without any incidents…..” (it is not an ellipse, it is FIVE dots) This is followed by a section titled “Next Morning”. What the fuck. What the fuck. What the fuck.

Next Morning
… Ahem. This is followed by a section titled “Next Morning”. The adventure informs us that Shem Long is now waiting for the party, sitting on the bench outside, and generously also adds that “If the party refuses the job offer, this adventure is over….” (four DOTS) Otherwise, Shem takes them shopping to the “General Store (25% of stocking anything common), a Simple Butcher & Cheese Shop, a Bakery, and a Blacksmith. The DM can build upon this if needed.” Am I IMAGINING this SHIT?! WHaT?! “As the party uses the merchant voucher the amount spent is written on it with ink.”

Then, no kidding, it has a wilderness section in a ¼ page paragraph called “Area Around The Abandoned Tower”. It is a world of limitless imagination, because the module tells you the area around the tower should be mostly encounter free, except for wildlife. But you can hunt or fish, find tracks, or outright make up things. “If anybody checks for tracks they will find the tracks of typical small wildlife, horses and ponies, and various sizes of human and humanoid footprints going in all directions. The DM should feel free to ass [sic] anything if so desired.”

Some of you vulgarians might be wondering “But where is the adventure? Aren’t we running out of pages?” Why, yes, this is where we get our tower adventure, on one (1) page. There are kobolds and an ogre, described with basic tactics – this is elementary but not entirely terrible, with watches, alarms, and sallies. Some of the text describes the tower, describing pretty much the same thing you could gleam from the map. “The tower appears to be 3 stories tall with 2 doors on the outside.” Appears to be? …appears to be but isn’t? …appears to be but secretly, one of the stories is divided horizontally? …appears to be but there are dungeons? No. Subverting all expectations, it is just a shit boring forest tower. “The structure of the tower is made of large stones mortared together. The roof is made of your typical clay tiles.” What am I reading here. Help. The horror. The HORROR.

The tower has no key. Everything about the description is a jumbled mess, describing the tower by describing the battle the characters will have there. It is a chaotic affair, for we never actually know how many kobolds there are. Are there 25 kobolds? Or is the ambush party of five kobolds counted separately? But wait, there are five more kobolds armed with bows… are they the same as the ambush party? Well, there are no stat blocks in the text. The ogre will escape during this final battle, and make away with the collected treasure, for the TRV and AVTHENTIC “Ye Olde Crapsacke Fantasye” feel. But only if the ogre rolls his rope climbing check – this is specifically mentioned, although how this check should be conducted, or what are the odds of its success, are left to A Wild World of Wondrous Imagination. The ogre can then become a recurring villain, or the party can track him to an old cabin, where he will “try to bargin [sic] his life for the sack of treasure. If this offer is refused then the Ogre will challenge the party to a one on one [sic] to the death duel between himself and one of the party members…..” FIVE dots. And so ends the expedition to the (an) Abandoned Tower.

But wait! There is another page with a monster section! This section, surrounded by more of those generous margins, describe the “kobold” and the “ogre”. Wow! The kobold is ½ HD, does 1-4 or weapon-1 damage, and is of the Chaotic alignment, while the ogre is 4+1 HD, does 1-10 damage, and is of the Chaotic alignment. Both of these monsters are illustrated by the artists credited in the Credits & Thanks section as “Unknown Artists”. You can find the ogre in the 1st edition WFRPG rulebook, page 224, under “Ogre”. Anyway, the module also comes with helpful DM advice, saying, “All treasure found within this adventure should be chosen by the DM, randomly rolled according to the treasure charts in the rule book, or a combination of both to ensure game balance in each individual game…” As you can see, this greatly aids customisation, as well as adaptation to different rulesets, in A Wild World of Wondrous Imagination.
Unknown Artists
No playtesters are credited in this publication. Actually, the author is not credited either, here or anywhere else. He knows this would be a bad idea. The only reason I know his name is from his response to a DTRPG comment complaining about this goddamn ripoff. To which “Ed S” responds, quote, “Did you expect a $10 module for a $2 8 page pdf?????? I will be happy to refund your money....” Well, yeah, fuck you, too, Ed, fuck you too. You win this round.

Rating: * / *****

12 comments:

  1. Ed S has still managed to publish more adventures and make more money in the rpg industry than me.

    As far as I am concerned he is the king.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeeesh.

    Feast your eyes upon this product description:
    "Your Party Of Adventurers Have A Job Offer On The Table To Investigate An Old Abandoned Tower"

    ReplyDelete
  3. Had a word with Ed.

    He told me he changed the name from 'The' to 'An' when he decided to write a sequel. This will be set in the environs of a village of vicious cheesemongers and the site for adventure is known locally as "Another Abandoned Tower". This also is the working title of Ed's 300 page sequel (175 pages of thanks).

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  4. Heh. I'm glad old Ed published this Magnum Opus so I could have the hoot of reading your review. Fun Times.

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  5. The kobold isn't that unknown either: it's a DiTerlizzi illustration.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An unknown artist if there ever was one.

      Delete
  6. Fascinating..... (with FIVE dots!)

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  7. A true one star review is a rare treat for reviewer and audience alike. Devoid of the mundane tedium of the humble ** review, the * invites introspection: 'Why must I undergo this torture?' asks the reviewer of himself. Then follows grief, incredulity, hysteria, despair, madness, bargaining and finally acceptance. The transcendently awful quality of the * star material invites creativity and forces one to adapt one's methods to properly convey the awfulness.

    Thank you for this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interestingly enough, I ran into another one, and it is coming up next week. It is not this kind of almost defiantly bad, just plain old bad, but it is no less deserved.

      Delete
  8. Nice Reviews for a Not so nice Product.
    Always the classy way to argue and whine to your customers on drivethru and the Like.

    Sometimes i have the urge to Just buy this stuff and See If it can somehow be salvaged with minimal effort ... But then i would be Putting Money in this dudes Pocket ... So no

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  9. I think the product is not on DrivethruRPG anymore. At least, I can't find it!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Funily enough the other FEI Games Inc. title "An easy task" is also gone. This one was reviewed as a "Worst evar" by Bryce a few weeks back.

    Seems like the author got the message :-P

    ReplyDelete