So, I have a fair bit of work to do it seems, If I am to whip this module into shape. But first, let’s set some parameters for “improvement.” Firstly, I am going to work within the bounds of Bryce’s contest guidelines, I.E. that the adventure features nine rooms, and fits on 8 or less pages. This is despite my intense desire to say “screw you, it’s my module and I’ll do what I want” and make it ten times bigger than the original. That would defeat the purpose of this exercise, which is demonstrating that since allowing Wavestone Keep out into the light of day, I have refined not only my layout skills, but adventure design. 9 rooms is plenty for a dungeon targeted at level 1-2 OSE characters after all.
Also, the original deadline was 3 weeks from the posting of the article char-broiling Wavestone Keep, which means I will stick to that timeline as well.
Bryce had a lot to say about this dungeon, and I actually largely agree with most of his criticism. In fact, I would likely say the same things and worse about a module written by someone else, but didn’t about mine because well it’s mine. Killing your darlings is hard after all. In light of this, I am going to layout the major issues and my thoughts on them one at a time. (If you would like to read the original article, here it is).
Problem One: Where’s da tower Yo??
Significant umbrage was taken with the lack of an actual keep or tower in this adventure, as well as other issue of external environment, quote:
Look at that tagline. Fear the waves, the tides, the sea itself! A fearsome tower of stone! Note: this adventure doesn’t even have a tower, that’s how AWESOEM it is!. The existence of waves, tides and sea must be extrapolated, allowing the DM to put a bunch of extra time and effort in things, allowing them to exercise their brain muscle!
Seriously, no tower. A cave complex, but no tower. Note the adventure tidal: Wavestone Keep. No keep. At all. Just caves. How’s that for marketing oomph?! Yeah baby, it’s open ended, allowing the DM to fill in the gaps!
The issue of a tower is easily rectified. I can draw a simple tower map and include all the exact same rooms. However, the original idea was that this location was called Wavestone Keep due to the material it was made out of and it’s silhouette against the horizon. It is a floating rock inhabited by Lizardmen after all, and they have little control over. It’s doubtful their raids leave time for more than gathering tasty animals and humanoids to eat. They certainly are not hauling off building materials. Likely I will adjust the location and map slightly some that there is a structure on top of the wavestone lump. Not anything as grand as B2, but still a respectable stone hall, probably 5 to 6 of my nine room budget.
However, the issue of the Waves, Tides, and Sea being overlooked is a huge oversight on my part. The sea should play a huge part in how any party approaches this location. Is the structure affected by tides? How so? Is the sea useful in any way? These are things I completely overlooked in the current version. When developing it, I thought of the sea as two things only, as an approach or escape route. There should more of a nod to the lizardmen tribe likely using the sea as well, for more than just dumping trash. The first inkling I have is to include information on how the structure as a whole drifts, where a party can find themselves if they spend an hour, two, three days, whatever. As well as cleaning up an exterior approach.
Problem Two: You forgot to design stuff
Wait, wait, back to the 2d10 lizard men! EVERY room is like that, with a variable number of monsters/guards. How’s that for sticking it to man?1 No need to actually put itin, it could be 1 or it could be 10! Masterful game design!
Completely agree, it’s entirely boneheaded to not put hard numbers on most encounters in a dungeon. This ended up this way because I had no idea what I was doing, and the dice worked fine in play testing, so why wouldn’t it be fine? I know better now.
Problem Three: Description please
“Crumbly natural cabe, stone floor littered with detritus.” Thrill at that terse description motherfuckers! Fuck your evocative writing! This adventure don’t need it!
Room after room like this. All nine of them. With variable monsters. With a short description tat says nothing. With DM text that elaborates on nothing but what there is to stab. Sadly, there’s no details on how many egg clusters there are on the nesting room, or what lizard men eggs taste like.
This is also a fair and accurate criticism. My descriptive writing sucked. I admit to being suckered into the OSE standard of terse, bullet pointed descriptions. However, having run more adventures using that format and reading the writings of my betters I now also detest this format. More prose and evocative descriptions will be included in the new edition.
It seems this module failed on every metric possible for dungeon design. It was not very cohesive, didn’t live up to the fearsome marketing tag line I gave it. It had no cohesion and design or thoughtfulness in encounter design. Worst of all, it’s simply boring and dry. It seems I have my work cut out for me in the three weeks ahead. The next article will be a first draft, after that I plan to post a play log of the play test sessions. One solo play, and one with actual players (scary). After that, final revisions and then I don’t know what. Anyway, that’s all for now.