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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Our Review of a Bad Review...

So reviewed Lair of the Shorlee Wyrm and didn't like it.  Great!  There's no such thing as bad publicity.  In six years of game publishing you'll get a bad review or two along the way, and believe me, we certainly have.  I don't care about bad reviews as long as the information is factually accurate and useful to the reader, and this underscores the very real service reviewers provide.  I mean, people's money is on the line.  But as gatekeepers of all that's good and right, they occasionally forget that they too can put out a crappy product, and in this spirit, we offer our review of a certain bad review of our product...

The review starts off strong, meaning highly detailed, describing the setting and general atmosphere.  It's actually quite good, as it gives the reader a sense of what the module has to offer and how the adventure begins.  The reviewer likes the low-magic vibe and makes several useful comparisons to the Harn setting that might resonate with those already familiar with it, which really boosts the utility of the review, at least to begin with.

And then the review, and its value and usefulness, begins to drag.  The reviewer is clearly taken aback back the sudden shift in tone, as the underworld is a fantastic affair in contrast to the mundane surface.  His disappointment is legitimate if he really hoped for a low magic setting all the way through; but when has D&D ever been anything close to that?  The fact is, this shift is deliberate, for the surface world is ordinary while the underworld is a place of excitement and wonder.  He's entitled to his opinion, and he does inform the reader.

What follows is the obligatory rant in keeping with his site's schtick.  Kobolds can't have furniture (apparently).  He's fine with dragons and wizards, but draws the line at furniture for some reason.  The cultists commit suicide, which he ridicules because, hey, that's never happened before, right?  I think he owes Heaven's Gate and Jim Jones an apology, which isn't to make light of these horrific tragedies.  It's an amusing, but useless, bit.

As the piece wears on, it becomes increasingly clear that the reviewer stopped paying attention after their initial disappointment at the shift in tone, for there are multiple factually incorrect statements about the adventure.  A certain NPC joins the party, but absolutely refuses to help, proof that the dungeon denies a party any advantage.  This is wrong.  The text clearly states that they help once the party earns their trust, and that the referee can adjudicate this as they see fit.  These gross errors of omission continue throughout...

The suicidal cultists die before revealing anything.  Can't a party get a break?  And how ridiculous.  I mean, fanatical devotees to darkness would never do that.  But he completely ignores that the kobolds will talk and have the same information.  After declaring the adventure a mere hack, he complains that a party only collects 10,000 cp and 5,000 sp, strongly implying that this is the sum total of all treasure from the dungeon when it's just the loot from one of many encounters.  The laziness here shatters credibility. 

It's clear the reviewer didn't pay attention.  He complains that the cult has no presence in the township when the introduction makes it clear that the dungeon just opened to the surface and the monsters below are only now going above.  This would be useful information about the nature of the adventure, but the reviewer would rather cherry pick and bitch.  He calls the adventure a hack, ignoring that many old-school adventures are.  I checked, and this was meant as an insult.  For someone playing since 1978, he doesn't understand that a dungeon is merely a sandbox that can be approached many ways.  So much for old-school... 

The review ends on a more useful note, making some genuine points about encounter descriptions and product previews.  We listened and expanded our preview on Drive-Thru RPG because we're big enough to take good advice.  But dear God, you have to wade through some rants and misleading falsehoods to get there, and the blatantly false assertions about the adventure's content and implications are enough to give the review an F; but this site borders on parody and thrives on schtick, so I'll give it a C for effort.  It's just too bad that potential buyers are badly mislead.  I can only hope that they're in on the joke.

Lair of the Shorlee Wyrm is available as a digital download.  You can check out our expanded preview and pick up the module here, assuming it's your cup of tea.  Have a great day! 


  1. Of fortuna!
    I am fortunes fool!

  2. This definitely piqued my interest... I'm buying the module and like Solomon, I will deliver an impartial ruling. James and Bryce, one of you will be declared the victor. Either way, I expect to be entertained. Thanks to you both!

  3. Getting eviscerated by a critic is a proud tradition.

  4. Guess I'm not the only one who occasionally fights back...

  5. "The reviewer is clearly taken aback back the sudden shift in tone, as the underworld is a fantastic affair in contrast to the mundane surface"

    I don't think this is correct. The reviewer seems disappointed precisely because the interesting, semifantastic surface leads to a rather mundane underground: "There’s a strong low-fantasy, or, maybe, classic fantasy vibe going on. But this soon devolves. Kobolds show up. In a dormitory with beds".

    I haven't read the module, but I must agree that a dormitory full of kobolds, if we really need to wade through one, needs a little extra to make it interesting. Otherwise it's just a D&D trope, and not of the more inspiring type.

  6. I bought this and I am happy with it. I first read the promo for this adventure when it launched, then I looked at the preview and I was intrigued. What an interesting little town and situation. Then I read tenfootpole and I was a little hesitant. Then I read the review of the review. And you know what? It's all good. It's good to see publishers standing behind their product. My main fear with DriveThru is that I'm getting ripped off. But this product is perfectly good for its price point ($2.45). I paid more in my useless "service fee" at the movies last weekend. I don't know exactly what I will do with this adventure - maybe I will liberally borrow from it or maybe I will run it head-on - but either way it is a solid and interesting adventure. That is still worth something these days, and honestly, this adventure is worth many times its price compared to other stuff on DriveThru.

  7. I'll leave aside the review debate- i can see points either side- and just suggest that a preview should include some of the actual room/lair/encounter content.

    The random encounters are generally the most extraneous thing in a module, the background- fine but it's also in the blurb.

    To gauge usability, style, whether the content fits, I find a page or so of rooms (or encounters if not a location) could tip the balance in me buying or not. I skim all the early pages anyway as it tends to get rejigged to suit personal campaigns anyway- give me a glimpse of the "meat" please. Costs nothing, just a rejig of the preview sample.

    A review is an opinion, always up for debate!

  8. Bad review? By Bryce's standards it was practically glowing. When Bryce even halfway likes a product it's enough to interest me in buying.