Azurth Adventure Digest #1 (5e)

Azurth Adventure Digest #1 (5e)

The first (and so far, alas, only) installment of this ‘zine depicting the lands of Azurth, a hilarious take on fantasy as seen through the lens of old-time Loony Toons/Tex Avery clocks in at 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page of SRD, 3 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 30 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

 

We begin this ‘zine with an introduction by the commodore Cogburn Steamalong, a navy captain who also happens to be a steam construct, and who proceeds to present comments on the material provided within. This character is also fully statted with a proper statblock; that being said, the HDs are missing from the write-up, and the Perception values are incorrect. This, unfortunately, is bound to be symptomatic for the remainder of the ‘zine.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself: The pdf begins play with 4 different islands, the Motley Isles, and the brief gazetteer is actually really nice and playful, and the whole section is supplemented by a new creature, the dread Frogacuda! This statblock is mechanically the best thing in the ‘zine – it’s a solid write-up and gets all the math right. It also fits in well with a region that has a settlement governed essentially by ritualistically consulting a magic eightball. In these instances, the supplement feels very much like someone had made a Monkey Island/D&D-crossover. A fluff-only pirate generator is also included – 24 names, 24 occupations, 12 notable traits and 12 trinkets act as a solid little supplement. A pirate captain generator with 12 names, 12 ship-names, 12 instances of stuff the captain is known for and 12 pieces of exotic beauty makes for the second generator.

 

 

The pdf also includes notes on the homelands of frogfolk (here called “frox”), the chain of fools (An archipelago where you don’t want to tread), a massive mechanical fish. Weird indigenous bird-people “amazons” (well, kind of…) in service to a male priest caste may be found, and the pdf contains 10 smaller entries as well – it should be noted that both Motley Isles and the Candy Isle, which acts as a module of sorts, come with nice full-color artworks. There are no keyless, player-friendly versions included.

 

The following discussion of the Candy Isle does contain a few minor SPOILERS. Potential players may want to jump ahead to the conclusion.

 

..

.

 

All right, only GMs around? So, the Confection Perfection is basically a divine pastry, and it acts as a linchpin for the angle to explore the location – the Candy Isle! This region, including all of its inhabitants, is made of sweets. The indigenous gummy people (shown on the cover) are an interesting angle, and we do get top-down AND side-view map versions of their temple – once more without a player-friendly version. The mini-module does not have read-aloud text, but does note random encounters. The general presentation is nice, though the set-up would have benefited from a bit more space. And yes, they do want to sacrifice the PCs on their chocolate-y altar.

/SPOILERS

 

That being said, the module also exemplifies well a misconception that is common for designers coming from old-school games to 5e, namely that an abbreviated statblock suffices.  They do not, and I don’t get why this booklet doesn’t provide properly presented and laid out crunch when it has proven that it well can. To give you an example, you can read the following: “Melee brittle candy

spear (+3, 1d6+1/1d8+1 piercing), Ranged (+3 1d6+1); S +1, D +0, C +1, I -1, W +0, Ch -1;“ You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to notice that the ability scores are missing, and that statblock formatting is not even close to acceptable. There also are errors in these shortened statblocks, and this puzzling inconsistency annoyingly also applies to two sample NPCs, who also get the formatting of features wrong – when the very same booklet offers two instances where they’re correct. I don’t get it. At all. And yes, these NPCs also have more relevant errors in their stats.

 

Conclusion:

Editing is very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, there are a lot of glitches herein – much more than in Mortzengersturm. Formatting, as noted, often needlessly diverges from established 5e-standards. Layout adheres to a nice two-column standard that is mostly b/w, but uses full-color for boxes, maps, etc. – this is a surprisingly nice-looking book, courtesy of Jeff Call’s neat artwork. The cartography by Jeff Call and Jason Sholtis is also nice and full-color, though the lack of player-friendly versions is a bummer. I do not own the print version, so I can’t comment on it. The pdf lacks any type of bookmark, making navigation an unnecessary hassle.

 

Trey Causey can do better. This digest, alas, while amazing and funny regarding its ideas and creativity, is mired with an unfortunate amount of errors in the rules, non-standard rules-syntax and things that Mortzengersturm did better. I want to like Azurth as a setting, and I genuinely do and want to see more, but this digest, alas, remains a flawed supplement. Add to that the lack of bookmarks, and we have a bit of an issue on our hands. And I really wish this wasn’t the case.

 

The supplement perfectly shows that it *can* get 5e right, only to then shrug and fiddle those inconsistent half statblocks together, to botch math etc. Much like the candy theme, this started with a smile, and then proceeded to develop into a moderate tummy-ache for me. That being said, this is still an inexpensive supplement with great ideas – I just wished their implementation had been better. My final verdict, alas, can’t exceed 3 stars.

 

You can get this supplement as a pdf here on OBS.

 

You can get the print version here on Exalted Funeral’s shop.


Endzeitgeist out.

Comments

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9 Responses

  1. trey says:

    Thanks for the reviews! I’m sorry you don’t like my abreviation of the stat-blocks in this and Mortzengersturm, but I’m puzzled as to why you feel the full ability score is necessary. I can’t think of any time in 5e it comes into play. Is there something I’m forgetting? Ok, increasing through levelling, but I didn’t plan for people to use NPCs in that way, but it’s easily fixed by choosing one of 2 scores, in that case. The stat blocks are written to have what you need to run the adventure, they are complete only to the extent you need them to run the adventure. With the sample characters some info had to be omitted due to the non-OGL nature of some backgrounds, so if you’re trying to “reverse engineer” the character creation process from them, it’s true, you can’t do that. But again I’m fairly certain they tell you what you need to know to run the adventure with them. I’ve run both several times with only the rule books and the information printed.

    • Thilo Graf says:

      Hej Trey, thanks for your comments!

      Essentially, it’s a combination of not being able to discern the correct proficiency modifier + just plain sloppiness; there is a difference between 15 and 17 re rules, advancement, etc..

      And re reverse engineering: You SHOULD be able to do that. PERIOD. We’re talking about PCs here, and it’s bad enough that racial components are utterly opaque. They shouldn’t be, and that’s a bad thing I ignored for the setting’s sake. I did NOT ding the pdf for that, and I very much could have.

      I’ve never disputed the ability to run 5e with 1e/2e stuff; but, alas, what is provided in the digest falls EXTREMELY short of what I saw you and Hydra Coop deliver.

      Just my 2 cents, and why this failed, hard, for me.

  2. trey says:

    The mods are given. Where was a place you were unable to discern the proficiency modifier. What is the difference between a 15 and 17 that ISN’T the mod besides advancement.

    And we aren’t talking about PCs here, we are talking NPCs which are presented like monsters in every official 5e book.

    I’m sorry it didn’t work for you, but perhaps that just means it isn’t for you not “sloppy?” And whatever it is, it isn’t “sloppy” because that would imply carelessly or unintentionally, and that it most certainly wasn’t.

  3. trey says:

    Not my intention to spam, but thinking about your reply, it occurs to me that maybe you’re misunderstanding the notation? When I say “W +1” I don’t mean +1 to the Wisdom score, but rather their Wisdom provides a +1 modifier (suggesting the raw score is a 12-13). Possibly you got this, but your comment about a difference “between 15 and 17” puzzled me because in my notation there would be a difference W +2 and W +3.

    • Thilo Graf says:

      I’m sorry if you too umbrage at the way in which I phrased this and confused you, but it doesn’t really change the fact that the NPCs, even if you don’t take umbrage at no ability scores and only the modifiers given, have issues:

      Black Iris, for example, has an incorrect Strength (Athletics) rating: Double proficiency (+2) + 1 Strength = +5, not +6.
      Sleight of Hand should be +6; (+4 Dex, +2 proficiency modifier)
      There is no attack of opportunity in 5e; only opportunity attacks. Attack of opportunity = Pathfinder.
      There is no thief class; thief is an archetype of the rogue class.

      Steamlong, another example, has better stats, but e.g. STR is not bolded. His Perception is off by 1. Boiler Breech has no average damage value noted.

      I’m aware these are intended to be NPCs; however, for that, they are missing e.g. a challenge rating. It’s also uncommon to have 5e NPCs like Iris use the rules for PC-classes to the extent they did. None of the official 5e-NPCs do that. Still, I did not mind the use of PC-rules for them.

      The monsters in the adventure also have plenty of errors. See e.g. Acolyte Priest spellcasting atk; see missed bolding of ability score shorthands on pg 21, etc.

      All those errors accumulate, and the stats were MUCH better in Mortzengersturm; and in the Frogacuda. How can one describe a state, where the author obviously is capable of delivering excellent material, and then chooses not to/suddenly makes a ton of mistakes? That’s why I used the word “sloppy”; it simply was the impression I got. I’m genuinely sorry if that hurt you.

      This is an inspired little book, but it has too many errors, which do influence the integrity of the content.

  4. trey says:

    Some of those are indeed errrors, though “lack of bolding” I am hard pressed to see as an error really, unless it didn’t convey the necessary information. There is also no error in the Acolyte Priest that I can see (it clearly says he has +4 to hit with spell attacks), unless there is an error in the SRD and Monster Manual Acolyte, which is where the abilities come from exactly.

    And just not giving an average for damage for the boiler breach. Really? That seems pretty picayune, but fair enough. I mean, it isn’t as if you weren’t given the damage.

    But we have been talking about is the lack of full ability scores, which didn’t mention here. THAT is the part I took umbrage at being called “sloppy.”

    I feel like the review would have been fairer had you mentioned ACTUAL errors, as you did above.

    • Thilo Graf says:

      Your observation regarding the acolyte priest is incorrect: The Monster Manual iteration is correct, whereas the one in the Adventure Digest is not – the digest acolyte priest lists W +0, which would mean that +2 would be correct the correct value for spell attack…or that Wisdom modifier is off by +2. Either way, +4 is wrong as written.

      I understand your obvious anger, but take a look at how monster abilities work in 5e – they give average damage values.

      Bolding glitches are still glitches; minor ones, sure, and certainly not glitches that would cost a file a star on their own; however, I mentioned it to illustrate how I arrived at my impression of a lack of care/rushed release.

      Understood regarding your desire to see issues spelled out.

  5. trey says:

    So, are we agreeing now the ability score thing isn’t a problem?

    I’m not angry, really. I was moved to reply because I was puzzled because your review seemed to harp on things that aren’t actually deficits (the aforementioned ability score thing) and to give a lot of weight to what I view as minor issues, while you seem to largely liked the substance of the adventures.

    I guess, fundamentally, we value different things, and I write to the things I value. Is it useable at the table in the way it was intended to be? I think the answer is absolutely.

    Even the actual errors you named (proficiency bonuses and what not) that are not strongly highlighted in your review only matter in an abstract sense with regard to the publication’s intended usage. Do they “break” the adventure as to make it unplayable at the stated levels? Absolutely not as attested by the number of people who have run it and provided feedback.

    You have every right to prioritize things in the way you want of course. I have never before emailed a person about a somewhat negative view, because I don’t feel I have ever written a perfect product. But I genuinely feel that some aspects of who they were written might give people a false impression of the level of its deficits.

    Anyway, I appreciate your willingness to engage on this issue. I’ll quit bugging you.

    • Thilo Graf says:

      Nope, the ability score notation is not okay. By your reasoning, e.g. a Strength of 18/00 could just as easily be noted as 18 +3/+6; a Con-save in 5e could be called Fort-save.
      Sure, that’d work.
      It’s not only about how the system operates, though.
      Rules-formatting conventions are there for a reason, namely to facilitate precise and concise parsing of information, and flaunting them is a decision that, while no deal-breaker, detracts from the book. Even under the pretense that it is no issue (which I do not believe), you have to concede that it forces the GM to learn to parse the “house-style” after learning the official rules style, and offers no benefits for it; potentially, it can make things worse for all involved.

      Case in point, the creatures with full stats in the Digest have next to no (Steamalong) or no (frogacuda) glitches, while the others do have glitches.

      Is your supplement usable at the table? Yes. Is it as precise as it could be, as you aptly demonstrated that you can be? No.

      Do I like your writing? Yeah! It’s why the supplement still scored as high as it did, and why didn’t get a 1 or 2 star bashing. Is it needlessly deviating from official standards? Yep. Does it have multiple issues in the math that DO influence gameplay? Yes. Does is lack bookmarks for easy navigation? Yes. Does it demonstrate an ability to get things right, and then doesn’t do it? Alas, yes. And for me, the combination of these glitches seriously disqualify the digest as a “good” book.

      Considering all of that, it’s a mixed bag for me. Great ideas, neat prose, but not as refined in its execution as I had hoped it’d be.

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