I believe the complete list of adventures I have run closely from a book are:
- The Red Hand of Doom (D&D 3E)
- The Night Below (AD&D 2E)
- The Dramune Run (Star Frontiers)
- Under the House of the Three Squires (Torchbearer)
- Breakout (Marvel Heroic)
- Bloodstone (D&D 3E, Burning Wheel)
- The Trouble in Hochen (Burning Wheel)
Yet I own lots of adventures. And keep buying more. Because I like smashing the ideas of the adventures into my brain for later reference.
Zzarchov Kowolski‘s “Scenic Dunnsmouth” piqued my curiosity after I read the following back cover text:
Scenic Dunnsmouth features an innovative village generation system using dice and playing cards to ensure that every expedition to Dunnsmouth is unique.
It delivers on that promise.
What Do We Have Here
Most adventures I've read provide a “fully formed” adventure. A living creature with skin, guts, skeleton, and sinew.
A fully formed adventure may work for an adventure with a simple relationship graph (i.e. Dungeon Crawl) but for a mystery, attempting to hold the concepts and pieces of the adventure in my mind is challenging.
Scenic Dunnsmouth takes an interesting and divergent approach from a standard adventure. It provides you with:
- the guts - the core mystery
- some disassembled mixbag of bones - d4, d6, d8, and d12 kind of bones
- a bolt of mottled skin - the look, feel, and tone of the writing
- some connective tissues - Families, relationships, and even possible feuds
- a toolkit for assembling the adventure
And there lies its genius.
Some Assembly Required
Yes there is a core mystery and evil. But Zzarchov provides a procedure for assembling your Frankenstein's monster of an adventure.
With a fistful of dice you determine:
- The locations of the town
- The weirdness level
- Where to position a few of the stock characters
Then, you shuffle up some cards and determine the town's inhabitants. And that is it.
If someone or somewhere doesn't show up in your town construction, it does not exist in this incarnation of Dunnsmouth.
Taking Notes to Help Remember
When I am reading, I'm a terrible note taker. I don't mark in my books. The exercise of finalizing Dunnsmouth was the best note taking session for any of my adventure preparation.
The final result of the procedure was a map with numerous locations keyed by:
- dice size
- rolled value
- card suit
- card value
With those four bits of information, I can get a general sense for the tone of Dunnsmouth. I can also lookup in the character index more information about the inhabitants and locations.
Not bad for 30 minutes of adventure preparation!
To Buy or Not to Buy?
Buy Scenic Dunnsmouth if you are:
- Interested in unique procedures for adventure creation
- Looking for weird fantasy
- Looking for an interrogation/observation-based mystery
Don't buy it if you are:
- Looking for a dungeon crawl
- Interested in lots of action (ie Combat!)
A Handful of other reviews of Scenic Dunnsmouth.