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4/23/2014 9:40 am  #1


The Spider-God’s Bride and Other Tales of Sword & Sorcery

I got this 7€ pdf about two weeks ago and read mostly through it. I wouldn't call it a review, but here's my thoughts on it.

XP1: The Spider-God’s Bride and Other Tales of Sword & Sorcery by Morten Braten from Xoth.net has come up frequently during my search for material on how to run Sword & Sorcery style adventures and campaigns. People who mentioned it seem to generally regard it quite well, so I was willing to part with the 7€ and give it a chance.

It’s a 200 page black and white pdf file that contains 10 adventurers plus a 33 page section of new character options for Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition/Pathfinder. Even when I still used to run D&D or Pathfinder, I always prefered to play with the basic rules only and ignore all splatbooks and most setting-specific material, so I really can’t say how well this chapter compares to other OGL releases. I didn’t see anything that stood out and looked intriguing to me, though.

The real meat of the book are the 10 adventures, aimed at characters from 1st to 10th level. Each one starts with an interesting backstory and setup, but in the execution all of them seem to be primarily detailed descriptions of dungeons and some cities. Which frankly is not at all what I was hoping to get. The style seems to follow quite closely that of the old classic TSR modules, like the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun or The Lost Caverns of the Tsojcanth and their ilk. Which I can’t find any use for either. Maybe the dungeon and city descriptions are actually quite decent for people who love such products, but I am not one of them.

I think a great part of my dissatisfaction with this book are the different ideas about what makes Sword & Sorcery that I and the author have. As I see it, the writer seems to confuse a desert setting with evil wizards with the style and structure that really defines the Sword & Sorcery genre. But even when you ignore this issue for a moment, I still think the adventures mostly make the same major mistake. Especially in the Sword & Sorcery genre, but in RPG adventures in general, I am a very strong proponent of the “Story now!” paradigm. In an RPG, the players are both the participants of the story and its audience. While running games is a great pastime in itself, the story that develops from the interaction between the players and the GM needs to be entertaining to the players. A mystery plot is of no use to the players if they only learn about the existance of a mystery at the very end, or they might never actually learn about it at all. I remember an adventure from Dragon Magazine about shapeshifting spiders impersonating people, which looked really cool until I reached the final page and there still wasn’t any reason why the PCs would ever find out about it. And this is a mistake most of the adventures in this book seem to make. There is always something going on, but to the players it will look like they are doing a completely normal dungeon crawl to retrieve an item, and only at the very end will an NPC reveal that they actually just helped some evil sorcerer with his grander plan. (Spoilers Ahead) Good example being eponymous The Spider-God’s Bride. All the PCs are doing the whole time is working as caravan guards or mansion guards for a foreign sage. At the very end the sage and his two kinsmen retreat to a secret basement, and while the PCs are distracted with a group of attackers at the gate the three are acting out the whole berayal and creation of a demon-spawn among themselves. When the PCs have disapatched the attackers and finally arrive at the scene, the survivors will tell them an elaborate lie about their betrayal of their master, which the PCs might actually believe and be on their way to another adventure. (Spoilers end here.)

This is just bad, and a problem that trouble all the adventures in this book. Is it a bad book with 10 bad adventures? I am a bit hesitant about making such a sweeping statement, as I can’t see any value in many of the most classic D&D modules, which still have a great number of huge fans. But what I can say is that I don’t like this book at all. At 7€ it wasn’t a big loss, but I didn’t actually get anything out of it. Except maybe the idea to create an actually good story about the spawn of a spider-god for my players one day.

http://spriggans-den.com/?p=210

Last edited by Yora (4/23/2014 9:41 am)


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
 

4/23/2014 10:17 am  #2


Re: The Spider-God’s Bride and Other Tales of Sword & Sorcery

In your review you make a major point about the differences between you and the author when it comes to defining Sword & Sorcery, but I'm not sure I understand what that difference actually is. However, I would agree that not laying some clues or hooks at the start of a mystery themed game would be a poor choice - especially if "story" is preeminently important to you and your group over exploration, sandboxing, or hack-n-slash.

In any case I don't really tell "stories" in the games I run, I prefer to build the world, lay down a lot of adventure hooks/seeds, improvise like hell and let the "story" emerge from whatever happens at the table and I almost never run adventures as written and just raid them for their maps and some ideas. Are the adventures at least well written and imaginative?

 

4/23/2014 10:44 am  #3


Re: The Spider-God’s Bride and Other Tales of Sword & Sorcery

The GM should definitely not "tell" the players a story. The PCs should make the story out of the things the GM hands them. But they are also the recipients of their story. Revealing some things at a later point is not a bad thing, but they still need to be able to act on those revelations. Telling them what happened in their story after the story is already over is bad. The Spider-Gods Bride is an interesting story, but it's the story of three NPCs in which the PCs don't really participate.

The Sword & Sorcery elements that I see in the adventures are primarily that they are set in a somewhat North African setting. Which is similar to the setting of many Sword & Sorcery stories, but neither a requirement, nor sufficient to make a story belong to the genre. Evil priests who have contact with demons also is common in S&S, but you can have these in generic D&D as well and their plots mostly consist of getting a rival killed or finding a new host body for their undead spirits. They don't have much in the way of schemes, and often it's just a single step plan: "Trick some people in killing the kings investigator. Done." Then the GM has a laugh when thePCs find out they killed a royal officer and have to make up a good explanation or skip town. The setups for the adventures look decent, but nothing interesting is going to happen with them, as far as I could tell from a single read.


"Steel isn't strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?"

Spriggan's Den
     Thread Starter
 

4/23/2014 12:46 pm  #4


Re: The Spider-God’s Bride and Other Tales of Sword & Sorcery

Thanks for the review. I have considered picking up this product myself and have not gotten to it. I agree with you that the desert setting doesn't make S&S ... as repeatedly demonstrated in the source material. Its strange that the author chose to go the route since he is clearly well-read in Howard's work (xoth.net has a great Hyborian Age campaign section). I'm wondering if he set the adventures in a homebrew setting, something desert-ridden, maybe a dying earth?


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Author, Forgotten Fane of the Coiled Goddess
 

4/23/2014 6:33 pm  #5


Re: The Spider-God’s Bride and Other Tales of Sword & Sorcery

NAJones wrote:

In your review you make a major point about the differences between you and the author when it comes to defining , but I'm not sure I understand what that difference actually is.

There's another thread that has some great "running games Sword & Sorcery style" discussion. If you haven't seen it, check it out!

http://hyperborea.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=130


Marv / Finarvyn
DCC playtester (2011), S&W WhiteBox Author (2009), C&C playtester (2003), Metamorphosis Alpha since 1976. OD&D Player since 1975
 

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