Also disclaimer: I haven't run these, its just a first impressions read through.
Link to the Publisher
(I can also attest that the Weird of the Wode is pretty solidly good stuff too)
TLDR: While the visual design is somewhat amateurish, the content is pretty solid, well presented, and creative. It fits the design goal well and should make for some excellent and memorable sessions. Final Score: 4/4 can't wait for more
The ProductLet's start off with a description of what you get overall, then I'll dive into each one separately.
Credits: SoulMuppet Publishing, more specifically; Zachary Cox (writing), Ben Brown (art), Patrick Eyler (Maps), Fiona Maeve Geist (editing), and Jarrett Crader (editing).
There will however, be more of these Zinis, by more people too.
System: Best Left Buried (though like many OSR products, you can infer much of what is going own easily) available on DrivethruRPG, and Exalted Press, among other places I expect.
From the Kickstarter:
"For too long have dungeons been buried in enormous tomes, reliant on confusing referencing, obtuse layout and a little too much page-flipping.
A Doom To Speak hopes to revolutionise dungeon design, borrowing from traditions like the One Page Dungeon Contest, the Pamphlet Jam and the “Zini” (or mini-zine). With this Kickstarter, we're aiming to catapult the traditional dungeon formula into a short, hyper-useable system.
Every zini contains maps, dungeon rooms (complete with descriptions!) as well as monsters, random encounters and treasure, all in a dense, informative medium. There's a good smattering of art & illustration throughout all the zinis, and absolutely zero page-flipping required. It's everything you need to run a session on a single piece of paper that you can print quickly and cheaply in the comfort of your own home - no expensive shipping costs necessary!"
This is a relatively good description. While the concept itself isn't totally original, its certainly a well-executed example of it, and I'd say some of the better "concise" dungeon executions I've seen.
The way it is constructed is this; take a piece of A4 paper, fold it in half like a book. On the front cover is the... front cover? A bit of art and a sentence description of the dungeon. On the inside pages is a central map, and room descriptions spiking off from each room/area. On the back page are the monster/npc descriptions, and a magic item or two if present.
You can grab each one for a couple of bob.
These are the descriptions of the four released so far;
Seacaves of the Octoclops
"A famous gang of smugglers previously claimed this coastal cave system—until the Octoclops arrived and devoured them."
"This rural Elven manor house was known as Holston Hall—famed for extravagant dinner parties until it suddenly fell silent. Surely this ruined manor is an excellent spot for Cryptdiggers to explore but, strangely, none who venture within return."
Lair of the Wyvern
"This cave network is full of chemical overflows and valuable ore veins, and was previous mined by the Undergem Clan until a wyvern took nest here. A colony of Devil Ants was released, and now
they work to expand their hive mine."
Ravines of Karn
"Beneath the deep jungles of south Salver, two hidden evils lurk in the ravines. If they combine a calamity would befall the earth. Ancient goblinoids imprisoned their demon god, and their ancestors still dwell within the ravines."
(I think ancestors there should be descendents?)
So there you go, four (so far) short, one-session, one page adventure locations. Lets deep dive a bit more.
The GoodThe Text
Its a fine line to walk between terse and bare-bones. I feel like it perhaps strays a little too far towards bare-bones some of the time, but this is understandable given the format. The area descriptions are good and cover the major bases of theme, and the room descriptions fill in specifics. Most of the time there is good use of other senses in descriptions of rooms and some good ordering of the things being described by obviousness. Most importantly, they are like, two sentences each. Usability is the key here.
I'm finding it actually a bit hard to refer to many of these as monsters. A lot of them are treated very well beyond the reductive "attacks on sight" agenda of most adventures, and even the more mindless random encounters are given "rules" that can be used to infer their behaviour.
For example, the Octoclops is a big monster-thing and main threat of its adventure, but you can bribe it with meat, and it can be stunned with sudden bright light. Thought was put into different ways to handle the obstacles in these adventures, despite the space limitations. The Devil-Ant Queen can speak common and isn't above talking. You can get a sense of her personality from the four or so sentences of her description. As I say, this is applied to pretty much every monster/character/encounter.
There's not that much of it, which is really to be expected for a small-scale project like this, but what there is, is great. Evocative, and they give a nice kind of gritty-ish feel I think. They set the stage for the adventures well.
Oh, and this is a good place to preface the next bit with the Maps really are very nice too, by Patrick (Foot of the Mountain productions).
Minor Note: The Tone and Fantasy
They're pretty classic OSR-level fantasy. I think the most magical things I really saw are a temple that binds a Demon into an obelisk, and a block of ever-frozen ice. The biggest monster is a Wyvern, which is dead anyway. Oh, and the Octoclops.
This is about perfect for my taste I think, and definitely fit for the type of fantasy the system sells itself on.
The Bad, Well, The Less GoodThe Maps
Well, as I said the maps themselves are actually pretty nice I think. They're done very well in a semi dyson-esque style (which isn't quite consistent between the four adventurers, but I don't care to be honest) but I do think some more time could have put into the actual visual design of the documents. Its obvious that they are scans of hand-drawn maps, which is fine, but it is missing some colour-correction or something so that the image of the map is slightly blue-ish, and it has a distinct border compared to the whiteness of the rest of the page. This is exacerbated by how the text can sometimes over-lap with the map, making it a bit harder to read and less pleasing to look at. The map for the Sea-Caves is unfortunately bisected. I think the map for the Wyvern's Nest has been expanded a little too much, and has gone a little blurry.
Ultimately, this doesn't break the product, not at all. I even think it wouldn't be too hard to fix either, and maybe its not so noticeable when you print it, but you should be aware of it I guess.
I think maybe sometimes the white space could have been handled a little better. Sometimes the text can be a bit squished together when there's plenty of white space around it. I think oftentimes its so a title can be centered above its table. Sometimes its not. Again, a minor issue.
Sometimes the little lines connecting the text to its room can be a little unclear too. Not too hard to figure out, but its there none the less.
The Mostly Inbetween
Closing ThoughtsLook, I'd be surprised if it won any awards for visual design, but as a product for a DM to run a game from, this is great stuff. Its easy to comprehend on a read through, and simple to understand at a glance. I think you'd only really need a half-hour before a session to give it a proper read over, and you'd be set. What issues I do have with them are minor, especially compared to the value proposition I think.
If you're ever in need of a speedy session, a quick and dirty one-shot, or a place to stash a rare goody, I think you would be well served by these.
I rank them an Octoclops out of five Kobolds. Very recommended.
And there's more of them to come!
Look they're really good. If you aren't convinced, check one of them out. I'd recommend Hearteater's hall personally.