This is the twenty-ninth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
A print-and-play micro-module for 5e
That “5e” refers to the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons, which is incidentally the only tabletop role-playing game that I’ve actually played myself. My group finished one adventure module and started a second one before various life things interfered and the game fizzled out. That means I don’t have people to actually play 1-6 Oozes in the Dark with, but hopefully my (limited) experience with 5e Dungons & Dragons will help me assess it anyway.
1-6 Oozes in the dark is presented as a print-and-play booklet, and wastes no time in encouraging players to “use it”. The writers want players to scribble on it, make notes, track things, and add annotations all over the place. It seems a bit of a rebellion against the traditional adventure module books for Dungeons & Dragons, which are often (at least for 5e) released as high quality printings full of beautiful illustrations, making players averse to mark them up in any way. In contrast, 1-6 Oozes in the Dark — and indeed the rest of Deus Ex Minima’s catalog — is pitched as a quick, short adventure that requires minimal preparation work, which can be slotted into a larger adventure as a side quest, used on its own for a quick play session, or used as a seed for players to build a larger campaign around. Print it out and write all over it, then print another copy if you need a “clean” version. No fuss, just play.
This approach is refreshing, given how involved full adventure modules can be. Yet 1-6 Oozes in the Dark isn’t even that small. The climax is the titular encounter with oozes in a dark cave, but the booklet contains information for the local area as well, including the town of Whisper, the hilly landscape nearby riddled with caves, and the coastal mud flats where smugglers ply their trade. There are even a few important non-player characters (aka NPCs) sketched out for the Dungeon Master (known as Game Master in other role-playing games) to use for interactions with the player characters. A few possible “hooks” are given to entice players to search out a particular cave in the surrounding countryside, where the harrowing battle with the oozes will take place.
Gray oozes have an unfortunate tendency to corrode metal, so any non-magical weapons and armor will be permanently damaged while fighting them. In a protracted battle, the oozes can quickly destroy equipment entirely. Since the encounter is designed for level 1 or 2 characters, the party is unlikely to own much magical equipment, but fortunately some acid-proof gear is sold in Whisper. Still, it’s a challenging fight. The booklet offers advice for scaling the number of oozes to set the difficulty, as well as some options for negative outcomes that are perhaps not so crushing, if things go badly.
The booklet also offers some random tables to help flesh out the adventure and act as inspiration for player-driven storytelling during play. There are different possible encounters while exploring the countryside and various treasure rewards the party might stumble upoon. But my favorite is the set of NPC names that can be rolled with a 12-sided die. This includes monikers like “Bostrood Barrelstave”, “Landon Vix”, and “Roy”. I bet everyone in town makes fun of Roy for his silly name.
Overall, 1-6 Oozes in the Dark seems like a nice little adventure, definitely something that could be played in just one session for those who want a quick game, or easily inserted into something larger. There’s enough framework for an experienced Dungeon Master to weave some more story elements into it, and enough freedom for players to wander off and get into all sorts of other scrapes on their way to the oozes. I can also see how this adventure could be combined with other small adventures to make something more substantial. Deus Ex Minima have one more such module available on itch.io, 1-6 Skeletons in a Stable, as well as some player aids, but none of these are included in the bundle. Maybe bundle owners can try out 1-6 Oozes first and see if they want to pick up some more from Deus Ex Minima. Those who don’t own the bundle can pick up 1-6 Oozes in the Dark for a minimum price of $3, with purchases including the booklet in PDF format as well as color and black and white versions of the small cave map.
That’s 29 down, and only 1712 to go!