Irradiated Paradox of Volatile Skies


So ... slow work day? Every day?
Irradiated Paradox of Volatile Skies by the 1True for adventure levels 6-9. (I think DCC ruleset?)


Ok...holy shit...I thought I could bust adventures out fast, but this thing is 90 pages and crammed with stuff!
I also don't know if I'm going to give this a fair shake as I'm not completely familiar with point/hex crawls, but I got some Pro's and Suggestions of things that stood out, so let's take a look.

I liked the Noticeboard with side quests and bounties. I think that's definitely a nice touch for a sandbox and provides several opportunities for different approaches. In fact, the author even gives other options on where to start.

I like the boxed text around the statblocks--makes them stand out.
There are a few comments nestled in here that I found humorous--“If you are killing and looting old Krong, maybe you should be playing something else.” and '5: Empty Room---Every dungeon should have a couple'….yes, yes they

There is a huge rumor table. I wasn't sure about the markings: T = True, F = False, P = ? is that probably? But all those rumors are awesome. One suggestion is maybe split them up or create new ones for other major areas--like the Pantheon of the Sea and Phaestus's realm. The groups there may have different rumors or a different perspective on things.

Encounter Tables--I like the mood section. I was going to say the Activity section could be more enhanced, but then I see you do a write-up of their activity with the statblocks--so I'm not sure if the Activity column is helpful or not? Maybe it may spark something for a GM to remember something, but I'm on the fence about it. But it's good everything is doing something.

Toxic Manticore--cool description

I liked the Quickstarts section. Seemed to be 2 situations of some things that are happening in the area. That helps make the place feel alive.
I liked the tactics for the monsters--some would enter if they heard fighting, or some would use terrain or try to flee, etc.

I like the notes of the terrain—glacier, mountain. It's key words that immediately know what type of area you are in---its like calling a room Kitchen for a kitchen--you can immediately describe it.

NPCs have some great descriptions.

Hazard tables are a big hit here...That's something I would like to see more of in adventures. Even if its just incorporated with the wandering encounter table (you rolled a 6 so consult the hazard table). Anyways, I liked that a lot.

There is tons of creativity in this adventure, from the new monsters (beebears, to all the crazy stuff that is going on. This whole place is squirming with action. I really liked the Nautilus Throne--I could completely imagine it and the touch that the Holy Engineer tells them to use it to gain the knowledge they need is pretty cool.
There is a bunch of stuff that I could imagine immediately--the breathing pit...loved it! 'A lone PC swimming down without the use of magic is hugged by the crushing darkness'….very evocative and can immediately picture it.

I like the different shifting monster as it gains power. I know my players would be greatly annoyed though if it was able to keep fleeing and escaping.
The different event tables are great.

A few times there was underlined words...I think this works great, just like bold. Something I haven’t really considered for whatever reason, but not might try to incorporate that.

Challenge of the Well map is great and useful for the GM and all the maps look great. I liked the inset maps of the hexes.

I like the creepy vibe of Phaestus’s Realm. I loved 'joining a cult' table and the different quests littered about—although I think it would be good to have them in a summarized table.

The hex crawl notes are helpful and I thought there some fun tables for radsickness.
The hash marks and indentations are great, breaking up the info and making it scannable.

There are a few times when I think about an adventure for a few weeks and when I get time to write something down, it just vomits forth....I felt this vibe from The1True on this adventure....he must of been typing furiously! Tons of imagination and creativity.


White about giving some of these descriptive areas a little breathing room? o_OA space between the descriptive areas would of broke things up a little better in my opinion. Maybe larger font for the titles of the major areas to make them stand apart--Ruins of Keep Maholzin, Mother of all Jellyfish, etc. Sometimes I felt I flowed into a whole new area before realizing it was a different place.

Summaries....The adventure just started...was sudden and I didn't know what was going on. I guess I needed more in the first paragraph to know what the purpose was. This is where I'm not sure if I'm a good judge on this part because I think hex crawls main point is to explore?...which is fine..but as a GM, I'd want a little more summary of what's going on and different factions. I also suggest having a summary for each major area and maybe a bullet or table of the rumors or quests. For example, pg. 33 Find the Holy Engineer, or that Snegoferka is needed for an important task are embedded in the writing. I wouldn't be able to find it again quickly. I needed more meat for 'the why' for doing stuff---like visiting the Tesseract. I’d prefer more of a reason than “you should go check it out”. It's like there were these big things going on, but I felt like I didn't know about it and it could be because I had to read this over three sessions so I could of overlooked or forgotten something.

There was some reuse of the same descriptions—like for the manticore, and wight monks in the dungeon, storerooms...etc. Minor nitpick.

I love the Dungeon Race idea—the GM knows what’s going on...the events table can give hints to players that the place is busting up...but how do the players know that its the goal to find this creature? I might of missed that somewhere. Is this a trust the player scenario here and I’m missing it? I think the section needs a summary of what’s going on or main goals listed or even the rumors that are for that area put under that description. The map to the Power Tesseract is huge! I like the idea of the table for random rooms, but the place is so big, I think the table needed to be bigger or a smaller map. I also think it might have been interesting to have 2-4 other adventuring parties running around trying to find the creature and were used as wandering encounters—so it gave that additional feeling of a race.

Snegoferka seems pretty important—would of liked to see a description of what it looked like (I know its a trident). More like what was done with the Thunderbirds Barb.

Crab Hill mining machine—seeing a lot of ‘small’ and ‘large’ descriptive words.

Southwest Tusks Hex Crawl—for me, I think it would have been better to have this in the beginning. I’m not that used to hex crawls and kept getting lost. But this seemed like the big picture of the place.

I'm looking at your bookmarks as I write this. They are helpful for a pdf, but what if this was a book? I'm talking out loud here, but I think I would of given staging area, encounter table, then the overview of the Southwest Tusks Hexcrawl. Then maybe have everything else as an Appendix. So Quickstarts would be in an appendix, then each major location. I felt like sometimes I would read through an area and it would be abrupt again each time I hit a new area...or sometimes I kept reading and had to go back as I had flowed into a different area. Again--summary would of helped me with that.

Overall, this adventure is packed with stuff going on. It's written in a style that immediately gives you the tools you need to roleplay it out or describe monsters/NPCs and uses tools for quick scanning (bolding, indents, etc.). There were so many quirks of things that really stood out and some good evocative writing in places. I feel like there is a lot of stuff I missed because this thing is so crammed full of stuff!
But for me, I would of liked to see a summary of the big picture, and 1 paragraph quick summaries for each major area with any relevant tables for that area. I griped about that a lot in this review, but that's a pretty easy fix for a great area for adventuring with tons of creativity, action and and place that feels alive.
I've been going back and forth between an 8 and a compromising.


My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Thanks for the review!

This adventure definitely needed a summary at the start among other things. I also wanted bigger headings and more bolding and spacing to call out key details. I actually ended up with time to revise at the end but I had word-processed myself into a corner by then! I've never really had to format my writing before and it turned out to be a frustrating task with Word inserting random headers every time I created a page break or attempted to stretch artwork to fill more than one column. I got it to a point where stuff finally fit cleanly on the pages, and I stopped screwing around with it. It was helpful to have the maps on the page while I was writing, but in future I'll just write everything in a big blob and then format it like a sane person. I will say this though; formatting while writing forced me to delete hundreds of paragraphs of flowery prose. It imposed some real discipline.

I wrote the adventure for 3.5 which I am aware is an unpopular edition around here, so I tried to make the stats and rules-crunch as generic/translatable as possible. If I take another crack at this for the Vanished Wastes setting, I'll be begging DP's help in converting it all to 5e.

I get the foible with description reuse. I was on the fence about it, but decided to put myself in the position of a DM possibly reading one or the other description for the first time. Copy-pasting was definitely lazy but I wanted to maintain a consistent feel. There's a lot of monotony to the minions' (Grippli and Knights in particular) treasure as well that I would definitely consider revisiting. In the process I have discovered that writing stat-blocks is easily the most onerous task of adventure writing; above even the formatting! It is not fun. (Or possibly way too much fun and critically time wasting as a result? ..Also, getting way into monster design is risky if you're considering publishing to multiple rules editions. Getting hung up on a neato monster mechanic that only works with a 3rd ed feat or a 5th ed template or whatever is not ideal...)

The Tesseract definitely needs to be expanded on. More encounters in the form of automated defenses maybe? I was going for a clear choice between looting, hunting and looking for a way out. Adding further encounters felt like it muddied those decisions. It's a no-fail scenario (barring a TPK) so figuring out that capturing the Blighted and stuffing it back in the jar before repairing it is kind of an Easter egg like figuring out the Black Cyst in Tharizdun. It could definitely have used an application of the Three Clues Rule though. I tried to pepper hints, hooks and clues for everything throughout the book to keep the players' options open at all times so if they hit a wall with one quest, they can pick up another, hopefully finding the answers they need in the process, but I overlooked the Blighted.

Crab Hill mining machine—seeing a lot of ‘small’ and ‘large’ descriptive words.
This made me go back and look, lol. Holy shit, they're everywhere! I assume actual dimensions would be preferable to adjectives?


So ... slow work day? Every day?
Automated defenses might of been interesting. A chance for that to happen, and another table with some examples--lasers trap or robots or something. The are a is just so big...I could see myself ending up saying "ok, you hit another room with a exit here and there...." until the PCs found the correct way and that could get boring fast (but I'm sure other DM's could make it more interesting--I'm just lazy).

I HATE statblocks...they make me claw my eyes out. I cried for you when I saw some of them that you had to write up. I think I got them to a point where they aren't as bad for me because I've memorized the order and I've tried to shrink it down as much as possible.
A layout program would of definitely been easier than Word.

I don't know if actual dimensions are needed--although I did find it helpful in Terrible Sorcery's for the bigger rooms...but instead of small--cramped, tiny..mix it up...or big--massive, gigantic, etc.


8, 8, I forget what is for
I am not a judge, but I wanted to give The1True some feedback on his work---that is, after all, what's this place is all about, right?

Let first start off by saying I purposely ignored this (and other) review threads until I had a chance to really sit down and read the adventure. That said, I independently cam to many of the same conclusions as Malrex. (I hope you all appreciate what a fine editor the man has become! We are lucky the he is so generous with his time.)

Let me also say that while it is easy to point out your mistakes, it's like I am looking in a mirror---a reflection of the pitfalls my own work has repeatly fallen in to. Reviewing this kind of quasi-technical writing is hard/painful. HOW DOES BRYCE DO IT WEEK AFTER WEEK?

OK. On with the show...

Creativity drips off the page. There are so many good ideas here (the Knights, weather, the cult, the Tesseract as a ticking time-bomb/race, flavorful situations, appropriate humor etc.). Your (CAD) maps and pointcrawl flow-charts are pristine --- clearly a strength of yours. Everything is super legible, cross-referenced, and clear. I will even say I dig the vibe. It may be 3.5e, but nothing offends my antiquated tastes. This is in no way a railroad. It was in no way overly wordy. I really love the stark feel of Patheon of the Sea, and the Tesseract is a gem of an idea. (They should probably be polished and published entirely seperately.) Lastly, it felt like it could be fun-at-the-table: silly good times.

At first the beebear/bearbee/bearbear stuff was making my head hurt...but then it started to make me laugh.

The beginning is too abrupt. The reader (DM) is thrown in the middle of it without any sort of orientation or guide. It not only needs an introductions (as you've both said), it really does need a mental inversion. You need to treat the DM as a student, and teach him/her what's-what. The conversational tone of many of the (early) TSR products understood this very well. But even in today's world, don't make the assumption folk know how to plat D&D. Evidence shows it's still a hot mess out there. Spoon-feed instead of fire-hose.

Do you know what a WONDERFUL orientation/introductory tool is --- a MAP. Yeah, I've said it before, I'll say it until the cows come home. PUT THE MAP UP FRONT. Show me the landscape...THEN talk about the details. How am I suppose I know which of all the collected maps in the back applies? Only after I've waded through all the keying, can I then hazard a guess as to which map it connects to. Everyone who thinks you don't start by showing the map is just dead wrong. (I have spoken. :) )

Too your very nearly did this with the inset on page 2. But page 2 is not page 1, and the map you needed to put up front and explain, all introductory-like is on page 88.

Also, a couple of places you repeat a map --- why not zoom in to the applicable area?

OVERUSE OF BULLET STYLE: I think bullets lose their effectiveness when everything is a bullet list. If I were to try and put my finger on it, I would say the organization feels exactly like a brainstorming session, where every thought gets written down as a bullet. Step #2 (after brain storming) is self-critique---whittling concepts down to a select few. Doesn't feel like Step#2 happened. Step#3, Organize the Data for Presention, was stillborn.

Lastly (and here's where and editor would have helped you), the scope is too large. I know you probably had this all ready to go in the GTC and wanted to get it in front of some eyes, but just doing the Kobald Lake Tesseract for this contest (it it was a bit more fleshed out), might have been a Grand Slam. Instead, you sprawled a bit and we got (figuratively/organizationally) a mile wide but an inch deep.

This is all personal taste stuff, so feel free to ignore:
  • excessive magic weapons (B2 on crack)
  • causal use of mithril absolutely destroys its value --- you've turned it into gold
  • repeating maps same size
  • need better white space management
  • plot is too intricate --- "Less is more.", "Trust the DM", "dagger-like concepts...", etc. --- Leads to a whole lotta if-then bullets
  • dare I say "too fantastic" --- everything is so wild, there's no simplicity to ground you. Not rest for the palette between desserts.
  • the Tesseract is a major "Screw the campaign" / Kobayashi Maru scenario
  • the stat-blocks break up the flow of the text too much
  • way too many bullets
  • tiny dots inside hexes...also hexagons for organization (never was a fan--->hate D1)

In summary, I am impressed with your creativity and graphic skills. You went "Big", but I think it was a-bridge-too-far. The ideas (which are good) don't entirely hold together globally. There's a reason most campaign settings fail in publication and Gygax could never get Castle Greyhawk out the door. No one has really solved the puzzle on how to present that much data in a digestible format. The genius of "the dungeon" as an organizational tool for gaming cannot be understated. It really is the secret to the whole hobby's success. Everything else is simultaneously too big and too small for consumption via the printed page. That's why it flowers for the creator, but never takes root for others.

Good job, and hats off to you for getting something out the door---naked for all the world to see. That's true bravery, and true success.

(On to the next one...)
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Should be playing D&D instead
Irradiated Paradox of the Volatile Skies - Review

The sandbox nature of this adventure is impressive - it walks a fine balance between freedom and structure, giving the players just enough agency to do what they want, while simultaneously keeping things confined in a way that the DM can manage.

Cross-referencing would go a long way, as would a solid formatting job; it can be hard to tell which sections of the document belong together and which are unrelated to each other, as well as little things like where sections break from one another, and which tables belong to which encounter areas. Still, a reasonable job considering the 90-page count and the time constraints.

The maps are well-made and concise enough for table use, though some labels and cross-references (ie. Map #3 - Tesseract Interior) would be nice to facilitate play and mitigate page flipping. Also, anything with a grid should include a scale, especially when your adventure contains both square grid maps and hex maps. I love the inclusion of travel times/encounters on the hex maps (very handy for a DM), though the text was a tad small and hard to see (had to zoom in). You can tell a good deal of effort went into making the maps and diagrams, so kudos for that.

There's a lot of additional stuff hard-coded into the adventure that's tied into the setting, which I believe makes this a bit weaker as a standalone product. It'll work fine once the setting is properly released, but as it stands now, it just tends to clutter and complicate running the adventure. This is especially pronounced in the hex crawl portion of the adventure, where a good deal of esotericisms exist, but even at the start of the module there's references to the Bloodrock Guild and Hospitaler Knights with nary an elaboration or glossary to be found.

A "How to Use" preface for the hex crawl and a thorough "Setting/Background" write-up would go far (although I'm aware this module is meant to tie in to a bigger setting project, using the adventure as a standalone suffers due to its absence). Actually, most of my gripes might be easily resolved with just a bit more preamble and user-friendliness inclusions; as it stands, I wouldn't be able to run properly this without reading it through its entirety first. Even something as small as an introductory paragraph for each big location would help.

I love the Trading Post start location. Everything feels very fleshed-out and dynamic. Hooks and sidetracks galore, as a good starting location should have. The initial situation of things at the Trading Post is good too (the logjam of traffic from prevented travel) - noticeable to the players and likely to generate interest, but not in a way that feels forced or contrived. Feels very Casablanca-esque, with everyone waylaid at a small post unable to travel further.

I love the bugbear/beebear/bearbee thing - adds a little local flavor and makes the place feel like a living place where folk develop their own names for things. There's actually quite a good bit of local charm in this thing.

The beebear village encounter feels a bit scripted (I mean, I suppose it is scripted, technically), and I worry that important information will be missed if players kill the shaman during the expected combat encounter (he has 36 hp and is obviously in control of the zombies - players are going to focus-fire the hell out of him, and at levels 6 - 9, that's likely a 1-round KO), or I worry that players will cry "plot armor" if he survives. Some alternative way to learn what the shaman/bugbears passe along would be a good idea, maybe elaborating the runes on the totem or something. I almost always advise against having the only source of information be gained from talking to or interrogating hostiles; most players are not merciful or so forward-thinking about their encounters.

I appreciate all the maps being reproduced large-format in an annex at the back of the module; very handy, as are the inclusion of the mini-maps embedded within the adventure key.

The sites of interest and random encounters are nicely weird and fit the setting. Stuff like "A hoarse voice hoots in excitement, 'I’ve hit the motherlode!' -The voice is always over the next ridge and leads the PC’s around for an hour" is excellent. Most of them fit the dried-up ocean theme of the Wastes, which is nice. There's a bit more greenery and water than I'd expect see in an arid wasteland though (not sure if it was addressed, but maybe a disclaimer mentioning how the water isn't potable or something might help keep water a scarce resource in the Wastes).

Statblocks are nice and condensed; a rare treat in a 3e adventure. Well done.

The narrative tone of the adventure is a bit too informal, often switching at random between technical writing and subjective writing, between in-character and out-of-character. Some parts have a meta-writing speaking directly to the DM intermixed with stuff meant for the players. Descriptions meant for players could stand to be set apart from the DM-only narrative - not necessarily boxed text, but some kind of system should exist to make it easy to tell at a glance. There's also a few gaps in which the DM is expected to improvise (for example: "Black Pool: Large, pigmentless fish break the surface of this inky pool. The water boils with great fishing! A particularly huge and deadly catch lurks in the deep." Why not just say what's in the depths, like a gigantic crab or whatever?)

The ticking clock elements of the Tesseract are done well with the color-coding and all, but I think more could be done to communicate the critical time element to the players. As it stands, the place just seems like it's constantly changing, which isn't necessarily an obvious indicator of a dangerous time crunch.

Treasure is common, and it seems that magic and gear is not scarce at all, which detracts slightly from the intent of the setting. I get it though - this is a 3e adventure, and 3e was just always like that. If I were to convert this to 5e, I'd end up cutting out a lot of the magic armor and weapons that virtually everyone seems to be using; in my experience, giving everyone magical stuff tends to foster murderhobo tendencies. The unique magic items and mundane treasure is good.

Lots of good tables in this thing (I dig the cult one especially). As with the diagrams/maps, they should probably be labelled and could be cross-referenced in the text better.

Factions, oh man, has this thing got factions! No shortage of neat NPCs and odd little random groups too. Good job! A roll-up NPC & Faction Reference Index and/or relationship map would be a good addition to improve ease-of-use.

The Pantheon site is well fleshed-out and thematic, and I really appreciate all the stuff about the area around it and not just about the dungeon itself. Everything feels alien, and the encounters are well-crafted (albeit perhaps a bit too frequent, especially if a random encounter roll is supposed to happen every turn).

Noticed a couple of spelling mistakes, mostly on words that wouldn't show up in a spellcheck (kobald, Havenspar, etc.).

Did you get an ISBN number for this thing? That's some hardcore commitment right there! The back page could use a summary of the intended adventure though (a short blurb is common to all modules).

7.5 out of 10 - would be higher with some layout and referencing tweaks, as well as some additional preamble context.


My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Irradiated Paradox of the Volatile Skies - Review
Solid review man, thanks!

Yeah yeah. I REALLY needed an intro section. That got lost in the formatting troubles. Even presupposing the existence of some hypothetical Vanished Wastes Gazeteer, I should be writing as if the reader doesn't have it and at least putting in the bare-bones Factions summary and basic description and rules of the region.
Speaking of which, the Tusks are meant to be a sort of introductory 'yellow-zone'; not quite as arid/toxic/lethal as the deeper Wastes. Just something we'd know if I'd plowed through that stupid formatting logjam.

Good call on the Beebear shaman. He's too necessary to later events. He needs to be more expendable (clues left in his hut to fill in for lost dialog) and he needs to show a willingness to talk before combat.

I'm pretty happy with the escalating events chart in the Tesseract. Maybe a major rumble with a little read-aloud to mark each successive escalation?

I'm seeing a lot of calls for cross-referencing. I hyperlinked and bookmarked the hell out of this beast; are they not showing up?

magic and gear is not scarce at all
Even in 1e, 6-9th lvl PC's should be packing their own +1 items. Comparable NPC's should as well, no? I did pack the scenario with magic, but I thought it highly unlikely that a party will find all of it unless the DM allows them to grind every location (which a lot of people hate, but I thought I'd put in Easter eggs for the diligent and/or obsessive and equip the good guys in case of evil PC's).

Anyway, lots of food for thought here. I'm looking forward to revising and repackaging this thing back at GTC HQ!


Should be playing D&D instead
I'm seeing a lot of calls for cross-referencing. I hyperlinked and bookmarked the hell out of this beast; are they not showing up?
I didn't see any hyperlinks, no. Regardless, simple (p. XX) references would go far, especially for those who prefer to print and run adventures rather than using a computer to DM.

Even in 1e, 6-9th lvl PC's should be packing their own +1 items. Comparable NPC's should as well, no?
It's like that meme: "well yes, but also no". Again though, I realize that for 3e this type of magic bonus on everything was the norm, so it's understandable... but it's a norm of 3e which was widely considered poor design (along with ginormous stat blocks and ballooning bonuses). I guess my qualm is just that it kinda cheapens magic items when they are made so prolific (also the whole Bryce-ian complaint of "+x weapons are boring"). Then again, I fall firmly in the camp of "if a bugbear gets +6 to hit, it doesn't have to be because he's carrying a +3 halberd or whatever; the numbers don't need to be explained".

Like I say in my review, most of the issues I see are easily fixed by adding something minor or shifting something around. The core of things is solid.

Maybe a major rumble with a little read-aloud to mark each successive escalation?
Yeah, something needs to be there for the players to interface with. Spelling everything out for the DM is good and all, but if the DM can't translate what he knows into gameplay in a natural, organic way, then whatever the DM knows is inconsequential. The players need to be able to discover what's going on, especially if there's a time component involved.


Should be playing D&D instead
Hi there :p

I'm still pretty swamped with work, Real Life stuff and other matters :/

As we want to finish this thing someday I'll do this:

I'll post my score for The Irradiated Paradox of the Volatile Skies down below so we can at least choose a winner and formally finish this contest :)
I'll still post up a longer review sometime later... give me a bit :)

Now for the important part... For The Irradiated Paradox of the Volatile Skies by The1True I herby give

7.5 out of 10

Cheers mate, I will get that longer review done one of these days and sorry to keep you all waiting.


Should be playing D&D instead
As one of the judges, Malrex's own entry is not eligible to win the contest (though don't let that stop people from reviewing it).


So ... slow work day? Every day?
Someone tell me how Malrex is supposed to review himself...
I could if you want, but I don't like putting myself through that I did mine for fun. And happy to accept constructive criticism by anyone on it.


My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
I could if you want, but I don't like putting myself through that I did mine for fun. And happy to accept constructive criticism by anyone on it.
How are you supposed to defend your championship?!