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Deep Carbon Observatory $10.00
Average Rating:4.5 / 5
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Deep Carbon Observatory
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Deep Carbon Observatory
Publisher: False Machine Publishing
by prashant p. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/11/2017 15:49:49

This is a review based on running DCO. DCO turns the modern adventure design paradigm on it's head- where telling rather than showing is the norm, and word count and bloat buries what the "core idea" or concept so deep that the running adventures is more like reading from a text book that helping the GM bring the concept to life. For an adventure of its size, DCO has now been run for about 4 months in my campaign with the PCs facing dilemmas, challenges and having to use good thinking to overcome obstacles. Not only is there a sense of wonder and creativity but the action is taunt with multiple factions in play and the adventure opening up a whole new world. Needless to say, DCO has become my players base of operations, and perhaps the beginings of a new power center. Running DCO is challenging because of the space it allows and expects the GM to flex. This is why everyone should run it because it will make you a better GM and the same for your players. For someone running games for 20+ years, this is one of the best adventures I have ever run. Also, study the maps- they are not linear like what most of us are used to. A+!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Carbon Observatory
Publisher: False Machine Publishing
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/20/2016 04:47:32

Deep Carbon Observatory is very rich on atmosphere. So much so that "the dungeon" of the adventure only sets up a slight portion of the adventure. Combat definitely takes a back seat in this adventure, but this isn't to say that it is non-existent or that there is very little threat to the PCs. In fact there is quite a lot of threat to the PCs.

The book is laid out rather organically. As GM you are introduced to things in much the same way and pace as the players are. As a result it is a rather "fun" read that had me asking questions and wanting to keep reading to find the answers until the very end where a handy timeline of events serves to tie things together as a sort of "big reveal" The downside of this is that it is not a quick and easy pick up and run adventure. Even getting to see "the big picture" as a GM, nothing is outright told to you, you have to figure out a lot of the connections of things on your own. This is definitely an adventure where as GM you are going to have to be taking notes before, during, and after the adventure. After? I hear you ask. Yes, the adventure has some definite world affecting consequences. On the bright side, most of these effects really only occur if the players choose to not be actively engaged in the adventure. There are several really clever ideas here, but the big take away is that the adventure does not exist in a vacuum frozen in time awaiting the adventurers to awaken it. The adventure is very organic and could very well resolve itself without any player involvement.

Art is some nice pencil work that conveys a lot of character, the maps have no scale which I feel is a failing. The authors stress that it is very important to know how many days of food the players have, but provide very little guidance on how long it should take to traverse the various terrain.

From here on out spoilers. You've been warned.

The adventure is broken into five parts.

The first bit throws the adventurers into the action, and keeps them occupied meeting several colorful characters. This is a fun different way of introducing the area, and providing one of three hooks to continue on to the rest of the adventure. Although not overtly stated, probably the most important part of this is to introduce the fact that the area is flooded, and everyone is in bad shape.

The next parts involve the travel up river, then the dam, and the drained lake. All these environments are probably very alien to the players. The flood has radically changed the "normal" of the path up river. Things from the lake now traverse the area. Everything is flooded necessitating travel by boat or a very wet walk for a very long time. The dam takes the normal dungeon crawl idea and throws it on its side because almost everything has been upturned by the water- traps are already sprung and locked doors are opened. The drained lake again presents an alien atmosphere of an ecology turned on its head.

and then into the observatory.

I would hope that the PCs would take note of the fact that someone built a dam to keep this place inaccessible under water. Of course that won't keep them out.

Here is a great opportunity to explore the remains of the observatory and the dark elves that once occupied it.

Finally the adventure ends with a timeline of what happened in the past and what will happen if the PCs don't get involved. So really you could throw this adventure hook at them and have them completely ignore it and then have it come back to bite them in the rear years later in your campaign. The timeline tracks the progress of another adventuring party interested in the observatory as well as a witch that is an encounter earlier. With the unfolding of these two parties without PC involvement is really becomes evident that the tracking of time is important in this adventure. The ration tracking is just as important as there isn't an easy way to re-stock these items and a party may end up quitting the adventure or starving to death if not prepared.

Not every answer is given in the adventure, some just don't get answered. What caused the dam to brake, and where did the dark elves go is kind of beyond the scope of the adventure, but may be something to address in your own running of the game.

http://wherearemydice.blogspot.de/2016/11/product-review-deep-carbon-observatory.html



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Carbon Observatory
Publisher: False Machine Publishing
by Andre B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2016 07:03:58

I really like the morally tough decisions the party has to make. It also contains a lot of little really clever weird elements. The only negative pint are the maps, which are atmosspheric, but not user friendly.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Carbon Observatory
Publisher: False Machine Publishing
by Andrew A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/06/2016 15:10:51

I loved this. Its totally dark full of Weirdness and a little scary. It will be a little bit of a challenge to DM, but I am excited to try. It's pretty harsh though, so fair warning.

I will be toning down the opposition a little or it will be a near certain TPK, which I think is no fun. Or mb. just not as fun.

But totally recomended!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Carbon Observatory
Publisher: False Machine Publishing
by Troy V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/29/2015 07:09:27

In the typical LotFP fashion, the "winning" scenario is damn near impossible, the adventure contains numerous devices which screw player characters royally, and is grimdark to a fault, replacing wit and imagination with tragedy and cruel jokes. Your characters might as well just stay in the tavern, tea house, inn, or drug den. Better yet, tell your referee to lighten up or replace your referee, and stop pulling these tasteless, depressing pranks on you and the rest of the players.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Carbon Observatory
Publisher: False Machine Publishing
by Timothy H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/13/2015 06:45:55

I felt like putrid river silt had covered my soul and somehow gotten lodged in my brain after reading it over (in a good way). :) I'm looking forward to running it at my local con this year.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Carbon Observatory
Publisher: False Machine Publishing
by Christopher T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/06/2015 23:14:08

I have the PDF and the physical book of this and it is a fine piece of OSR art. There are some good ideas here, but it is a jumbled mass of artistically written sentences and not an easy to run or even read module. I want something I can grab and use after a quick read and not mess around trying to figure things out. I've noticed the trend in stuff like Carcosa/Quelong and the like to not really describe the core adventure in the beginning and have the GM figure out what's going on from reading the encounters, but this took it too far. Even higher prep stuff like NSFW is fairly easy to understand what's going on and what the core adventure is. This, I'm still not so sure. That said, I think this feels like a good freshman effort that lacked a solid editor to challenge the writer to make their ideas more clear and realize that while this is a piece of art, it's also got to function for the DM to be playable. This leans far too much on the art side for me (as the GM). Lastly, my players are murderhobos through and through. They kill 'monsters' and take gold and valuables from wilderness areas to get XP, they're not going to save anybody in a river unless there is a lot of obvious loot. The system this is written for (LoTFP or B/X) completely encourages this style of play, so the initial hook is a tough one.

I think the art is good, the cover especially and I would like to see more from this author.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Carbon Observatory
Publisher: False Machine Publishing
by Benjamin M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/04/2014 10:33:29

Reading through Deep Carbon Observatory, I find it very interesting-- it has an excellent set of concise encounter descriptions, a solid encounter progression, and tons of flavor without overwhelming the adventure. The aftermath of the flood alone is just fantastic. The layout and art are spartan, but do an excellent job of conveying the feel of the adventure. This feels like a labor of love, and I find those often have the most inspiration. :D

If you run any system that focuses on a D&D style of play (OSR to 3.5 to 2E to 4E to Pathfinder and heck, Next, with honorable mention to C&C and Savage Worlds, possibly Dungeon World) you can run this adventure with modest adjustment, and it looks like it's going to be a great time, broken across many sessions. You're definitely going to get your $10 worth out of this PDF.

I plan on picking up the treeware, once it's available. I recommend you do the same.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Carbon Observatory
Publisher: False Machine Publishing
by Joshua B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/20/2014 11:33:53

Let me start by saying that, while not without its flaws, Deep Carbon Observatory might just be my favorite "DIY," self-published adventure module. This is a unique creation that is superior than most from conception through execution. Nontheless, while my enthusiasm for the material tempts me to give it a perfect rating, I'm going to hold back in the hopes of providing a review that would be useful to any potential buyer that would actually intend to DM the adventure as written.

The compelling concept, the imaginative vision, and Stuart's comendable writing are what really set DCO apart from the crowd. DCO was clearly a labor of love for the author; the excellent work on his falsemachine blog is a testament to his obsession with fleshing out and even re-invisioning the Underdark. Though I have no doubt other, perhaps even more ambitious works in this vein will follow from Stuart, DCO might be seen as something of a culmination of his public work at this point in time. Many of the ideas first presented on his blog regarding Underdark denizens make appearances in DCO, and the wierd, gloomy atmosphere set by his evocative blog posts pervades the module as well.

In fact, the consistent mood of bleak dread and otherwordly mystery is perhaps the strongest feature of the product. The reader can't help but be caught up in wonder of the scenario; reading along, I felt as if I were the adventurer myself, eagerly uncovering one secret after another (though, of course, without the constant fear of a horrible, lonely death!). This is largely due to Stuart's superior writing ability; this is an author that truly has a way with words, infusing many of his descriptions with not just cleverness, but with a poetic language that I just do not find in most RPG adventure writing I've read. While this level of writing was not consistent throughout the entire module, the times where it did hit those high notes provided me with a great deal of inspiration and a real desire to incorporate this into my campaign (or even use as the basis for a new one). Equally rare is Stuart's ability to create of sense doom and awe without descending into pointless gore, overwrought "wierdness," or ham-handed attempts to shock the reader for sake of being "edgy." He also manages to creatre scenarios that put the PCs in serious danger, yet I never got the sense that he was going for some kind of PC body count or trying to unreasonably screw the players.

Without giving away much of the plot (in case you're the rare player that is module-shopping for a DM or you just enjoy an unspoiled readthrough), I'll say that the full adventure offers a great deal of variety. An interesting chart of possible events, based on PC decisions, provides hooks and lead to short- and long-term consequences. Following this jump-off point is an overland journey that provides several unique encounters with opportunities for treasure, confrontation, and the unveiling of mysteries. After this, a short dungeon and an exotic locale precede the final delve into the Observatory itself, a memorable location that I found excellently envisioned from Stuart's borrowing of the ominous name to his design of a complex that players will both dread but love to explore. And trust me, there is plently here to both dread and marvel at, and all I will say is that your players are not likely to forget their excursion into this strange and silent domain. During all this, the machinations of an NPC party, whether known to the PCs or not, provide a sense of urgency and even the potential for dire ramifications for a campaign setting.

The artwork accompanying will likely meet with a divided audience. I found Scrap Princesses' unique style very appropriate for the material. My reaction to individual pieces was mixed; some drawing were evocative and helped me envision the subject matter (including a few amazing, stand-out illustrations), while others fell flat and seemed to do little for the module other than fill space.

Moving beyond the more aesthetic qualities, the mechanical aspects of the module are also a mixed bag. I appreciate that this is a module that expects the DM to do some legwork on everything from maps to monsters to background. I write much of my own adventure material, hate stat blocks, and am fine with filling in the blanks as suits my campaign, but I understand that not all buyers will fill this way, especially given a $10 price tag. I mention this in the interest of fairness to such buyers; just be advised this is not a fully "ready-to-run" product, though it does come close depending on your specific needs. There are other incomplete aspects I'm less inclined to hand-wave away. The "rough sketch" nature of the maps worked well for a couple but left me hanging on others, trying to piece together rhyme-or-reason with the aid of the room descriptions. While I realize this too was likely intentional, I would say, for me, that it is often easier to create maps from scratch than it is to reconstruct one from an incomplete or unclear description.

Another source of occasional frustration as the scattered layout of the background details and explanatory material for various monsters, rooms, set-pieces, etc. This is a common complaint I have with many DIY adventure modules I've read; the module unfolds like a mystery to the reader, revealing a detail at a time, usually requiring re-reads and deciphering to finally achieve some kind of an understanding of the modules secrets. While this makes for an engaging and fun read on your first time through, it can make for a hassle if one actually DMs the adventure. I'm not sure if these techniques are employed to avoid the dreaded "front-loading" of background material or just serve to highlight the cleverness of the author by inspiring numerous "hmmmm.....AHA!" moments, but in terms of practical functionality, I find this style only makes the DMs task harder.

Ultimately, this is a module that many DMs will find an irresistable addition to their table, and many others will enjoy a great read and a source of inspiration. Those not used to the quirks of DIY modules may be turned off, but I think the concept and writing here are strong enough to make this a product that will appeal to many RPG camps, regardless of edition. CongratulatiThis is a job well done; Stuart's vision of the Underdark is the one I want in my campaign.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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