A DCO Review With The Right Details (And Lots Of 'Em!)

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Keep these lies in mind as we go.

In a lot of ways, Deep Carbon Observatory reminds me of Mork Borg, in that everything about it visually is an eyesore. The layout is bad, but it’s not quite as deliberately inconsistent and sloppy. It really comes across as a loosely-assembled first draft that someone hastily whipped up on MS Word, and couldn’t be bothered to polish up before disgorging it upon the world.

I’m being serious, it looks exactly like what you’d expect were you to rely entirely on Word for your layout:

It's honestly fascinating how bad it is, and I'm not sure whether it's just sheer incompetence or intentional:

Given the overall writing and design, and how trivially easy it would be to fix everything, I'm banking on the former, though I could see some amount of the latter as an unabashed attempt to appear “punk” or “indie”, or to not “conform” to basic legibility, while ironically conforming to everyone else that goes out of their way to make their eyesore trash publications look as horrendous as possible, like they just don't care. Which is also probably true.

To describe the art as terrible is an understatement. It's the sort of faux-artistic refuse that would be rejected from even the most desperate of post modern art installations, that even the most jaded hipster would struggle to justify with the blatant lie of, “It's like, all subjective, man”. To call it childish, literally, as in the quality you would expect from a child, would not only grossly underestimate both their current skill and potential, but it would be less insulting, less abusive, to simply slap them in the face.

I have seen more heart, more technical skill, more raw effort put into gesture drawings and absent-minded scribbles tucked away in the margins of elementary-grade notebooks. This is what gatekeepers would rightfully mock and refuse entry to, which is precisely why people pushing this crap want to replace gatekeepers: they want their complete lack of talent to be the new standard, so that they can deride anyone that would bother actually trying, and find whatever petty excuse they can to “cancel” them.

One wonders whether any of these amateur-enabling losers had the misfortune of gazing upon this trash, and realized that they'd gone too far.

But what of the content? The other content, I mean.

The core concept, unmolested by the author, has merit: there's a kind of observatory with the ability to peer through stone, concealed or obstructed by a lake. The dam holding in the water breaks, floods the land, and now the players get to go exploring the lake bed, and eventually the titular observatory.

Despite the author's assertion that “most adventures are just robbing you with either no details, or the wrong kind”, followed up with pretentious hyperbole about how this adventure has the right details, and lots of them, this is, to put it lightly, no sublime manuscript. It's not even baseline acceptable, attempting to overwhelm you with excessive purple prose in an effort to convince you of its utterly absent merits, perhaps to distract from and cast doubt as to its copious flaws and shortcomings.

It is something I would expect to only enlighten and entertain, in any capacity, disinterested and inept morons. If you want to save yourself time, money, and frustration, take this idea yourself, and run with it as you will, because what is sloppily scrawled across just over a hundred pages is inundated with ill-conceived incompetence.

Getting to specifics, let's start with adventure hooks. Gotta have some reason to get the players invested, for them to go to your dungeon, right?

Whelp, there are thirty hooks, with gems such as Academic Shitstorm. Basically, your characters belong to one of three groups debating the origin of the dam. A dam that has no real impact on anything else in the world, and given that it's common knowledge would have long-since been discovered and explored by now.

Then there's Wannabe Golemist. With this one, you're exploring the dam so you can examine the various golems, which despite being described as indestructible are anything but. This hook hinges on the idea that golems are a “deluded fantasy”, but given that, again, this is all common knowledge it would have long since been proven false.

Conceptually, some of the hooks could be interesting, but most aren't, or executed poorly. As if the author couldn't be bothered to think them through, or knew that he wouldn't be able to, so just crapped out a bunch of informal, inconsistent (when not outright contradictory), semi-rambly and -sarcastic copy.

Like Mind Control: you think that your mind, as well as those of everyone else, is being controlled by a  machine. A machine that you learned the location of by undefined “triangulation”. What did you use? No idea. How did you use it? Also no idea. If your mind is being controlled, how were you able to “triangulate” the machines location, and then go look for it? No. Idea.

Your plan is to “fight the mind-controlling monsters”. But, then, if they can control your mind, they would just force you to kill yourself, or abandon this mission.

This hook can be so easily modified so that you think there's a prehistoric race preparing to invade the surface, so are going to stop them. So easy, and it makes actual sense. This is a trend for almost the entire adventure, a sort of foreshadowing: bad design and writing, easily fixed by even novice DMs willing to apply a modicum of critical thinking and effort. The problem is you'll end up re-doing around 99% of it, so you might as well start from scratch.

Under a Call to Adventure, it says that these could apply to anyone, or to simple, “salt of the earth PCs”. Do they not apply to the “anyone” category? Is that a common opinion? I would have just thought, okay, these work for anyone, but thanks for clarifying. I should note that these common-sense “clarifications” are scattered throughout (another that immediately comes to mind is stating that cover isn't an infinite resource). Maybe this is one of those “right kind of details”?

Once you've gotten your hook or, more likely, hopefully, invented your own, if you felt there was any need to, there's a section on “opening DCO”. It explains what DCO is, which is something you would expect at the start. Same with placing DCO in your world, treasures...really, this entire page should have been first.

Then there's an intro with text far larger than necessary, likely blown up so that there wouldn't be a glaring blank. This is good, because it probably spares us from another overpriced, toddler-tier scribble disingenuously labeled as art. You get some bullet-point descriptions as opposed to read-aloud text. Not sure why, as it's not more efficient, and there's still a read-aloud-box worth of text to go through. It also devotes a few pages to mentioning NPCs. It doesn't really describe them, or give you any motivations or personality: you just get a name, and perhaps what they are immediately doing.

Except for the Crows.

What I find hilarious—besides the so-called art and shameful writing, of course—is that the Crows are hyped up as a gang of deadly, terrifying cannibals that none dare speak of, by everyone, including kings, but when you skip forward a few pages it immediately states that they are not designed to survive a fair fight, not that there can ever be one given the rampant cheating you are supposed to do as a DM.

For example, with Echo: once she has encountered the players, you are supposed to then act as if you have overheard all negative reactions between both the players and their characters. All of them. Hoolloch is even worse: he auto-passes every Dexterity related save (you don't count fumbles, which don't exist in D&D, and wouldn't even matter given that there's no reason to roll), causes opponents to fumble on a 1 or 2 (whatever that is), and always succeeds on all jump checks.

Zolushika has 30 zombies at her beck and call, somehow adds 1d6 per day, and somehow hasn't hit her cap of 100. Guess she's only been at this necromancy gig for a week or so.

Anyway, she has no loyalty to Echo or Hoolloch, is for some reason terrified of Echo, and only sticks around for the drugs (where are they getting them? Are people in this area notorious for having drugs?). Question: why doesn't she use her 30 zombies to kill them? She easily could. She even has a sleep spell, which might work given that Hoolloch cannot cheat-to-pass spell saves.

It's all tell, no show. They are scary and dangerous because they are said to be. They want to get to the observatory first, but will waste time plotting ways to kill the PCs, instead of just making a beeline straight there, while the players invariably waste time interacting with at least some of the largely pointless encounters (especially the ones in the “opening” section).

And on that note, let's talk about some of them.

The journey to the observatory essentially has you traveling through two regions, divided by the broken dam. The first part is the “drowned lands”, and is the area devastated by flooding after the dam broke. So, what might you stumble across on the way? Well...

You might run into the “alpha platypus”, which is a 6 HD platypus of unknown size. The text describes it as a the “ultimate embodiment of Nature's fury, but all it does is bite and possibly poison you. It's one of several presumably giant versions of a regular animal (like the horse-shoe super-crab), and seems to be included for “lol-so-random” purposes.

There's a pair of wizards fighting to the death, because they just can't stand each other, and as we all know the typical reaction for not liking someone is to attempt to murder them. They wasted no time setting forth to explore the mysteries of the dam together, but only got about a dozen miles up what you could consider a river before deciding to kill each other. Even though presumably they journeyed much further to get here in the first place.

But then, why get a canoe to travel up river? Seems like it would take less effort to walk (indeed, skirting the edge would get you to the dam in about half the time), and be less inconvenient without lugging a canoe all the way here. Also, the text states they were only hanging out for an hour before getting fed up, but by the book it would have taken at least five to get where they are.

Then there's a church surrounded by giant toads. No set number, so you roll 1d20. They're all literally bursting from overeating, because that makes sense, and will try to attack you anyway, because that also makes sense. The church has several situationally useful items: wafers that you can put into vials, causing them to glow for an hour.

This light repels random creatures, and you would have no way of knowing this unless you thought the wafers had some sort of unusual property, tried to put them into the water instead of just eating them, and then happened to encounter one of the creatures they work against before the light ran out.

Of course, if you “break into” the church, they don't work at all. There's also a stone sarcophagus that is somehow floating in the river, with a mummy inside. You can throw him in the water to destroy him pretty quickly. In any case, if you don't die you can get his sword, which is surprisingly useful without any drawbacks habitual of indie hacks that tend to mistakenly believe that magic items (and only items) arbitrarily require some sort of downside.

Further up you might come across a hill, surrounded by water, with a bunch of animals on top. They're trying to avoid being eaten by a 15-foot long squid, because there was apparently a giant squid swimming about in the river behind the dam. How did it get there? How did it sustain itself? Don't ask obvious questions that any player with half a brain would. Just shut your brain off and bask in all the “right sort of details”.

There's also a witch bound to the water. Sort of. She hates the sun and won't “emerge from under the water till dark”. So, perhaps she just travels that way. Not sure. It's explained that she's been killed multiple times, yet the villagers nearby fear her for some reason and stick around.

The biggest problem is that, it will take the characters at least a day to get here: why hasn't the witch popped out and started killing everyone? Why hasn't everyone else just left? They've had plenty of time to do so. She can cast invisibility and sleep once per day (reject pseudo-Vancian magic): seems like she would have little to no trouble taking everyone out.

But then, no one in the village is named or described. You don't even know how many people there are. Gotta love all those right details.

Moving on to the dam, it's a kind of mini-dungeon. If you killed one of the alleged indestructible golems wandering about, you can open a door and just bypass it. You can also just climb the walls and continue on towards the observatory. This is for the best, as it's a loot-less waste of time. The only possible benefit is an archive-golem that has scrolls you can read, but there's no explanation as to what's on the scrolls.

The canoptic guards inside are largely made of indestructible stone, but oddly not the obviously marked jars, which are randomly, automatically destroyed each time the guard is struck (lucky you, I suppose). It's part of a lame video game-y gimmick, with something random happening each time—like a gush of blood, or it screaming something that you won't understand, anyway—before it is eventually killed on the fifth try.

Why fifth? Because the fifth jar is the “brain” jar, and despite all jars being located on the body, it is “usually” the last to be destroyed, even though based on the table it cannot be randomly destroyed until the other four. So, not usually, but always. That is, unless the players realize this, in which case they can deliberately strike the brain jar. Somehow. It's not explained how you can perform what is essentially a called shot, and is just hand-waived away with the statement that “intelligent players or specific tactics could break this sequence”.

That's fine, this trash adventure gives you all the right details, after all. Like a dozen phrases that you won't understand, because they are spoken in an ancient language. Such memorable, nonsensical phrases like “Curse flesh and time, all aspects made to fail” and “Die now, creature of silence and slow time.” They even say things that sound like they are being slain, such as “I failed my lord in life, and now in death”, even though it won't actually be dead for at least one more hit.

Even stupider, they have a “storygamey” attack, where they fire a “beam of regret” at you, which auto-paralyze you, unless you the player come up with something you regret. So, keep bullshitting invented regrets and you'll be fine. Unless the DM just opts to use the “beams of paralysis”, which paralyze you forever on a failed save, until that specific canoptic guard is destroyed.

After the dam you get to another overland region incorrectly named the Profundal Zone, I can only assume because profundal sounds unusual, precisely the sort of word a pretentious hack would employ in an effort to sound intelligent. What does the not-at-all-profundal zone have to offer? Mercifully less timesink encounters than the first two areas.

There's an eagle that you somehow initially mistake for a bridge. When you get close you see lampreys stuck to it. You can save it or not, but the author makes sure to note that “it will not be grateful if you do”. Good to know, I guess. Right kind of details.

There's another not-bridge, which is really a giant pike described as “a fish-skin mound shifting with invisible movement”. There's nothing more to this. Just a flimsy, stilted description. You can kill it, or perhaps try and save it. No mention as to whether it will be grateful, though. Ah, well.

There's also an actual, barely described bridge. Nothing noteworthy about it, just a bridge.

You can also help the “reed people” a group of horrendously illustrated and otherwise undescribed people (right kind of details), by fighting off or brokering peace between them and some salamander people. This is what they look like:

No, it's not a sketch. This is what passes for "finalized art" in this neck of the OSR. Not that at this point you could possibly assume otherwise.

Whether or not you bother with them, next stop is the observatory.

First off, there's a giant worming about inside. Well, not yet. He will be, but he's waiting for the PCs to show up first. Because that's what you do when you are constantly hungry: wait for food to just show up, instead of taking any effort to look about. Also no mention of how the giant got here, or where it came from. It's just here. It's essentially a video-game monster, waiting for it's “trigger” to activate.

He is described as simultaneously unthinking, but would negotiate with you after eating you. The description overly explains his ability to squeeze into narrow spaces. It literally says at one point "he can access every part of the observatory", then goes into how he will crush and squeeze you to death, and then starts all over again describing how he could squeeze into your house.

I think it's trying to be creepy, but it's both trying too hard and is far too repetitive. Just a waste of text, like much of the adventure. I wonder how much you could pare the thing down, by removing the redundancy and purple prose, leaving what little there is of merit, and then fleshing the thing out with some actually "right details".

Anyway, while waiting for the GM to have it randomly attack and then spare you purely for the purposes of fake-drama and keeping the game going (can you imagine slogging through this again with a new party?), what else might you find down here?

Well, there's a slave kept eternally alive by something similar to a pillory, but incorrectly referred to as stocks, which bind your feet as opposed to head and arms (but, to be fair, that's the least of this adventure's offenses). Each motion causes him harm, which feeds into the device, which grants him more life.

Why is he here? No explanation. He just is. He can be cured through vague means, and he can describe much of the observatory. Just don't expect to find out who he is, what he did to deserve this, and who did it. Also, don't expect to find any other such devices: apparently it was uniquely made, just for him, for reasons that are never explained.

There are also “mushroom fools” somehow growing here. You can awaken them with water, but even if they go without for who knows how many decades, they'll never fully die. Note that this isn't mentioned, but you'd have to presume as such given the circumstances.  There's no point, as they do nothing but annoy you and blast you with spores that make you obey them for awhile.

There's an entire hall labeled “hidden treasures” on the map, but contains nothing of value.

There's another entire hallway labeled “crystallized pipes”, which features nothing but blocked up pipes. At least it's honest.

And then there's another hallway labeled “slave spells” which is completely undefined in anyway, but if you bother to check under the “dirt of the far wall” (you do randomly scrape dirt of walls, yeah?) you can find a half-dozen spells, all of which are described as being “not very powerful”. They include reduce scars, minimise thirst (yes, it's also misspelled in the PDF), and hide sorrow.

Riveting stuff so far, but we're nowhere near finished, yet!

Shaking things up a bit, there's a place called “mirror cell”, where if you carefully examine the calcite walls (as opposed to just casually glancing at them), there's a small chance (5% plus, for some reason, your level) that you will see the ghost of someone you recently killed behind you. But of course, “there is no other effect”. They just appear and do nothing, and then they're gone.

I know what you're thinking: why? Why here? Why do they appear? What particular trait or aspect of this room causes this strange phenomena? There's, surprise surprise, no explanation given. Not even a hint, or tangentially related reason. It just does, because the author thought it was clever. This is a trait I've noticed in many OSR things: random events occur in random places, for no explicable reason than author fiat, pandering for stupid gamers.

The armory has ten locked iron chests. The author is quick to clarify that there are weapons inside, which you would expect by them being in an armory, and know by scrolling down a bit. What's inside? Well, one chest is filled with crossbow bolts that for some reason cast faerie fire on a target. A separate one is filled with crossbows. A third contains “metallic” strings for the crossbows.

Now, no number is given, which from the book means a “militarily significant amount”, which means...what? Fifty? A hundred? Why not just put in a number? Why does an observatory need a “militarily significant amount” of weapons? Does it get attacked frequently? By what? If there's an armory, where's the barracks? Did whoever made this terribly laid out complex just leave weapons around for anyone to get ahold of them?

Another chest contains whatever knuckle-knives are supposed to be. No description, right kind of details. They're basically daggers that cannot be dropped nor disarmed, which begs the question as to why everyone isn't just using these instead of normal daggers. Yet another contains a “militarily significant amount” of climbing axes. But again, why? There's nowhere to climb in here. No indication that anyone was bothering to tunnel and expand. And do people even use climbing axes to maneuver underground?

The only thing of actual interest are the stone-to-mud bombs, which I presume function as the spell, but you for some reason need to make two simultaneous lock pick tests to arm them. I suppose whoever ran this place made sure to employ a lots of thieves for excavation purposes. Would it surprise you if I said there's no description of them, either?

This is yet another part where the author attempts to be clever, to distract you from the complete lack of cohesion and logic, the overall mediocrity. In this room are scales that can be used to compare attributes of two different objects, such as holiness, beauty, honestly, and so on. The description states that they can be used to compare any one-word quality the PCs can concoct.

But...why? Why is this here? Why would you create it? There's nothing in this entire adventure that suggests at any time, for any reason, the creators of the observatory needed to compare, say, the sweetness, frugality, or grogginess of two objects. It's like going into an actual observatory and finding a cobbler, capable of producing the exact duplicate of any shoe, so long as the other shoe is definitely lost to space and time.

Given proper context, it's something I would expect to find in, say, Planescape. There it would fit the overall tone and feel of the setting, where reality can be shaped in accordance to belief, and various planar creatures might actually place value in objects with a high degree of...I don't know, saltiness or congeniality. Here though? It only exists so that morons might read it, convince themselves that they weren't ripped off, and ideally stoke the author's stunted ego.

In a similar vein, there's the Hall of Silk, because if an observatory needs one thing, it's a room containing vaguely described “geisha golems” (they might just be 1 hit-point silk sheets with plate armor grade AC) and a flying silk sheet with skeletal hands hanging off of it. The purpose of the former isn't mentioned, and the latter is a...punishment, I suppose, for those that, and I'm being serious here, bite off their own thumbs to avoid the “awful weaving pits of the Arak-Anarch”.

Ah, I'd almost forgotten about the Arak-Anarch and its awful weaving pits. Probably because none of this is ever mentioned in the adventure. Why are all these things just hanging out, still? Same reason the salt dryads are just hanging out: because this is a horribly written and designed—and even worse illustrated—adventure.

The salt dryads have been just sitting around for God knows how long. There are only “several”, but the description says “some wear dresses” and “some are naked”, as if there are a half-dozen or more. The naked ones are the “most beautiful of all”, but if this is what they look like...

...I'd hate to see the ugly ones.

There's no real reason to interact with them, but an elemental of a “high atomic weight” will hunt you down in 1d6 days if you hurt/kill any. Apparently the elemental cares about them, but not enough to evacuate them. Or find the dryad's missing heart. It's just in the treasure room. The others won't leave her, but neither will they do anything to find it.

A missed opportunity for them to describe what they might have seen while actually doing something. Could even have them tag along, or see if you can forge a new heart yourself out of some other gemstone. But then, this adventure is nothing but a handful of missed opportunities mired in mediocrity.

After the dryads, you might come across the Nautilus Halls, which is described thusly:

“This room is full of shells. Some are huge and larger than a man, others small, and some smaller than small, like dust on the floor. Some of the shells have shells inside them, and some of those shells have shells inside them. There are a lot of shells. Of particular note are...”

It's almost like Joss Whedon or Seth McFarlane wrote it. Surprised it stops there, and doesn't continue over explaining it: There are, like, a lot of shells, is the main bullet point that you could convey to the players. Like, tell them to imagine as many shells as they can, and then tell them to double it. Triple it! Shells as far as the eye can see, and even beyond that. Sally should stop doing business on the seashore and come here: she'd never run out of inventory!

Note that a nautilus is a specific type of mollusc. It is only called the nautilus hall because it sounds smarter than just calling it the “shell hall” or “hall of shells”. What's funny is that this area gets more description than the boxed art room, which gets all of three sentences. What do you find, here?

“24 crates. 2d4 of which contain a unique work of art. All underground art is remarkably, pleasurably tactile and slightly hypnotic to touch.”

What are they made of? What do they look like? Pffft, those aren't the right kind of details, obviously. I guess the majority of the boxes are empty. Oh, and the prices are “up to the DM”.

One room is called Elemental Pool, because it's filled with "thick, clear, saline solution", which is of course what I think of when I think Elemental. The pool has three things to screw you over placed inside:

  • A sword of "an impossible compound of a rare earth metal" (I guess it's not impossible if it exists). It deals poison and burning damage, because that's how poison works. You just take a bit of damage, and then you're good. If you fumble (whatever that means), you are on fire and take a bit of poison damage.
  • A thorium tongue that will for some reason compel you to find a mouth to stick it in, possibly your own, and then speak "poisoned words per day". That is to say, anyone hearing the words is poisoned...whatever that means. It's not explained (right details). It will use this power "to work elaborate harms", which I suppose means trying to randomly poison people.
  • A neptunium child that just quickly dies, causing a bunch of damage to everyone nearby as it does so. You also begin to just lose HP every day until you die.

There's no warning for any of these things. No one thought to put up a sign or something, warning you not to touch. Not even in a different language for you to translate, a reward for patience and critical thinking. Not even a partially intact sign for you to try and translate, and infer a warning. The creators just took the time to create a special pool, all for this crap, chucked them inside, and figured that was good enough. 

Now, if you're patient enough to make it all the way to the observatory, the tektite lens, what is your reward? What does it do? Well, it lets you look through stone. Okay, interesting enough, but all you do is roll on random tables, compiling rambling, meaningless, pretentious, mad-libs-esque descriptions, which include details you couldn't possibly deduce. Here's an example right out of the book:

"Former omnipotents, sharing a fear (hated by those like them) who are carving porphyry maps to save rust-veins of the Oxidised Autocrat unexpectedly fast."

How do you know they are former omnipotents? How do you know they are hated by those like them? How do you know why they are carving maps? How do you even know that the Oxidised Autocrat even exists? Again, the lens just lets you see through stone, it doesn't state that it lets you know the motivations and nature of what you're observing.

Oh yeah, out of all that pretentious purple prose, note that the “former omnipotents” aren't actually described.

(right kind of details)

But this is all you do: move the lens, roll on tables, get more useless description, something I'm sure will entertain naïve players, as they ooh and ah at absurdities like “Memory-less moth-men in prime numbered gangs overawe, brilliantly, the people of The Ultra-Cambrian Gorge, lit and live.” You do this as often as you can be bothered to before moving on. And this was the point of the adventure, the culmination: to indulge in a narcissist's delusions of literary expertise and creativity. 

What's worse, unless your campaign features exceedingly long range teleportation, a way to circumvent the “impossible void” and the “immeasurable distance”, or at least some plausible method of getting there, and you're willing to actually clarify and build upon such negligible, incomprehensible details, it's all useless.

And that's another huge missed opportunity, to provide some key adventure hooks.

For an even halfway decent writer it would have been a trivial task to include functional random tables of things the players could see by simply gazing about randomly, and then, say, a book of coordinates that depict key locations, with a means and purpose for actually going there, along with ideas for how to flesh them out at the end. Something like you'd see in Myst

But, nope. Why would you want that? Just cobble a bunch of garbled phrases together, that explain little to nothing, and will prompt questions from even somewhat intelligent players that you will be unable to answer. And then go online and tell everyone how amazing this adventure is, of course.

We're not done yet.

Back at the start of the dungeon, but for some reason placed nearly last, is a section where you can meet Zeernobooch, the ambassador of slime. Now, I want you to stop and think. Think about an ambassador of slime. What would it look like? Where would you find it? What would it do? Why would you, as a GM, place such a thing in a dungeon. What expectations do you have of it.

I guarantee that, whatever you come up with, far exceeds anything this adventure could hope to deliver.

The ambassador is for some reason contained within glass. I think. It's unclear. Right details, yadda yadda yadda. Are the glass tubes in the walls? Are they visible. Who knows, and at this point who cares. But there is a statue made of glass that the slime can flow into and speak using one-word sentences.

Now, there's a second room you can go into. This one is “surrounded by glass”, so I guess you can see the tubes in here. It has an airlock, for entirely contrived reasons that will be revealed momentarily. Here the ambassador can communicate slightly better, but still comes across like a retard. You can go into the third room, should you wish. It's more cramped and you have to crawl, but he can communicate more clearly.

It's the fourth “room” that you need to slide into for the most clarity. You gotta be on your back, and you can barely move, but at least he talks normally. Of course it's a death trap: you roll a d20 every time you ask him a question, adding +1 for each question asked, and if you hit 20 or higher he just auto-kills everything in the fourth chamber.

So here we have to ask some very basic questions of our own: why is this here? Why would anyone go out of their way to create such an intricate, elaborate setup, just to communicate with a slime that will almost certainly kill them? Why would you even allow it to flow into the fourth room, at all? What questions can the slime even answer?

Last, and possibly least, the vault. What treasures can you acquire, should you bother to see this entire mess through? Well:

One chest contains a single coin. An entire chest. It's basically a shadow-coin, and is billed as the “preferred currency for very high-status kingdoms and individuals”. Is that right? It's the currency of choice, which apparently can be given to various supernatural creatures in exchange for souls, dreams, and dooms.

It's also only worth 2,500 coins. So there's that. I guess to the author souls are just worth a measly 2,500 silver, gold, whatever the standard currency is.

Another chest has “unknown crystalline configurations”, which only insane people will accept, but only ever for an impossible act. So, no, sorry: sages, scholars, arcanists, clerics, anyone that you think might be curious about these undefined crystals, might want to destroy them or use them for some ritual or item?

Nah. Only insane people want them. All insane people, no matter what mental illness befalls them, and only ever to do something they cannot possibly accomplish. So they're basically worthless, which is my default expectation in trash adventures like these.

1d8 handfuls of cloudcradle silk, which is described as “folding smoke, flowing wearable steam”. Which is it? Because smoke isn't like steam. But then, you might not want to bother as it is “totally illegal for anyone not of high rank”.

Really? So there's an actual law against it, is there? For wearing, or perhaps just carrying vaguely described silk. Curious as to the why, but this just feels like a random note added there on a whim. It's illegal. Somehow. For some reason. Maybe there's a niche of rebellious teenagers who will get a kick out of violating a made up law in a made up game.

None of these items are especially noteworthy, but the author tries to spice some of them up as best he can. Oh, this chest is full of bank notes...from other planes. Oooh, isn't that so terribly creative? I'm surprised there's nothing different about the platinum strips: they're just...there, and you trade or sell them, I guess. They're not inter-dimensional doorstops, dwarven paperweights, tooth picks for a giant, or alien poop. Given everything we've seen so far, I'm not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved.

Whey are all these things in individual chests, anyway? Just how big are the bank notes? I have a case, not a suitcase, but something similar, that is water and fireproof (for a time), that we've packed a bunch of important documents, cash, and tens of thousands of dollars of precious metals into. It can fit quite a bit, so you'd think that an entire fantasy-grade chest could contain both some sheets of paper, as well as, I don't know, maybe the bog-standard platinum strips and the shadow-coin?

This is of course not everything, but more than enough I think, to demonstrate this adventure's predominantly poor quality.

Deep Carbon Observatory isn't deep. It's not even particularly interesting or engaging. It's an amalgamation of purple prose and sometimes somewhat unusual words, describing sometimes marginally modified ideas, all enclosed around atrocious art in an attempt to deceive you into thinking it's "good", by virtue of being different enough from what could be broadly described as a normal adventure.

It's a haphazard mix of half-realized and incoherent ideas, of largely absurd and pointless encounters strung together, washed away in a deluge of unfocused apathy. To be more than fair, there are a handful of ideas one could take and polish to produce something far more entertaining and meritorious. Even if you did the art yourself. Heck, if you'd be better served by having your own kids do the illustrations. 

The lady doth project too much, methinks.

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