Review for Dissident Whispers
by PM Schramm
What do you get when you bring together some of the top minds in the TTRPG scene and have them work with each other on two-page dungeon spreads? You get Dissident Whispers, a collaborative piece created by a large group of extremely talented individuals, printed and sold by Tuesday Night Games.
Like most collective works, these spreads are not created equally: some are incredibly imaginative, some are uninspired, some are usable right away at the gaming table, some are simply ideas that are put to paper without being fully fleshed out yet. But, the wheat exceeds the chaff here, as can be expected with the names that helped bring the project to life, and no matter who you are or what RPG you play, Dissident Whispers has something great for you to play with.
Look, Feel, and Space Utilization
The first thing one notices is how striking this book is. Although it is soft cover, it feels like a coffee-table piece. It’s printed in an 8.25”x11.75” format and advertises on the front that it contains 58 original RPG adventures and includes the Mothership, Mörk Borg, Troika!, Electric Bastionland, Ultraviolet Grasslands, Dragon Crawl Classics, 5e, B/X, Trophy Gold, and Mausritter systems, along with some system agnostic adventures. The rear is plain, containing a quote and a logo for The Whisper Collective. The interior covers are not printed outside of some credits on the rear, the facing pages include artwork. Paging in from the rear reveals the Open Gaming License, and from the front you’ll find a few more credits, the table of contents, a one-page “Introduction” that’s erroneously labeled - having nothing to with the actual content of the book it’s more of a manifesto - a full-page copy of the cover artwork, and then the project credits. After that, Dissident Whispers doesn’t mess around - the rest of the book is two-page spreads.
So who exactly made this book? The product credits are quite extensive and is in excess of 90 individuals, much too many to list in this brief review. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to determine exactly which pieces were worked by whom. One can examine the individual spreads to see who wrote it, but paging through each one and finding that information is no easy task - each spread has a different layout and puts this information in a different spot. It would have been helpful if the contributors were in the table of contents or listed in the credits, but the only additional information provided in these sections is what system the spread is written for and in what capacity the credited person contributed to the book.
System Agnostic Adventures
The first set of adventures in Dissident Whispers are system agnostic, which means they should be usable with any TTRPG. This doesn’t seem to be universally true, but is mostly the case.
- A Herd of Beautiful Wild Ponies Running Free Across the Plains
- pony-based RPG system of questionable usability
- Carpado’s Last Meal
- social encounter involving a wizard and featuring magical items with cool abilities
- Fae Castle of the Astral Sky
- castle dungeon (actually a space station) that could use more fleshing out
- Grace Dynamics
- more of an advertisement for the author’s content than a usable adventure
- Graktil - The Citadel that Crawls
- possibly the best submission; a hallowed scorpion corpse used as a mobile goblin fortress
- escape-the-colosseum scenario with too much backstory to be ubiquitous
- Welcome to Jacktown River & Pub
- casino run by the devil that offers fun games and roleplaying opportunities
- Lair of the Glassmaker
- alchemical adventure remarkable for its “Annoying Fucking Cat” NPC that’s hilarious
- Let Them Sleep On
- exploration horror scenario, no “good ending” and hindered with needless checks
- Maze of the Manic Molemen
- unique and weird dungeon by Skullfungus; quality, as can be expected from this author
- Mirstone Manor
- unremarkable dungeon with a cool sudoku-puzzle boss fight
- Mother Skullcrab’s Vault
- adventure in an interesting, fetid jungle setting with a layout by Johan Nohr of Mörk Borg
- Necropolis of Pashtep
- Aztec-themed dungeon featuring a cool labyrinth puzzle
- Pit of the Pupil
- less a dungeon than an encounter, interesting but half-baked
- Rhemati’s Spring
- exploration and roleplay-based adventure with a great aesthetic style
- Rolland’s Hack
- fun little hack for Jenga; designed for campy horror settings but could be used elsewhere
- Sepulchre of the Six Shrouds
- puzzle dungeon with un-fun solutions (e.g. don’t talk) and forced combats, needs tweaking
- Snake Temple Abduction
- partially-flooded dungeon with a cool backstory featuring a medusa queen
- Temple of the Blessed Twins
- linear funhouse dungeon with some interesting tables
- Temple of the Spider Demon
- small dungeon that’s missing room numbers making it hard to navigate, art is nice
- Ten Thousand Alligator Hell
- swamp-crawl featuring sentient alligators from the creator of Fever Swamp himself
- The Goblin Tower
- manic romp through a three-tier tower full of stoned faeries
- Thorn’s Barrow
- Nordic dungeon with some themed encounters and a truth to discover through exploration
Adventures for Mothership
Tuesday Night Games was so kind as to include two pamphlet adventures for physical purchasers of Dissident Whispers - The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 and Hideo’s World. Both of these are really great pamphlet adventures and better than most of the Mothership adventures you’ll find within the book itself.
The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 is an alien-inspired type scenario where there’s a monster on the station with you that will murder the inhabitants until it is found and stopped. Tuesday Night Games understands that it’s the unseen that is scary, and leverages that mindset appropriately here - player characters have to piece together what has happened with clues left behind by the inhabitants of the mine and the monster itself.
Hideo’s World has a great premise - the player characters are trapped in a video game! Bugs and glitches abound as they explore this digital plane to find Hideo and pull him from his eternal slumber caused by the prototype gaming console he’s created. The denizens within don’t want this to happen, as it will cause them to cease existing. The best part of this scenario is the ability the players have to interact with the rules of the world itself through a “Settings” room that allows them to do things such as change the brightness of the world and even break it, showing the code that runs underneath.
While these two pamphlets are standouts, there are some interesting scenarios to explore within Dissident Whispers.
- Emerald Horizon
- whodunnit under an acidic ocean that requires significant Warden-work to get working
- Escape from the Violet Death World
- simple hexcrawl with a few factions and encounter tables, no real adventure here
- Ghost Ship
- basically Event Horizon , crazed ghosts and a twitchy android bring color to this shipcrawl
- Indigo Tendrils of the Zomp-Machine
- the sleeves are evolving, “Beths” are coming to consciousness, a gory and gross event
- Pandora’s Hunt
- mapless become-the-hunted scenario powered by random tables, Ypsilon 14 does it better
- location with an encounter table, interesting ideas but a warden will need to bring it to life
- Station 472
- mapless location, no adventure here outside of exploring the station
- Incident at Muto Station
- xenopoacher hideout with a creepy atmosphere and a monster on the loose
- Toru’s Maw
- made for one-on-one or a group, another monster-stalk adventure, seems unfinished
- Vontrey Colony 17
- exploration-heavy scenario with a great premise, twists conventions and makes you think
- Your Sunny Paradise
- labeled a “scenario” but more of a location toolkit, useful if fleshing out a location
Adventures for Mörk Borg
The best material in Dissident Whispers can be found here. Each one is a knockout oozing with substance and style. This book is worth getting just for this section alone. Every spread is beautiful, full-featured, and well designed. The only downside is there aren’t more of these inclusions.
- A Good, Old-Fashioned Murder Dungeon
- exactly what the title says, deadly traps and monsters inhabit this multi-path dungeon
- The Negative Spill
- involves anti-light that disintegrates anything leaving it, how does the party escape?
- Flails Akimbo
- another contender for best spread, you wake up with weapons nailed to your hands - fight
- The Church of the Forbidden Gate
- purge the nonbelievers; includes a few hiding locations, watch out for the body-changer
- The Cleaving in Buskstätt
- corrupted flora has overrun the town, along with a host of other problems, explore or die
- Vaults of Unfaith
- great adventure by Johan Nohr himself, if you liked Mörk Borg you’ll like this
Adventures for Basic / Expert
These really belonged in the System Agnostic section as many of them don’t quite adhere to Basic/Expert conventions. For example some use ascending AC, one has “WIS” saves, and one doesn’t even have stats at all. That said, these adventures are definitely serviceable and will be able to be used in the OSR game of your choice. If the editors had moved some things around and removed some of the more off-brand “systemless” inclusions to their own section while replacing them with these it would have made more logistical sense as all of the retroclone games would have been in their own area. As published, it’s a little hard to pick them out of the first part of Dissident Whispers.
- Raid on Fort Frogfellow
- simple adventure featuring goblins kidnapping some townsfolk; complete with dungeon
- The Dream of Nia Wen
- stylistic inclusion that is beautiful to look at, rescue the princess from a dreamworld
- The Fae Queen’s Grief
- good layout saves this inclusion from being declared “generic” - it is easy read and run
- Tomb of the Last Tyrant
- Small dungeoncrawl with a beautiful and stylish layout design, otherwise unremarkable
Adventures for Other Systems
These adventures are for a myriad of other systems noted in the table of contents - one for Dragon Crawl Classics, two for Electric Bastionland, three for D&D 5e, one for Mausritter, one for The Black Hack, two for Troika!, two for Trophy Gold, and one for Ultraviolet Grasslands. Notable is the fact that the 5e adventures are nothing to write home about, so if that content is what the reader is looking for, Dissident Whispers probably isn’t for them.
- The Ice Job - DCC
- jewelry store heist with a mapped interior and a few named NPCs preventing the theft
- Canal of Horrors - Electric Bastionland
- by Chris McDowall; stylized and well-designed, if you like Electric Bastionland, here’s more
- College of Acoustic Ministration - Electric Bastionland
- fantastic use of weird, musical instruments have different effects (e.g. drum heartbeat)
- Dungeon of the Dancing Grasses - D&D 5e
- dungeon involving a dance puzzle, solution is to roll a check to solve it, missed opportunity
- Gwen Artin’s Murder Mystery Party - D&D 5e
- small dungeon with a relatively simple, but at the very least interesting, musical puzzle
- Ootheca - D&D 5e
- generic dungeon, most interesting part is a sign: “ No Secret Door Here!” - there isn’t one
- The Crumbling Carmine Ruins - Mausritter
- neat little adventure with a pixellated map, interesting magic weapons, and trapped cache
- A Most Dangerous Demesne - The Black Hack
- Skullfungus is back with another great map, this one tied to an excellent dungeon
- Dust Remains - Troika!
- fleshed-out location with six different vaults to explore, artifacts and forgotten spells too
- The Mechanical Menagerie of Michael Moreau, MD - Troika!
- the pcs awake in a mad ornithologist’s lab, escape before he turns you into mechbirds
- Palace of the Skeleton God - Trophy Gold
- linear adventure with good layout and dark atmosphere
- The Four Spires of Kantigan Castle - Trophy Gold
- Very similar to the previous adventure with a tinge of humor in the start
- Le Théâtre Du Bedlam - Ultraviolet Grasslands
- encounter in a theatre with an eldritch horror; feels similar to the bar scene in The Shining
Overall, Dissident Whispers is a good product. There are some middling inclusions and some that are difficult to use, but many are ready to go right out the gate. A few editorial changes would have been appreciated, there were a few instances of poor formatting and sometimes the layouts were not aligned to the center properly. There were some grammatical errors and a myriad of grammatical rules used, sometimes an Oxford comma was used, sometimes not, sometimes punctuation was inside quotation marks, sometimes not, but these issues with continuity are easy to overlook.
A lot of talent was brought together to make this product a success and, no matter what type of referee you are or what type of system you are playing, something can be found within these 58 adventures that is ready and ripe for your gaming table.
Link to Anthology