(5e) Heir and Back Again

By Jonathan Nelson, Serena Nelson, Jensen Toperzer
AAW Games
Level 1

Young Joylene Crumb always felt that life on a farm wasn’t for her… but with her adoptive father missing and rumors of a black dragon ravaging the countryside, is she really ready to run off on an adventure? Who are we kidding, of course she is, with the help of three unusual companions!

This 65 page adventure is a gimmick one-shot that uses 5e rules. It emulates the text-based/point-and-click computer adventure games. I can see it being an interesting experience as a one-shot for folks looking for something different, but it is, essentially, not an RPG. Or, maybe, it pushes that definition just about as far as it can go. In any event, while it does a decent job providing a resource key for the DM, it also muddles the main text by using paragraph exposition.

There are these little gimmick games called Parsley. One person emulates the computer in a text adventure and everyone else takes turns giving the computer commands. You explore the poincrawl, going back to pick things up to overcome challenges, and so on. The Parsley player follows a simple outline and comes up with clever things to say for successful and unsuccessful actions. This adventure is similar to that, except there are four player characters and a DM and each player has a pre-gen PC, as one would expect in a standard RPG. There is a pointcrawl map with about 21 “rooms.” Some location exits are blocked until you perform an action, like giving someone an object you found elsewhere. Doing this, you work your way through the adventure. The pre-gens provided are archetypes, like a comical pooka, a werebear proving himself, a housecat, and the little girl folk hero.

All in all, maybe an interesting parlour game for a con or other one-shot. The locations are generally one per page, so they are easy to find. The items, when found, are cross-referenced to the location and page where they are used, and on the page where they are used the are cross referenced to the page that they are found. There’s also a master item index at the rear that summarizes all of the objects and their locations and uses … although it could have been spread over fewer pages. Both the one location per page and the item cross-reference show an understanding of providing the DM the tools they need to run the adventure. The adventure, proper, is a little whimsical, heavy on folklore tropes, with the touches of nostalgia that will be charming when playing a throwback sort of thing like this. Find the needle in the haystack, literally, for example.

Two issues arise. First, the game uses ability checks to find some objects. BAD. DC19 to find the needle in the haystack. Or a spot check to find a rusty key that you don’t know exists. The advice given, in the case of the key, is to just move it somewhere else. This is all bad design. The fun of an adventure should not be abstracted to a dice roll. The party knows there’s a needle in the haystack. They should roleplay to find it. That’s where the fun is. A “roll to continue the adventure” check is never a good idea, and this adventure does that over and over again.

Further, the adventure muddles the DM text. Important information appears deep in paragraphs, that don’t always let you know within the first few words that this the right place to look. Far better to bullet point the information or edit the paragraph to make it far clearer, immediately, that this is the paragraph you are looking for. As is, it uses a more conversation style with too much “after this this shoos the group out. She wishes them luck but only since itll save our skins …” etc.

It’s a cute idea. I find the DM text too much of a pain to deal with, though, to want to run it. Or, rather, I’m partially inclined to run it but I won’t because of the DM text.

This is $13 at DriveThru. The preview is nine pages, but it does not show you any of the locations. As such all you get to see is the usual bullshit into stuff with no idea of what to expect of the actual content.

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11 Responses to (5e) Heir and Back Again

  1. I’m intrigued by the idea of cat PCs, but only because of teenager exposure to Tailchaser’s Song. 😉

  2. Gus L. says:

    Are there any good third party 5E products?

    • Anonymous says:

      Mines, Claws, Princesses, Chapel on the Cliffs and Tarodun’s Tomb are all good I think. Bryce gave glowing reviews to the first two, and the last one is one that I, an internet nobody, thought was good.

      • Anonymous says:

        FWIW, Melan gave Orcs in Tarodun’s Tomb one star out of five in an illuminating review, in which he compared it to an old Judges Guild module.

        • Gus L. says:

          Just read through “Mines, Claws, Princesses” It has some nice ideas (snide blackbirds, factions, timelines, tactics) but it feels fairly clumsy to the point of being a bit incomprehensible at times and it’s so utter Tolkien pastiche. Painfully so really.

          Still it’s better then WotC’s 5E offerings.

      • PrinceofNothing says:

        It is the very use of classical elements in Mines, Claws, Princesses that makes it work so well. Well-worn tropes are injected with a vibrant quality that makes it all feel new. For all its amateuristic appearance and occasional spelling errors, the scenario is well thought out, evocative and has a surprising amount of depth, harkening back as much to faery-tale and myth as it does to Tolkien. To write it off as merely a Tolkien-pastiche is to do it a great disservice.

  3. Anonymous says:


    Paddy Stuart,

    how do you explain why 50% of the people you game with are transsexual?

    Even if transsexuals were not considered simply mentally ill, which they are, how do you explain it statistically if transsexuals are considered completely sane?

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