The celebration of Firstfeast is upon the good folk of Westwego, and just as the smell of cakes and pies are warming up, you find yourselves among the bootlegging goblins of Brindle. Can you save Westwego? What about the celebration? What about the hooch!?
This 38 page adventure features a nineteen room dungeon full of kobolds and a small amount of outside the dungeon play. The dungeon environment is nicely varied and it feels like some effort was put in to creating encounters that would not just be “empty room with a monster in it to stab.” The read-aloud is clumsy and the room descriptions drag out for too long but the core elements are solid. It looks like the designer picked up some bad habits that need broken, but otherwise has good ideas.
It feels like the designer thought about each room for five minutes longer than usual, and that shows in the payoff. Everything in this is at least a bit above average (ie: crap) and most quite a bit. The hook included. The village religious feastday is approaching, but the tobacco and booze has not arrived from a nearby village. The pious church hates the sin of the booze & smoking, etc, but they LUV the taxes it generates, so they get the party to try and find the shipment/go to the nearby village. How’s that for a hook? It’s fun, embraces a little bit of medievalism (the feastday, the church) and also the hypocrisy. Further, it covers what happens if the hook is refused … the nearby village shows up and camps outside Westwego, hoping for additional protection from the bogeys that plague them. A hook refused, and offered again! Nice job on this. It drones on WAY too long for what you get/need, but it also illustrates how the adventure takes just an extra step … which turns it from generic to interesting.
The rooms of the dungeon, proper, also do this. The entrance cave has an ice cold stream (with some small rules for hypothermia) running out of it. It ends in a whirlpool, a passage on the other side. There’s a concealed passage under whirlpool (Yeah! Concealed! I love it when designers put something JUST around a corner. It rewards non-jaded play) that leads to the main cave lair. That passage on the other side has a natural pool in it … and piercers on the ceiling. It fits. It works. The pool/water is a distraction. The piercers fit naturally. The entire three room entrance areas FEELS right. Natural, mysterious. Things fall off from this high point as the kobold lair, proper, is reached, but it still maintains its above average effort.
I can pick this one apart on a hundred different points. The neighboring village is a goblin village. I’m not sure why this is. Making them goblins instead of humans doesn’t seem to add anything to the adventure and, as always, I think misuse of humanoids detracts from the overall impact humanoids can have on the party. They are also presented as comical. The same weird-ass New Jersey mob dialect that comic humanoids ALWAYS get, as well as comic antics. Again, I don’t get it. What’s wrong with stupid humans? This whole style is a turnoff to me, although I recognize its more of a personal preference thing.
There’s also some references to “throwing traps at the party” in the overland portion. I HATE this shit. It seems to break the player/DM contract and there’s an element of “guiding the story” inherent to it that I VEHEMENTLY disagree with. I’m ok with “1 in 6 chance per turn of a trap” but not “throw traps at the party until you feel like not doing it anymore.” Go figure. Or kobolds with perfect party knowledge who always attack under the cover of darkness in ambush while the party is resting. Yes, it makes sense … but the party should also be getting a detection bone thrown at them, at a minimum.
And there’s the emphasis on dimensions in the read-aloud, a pet peeve of mine. Telling us that a room is 20×20 and that a 15’ section of the floor is covered in pipeweed breaks immersion. COmmunicate the feel of the room and then RESPOND to the party when they ask how big a section is covered by pipeweed. “You walk it out, it’s about 15’ square.” There’s a back and forth between the DM and party that is a critical part of play, which when combined with the fact-based dimension read-aloud makes me down on dimensions and precision in read-aloud. The game should be about mystery and the unknown, not a flood of perfect knowledge.
The little vignettes go on a little too long, and most of the villagers could use a one or two line interesting tidbit to augment them, but, it’s not a bad adventure. It’s just not a good one either.
This is $6 at DriveThru. The preview is worthless, at three pages, showing you absolutely nothing but the table of contents.