by Moritz Mehlem
for Brave Halfling Publishing
Your group of adventurers has to play bodyguards for a spoiled brat – unfortunately her father is paying a huge amount of money. The adventurers have to travel downstream the River Dolm where they can learn more about the region between the village Larm and the capitol Dolmvay.
What’s the worst kind of quest your character can receive in a video game? Fetch Quest? WRONG! It’s an Escort Mission. Nobody likes an escort mission. There’s some pathetic little weasel limping along and you get to spend all your efforts protecting them from the idiotic things they do to themselves. I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned around and shot the moron I’m escorting in a video game. This adventure is an Escort Mission … only it’s fun! I know! I was astounded also!
The Mayor of Larm wants you to take his daughter downriver to the capitol so he can marry her off to someone important there. It’s gonna take about ten days on a barge to make the journey. The designer sets the tone quickly: “Now he only needs a handful of able guards for his valuable asset … sorry, daughter.” Oh Fortuna! A scheming cold father! The adventure starts out right! Oh, yeah, and the mayors daughter is a brat of the highest order. She has all three rooms on the barge. And the barge sailors, while able men, are also surrender monkeys of the highest order. It’s gonna be up the players alone to keep her safe. Gold, I tell you! Role. Playing. GOLD. Paris Hilton. Filthy sailors. A river Journey. GOLD. There’s also a line somewhere between Role Playing Gold and Annoying Your Players. There’s no details on the brat or the sailors so the DM is going to have a free hand in finding that line and hopefully not crossing it.
There are six pre-planned encounters on the river railroad, and a 20-entry wandering encounter table will probably provide about seven more during the journey. The encounters are almost all completely delightful. Only a couple involve unavoidable monster attacks. The rest of the wandering encounters are things like a crocodile following the boat … it doesn’t attack unless the party does. Lizardmen who approach the boat and want a bribe. Mermen selling fish. Fun-loving Nixies, or a floating deer carcass full of rot grubs. I think my favorite, as silly as it may seem, it a group of Kobolds that swim towards the boat at night with daggers in their teeth. It brings back fond memories of many crappy old westerns. These are general peppered with interesting details. For example, a mule swims by, peppered by arrows and barely alive. Attached to him is a note, written in blood, that says “Help.” Now that’s a hook! Take it, skip it, but it’s an intriguing encounter that should get the parties imagination going! This module gets it right. The wanderers are more than fodder. They have something interesting associated with each of them, and not just interesting combat.
The set encounters are just as good. A bored but cowardly giant shaking down river travelers for cash. Crazed bullywugs, uh, I mean, buggywull’s, in a scene right out the Kali Temple in “Around the World in 80 Days.” There’s also an attack by a delightful secret society. They hate dwarves, all take dwarven names as aliases, and give themselves numbers. Balin III, and so forth. It’s a pretty cute hook for an evil group. I don’t usually comment on art in a module but the art for these dudes TOTALLY brings it. It’s simple and yet does wonders to set up the encounters. The final encounter is a great Admiral Akbar: they have to deal with an impostor who’s not actually an impostor, and it almost certainly teaches the party a lesson about getting the details of their jobs correct. The programmed encounters have combat options as well and don’t have to be straight-foward combats. There’s a decent variety also, from singular monsters shaking down the party to rapid hordes doing a temple sacrifice, of sorts.
Yes, since it’s a river journey it’s kind of a railroad, but it’s also a fun one. The encounters are interesting and their short descriptions are very well done and evocative. A great many of the encounters can be ignored or skipped by the party, or even used to their advantage.
The mundane and magical treasure provided is not that interesting. Some coin and book magic items for the most part. I most enjoyed the oversized golden crown, with jewels already ripped out, that the bullywug leader wears. Likewise, the monsters encountered are nothing new and mostly straight from the book although many are aquatic and those are generally less well-used and thus may be fresher. The sailors on the boat could have used some personalization also; if the party has to spend at least ten days with them then they a few details of their interesting quirks and personalities could go a long way to help the DM freshen up the adventure and keep the roleplaying going strong.