Discord at the Docks

By Frank Schmidt
Adventures in Filbar
Levels 1-3

The adventure begins as your ship docks in Phoenix and you and your group debark. …The PCs were on a delivery mission but mistook a subject on the dock as the intended recipient. The true owner is not pleased at the foul up and demands the party fix it IMMEDIATELY.

I accidentally bought this piece of garbage, not realizing it was a part of the Adventures in Filbar line. (I know, I know, how could I NOT realize it?) I previously reviewed a 5e AiF product, finding it linear with no ability for the party to make decisions. This one is the same. This may be the worst series of adventures ever written. It’s coherent, it just makes NO pretense of giving the party any control over their adventure. Anyway, it’s fourteen pages and deals with a linear etch quest on the docks.

The opening intro/scene tells you all you need to know. In a monologue you arrive, by ship, on some docks, in order to deliver a package you’ve been paid for. You hand it off to a guy on the docks. And thus you start the adventure … with read-aloud telling you that you handed off the package. To the wrong man, it turns out. We’re told, in the next read-aloud, where they are confronted by their REAL contact: “While the PCs may have felt they were successful initially, the contact with Costas should cause them great consternation.”

Does anyone like this? Failing off screen? Being forced in to actions? “You see a cave full of orcs. You run in and strip naked while cussing them out in orcish; what do you do now?” I’ll tell you what I do. I leave.

At GenCon this year I was in a game, a heartbreaker, in which the DM did flashbacks. He explained “players didn’t like it when I described what their characters did, they called it a railroad. But they seem much more accepting of flashbacks. They are the same, so I don’t see why they care …” I kept my fucking mouth shut. That poor fucking dude didn’t need to know what a tool he was.

Here’s another gem from the adventure: “If the PCs fail to role play a convincing argument for the mistake the captain will intercede and point out that the PCs will go retrieve the package immediately.” If you don’t take the hook then the sea captain steps in and sets the hook for you.

At one point the read-aloud describes you going in to a tavern, so you can have a bar fight. It doesn’t present an opportunity for you to go in. It’s not hiding info in there for you to seek out. It just says that you go in. So the designer can have a bar fight.

You’re confronted by a tax collector. When you get off the ship. If you resist guards suddenly show up. They have 27hp each. Another guy, and enemy, in the adventure has 44hp. AC 14. And yet this claims to be a 1e adventure. It’s clear that this is some 5e garbage with a 1e label stuck on it.

The actual adventure is just a fetch quest.Bob have it to Tom. Go “find” Tom (ie: advance to next scene.) Tom gave it to Ed, advance to next scene with Ed.

I’ve got a very special list I keep. It contains the names of publishers I don’t buy from. To get on it there must be a clear indication that the situation is hopeless. It’s pointless to review more, an exercise in masochism. Filbar EASILY makes that list. It IS coherent, it just fails in every other way to present an adventuring environment.

It’s $2 on DriveThru. The preview is two pages and you get to see the railroad intro and the railroad hook. https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/221626/Far2–Discord-at-the-Docks?affiliate_id=1892600

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8 Responses to Discord at the Docks

  1. Melan says:

    As long as the initial premise of an adventure doesn’t extend beyond what’s written in the first paragraph, I’m OK with it. It is a valid way to start a session in an episodic campaign – it’s like how a lot of Conan / Lankhmar stories started.You pissed away all the gold, you are in debt, and you have just realised that the wench you kicked out of bed last night was the Overlord’s daughter. Ooops. Now let’s have a great adventure! (Obviously, not this one.)

    Ideally, it would be the PCs’ own foolishness which should get them in situations like this. Like success, failure tastes so much better when it’s earned. And when you can get away with it, it’s great to have a game that’s all campaign all the time. However…

    A lot of the time, you have to make compromises. Maybe you don’t have enough game time or don’t play regularly enough to run a full, complex sandbox. Or the players just prefer episodic adventures to a continuing story. This is where a module which sets up strong starting conditions is fine. You have a hook, you have leads to follow, and you have things going on (fail to recover the MacGuffin and you might as well book a really fast ship outta Dodge). Of course, once you are past the beginning, the adventure should allow forfree action (including letting the PCs succeed on their own terms, or bypass the adventure and live with the consequences). This module clearly fails that test. It just isn’t guilty of everything.

    • Baclf says:

      That may be okay for stories, but it’s not good for games.

      “You pissed away your money and slept with the baron’s daughter.”

      “My character is an ascetic cleric who took a vow of celibacy!”

      “Do you want to play this adventure or not?!?”

      • Melan says:

        “You pissed away your money and slept with the baron’s daughter.”

        “My character is an ascetic cleric who took a vow of celibacy!”

        “Like that has ever prevented anyone.”

      • Ruprecht says:

        “You pissed away your money and slept with the baron’s daughter.”

        “My character is an ascetic cleric who took a vow of celibacy!”

        “You only slept in the same room, but that’s now what the rumor-mongers are saying.”

  2. Baclf says:

    Adventures in FUBAR…

  3. Gus L says:

    I can see a “you are broke on the dock” starting point for a campaign or one shot, I’ve used it in a campaign before and I think it’s the most convenient way to get Tekumel going – but as something in the middle of a campaign nah.

    Plus why even railroad here. PCs are sent to foreign port and told to meet a tall man with a red cap named Fantasy Name. They meet a guy at the dock, he has a red hat, he’s tall, he says he’s Fantasy Name. He takes the item and gives them some coin.

    Real Fantasy Name shows up, demands his stuff. etc.

    No matter if the ruse was discovered at the dock or not by the players the conspiracy remains, the factions and legerdemain remain. What’s the need to push the players in on one side of it?

    The thing that annoys me with railroads like this is that so often the railroading is there because the writers don’t trust the players to figure things out, don’t trust the Gm to be able to manage anything but read aloud text and set-piece combat and don’t trust themselves to write something that isn’t the ‘sweet story’ they thought up, but rather an interesting situation that will work itself out via some kind of adventure.

  4. Edgewise says:

    This seems like an especially egregious case. I mean, railroading the PCs into a tavern brawl would typically be accomplished by having an aggressive drunk who is begging for a fight and won’t take no for an answer. This one actually makes YOU start the fight? That’s fucking insane.

  5. Anonymous says:

    So where is this list of publishers?

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