By Ken Sturgis
Ten Red Crows Place
Trouble at the door. Something in town is dangerously wrong, and there is no one to bail you out. The grave quest falls to you and your friends. You are under-equipped, under-prepared, and in all likelihood, you are not coming back. There is a second of hesitation but then you grab your gear and head out the door. Adventurers are made, not born.
This is a 22 page adventure, about fifteen of which are zero-level character creation rules for fifth edition and the last six or so being a small “adventure” for a bunch of zero-levels. The zero-level rules are pretty much a clone of the DCC rules. The adventure is simple and overly non-specific.
I’ll cover the zero-level rules briefly: they are pretty close to the DCC rules, including a profession, starting gear, and multiple characters per player. It does go over the advantages of zero-level play, the idea that you form your character through play instead of “by build.” Truer words are hard to find. There’s a small section as well on raising your zero’s to level one. If you want zero-level & funnel rules, and don’t have DCC, then this does a decent job of providing the basics in a terse format.
The adventure, proper, is just the usual dreck. Bandits are burning the grain storage. And then while on your way to the evil lords manor, you encounter some kobolds. At the manor you can sneak in or knock on the front door. Both probably lead to one or two fights in the manor.
The major issue I have is with the abstraction. The guys burning the grainery are bandits. But they aren’t. They are lords men, and have been cowing the town for awhile. 5e has monsters called “bandits” and it’s not unusual for an adventure to say something like “for the kingsguard, use the stats for bandit.” Fine, no problem, but in this adventure the use of bandit if reinforced over and over in the text to the point where the original intent of the dudes, a kind of “the lord mayors guards” is lost. Further abstraction comes in the form of “one of the carries a small token of the lord’s authority” thereby indicating they operate on his behalf. What’s the point of saying “a small token …”? How about a scroll ordering them to do it that ends with “HAIL TIAMAT!”, or the head of the village headman, or something else? Why abstract it “some token …” instead of just adding color by saying what it is? This is an EXCELLENT example of how man adventures generalize and abstract and thereby, through the lack of specificity, lose the ability to inspire the DM. This happens over and over again. “A black book that discusses evil artifacts.” and “an evil goblet.” Ug! Name them! Tobin’s Spirit Guide! Something else, anything else! “The black goblet of St Bart the Heathen Betrayer.” See, now it’s fun! Be specific! The final rub is probably the fact that the party members could “fall under the influence of the goblet”, which is TOTALLY not specified. Look, I don’t need a page, but a couple of sentences on this would be great. They get a taste for blood, or something. ANYTHING. The entire adventure is like this.
Finally, the adventure has read-aloud and that text is … weird. It seems more formatted to “visiting heroes” then it is the ad-hoc mob of locals that is implied in the text. This happens over and over again in the read-aloud.
It DOES provide for sneaking past a wilderness encounter, and even sneaking in to the lord manor, both of which are good design decisions. It’s still boring and abstracted, but at least its not exactly a railroad.
This just doesn’t work for me. The DCC zero-level stuff has your mob of morons usually going after something larger than life. The cosmic nature of it tends to add an air to the adventure and a great vibe. This, the mundanity of it, just seems … I don’t know. Boring.
This is PWYW at DriveThru, with a suggested price of $5. The preview is a 22-page flip-book, too small to read. Unlucky. 🙁https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/186076/Fifth-Edition-Funnel?affiliate_id=1892600
I used the old 1e N4 as a pretty successful 0-level 5e funnel. It’s wordy and railroady but there’s at least some nod to the idea that characters might not do what the author expected, and it wasn’t hard for me to adapt when my players went off the rails.