By imnotsupposedtogetjigsinit Self Published B/X Level ?
A minor crime boss has recruited the PCs to sabotage the championship fight. She has thousand of gold pieces on the long-shot challenger and promises a hefty payday to the gang if they can succeed. The PCs know where the champion will be but he’s wily. And dangerous. Time is short. Can the PCs keep their cool when the chips are down?
This fourteen page new-school adventure is about the parties attempt to sabotage a pit fighter before his next big fight. Hand reference material and a sandboxy attitude go a long way in to making this a more open form adventure, but it also feels … empty? It could be just me (I was in a bad bike accident yesterday) but it feels a little too … open. Or, maybe, it feels al little too easy, and relies too much on the DM to come up with challenges for the party.
So, new school adventure, meaning digest, two column, clean formatting, and a little more attention paid to headers and layout. You might think of an art punk layout aesthetic, but not pushed as far as those usually are … making this more usable. Major topics generally get a page devoted to them (sometimes two) which makes finding the NPC reference, or the locations, fairly easy. NPC’s on a page, map on a page, Street Urchins on a page, schedule on a page.
And there is a schedule. You’re hired to nerf a pit fighter, to put the fix in for a gambler. They are paying you 10,000 gp(!) The gambler got their hands on the fighters schedule, so you’re supposed to disrupt them, not actually kill them, since that would call off the fight. You get a handy dandy timer support, a pie chart with 4 15-minute pieces per hour, with travelling between locations taking 30 minutes and most major actions taking 15 minutes. It’s a good thing to support the DM with, both in the form of the guideline and in the reference material provided to help track the time. There’s some little table that tracks the parties success and gives the pit fighter a chance of success based on how much the party disrupts him. He’s going five places and nerfing him four times will give him a 0-in6 chance of winning, with the odds going up by 1 each time he gets a buff in. It’s a cute mini-game, although, the party has no chance of knowing how well they are doing. This is No Bueno. I mean, there’s some appeal in the party not knowing how much they need to do to nerf the guy to be successful, but for the players, they need some idea of if they should push their luck. Do we do X, which seems risky, or not? How does this decision dynamic change if you know the odds are 1 in 6? Or if the odds are 5 in 6? Or if you don’t know the odds at all? Generally, these sorts of things go better, in terms of a fun game full of tension, if the party can make a meaningful decision … and not knowing doesn’t really help that much at all.
The adventure is advertised as for most old-school games, and, is fairly generically stated in terms of a B/X mindset. But the game world does diverge from what I might call the usual B/X assumptions. This is more a 5e land. A druid sits in the gym ready to perform rituals for the fighter. The guard sergeants have Bolas Of Command, and the fighters trainer has a wand of magic missiles and the fighter himself wearing an anti-magic belt. You’re in magical ren-faire land. Nothing wrong with that … if that’s what you expect. I suspect that orienting this towards smaller niche systems, such as Troika or Mork Borg, or the 5e/Pathfinder crowd, would do a better job setting expectations.
But, let’s get to the heart of it … and I don’t mean the marker stalls selling tenfootpole’s as the cheapest thing. 🙂 The thing is a sandboxy thing. For better and worse.
You’ve got the lineline, and tools to track it. You’ve got some NPC reference. You’ve got a brief description of his entourage. You’ve got the town layout, and one to two page descriptions of the locations. You’ve got your mission, now go! Hell, the designer even gives you a little writeup on the marketplace, town guard, and street urchins, supporting the DM in their play. This is all great, and is exactly what the designer should be doing. And the locations generally support the play at that site. For example, the pit fighter goes to the swamp to meditate before the fight. And one of the (four) location is “The Screaming Crans eggs”; eggs/nest of a crane whose eggs “Scream” when hatching, or are just cracked. Or the smithy, where dude has his silvered arms and hands recounted, with the moulds and silver polish present. One could imagine itching powder of some sort making it in to the mix, yes? This is good.
But … The Worthy Adversary, whatever that should turn out to be, is not covered very well. We get the set up, the location, why the dude is going there and some hints about what the party could do … but not really any challenges to get in the way. The smithy wallows in his home, absorbed in his whiskey and pancakes, when not working. That’s all we get as any sort of a challenge. Is he working? Customers or apprentices? Does ANYTHING represent a challenge or an obstacle to the parties monkey wrenches? The gym where he works out doesn’t let you in unless you are member … and provisionel/new members must be sponsored. That’s all we get. Clearly this is leading somewhere. You can see where it wants to go. But there’s nothing in the individual encounter locations to support the play at that location, beyond a single single set up for a situation.
Now, clearly, people are going to have different opinions on things like this. Some will be ok with this open framework of an adventure and some will want just a little more support for the DMin these situations that the adventure goes out outfits way to set up. I fall in to the second camp. It needs just a little more. I understand the desire t fit a locale in to one or two pages. The ideological purity of that design decision. But it can’t come at the detriment to supporting play. Another page each would have done the trick, I think.
This is Pay What You Want at DriveThru with a suggested price of $2. The preview shows you the entire adventure.