Sunday, August 23, 2015

D&D 5th edition PayWhatYouWant reviews

My go-to game for the last six months have been 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. This has led me to look out for free or PayWhatYouWant supplements for the game from time to time. I just love the fact people make content available for the game and i want to support their efforts.

So i figured i would give my personal, yet reflected, opinions on some recent finds. These are three small products, either free or PWYW, all available from DriveThruRPG:

Never Ask Directions

Never Ask Directions is a sidetrek adventure by John "Ross" Rossomangno. It is intended for character levels 2-4. The PDF is 16 pages with the adventure taking about 11 pages.

When i saw the words sidetrek adventure i immediately remembered the sidetrek adventures i read in Dungeon Magazine. These short, "drop'em wherever", adventurers were always my favorites as a teenager since i spent a lot of time making my own adventures and never really desired to run multi-session adventures someone else had written. But i digress.

Not calling itself a sidetrek to camouflage a bare bones adventure setup Never Ask Directions is indeed a complete module. There are several suggested hooks and a simple but functional back story that provides a good rationale for the adventure.

Furthermore the adventure features three adventure locations, one new magical item and a few original NPC's. The author has even included a sidebar about how to use sidetrek adventures and provides ideas about how to build on the adventure after its completion.

The adventure itself is simple and straight forward as the plot moves the PC's through the adventure locations. Along the way the author has provided some guidance on how to handle adventuring parties that does not act as expected. These are guidelines and I am left the impression that the adventure won't feel like a railroad, but the linear plot will challenge a DM whose player's insist on acting contrary to the plot.

All in all Never Ask Directions feels like a satisfactory mini-adventure that would be very easy to drop into any campaign. It is well-crafted and complete, but linear and simple which can present a challenge to DM's not keen on railroading players. Still, I recomend picking it up and keeping it handy for that session when you really need a sidetrek adventure.

As a final note i want to add that Never Ask Directions reminds me, vaguely, of The Trouble with Mylvin Wimbly by Andrew McCray (originally printed in Dungeon magazine #5 and it was included in the norwegian translation of the Mentzer Red Box). However The Trouble with Mylvin Wimbly is basically a miniature hexcrawl yet still basically useable is an instant (8-page) adventure. I want more adventures like that.

NPC Codex

The NPC Codex by Dan Coleman is a collection of 13 NPC that can be dropped into your game. The PDF is 15 pages with 14 pages of game content.

As a DM i enjoy making and using colorful, rounded NPC's in my game. The NPC you get in the NPC Codex are just that. From a rowdy markswoman to an arrogant half-elven wizardess these NPC's are simple yet rounded and not one-dimensional. The power-level of the NPC's span the lower tier of play with a range of challenge ratings from ¼ to 5.

The author provides a concept, a physical description alongside personality, quirks and memorable features for all these NPC's alongside full game stats. The NPC's feel ready-to-use but there is also room to expand and adjust them to suit your own campaign. A "GM Tip" sidebar is also added to each NPC with suggestions on how to use them.

All the NPC are are illustrated. The art is by the author and the simple drawings are beautiful and evocative which really helps with the feel for each NPC.

I should point out though that the NPC presented in this product are all fairly likeable, so if you are specifically looking for a villain to use in your campaign you might have to look elsewhere.

All in all if you (like me) and your players like using fleshed-out NPC's in your game the NPC Codex is worth checking out for yourself and even buying at it's suggested price (and maybe even a little more).

Heirs of Desperation

Heirs of Desperation from Tabletop Terrors Publishing is a supplement designed to raise money to fight poverty in India. According to the creators all proceeds goes to a charity called the Hands of Freedom. I won't go further into the charity aspect of the product, except to say that I support the idea of using ones creative hobbies for charitable purposes.

The Heirs of Desperation purpose of alleviating poverty is also apparent in the product content. The PDF is 16 pages with about 11 pages of game content.

There are three sections focusing on three poverty-related real-world problems and how they might be employed as challenges in a fantasy game world. The problems are:

  • Water shortage
  • Hunger
  • Orphans

For each section there is a short introduction to the real-world problem, with links to external material to further educated the reader. Game related there is a monster thematically linked to each problem and a selection of six plot hooks (with a fantasy spin) related to each problem. At the end there is a vigilante NPC character that could be used to introduce these problems to the player characters.

I'll say right up front that i found the plot hooks the most useful. Their quality is variable, but several of them gave me enough instantly to begin planning or improvising an adventure. I like that the plot hooks are not one sentence, but actually short paragraphs which make them much more fleshed-out. I think even the poorer plot hooks could be very usable, but they will require a bit more work by the DM.

The monster are okay but not as clearly thematically linked to the real-world problem as the plot hooks. The monsters are illustrated by Gauntes and the illustrations are simple but i enjoyed them. It is a shame that there is some text missing at the bottom of page eight where, i assume, some information would be given on how to lift a curse that the hunger-themed monster imparts. Not a huge problem but a little annoying because it is also the monster i liked best (although the oprhan monster, the Dread Father, was scarier).

All in all i like Heirs of Desperation quite well. It is not awesome, but the plot hooks are useful and some of them are inspiring too. The monsters, while not very original, could also be good addition to a campaign.