Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Counting Chickens

In classic fantasy gaming—and thus Dungeons & Dragons—the starting point for a campaign and the player characters is First Level. It is rare that an adventure—and thus a campaign—starts at Zero Level. N4 Treasure Hunt for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, First Edition is one such exception, as is Dungeon Crawl Classics #0: Legends are Made, Not Born, a scenario published for used with Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 by Goodman Games. In more recent times, Goodman Games has turned the playing of Zero Level characters into a feature of its Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game, with players creating multiple characters and thrusting them through an adventure funnel that hopefully some of them will survive to gain First Level and a character Class. In the wider Old School Renaissance, the playing of Zero Level characters has mostly been ignored, except almost, but not quite, Adventure Most Fowl.

Adventure Most Fowl is the first release from Old School Renaissance publisher, Grey Fey Publishing. It is a small module designed for use with four to six characters of Zero Level and First Level and written for use with Swords & Wizardry. This means that it is compatible with most other fantasy Retroclones. It is also setting neutral, being set in and around the village of Kith in the Four Counties to the south of the kingdom, and so is easy to drop into the setting of the Dungeon Master’s choice. Further, with some effort upon the part of the Dungeon Master, both setting and adventure could be run using different mechanics. In particular, its slightly grim nature would work well with Schwalb Entertainment’s Shadow of the Demon Lord, with the aforementioned Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game as a Zero Level funnel, and with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

The adventure begins with the adventurers—or adventurers to be, if the player characters are of Zero Level—entering the village of Kith and being flagged down by a man shouting something about chickens and goblins. It turns out that the man, Phileas Filson, is a chicken farmer and something or someone has been filching his chickens. He claims that it is goblins, but the local constable believes it be foxes. Undaunted, the farmer wants to hire the adventurers to investigate and more importantly, recover his prize chicken. Fortunately, the trail left by the abductors is easy to follow leading as it does to a small cave system, which it turns is home to a little tribe of goblins—and they happen to be in a great deal of trouble…

The central plot and adventure at the heart of Adventure Most Fowl is simple and straightforward. It should provide a session or two’s worth of play, a decent mix of roleplaying with the NPCs in Kith itself, plus the exploration and combat involved in the mini-dungeon that is the caves. Yet there is more to Adventure Most Fowl than just this plot, there are several other plot strands presented—a cult, strange goings on in the woods, and more. These are presented via the book’s well-drawn NPCs, but ultimately left up to the Dungeon Master to develop further. There is scope here aplenty for the Dungeon Master to make much more of Kith at least, if not the area around the village. Perhaps though, the publisher could develop both the area of Kith and the extra plots described in Adventure Most Foul, in a further book?

As to the question of whether or not Adventure Most Fowl is suitable for Zero Level characters, the problem is that it has not quite been scaled down enough. New monsters have been added in the form of Goblings, runts of any Goblin litter and Cockalorum, mutant chickens—yes, really! One on one, these may not represent too much of a challenge, but in the numbers here, they may be too much of a challenge for Zero Level characters. Another issue is that the scenario does not really address the nature of playing and running a Zero Level game, which is a pity since it is pitched at that Level. Nevertheless, the uncomplicated nature of the adventure is what you want for a game involving Zero Level player characters.

Physically, Adventure Most Fowl is nicely presented. The artwork is generally good, but the maps are excellent. The book though, does need another edit and the writing could have been tighter in places.

As a first release, Adventure Most Fowl is a decently done book. The presentation is good and both its plot and accompanying adventure are engaging if slight. Best of all are the NPCs that the Dungeon Master can have fun roleplaying and the players can have fun roleplaying with. Adventure Most Fowl deserves a sequel—or an expanded second edition—if it is to make the most of its NPCs and their storylines.