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Saturday 10 July 2021

Your First Animal Adventure

Published by Steamforged Games, Animal Adventures is a roleplaying game setting of anthropomorphic cats and dogs adventuring in a magical world a la Dungeons & Dragons. It is designed to be compatible with Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition and notably, is supported by the Dungeons & Doggies and Cats & Catacombs line of miniatures. The entryway for the setting and the line is the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set: A spellbinding roleplaying game for beginners. This promises to contain everything that a gaming group needs to play a thrilling roleplaying campaign. However, it does not. Instead, it does contain a single adventure, which is ably supported by simple, easy-to-follow rules, four dog miniatures, cat miniatures, seven Player Character sheets, a double-sided game map, Game Master screen, a set of illustrated tokens, and a set of polyhedral dice.

The Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set is designed for ages thirteen and up, and intended to be played with a Game Master and up to seven players. From the outset, it is impressively presented. Everything is done in vibrant colour—perhaps a little too dark for the maps—and has a pleasing physical presence on the table. The large, double-sided map depicts a forest glade and mansion cellar on the one side, and the upper floors of the mansion on the other. They are marked with squares for use with the miniatures and the tokens also included in the box. The digest-sized Rulebook and Adventure booklet is brighter and breezier than the maps, its artwork tending towards the cute rather than the darker tones of the map. The three-panel digest-sized Game Master screen is likewise lighter on the Game Master’s side and lists in turn the roleplaying game’s combat rules, tables, monster stats, and spells and abilities of the Player Characters, all for easy reference. The thirty full-colour tokens are done on sturdy cardboard and are easy to read. The Player Character sheets are also double-sided and are clean, tidy, and again easy to read. Stats, equipment, attacks, and equipment are given on the front with a portrait of the animal, with special abilities on the back, whether that is spells or Class features. All of this fits atop a plastic tray with its own lid, the tray having space for the dice and the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set’s miniatures. The dice are decent, with the two twenty-sided dice marked with the paw symbol where their twenty would be.

The miniatures are for the seven pre-generated Player Characters found in the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set. They include Chantilly, a female Labrador and Fighter; Solan, a male Persian cat and Warlock; Whisper, a female Sphinx cat and Sorcerer; Elvis, a male Cavalier spaniel and Bard; Molly, a female Lyoki and Rogue; Brianna, a female Boxer and Paladin; and Kai, male Shiba Inu and Cleric. The miniatures are nicely detailed and emphasis the fact that the animals and thus the Player Characters in the world of 
Animal Adventures run on all four legs rather than on two. For example, Chantilly, a female Labrador and Fighter, wields her sword in her mouth rather than her paws!

The Rulebook and Adventure booklet is thirty-two pages long, of which six pages are devoted to the rules. These cover an introduction to and example of roleplaying, explain what the attributes are and how they work, how Advantage and Disadvantage works, and of course, combat. It is not a cursory treatment, but rather stripped down from that found in either the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set or the Player’s Handbook. Anyone familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, or indeed any roleplaying game, will grasp and understand the rules with ease, but anyone with less experience or new to the hobby might have more difficulty. In the general, the rules and adventure lend themselves towards being run by an experienced Game Master for new players. In addition, links are included for fuller versions of the character sheets, so that a Dungeon Master and player more familiar with Dungeons & Dragons could run the adventure in the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set.

The adventure in the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set is ‘The Kurse of Doktor Krankensteen’. It opens with the adventurers on the road to the village of Woofburg where they plan to attend the annual Festival of Furry Friends. Unfortunately, they are ambushed by Goblin ’Nappers who attempt to kidnap them. After the battle, the adventurers discover that a mysterious ‘Dok’ wants cats and dogs, and he wants them for his experiments. Following the trail of the Goblin ’Nappers leads to a sewer pipe that ultimately opens up in the cellar of an abandoned mansion. As the adventurers explore the dilapidated building, they will come across some of the Dok’s experiments and his experiments to be, before finally facing the bad Dok himself!

The adventure is decent enough, with a summary of the setting, the map needed overview, player aim, and enemies to be faced given at the start of each scene. GM tips in the margins also give advice and helpful suggestions throughout. However, the scenario is combat and exploration focused, and as much as the GM tip that throwing the players and their adventurers into the action gets them involved is applicable, it does not leave a lot of room for anything other than action. There is very little investigation and not a lot of roleplaying and a little more of both would have been just as involving and would have showcased the fact that roleplaying games are more than just action.

If the adventure is decent enough and should provide one or two sessions of fun, where both it and the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set come unstuck is in delivering the next step—or that is failing to deliver it. At the end of ‘The Kurse of Doktor Krankensteen’, the author suggests that the Game Master use the rules in the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set, plus other supplements in the Animal Adventures to create a sequel. Unless the Game Master wants to run a variant of ‘The Kurse of Doktor Krankensteen’, it does not have enough content to create a sequel, and also, which Animal Adventures supplement should the Game Master be using? Writing a sequel to Animal Adventures should be a problem if the Game Master has written adventures before, but what if he has not? There is no real advice to help her in ‘The Kurse of Doktor Krankensteen’. It would have been nice if the publisher had made available a sequel on its website, even one using the contents of the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set, so that the life of the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set could have been extended to beyond the one adventure.

One option here would actually be to look at another roleplaying game all together. Still involving dogs and cats, and that is the Pugmire Fantasy Tabletop Roleplaying Game. This is slightly more complex than the Animal Adventures world of the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set, but ‘The Kurse of Doktor Krankensteen’ could easily be run set in the world of Pugmire and the miniatures for the adventure would work in Pugmire too. Plus there is plenty of readily available support for it.

There can be no denying that the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set is a fantastic looking introduction to roleplaying and the hobby. It is one that works for a family audience too and the stripped-down mechanics and rules can also serve as an introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. Ultimately though, as attractive as the Animal Adventures RPG Starter Set is, it simply does not follow through on what to do next, and consequently, it feels constrained rather than expansive.

1 comment:

  1. Just ran a group through the Adventure and I agree that it is fun if a little action oriented.

    Unfortunately as you say, after the final encounter it does leave very little info on what to do next but I think I'm going to go with any grabbing another precon adventure and just substitute in the Dok for whatever villain is in that, should keep my group happy until they can deal with the Dok once and for all.