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Saturday 4 March 2023

GM’s Day: Fifth Edition Fantasy: Ambush at Dragon’s Cove

March 4th is International GM’s Day which commemorates the death of the later E. Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and father of the roleplaying hobby in 2008. DrivethruRPG has its own GM’s Day Sale which runs through the first half of the month, but Goodman Games is celebrating with its own ‘Dungeon Day’ which includes the release of three scenarios for free—two old and one new. The two old are Danger Crawl Classics: Danger in the Air and Fifth Edition Fantasy: The Three Wizard Conundrum, both of which were previously released for Free RPG 2023. The all-new adventure is Fifth Edition Fantasy: Ambush at Dragon’s Cove. This is an adventure for use with Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition and is designed for four to six First Level Player Characters. Although suitable as a means to introduce players to the roleplaying hobby, it is not written as an introductory product. So, it will need an experienced Danger Master.

Fifth Edition Fantasy: Ambush at Dragon’s Cove is a wilderness adventure with an environmental theme. The village of Port Knell is home to oldest known nesting beaches for dragon turtles, Dragon’s Cove, and both the village and local sailors benefit from the protection of one of these creatures, Lyrdella the Brave. This year, her duties means that she cannot protect her eggs as the young dragon turtles hatch and begin their perilous journey to the sea, so she asks a local druid called Sycamore, to stand in for her. However, the somewhat flirtatious druid has other plans and so hires the Player Characters to stand guard over the dunes. Other suggestions are included as to how to start the adventure, but as written and as is traditional, it starts in a tavern. Since the adventure is set in the wilderness—or at least on a beach—and involves interaction with the dragon turtle hatchlings, a Druid or a Ranger amongst the party will be useful, especially if they have a good Animal Handling skill.

The adventure consists of four encounter areas and has the feel of a race in that the Player Characters have to prepare their charges, that is, the dragon turtle hatchlings, and then hurry them safely to the sea. It also means that the adventure is linear, but for a short, one-session adventure like Fifth Edition Fantasy: Ambush at Dragon’s Cove, designed for First Level Player Characters, this is not really an issue. In the first encounter, the Player Characters will ready their charges for the journey, whilst in each of the subsequent encounters, they will be challenged by foes natural and unnatural, who all see the young dragon turtles as potential food. The natural foes are those which would likely be faced by turtles in our environment, whilst the unnatural foes are more akin to hunters or egg thieves, but both of course, adapted to fit the fantasy setting of the adventure. The unnatural foes are also tied into the background of the scenario and Sycamore’s involvement, although that will not be immediately obvious, and may not be revealed until the very end of the scenario.

Rounding out the scenario are suggestions as to what to play next in the Fifth Edition Fantasy series and rounding out Fifth Edition Fantasy: Ambush at Dragon’s Cove is the regular column for the line, ‘Flog’s Eye Sees All!’ which usually provides updates for the line. It explains the point of GM’s Day and Dungeon Day and extolls the virtues of the hobby and is a slightly tongue cheek to both Gygax and Game Master’s everywhere.

Fifth Edition Fantasy: Ambush at Dragon’s Cove is cleanly and tidily laid out in the standard style for the line. It is easy to read and consequently should be both quick and easy for the Dungeon Master to prepare for her group with no fuss whatsoever. The artwork is excellent and overall, this could easily have been included in a magazine or anthology of adventures and made a fine-looking addition to either.

The Fifth Edition Fantasy line consists of stand-alone, setting-neutral adventure modules, typically one-shots that can be played in one or two sessions. Fifth Edition Fantasy: Ambush at Dragon’s Cove fits that brief, playable in a single session and setting-neutral. However, this makes it easy to slot into an existing campaign or setting, or being for First Level Player Characters, form part of the beginnings of a campaign. Although there is plenty of combat involved, this is not the scenario’s only challenge and the overall objective of getting the newly hatched dragon turtles to the sea gives it a theme and challenge that will probably be more appealing to some prospective players than a simple combat-focused affair.

Fifth Edition Fantasy: Ambush at Dragon’s Cove is an environmentally engaging one-session race to the sea.

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