I'm doing something a little different with my review, which is going to be my standard practice for anthology reviews, at least until my review list of many is...well so many. I'm going to be posting reviews of each of the anthology's adventures in my usual in depth style, but one at a time until I have done them all.First of all this is a freaking awesome collection of adventures with artwork and more from so many wonderful folx with 17 adventures and 213 pages, so yes it is worth every penny or cent or whatever to ensure people actually get to make a tiny bit of money from all their hard work and creativity. This is folx jobs! Plus information is provided for financial hardship discounts where needed.Like I said above, I'll be adding to this review with detailed reviews of each adventure as and when I am able, so without further ado let's get to the first adventure!
Before We’re Bled Dry (Level 1) by Lena Meier (@yakyuu_yarou)
“Lena, usually known online as Saika, is a first-time TTRPG writer (though not at all new to writing as a whole) from Germany with an intense love for literature, whimsy, cosplay and bad puns. When she isn‘t thinking of ways to give the rich what they deserve, she‘s playing one TTRPG or another, writing a story, or rambling about literature, video games and weird ideas on Twitter.
Follow her @yakyuu_yarou for a lot of words and the occasional dog picture.”
The adventure is preceded by beautiful and foreboding piece by Liz Gist (@crit_liz), depicting Morgan Gutlis and the Greenstone, the villain and object of this adventure.
“Brightcove, the village where the adventurers grew up, has been exploited by its ruling noble family for as long as anyone can remember. Each year, their demands become more outrageous and harder to meet. The people have had enough.
The party decides to take back the resources the nobles have been hoarding.”
This section details of the village of Brightcove, and how the Gutliss noble family’s control magical Greenstone and their ever-increasing tax for decreasing access to the magic that allows the people to farm, which is leaving them starving and desperate.
A great taste of three main NPCs, their place in the story of the adventure, the alignment, race and the statblock to use for each of them.
What seems like a simple raid to wrest the magical Greenstone from the measly hands of the head of the Gutlis family, needs some aid in direction, and mercy at the defeat of the tyrant can yield more information on the artefact.
This introductory adventure assumes the party are from the village of Brightcove, and so the three hooks centre on the PCs’ taking a stand, being approached by the mayor or friends and family to help the village by confronting Gutlis and acquiring the Greenstone.
Part 1: A Plan and a Map
The PCs meet in the delightfully named, The Blustering Bunny, tavern to make a plan and are approached by the mayor, Lillybell Sunwing.
Thorough information for roleplaying Lillybell is provided. This is not an adventure for monetary reward, as the village is poor and starving, but rather there is the very real emotional hook of taking a stand for yourself and your own community; throwing off the shackles of oppression and misery. It won’t buy you a fancy new magic sword, but survival and quality of life are all the more magical and I don’t care about being corny because it’s true and very easy to forget in real life and in games, and I absolutely love the fact this adventure begins the anthology on such a genuine reason that hits very close to home for me, only my Gutlis is the government and the Greenstone they hoard away from me is allocation of social care, disability services because, you know, Tories. DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
Anyways, back to the adventure. Lillybell provide a very rough map, some suggestions, warnings and information, as well as putting the PCs drinks and rooms their tab (within reason).
Part 2: The Path to Tread
Depending on player choices and rolls, there are two possible paths to take.
The Forest Path
A lovely, evocative box text describes the forest and nature’s feelings about the party’s endeavour.
The party face a series of obstacles, challenges and dangers as they traverse the forest.
Along The Guard Trail
The party are presented an opportunity to ambush a guard and gain information on where to find the Greenstone, with varying clarity and safety depending on how the information is obtained.
Part 3: Not Guts, No Glory
The party discover the Greenstone and confront Morgan Gutlis.
Thorough information for roleplaying Morgan are provided, as are advice on suggesting the party approach as stealthily as they can desperately tries to move silently in heavy armour and rolls awfully praying for a group check and to be carried, as well as advice on handling the battle with Morgan, as the party are meant to overpower him.
Part 4: To Greener Pastures
The adventure has two possible endings, depending on how the party chose to deal with Morgan.
If the party kills Morgan they can return with the Greenstone as heroes (albeit somewhat stained by their lack of mercy). A magic item from the DMG is suggested as a reward with the reminder that the town is poor. This could be a good opportunity for you to come up with your own magic item. Possibly a family heirloom noone before has been able to attune to or a Vicious Sickle or other agricultural tool/ weapon.
If the party subdue Morgan he is taken into custody and judged by a democratically elected tribunal for his crimes against the people. Morgan also divulges more information about the Greenstone, which grant the ability for it to be more powerful, allowing the village to thrive and begin to trade. Access to this information and the Greenstone are provided to every individual in the village.
Again a magic item from the DMG is suggested, with the reminder that even with this new lease on life, the village is not materially wealthy. There’s so potential for fun Wondrous Items that are more fun than functional, perhaps even granted by the Greenstone itself? Maybe one of those dancing sunflowers in sunglasses I remember from many moons ago, but it’s a live sunflower imbued with magic for it to dance in sunlight and play a calming tune on it’s little guitar?
Continuing the Adventure
Advice for continuing the adventure is provided, suggesting once the village is prospering, the party may turn toward adventure and travelling the world. They also may wish to be a part Morgan Gutlis’ trial, with their word carrying weight.
A handout of the rough map provided by Lilly Sunwing is provided after the adventure.
This is a wonderful introductory adventure that contains a variety of opportunities, challenges and encounters that enable most characters a moment to shine and do their thing, which is very important for keeping everyone interested and involved. But more than that, Meier instils a thoughtful sensibility into a game and potential campaign that instantly ties the party to one another and truly gives them a common goal that means something to them. Doing a service for their community, vanquishing (but hopefully not killing) a true to life, evil of greed, hoarding and having no regard for the suffering and struggling of those they demand payment from, will hopefully set a more thoughtful tone for the game (and maybe make them reflect on real and whether they can do something about it: by voting, volunteering and being involved in politics, not necessarily apprehending those in power...).
The constant need for more and total disregard for the starvation it causes is a clear metaphor for capitalism and its rapacious need to increase profit year on year, at the expense of...well absolutely everyone other than those with the money and power, but especially the workers.
I thoroughly look forward to reading and playing more of these adventures, and exploring their important messages and wonderful stories. This has made an absolutely wonderful fire impression, as I believe this adventure would at your table, whether playing with new or experienced players.
I made an NPC inspired by and that can be used in the adventures, Dawnten Phalferma: https://www.ko-fi.com/post/My-NPC-Dawnten-Phalferma-LG-Halfling-Council-Mem-V7V619AK6