The latest adventure product to appear on DriveThruRPG’s virtual shelves for Dungeons & Dragons 5E is Wanted by Assassin Games, subtitled as “A Collection of Short Adventures in an Urban Environment”. The adventures are written for low-level adventurers – levels 1-2 in particular, it seems. There are ten adventures in all. The product also includes rules for chases that a number of the adventures use, as well as a selection of hazards that can be found in the sewers.
The adventures are very short, either one or two pages each, and include the monster statistics as well as a synopsis of the adventure, notes for the Dungeon Master, notes on individual encounters and suggestions for the aftermath of the adventure. They typically require expansion by the Dungeon Master, and some would be better served by role-playing out the investigations required rather than just short-circuiting the process using skill checks. For instance, the first adventure sees the players attempting to find a master thief. The adventure suggests following her as an option, with Perception and Stealth checks being needed, or Survival rolls for tracking her if she evades immediate capture. On a failed Survival roll? There isn’t any suggestion of what then occurs – somewhat of a problem in the adventure’s structure! The James Bond 007 RPG had a set of interesting encounter tables for when the trail went cold in order to get the players back on track; this product would benefit from that, or at least a table of general random encounters for a city.
The adventures are as follows:
- The Raven – catch a master thief
- Mrs O’Learys Basement – clear giant rats out of a cellar
- A Vermin Problem – defeat wererats and their rat allies
- Dweller in the Dark – defeat a ghoul lurking in the catacombs
- The Unfinished Tower – a Lord hires the group to deal with an imp infestation in the tower he’s building
- Grapes of Wrath – hunt down the culprits responsible for stealing crates of wine
- Farmer’s Lament – hunt down and defeat monsters killing farmers’ cattle
- Death from Above – seek a mysterious murderer (a gargoyle)
- Lingering Regrets – help a merchant who is being haunted by a spectre
- A Knight’s Blade – recover a stolen blade
The adventures present a nice selection of challenges for the players, and are not always as obvious as they may originally seem. They do vary in quality; the weakest by far is Dweller in the Dark where the major part of the adventure – searching for the ghoul – is not detailed. The adventure notes that it could become tedious searching the catacombs, but then doesn’t actually detail any section of them save the final encounter! The adventures are particularly weak on these middle stages – the beginning and end of Death from Above are really good, but there really isn’t enough attention given to the process of finding that a gargoyle is responsible. They work much better when the players just need to turn up and get attacked by the enemy.
The rules for chases are problematic. I’m not entirely sure how they’re meant to work; the rules indicate that everyone makes an initiative check, with characters winning the initiative able to engage with the pursued character. I guess this check is meant to occur each round, although it isn’t stated (and thus goes against how initiative normally works in D&D 5E). Each round, the DM selects an obstacle for the players to overcome – generally by making an ability check of some kind. If everyone fails the check, the pursued character goes free. Honestly, I’ve seen worse systems, although chase rules in RPGs are always problematic. Once more, I come back to the systems used in the James Bond 007 RPG as the baseline that new systems have to exceed. These don’t, especially as the relative speeds of those involved in the pursuit are not counted, and any range between the participants is ignored entirely.
The sewer hazards are amusing, but again have problems. I’m particularly amused by this description of what happens when the players wade through a corrosive liquid: “The PC’s should be alerted to the presence of the liquid by hearing the hiss of their clothing and equipment disintigrating.” (Unfortunately, the spelling and grammatical mistakes are in the actual text; there aren’t too many of such constructions, but there are a few editing mistakes). Only six hazards are given; I would have liked a bigger range of encounters.
The product ends with a small number of player handouts, which are well-presented. In fact, the formatting of this product is pretty good. There is very little art, but that which is used is well executed.
Although the adventures in this product are underdeveloped, the core ideas are strong and there are some excellent suggestions for what might happen after each adventure ends; it’s very good indeed to see these plot hooks – it’s a pity some weren’t developed into full adventures. The product is a bargain at the price ($2 at time of writing) and I could well see myself using some of these adventures in a city-based campaign. So, although Wanted isn’t without some major problems, it’s worth having a look at for inspiration.