Including humour in a D&D adventure is a tricky thing. The fact is that, although most of us find the actions of our players incredibly amusing, we’re uncomfortable with the idea of entire adventures being devoted to humour. History tells us that they’re tremendously hard to write well. Gary Gygax handled the humour of Alice in Wonderland by making the Dungeonland adventure as deadly as he could; I have a sneaking suspicion he found killing PCs amusing. (Consider Tomb of Horrors!) Meanwhile, the intentionally humorous adventure of WG7 Castle Greyhawk is generally regarded as one of the worst adventures ever published by TSR. (Not written by Gygax, and not a true reflection of his castle).
So, when I was confronted with an adventure called Adamantine Chef – Supreme Challenge!, I was immediately concerned. The adventure description indicated this would be a comedy. On the other hand, Teos Abadia is a skilled adventure designer. What would his take on a comedy adventure be like?
The answer is that Teos takes the core of the adventure entirely seriously, while providing many situations which contains elements of humour. It’s up to the individual DM to determine what to emphasise. A son that wants to paint (but is forced to cook) and a daughter who wants to cook (but is forced to dance) could be either used for comedy or for drama. Exploding Dim Sums? Likewise. There’s humour in the ridiculous, but the grounding in an actual dramatic situation makes this a fascinating adventure.
The basic plot is that the Shou Emperor is holding a competition to determine the best chef of Shou cooking – the Shou being the Forgotten Realms equivalent of the Chinese Empire. The lead contestant actually lives in Faerûn, and so the challenge is taking place in an area that the players can easily attend – there are suggestions for placing the adventure in Marsember, Westgate, Nathlekh or Thesk. He needs to defeat the current Adamantine Chef in a competition that requires more than just cooking; there are other elements of Shou culture that need to be presented, such as artwork, dance and poetry. The chief threats of the adventure derive from the current Adamantine Chef attempts to sabotage the contender. The players are placed in a position where they can foil the sabotage attempts and allow the challenger, Master Mu Pan, to win the contest.
It’s a beautifully designed adventure, with a wide variety of challenges for the players to overcome. There’s a good mix of combat, role-playing and skill-based challenges. The adventure should be playable in one four-hour session.
I’m particularly impressed by how Teos describes the non-player characters of the adventure. Each has enough detail for the DM to make them memorable. It’s very easy to overcomplicate NPC descriptions, but these ones go to the core of the characters, with easily grasped concepts to guide the DM’s roleplaying.
Adamantine Chef is a brilliant adventure, and one well worth investigating – definitely one of the early gems of the DMs Guild site.