This revised edition of the module intended for younger audiences clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
In case you’re new to the product line – this module is intended for play with kids, to be completed in one session after school…and impart some knowledge unobtrusively while playing. All right, got that? Great!
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.
All right, still here? Only GMs around? The PCs are accompanying Master Michele, in charge with wizard education towards a famous picnic spot, and en route, the wizard utilizes potions of speak with animals to allow the kids the chance to converse with a badger family, who are currently heading for greener pastures – obviously, something has forced them to relocate from their home. (And yes, the pdf does note what’s inside their picnic baskets.)
On the way to the picnic location, more unpleasant things are afoot – a rather emancicated wolverine is fighting for his life against disgusting giant ticks! The PCs can help the hungry, poor critter and help it – though it’ll take some delicate care to make the weary and wounded animal trust the PCs, though healing and aid against the ticks does help significantly.
The half-starved critter also tells of blackened water and indeed, at the wonderful, once untouched beach, one can now see a log fort and black waters – and indeed, passing a relatively harmless “trap”, the PCs encounter two appropriately goofy azer brothers, who are very proud of their Rock-B-Coal device and the quick processing of coal! It is said device and particularly the swift syrup that hastens the process that is responsible for the pollution and while combat is a way to drive them off, Diplomacy and, more importantly, science, can really help here, making the process less strenuous on the environment. This would also be a great time, just fyi, to explain the coalification process, with notes provided and a handy link for further information available.
This is not how the pdf stops, though: We also receive a recipe for “coal lumps” based on chocolate sandwich cookies and mini marshmallows…and there also is the coal cookie mining activity that teaches the cost and process of mining! The activity takes 1 – 2 hours and requires play money, 3 different types of packaged chocolate chips, grid paper, pencils, flat toothpicks, round toothpicks, paper clips and that’s it!
The pdf begins with the procedure explained: Coal mining companies need to revert the land to the status before mining, which is a significant cost. The mining should be profitable even with these costs. Each participant gets $19 play money, a sheet of grid paper and the handy cookie mining worksheet included. Each player may purchase mining property (a cookie) with different prices, depending on type. The cookie is placed on the grid and traced – the number of squares that are included in the outline (including partial square) are noted down. Next, you purchase mining equipment: Flat toothpicks cost $2, round ones $4 and a paper clip is 6$. Each minute of labor (mining) costs $1 and each chocolate chip mined from the cookies nets a $2 profit. Broken chips can be combined into whole chips, but consumed chips will eat into profit! The participants may mine for a maximum of 5 minutes. In the end, the participants must do “reclamation”- I.e. return the cookie to its former state – with only the tools they have! Each square outside the original outline costs $1.
This whole experience is discussed, with questions, potential for extensions and the like – and I really love this game. It’s easy to grasp, somewhat difficult and yet not too hard and incredibly fun. It also helps getting a more differentiated picture of the challenges of mining as opposed to the glorification/demonization we can often find in various media. Oh, and the activity would make for a great drunk party game for adults!
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a colorful 2-column full-color standard with nice color artworks. The pdf is bookmarked, in spite of its brevity, which is nice.
The revised version of Kelly Pawlik’s module is vastly superior to the original iteration and manages to provide an educational and rewarding experience, best suited for kids ages 4 – 10.
My one, minor gripe here is that the activity, flexible as it is, is basically separate from the module. The plus side is that it can easily be run before or after the module and that it works perfectly as a stand-alone sans the module part.
But still, in my mind, helping the azer brothers mine in game would have probably made for a cool synergy and provided a second side to the whole experience: The pollutant syrup could have made some operations cheaper, for example, tying both environmental concern and the need to make profit, together and illustrate via one experience both sides and the difficulties faced. Anyways, a capable GM can easily do this and this is an inexpensive, fun and educational module. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.
You can get this inexpensive little pdf here on OBS!