The Festival of the Migrant (5e)
This set-piece/encounter-area clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
The festival of the migrant is an elven celebration, which is held at the border of elven lands to celebrate the migration of animals, being held for 3 weeks in the spring. A total of 9 sample NPCs are provided for the festival, all of which come in a fluff-only presentation. The nomenclature for them refers plants and plant-like things, with Princess Everbough being probably the least impressive example here. 3 hooks are provided.
The pdf then proceeds to provide a variety of minigames, the first of which is collecting butterflies in a butterfly tent. Unfortunately, the rules here are a bit odd, as butterflies are “tagged”, and e.g. the innermost ring having 5d6b3….B3, btw.? That means “best 3.” Odd here: Butterfly AC can scale up to a pretty massive AC 22, but yeah, success-determination could be clearer here.
The second event, “pluck or be plucked” has the PCs face off against a giant goose, with the goal to remove false, colored feathers from the goose’s tail. The giant goose comes with stats that sport quite a few glitches: Incorrect HD and attack values, which is a pity, since their ability to emit e.g. a frightening honk, and the ability to fling targets into the air, is pretty cool. The latter should have imho a means to resist via Strength saves as well as the default Dex-save, but I digress.
The Last frost has the contestants in flower costumes, collecting water from the mists via their outstretched leaves; there are checks to guess the next onset of the cold snap, for said snap will freeze anyone who has the arms outstretched; a Dexterity save allows for the quick closing of arms.
After this, we also have a caribou race spanning 10 miles, cross country. This may be the mechanically most complex of the mini-games, as it’s supported by 6 (!!) sample feats that can provide benefits for certain stretches of the races. One of them Noble Equestarian, gets wrong how 5e usually handles key ability score substitution – it’s not per se unsuable, but it’s not elegant either. All in all, these feats are very specific and not something that PCs are likely to want to take. They are, essentially, included to allow for customization of the challenge 1 caribou rider statblocks, which, alas, does have a few rough spots as well. (Same goes for the caribou stats, just fyi.) On the plus side, we do get names, stat-adjustments, races and feats noted for the contestants, including popularity ratings and their odds for victory. This mini-game would be much more interesting, if it did a better job listing the miles and respective challenges – as written, it is a cool baseline, but requires some GM-work to make for fun player-participation.
The final game herein would be Stone Path. The game is usually played with 4 players, each of whom receives 40 stones, in sets of 10 of a color, marked with the numbers 1 – 10. The stones are mixed, face down. Players take turns looking at the stones in secret, one per turn, and decide on whether to put it back or keep it. Kept stones are hidden from sight. The first stone of a given color taken is put on that player’s path, touching the screen that shields their kept stones from sight. Subsequent stones of that color, if kept, must count up or down monotonically. For example, if you draw a yellow 5, and then a yellow 7, any future yellow stones you unearth must be greater than 7. Stones that cannot be added may be kept, but are added to the dump pile and count as negative points, which is a nice way to make have hindering others have a cost. Paths of more than two stones yield points equal to their length; one-or-two-stone paths do net negative points. The game is further complicated by two special markers: Having a couple of butterflies is a risk, as they can enhance bonuses or penalties; there are stones with three-looped elven knots, which, when shown to the other players, allow you to draw an additional stone. A handy table helps scoring, and the final page contains the sample stones as an easy print out.
The pdf also contains prize support, which ranks from the mundane to the magical, sporting 18 magic wondrous items: There would be a wand that creates heatless sparkles, a wand to dry folks instantly (how does it affect liquid creatures?), and item that makes ice, a key finder…you get the idea. Basically, many of the magic items here duplicate in some way the functionality of modern-day tech, which is something you may or may not enjoy. The blinder shield is definitely OP and should probably have recharges of uses based on rest intervals; it’s definitely not on common scarcity level. (DC 15 Dex save of be blinded for one minute, with massive range, no subsequent saves to shake off blindness.) On a more nitpicky side of things, spell-references are not properly italicized, skill references not properly formatted. All in all, not a fan of these items.
The pdf concludes with stats for the goose-rider NPC guards of the festival. You guessed it, their statblocks sport glitches. It should be noted, though, that a nice, hand-drawn map in full-color, with scale, is provided.
Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level. On a rules-language level, there are quite a few hiccups that negatively impact the integrity of a couple of the rules within. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with golden headers. The full-color artworks presented are…there. The pdf has no bookmarks, but the handout-stones and the inclusion of the full-color festival map are a nice plus.
I liked James Eck’s migrant festival. It has a benevolent, family-friendly touch, is creative and offers some cool ideas for mini-games. At the same time, the rules-chassis provided for a couple of the entries would have benefited from first establishing how success is measured, increased precision in stats and an easier to grasp presentation overall. While this will probably not overexert anyone’s mental faculties to understand how it all works, it still is a bit clunky in its didactics and presentation. All in all, I consider this to be a flawed offering that you can mine some fun from, but considering that this is pay what you want, my final verdict will still clock in at 3 stars.
You can get these minigames here on OBS for PWYW!