Where there’s a Will (5e) (priority review)
This eventure clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was requested by my patreon supporters and as such moved up in my queue.
Okay, so this eventure works a bit differently from the usual ones, in that it does feature a bit of more contextualization required: This module pretty much requires being set in a coastal city to work as written; the module uses the city of Languard as a default, but conversion to Sasserine, Freeport, Riddleport, etc. is not difficult. The premise, you see, is that the infamous pirate captain Tyric Selflit has passed away, and the consequences of this happening. In a way, the module consists of 3 distinct vignettes that could be run independent of each other, between adventures, or in direct sequence. Part II is a bit more contingent on the other parts, but with some work, it can be run on its own as well. It should be noted that the second part works MUCH BETTER with “A Day Out at the Executions.”
Okay, the eventure begins with 3 hooks and a d8-table of rumors before going into the details of the respective scenes.
The first scene is all about the news spreading, and as such, is complemented by tables that include false and correct rumors, some minor events, and a total of 20 pieces of dressing; the setting of the stage presented here in stages, from bells tolling to rampant speculation, does a good job driving home the gravitas of the situation.
The second scene, then, would be about the deceased pirate getting a funeral of sorts at Traitor’s Gate (see A Day Out at the Executions); here, 6 exceedingly detailed NPC writeups are presented, alongside with a bit of read-aloud text, mannerisms, background, distinguishing features, and notes for interaction with the party. Cool per se, and system-immanently, the eventure works better in 5e than in all other systems. Why? Because it uses the default NPC stats of 5e in its NPCs, which does mean that you have concrete rules for social skills and combat to fall back on if required.
Part 3, then, would essentially be the reading of the Will in a shady pirate’s bar, so whether or not the party actually is there will depend on the morals of your group. The tavern is not mapped, and there is an additional NPC for further complications here. The celebration itself, somewhat to my chagrin, is also bereft of rules – even though knife-throwing, drinking etc. all can easily be gamified without spending a lot of words. The “notary” does hand out maps, and then offers a quest of sort – for a legendary artifact, which, yep, does not come with stats. (Though, if you do have the 3.X-book Elder Evils, you’ll have a good idea for an end-game for it…) Much to my chagrin, the important parts, the celebration itself and the reading of the will, are totally glossed over. The latter, very volatile situation, is even relegated to a single paragraph. No, I am not kidding you. No if/then, no details…it was a serious downer for me. Heck, picture it: a proper tavern, highly volatile situation, lots of booze…it wouldn’t have been hard to devise some proper rules, perhaps even a lair action or two. *sigh*
The eventure closes with some suggestions for further adventures.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-level, the latter being no surprise, since there are next to no rules-relevant components herein. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf offers solid b/w-art, but no cartography for the environments. For Part II, this is not necessarily an issue, but in Part III, it does hurt the adventure. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen use, and the pdfs come fully bookmarked.
Jacob W. Michaels is a veteran designer and author, and it shows in the skillful web of NPCs woven and how plausible they feel. This little pdf manages to set up something we only rarely include in adventures, even though the reading of a will can be rather exciting and a grand source of adventuring options. That being said, I do think that this supplement doesn’t prioritize its content correctly, perhaps due to over-emphasizing NPC-write-ups. This is billed as the end of a notorious villain and the aftermath of his demise, which is a neat premise and something I enjoy seeing.
But the execution? It left me rather disappointed. The eventure spends a lot of time on a plethora of NPCs in Part II, and then misses actually making the capstone of the show, the will itself, interesting. Sure, the web of personalities is neat to see, but combined with the lack of concrete rules, the result of this eventure is that it feels like a very long and detailed adventure hook, not like a social adventure in and off itself.
In many ways, this either needed more content, or it needed to be split in two to make both parts shine: One eventure for celebrating the demise of a villain, and another one for a proper wake/reading of the will.
As presented, this eventure felt like a let-down to me. In 5e, it works slightly better than in the other systems it has been presented for; taking that into account, combined with the author’s indubitable skill and the low and fair price point that my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars. But I’ve thought long and hard…and frankly, I can’t justify rounding up for this one.
You can get this eventure here on OBS.
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[…] Graf reviewed several editions of Where There’s A Will and the system-neutral Anti-Sisyphus Issue […]