I picked this up as part of Dan Coleman’s Dungeons on Demand Volume 1 Kickstarter, to see if it was worth tossing a few dollars into the mix…and what a resounding YES! Buy it here! It’s a Pay What You Want product. This review appears in a slightly different form at DriveThruRPG.
Note that star ratings for Form and Content are on a 1 (bad) to 5 (amazeballs) scale.
Bandit’s Nest is a short location-based adventure, featuring a band of kenku brigands hiding out in a ruined temple complex. In order to mix up the encounters a bit, there also happens to be a harpy and a bear, but they are integrated very tightly into the story. While the adventure assumes the core motivation of the party is to rescue a captured merchant’s daughter, several alternative hooks are not only mentioned, but have their consequences spelled out throughout the adventure, whenever pertinent.
The adventure relies on existing monsters from D&D 5th Edition’s Monster Manual, there is one new creature (the Kenku Crowspeaker) and two unique NPCs (one being the aforementioned merchant’s daughter, and the other the Kenku bandit leader).
The mechanics, monsters, treasure rewards, and everything else about the adventure seems perfectly balanced and purposefully adheres closely to D&D 5th Edition‘s encounter/treasure paradigm, though there are notes on tailoring the adventure for greater difficulty, reward, or expansion.
Being a short adventure, there’s not too much to the contents, but all are immediately useful for homebrewing:
- Map of ruined temple complex
- Chaza Talondark, kenku bandit leader
- Kenku crowspeaker
- Lilya Haldenfrond, human commoner
It would be a simple matter to re-purpose any of these things for your own adventures, and to utilize the named NPCs (including the harpy) as ongoing allies or antagonists, based on the events of the adventure.
The module as a whole has very strong presentation (fantastic maps and one piece of evocative artwork), background (short but flavorful), and overall execution.
Two things in particular need to be harped on a little bit, as they are what drew me to this adventure, as well as Dan’s other Dungeons On Demand works.
First, the extremely clean, informative maps that utilize specialized icons to denote the locations of monsters, traps, NPCs, and plot hooks. The module has an overall map of the temple and its outlying ruins, but then zooms into each one for an encounter map that can easily serve as a battlemap if you use minis, and if not, serves as an excellent guide to the placement of important items and characters so that the DM isn’t worried about having to fill in these details later. It’s sort of like a “best of” encounter design from 1st edition AD&D (short, concise text with an overview map), 4th edition D&D (battlemap-inspired, zoomed-in maps featuring monster placement), and later-era DUNGEON Magazine adventure icons (denoting that the adventure contains a certain mix of traps, monsters, and treasure).
Secondly, the concise-yet-detailed discussion of permutations. What I mean is that Bandit’s Nest addresses the specifics of Kenku mimicry, making it a detailed plot point for communication purposes. It sets up a believable and interesting “ecology” regarding the relationships of various, otherwise disparate monsters that the PCs can exploit (or that bites them in the ass!). It uses a minimum of words to convey a maximum number of possible plot hooks.
This is a 1st-level adventure, but features enough encounters to push the party into Level 2.
Let’s sum it up with this: I was so pleased with this adventure — that I originally received for free, mind you — that I came back and immediately put down $4 for the Pay What You Want version.
This is precisely what I’m looking for in a published short adventure, and I want to support making more of that! Other adventure designers — of any edition, really, and any OSR game — would do well to learn from this presentation and utilize it as a template of how to do location mapping and adventure presentation right.
The only loss is that there isn’t more artwork (such as portraits of the major NPCs), but considering the detail and quality of the maps, this is a small loss indeed, and something that can be easily sourced from a quick Google search or the like.
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