Saturday, 4 February 2017

Review: "The Day the Kobolds Ruled the World" by the GagMen

"The Day the Kobolds Ruled the World", Basic Fantasy (OSR) adventure for 1st level characters
The Day the Kobolds Ruled the World is a pay what you want module written by the GagMen comedy RPG podcaster collective.  As with their other modules, it's written for Basic Fantasy Rules but can be used for other light-weight D&D type rule systems without much trouble.  The adventure is aimed at a party of beginning characters in the fragile 1st to 3rd level bracket.

Before settling in to review the module, I tuned in to the creation episode (#36) of Gagmen's podcast series.  Surprisingly, they spend most of the time doing a very sober analysis of how to piece together the politics of Kobolds.  A lot of the points raised could be inspiring for anyone creating a scenario with plenty of intrigue.

Like other GagMen products, Kobolds is full-colour and lavishly illustrated.  The cartoon style suits the light-hearted tone perfectly.  The main downside is that the document isn't set out to be shown to the players, so most of that art is going to be enjoyed by the referee alone.  It's also somewhat concerning that no map is included, as the scenario anticipates several days of wilderness adventure.

The story of Kobolds is a little complicated.  The players start their journey at the Dwarf city Dun Boldar, where they are tasked with bringing a message of peace to the nearby Orcs of the Silver Hills.  From there, the module has a good many twists and surprises to spring on the players.  The eponymous Kobolds will be launched into power, creating an entirely new diplomatic problem to solve, and other complications will crop up.

As in Beer of the Gods, the GagMen have set up a story for the referee to tell and (as was very clear from the podcast) spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out how to persuade the players not to derail it.  Unfortunately, and quite unlike Beer, Kobolds often has the players in a passive role while the plot unfolds.  There's even a section entitled, "Keeping the Party Busy".  In fairness, this section describes the "mini-quests" handed out by a non-player character trying to distract the adventurers, but the NPC is doing the GagMen's work for them.  Even if that stylistic problem isn't a major concern, the distractions only receive a fleeting description in the text so the referee will have to do some work to flesh the adventure out.

My rating is 2/5.  The GagMen are a thoughtful crew, but this time out they were thinking about how to get their story told despite the interference of the players, rather than how to make a time-saving module to slot into a referee's campaign.  In the best case, The Day the Kobolds Ruled the World would serve as a solid framework for a group of players that finds Kobolds to be inherently cute and funny.  If your players roll their eyes at Kobold-philia, this is one to avoid.