This adventure module is designed for parties of 1st-level characters, but be forewarned! As a “Tournament Module,” your experience playing through it will undoubtedly be an atypical one. “The Warbringer’s Son” was Goodman Games’ offering as the “Official Dungeon Crawl Classics GenCon 2008 Tournament Module.”

The most important thing to know about a module designed for tournament play is that it does not pose quite the same challenge as a standard module. And if you, as a DM, are going to present it to your gaming group as a standard module, you will either have to do a good deal of prep-work on the front end to scale it, or simply let your players know that it will likely be more challenging than usual.

So what is a “Tournament Module” all about? It is designed with a point-scoring system in mind that is not a usual part of the D&D game. It is logically balanced such that most goals that players usually strive toward in the course of the game have a value in tournament play. These are things such as successfully using skills, defeating foes, preserving resources, and overcoming certain challenges presented throughout the module. In addition, failures and poor strategy carry penalties with them. And there are streamlined rules and stats presented throughout to keep the action moving. While this module can be played without employing the tournament points system, it adds an interesting element that DMs and players are likely to appreciate, so long as they agree that they want to make it a part of their experience.

Still, going back to my earlier caveat, I remind those playing the module that it seems to have been created with a very high degree of difficulty. In fact, in the first two rounds of tournament play, over 40% of the PCs that played through the rounds were killed, and about half of the parties that played through them ended up with negative total scores! In my experience as a DM, if I designed adventures in which PCs had such a high degree of failure and died nearly half the time, I’d have some very unhappy players!

So, again, decide with your gaming group what your purpose is in playing this module. Will you play with the point system as presented? Will you do the necessary prep-work to scale it to be closer to a standard module? Will PC deaths be permanent and exclude those characters from future play, or will they “not count”?

With all that said, let’s get to the merits of the module itself.

As you’ve come to expect from Goodman Games and the Dungeon Crawl Classics line, this module offers a good story line, some well-designed encounters and challenges, and enough intrigue to keep players interested to see it through to its conclusion. It is divided into three “rounds” of play, each of which is scored if you are playing by the tournament rules, but which essentially make up the three major scenes.

In the first round, players are thrown immediately into the action (not a lot of need for role playing through a hook in a tournament). If a DM wishes to build a hook in, he’ll need to put in a little prep time, but there’s enough background info given to facilitate this fairly easily. Once the PCs are on the path of the adventure, they quickly come into some interesting combat situations in quick succession that call on clever use of the combat rules to make for some serious challenges. Issues of light and concealment, monsters as obstacles, traps being sprung in the midst of combat, and swarms of foes threaten to overwhelm the party (which will find little rest)! When PCs learn the quirky back story of the “big boss” of the round, they are ready for an interestingly-”staged” climax that will force them to deal with foes coming at them from numerous directions, traps in the midst of combat, captives in need of rescue, and the perils of a rampaging chariot!

In round two, assuming players collected the information they needed to advance, they are whisked directly into the next scene. Again, adding detail will be up to the DM unless you choose to run it as-is. As the PCs negotiate a dungeon crawl they find it rife with intricate trap-monster combinations, puzzles that must be solved to unlock the power of a magical cauldron, a vicious race-against-the-clock skill challenge, and some intriguing red herrings. The climax here is quite interesting as the PCs race to reach their only means of escape by successfully piecing together clues that will help them to avoid traps and battle through the shadows! If the PCs somehow survive but miss their means of escape, they may also miss their only means of advancing to the next round. This, again, would call on the DM to either create another means of moving things along or his ability to “wing it.”

In the final round of the module the PCs find themselves delving through an expansive labyrinth toward their ultimate foe. Though foes, traps, and riddles abound, clever players will find that the means to defeat their very powerful foe (and some serious tournament points) abound as well! Best of all, should the PCs find themselves victorious in their endeavors in this round, an interesting twist of fate awaits them that you should enjoy playing out!

As for new stuff, there are four new monsters and a new magic item presented in the module. In addition, there are six pre-generated characters that are complete with stats for 1st and 2nd level. These can be used to quickly jump into play or, if players create their own PCs, can be used when the DM needs a fully-developed NPC immediately. Even the tournament play element is interesting enough on its own to bring some excitement to the table should you choose to play it as such!

Because of the limited purpose of this module, though, as a tournament module, there is admittedly some narrowness in the scope of some of its developments. Because the challenges posed are intended to play into the scoring process, players might feel “railroaded” into certain courses of action at pivotal points of the adventure. In the text of the module, the DM is encouraged to devise alternate means of keeping the storyline progressing at certain points because adventure-ending failure is an expected part of tournament play. If this is not something you are looking for in a module, then plan on putting in some prep hours or being ready to “wing it” so that you can keep the storyline moving when the players hit a roadblock. While for veteran DMs this is unlikely to be an issue, those less-experienced or those who do not wish to make this a part of their game experience may find a standard module (as opposed to a tournament module) more suited to them.