Most official 5e adventure collections come in one of two styles; a campaign style storyline meant to be played straight through or a collection of vaguely themed adventures to be dropped in throughout a campaign. That’s the first surprise I discovered upon opening up my review copy of Adventures From The Potbellied Kobold from Jeff Stevens Games. This collection is all of the above. It can be played as a linear campaign, as a collection of adventures to supplement an ongoing campaign, or as a mix. What other usefulness might be contained inside?
The titular kobold is not the name of the tavern where the PCs get their quests, but instead the main NPC upon which the campaign aspect is centered. The NPC suffers under a curse where she’s been transformed by a rival into a kobold and needs the PC’s help to get the spell components to reverse the transformation. The clever key here is that most of the spell components are entirely inconsequential to the adventures included within. There are 15 tales inside the book, written by 5e luminaries like Jeff C. Stevens, JVC Parry, Kat Kruger, Shawn Merwin, Cat Evans, M.T. Black, James Introcaso, Oliver Darkshire, Hannah Rose, Mike Shea, Toni Winslow-Brill, Alan Tucker, Jean Headley, Alex Clippinger, Maxine Henry, Greg Marks, Tony Petrecca and Cody Faulk. Only 10 adventures connect to the campaign directly and all the adventures are self-contained. Rather than the focus of the book, the campaign feels a little more like a collector’s quest in an open world video game. The extra adventures also mean that if the players miss their opportunity to collect an item, the dungeon master can slip it into one of the unaffiliated adventures pretty easily.
The adventures are written in a broad format that are targeted for a specific level but also allow for a decent amount of adjustment. With so many writers coming from the ranks of the Dungeon Masters Guild, it’s unsurprising to see suggestions for how to increase or decrease the challenge of the adventure. There are also a lot of adventures that favor non-violent resolution to the adventure, such as negotiation or appeasing the bad guy with an item. These elements, combined with a sense of whimsy throughout the whole book, make this an adventure series that’s a good pick for parents running Dungeons & Dragons for their kids. There are still demons and battles, but the subject matter is straightforward and the characters are presumed to be capital-h Heroes. Kids might also need some help solving the puzzles, but then, that is also often the case with older players in my experience.
Each adventure kicks off with a short summary and an estimated time it will take to run the adventure. Most clock in at three to four hours, with a few running a bit more Adventurer’s League friendly 2 hours. The adventures tend to stick to exploring a single location, ranging from a haunted mansion to a giant clockwork gear. A few locations have steampunk elements and the structure of the adventures varies as well. There are the usual dungeon crawls, but there’s also a Clue-inspired mystery, figuring out how to escape from a personal demiplane and a race with a rival party of orcs to stop a demon from escaping a prison.
Jeff Stevens Games also made an interesting decision in how to handle monsters in the adventures. Rather than refer back to the Monster Manual or create brand new monsters for each adventure, there’s an index in the back of the book containing monsters from the Tome of Beasts. For those who have that Kobold Press book it's a chance to see some of the monsters in action. For those who don’t, the reprints in the back of the book offer a sampler platter of these creatures for those looking to try out the tougher challenge of these monsters.
If you’re looking for something a little different for your D&D table, Adventures From The Potbellied Kobold might be the curve ball you need.
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