Adventure Review: The Goblin Bathwater Incident
The Goblin Bathwater Incident
It’s time for another DMsGuild D&D 5E adventure review!
Synopsis from the Author:
Goblin Bathwater, a magical drug, has taken hold in a sleepy coastal town at the edge of the Empire. As the characters investigate the origin of the drug, they uncover an international criminal conspiracy, wild and ancient magic, and a threat to reality itself.
The introduction starts out with an Adventure Summary describing the different parts as they are likely to play out. It’s a bit confusing that it starts with “Part 2”, leaving the reader to wonder if they had missed “Part 1” somewhere. The answer is that the introduction is Part 1, of course, and it’s labelled in big font as part of the artwork at the top of the page. Visually, it’s easy to skip right over that and then see “Part 2” as the beginning.
Don’t get the wrong idea though- this D&D campaign is structured really well. The backstory is interesting and complex with some great character and NPC hooks for the DM to work with, with some fun and funny bits thrown in to keep things rolling.
Pacing: Pretty good, though I found myself wanting to leave out a lot of the backstory elements until later.
Readability: Great. It’s a fun adventure to read “cover to cover” in a sitting.
Quality: Great. The art, maps, layout and structure are good and the writing and editing are solid.
Balance: Decent. I felt like I wanted to adjust a lot of the encounters, but that probably has more to do with my play style than anything.
Sandbox vs Railroad: Decent. There are definitely a lot of directions the PCs can go and yet it feels a bit like you might have to “guide” them to get them where they need to go in the right order.
Maps: Great. My only comment here is that I would have liked to have a few more.
(UPDATE: The author made a quick sketch of the jail map available here.)
Usability: Good. I think this is meant to plug-and-play into any campaign world, but the complex and specific backstory makes me think it would need adjustments to work.
NPCs: Excellent. I believe the creator did an excellent job of putting together some genuinely interesting characters that have great interplay and backstories.
Overall: Get it. Even if you never run the whole thing, this will be an interesting and inspiring adventure to read and run.
Length: 54-page PDF with a map pack of 4 maps. Expected to be about 30 hours of play.
PC Levels: Starting at 1 (or 0 if you’re a jerk like me) and progressing to 3.
The first real scene happens in a tavern, though it’s less tropey than that sounds. There is a lot of intrigue and potential for roleplay and social interactions, and then it turns crazy. The players arrive in town in time for a prize fight between representatives of the two political factions and then things go a bit off the rails.
This scene can be a lot of fun. I have to admit, when I ran it I kind of rushed it more than I would have liked. Despite that, it was still a lot of fun. It turns into a full-on barroom brawl with some very strange elements going on in the background. The designer includes some helpful advice along the way, including some guidance on how to handle the chaos of the brawl:
“Instead of simulating a whole crowd of crazed patrons, it has proven easiest to describe some kind of problem or altercation in the immediate vicinity of each character at the start of their turn.
For example: “Beiren, you start moving to the edge of the room, to get out of the crowd, as a middle-aged woman lifts a chair over her head and steps towards you with a mad cackle. What do you do?”
Honestly, after reading the whole adventure, I still think this is my favorite part.
Overall, I might compare this to Lost Mines of Phandelver- based in a small town off the beaten path, complex inter-related stories, a great balance of combat to roleplay and meant to guide characters from 1st to 3rd levels. Also, it’s very professionally presented and laid out with excellent quality art and writing.
However, I would say this adventure contains some interesting bits and backstory that are absolutely more interesting and inventive than LMoP.
At the same time, sometimes a strength is also a weakness. There is so much great story in this adventure that it feels a bit over-burdened by detail and complexity. I found myself thinking I would probably ignore some elements and save them for later, possibly even other games. Why save it for later? Because it truly is excellent content.
To contact the author, Marius Brunner, head over to his Twitter account.
The Goblin Bathwater Incident can be found on DMsGuild.
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