It’s a safe bet that if you hatched anywhere between the late 60s to late 80s you’re at least familiar with The Goonies. Love it, hate it, indifferent to it, you know of it. Its influence on kids in the 80s is undeniable. Perhaps that’s why the cover of Leonardo Benucci’s first published work on DMs Guild, appropriately named First Adventure, evokes such visceral emotions. I didn’t immediately think of The Goonies when I saw the cover. But I suspected this adventure would be amazing. Once I read the credits page I understood the reason I had such ineffable emotions. The cover was inspired by The Goonies movie poster. Of course, I wouldn’t dare hold Leo Benucci to the same standard that I might hold Spielberg or Donner. Nonetheless, I had high hopes.
Writer(s): Leonardo Benucci
Publisher: DMs Guild
Product Length: 67 pages (version 2.5)
Available Format(s): PDF
First Adventure is a one-shot adventure designed for young and/or new players to Dungeons & Dragons. Players will take on the role of orphaned children—there are rules for creating your own if you don’t want to use the ones provided—who hope to fulfill the dying wish of their adoptive mother.
The premise of this adventure is great. Playing kids as a class (effectively level 0) is inspiring and it’s a wonderful way to let new players become acquainted with D&D. This gives a lot of potential for the players to immerse themselves in the story that is about to unfold. The pre-generated character sheets are cute and helpful in preventing the game from getting bogged down even before it starts. Too many potential players rarely get past the character generation step of tabletop RPGs. Though it would be great if the character sheets were provided as a separate file for easier printing without the parchment background of the whole PDF.
The story revolves around recovering a legendary wondrous item, the “Flower of a Thousand Colors” for Mamma Uba. So she can “see such beauty with [her] own eyes…to know the scent of the thousand colored flower”. But there is a sinister twist that I won’t reveal here. The child heroes will have to negotiate an abandoned mine, unlock the secrets of an enchanted waterfall, and even discover an alternative means to vanquish a foe…even if it takes them nearly two decades to do it.
Matteo Ballati‘s cover art is beautiful and he did the interior art as well. Unfortunately, the interior art is all black and white, except for the Flower of a Thousand Colors. While I get the purpose of desaturating the colors to make the Flower all the more important, something is lost in the grayscale versions of the art for me. Between the desaturation and the hard edges (no background transparency), the presentation suffers some. It’s not bad. But it could be great!
Make no mistake, the art is amazing. Most of it evokes a lot of emotion. But I would’ve loved it in full color and to see it better integrated.
The writing is good and effective but it is also verbose. It’s dense text and there is more to read aloud or paraphrase than most DMs will be comfortable with. Especially if the DM is playing with really young players with short attention spans.
The opportunities for roleplaying and exploration are pretty good. But combat is lacking. In fact, if the players have the Flower, engaging in combat can effectively, and abruptly, end the adventure. It may be easier to understand if you consider the three pillars of an adventure (social interaction, exploration, and combat) as the legs of a three-legged table. Having one leg shorter than the other two won’t necessarily make the table wobbly or unsteady. However, you can’t really lay anything on top of the table. It may still look interesting but it loses a lot of its purpose.
All in all, First Adventure is a wonderful effort and is without a doubt, a good way to introduce kids to D&D. But experienced players may find themselves frustrated at the linear story wherein the intent is for them to lose encounters. More introverted players may not love the fact that to succeed on one particular encounter, they must make the DM laugh, in real life. No dice rolls. The players must perform and elicit laughs from the DM. Lastly, true to many an 80s movie—and much to my chagrin—there is a plot twist at the adventure’s end that the players have no way of discovering beforehand or even anticipating. Even if they can anticipate the twist, there is little they could do about it as the PCs are only level 5 at this point and challenging a CR 18 foe would be foolish.
This adventure works well for its intended audience: kids. Leo Benucci shows great promise as a creator and I believe he will wow us in forthcoming productions.
- fun high-adventure style
- amazing art, inside and out, by Matteo Ballati
- good maps
- beautiful, kid-friendly character sheets with complete rules for creating additional kid characters
- verbose text
- the document is much longer than necessary due to 40+ pages of character art, character sheets, and maps in the appendices rather than as separate zip files