Review: Adventures from the Potbellied Kobold (5e)

Adventure15 Stand-alone Adventures
Author: Various Authors
PublisherJeff Stevens Games
System: Dungeons & Dragons – 5e
SummaryAdventures from the Potbellied Kobold provides you with fifteen unique adventures to use as one-shots, additions to your current campaign, or inspiration for a new campaign. We’ve even included a way to link several of the adventures, allowing you to run a short and quick campaign.

  • The adventures use basic 5E creatures, custom creatures, and several Kobold Press creatures.
  • Each adventure is written for a specific party level, but we’ve also included suggestions on how to adjust each adventure for a weaker or stronger adventuring party.
  • In addition to fun adventures, you’ll also find a few new magic items and NPCs to add to your game.

Snap Judgement for Busy Wyverns: Fifteen adventures that can easily be dropped into your campaign as side quests for when a player is unable to make a session, breaks from the main campaign to give you breathing room, or even as emergency time fillers for when you just don’t have enough prepped. Useful!

What is it?
This 175-page book contains 15 stand-alone adventures by various authors and designers, some quite well-known in the D&D freelance universe. Each adventure is short, can be self-contained or used as a jump-off point, and targeted towards a certain level (ranging from 1 to 9, but each has scaling tips). These bite-sized adventures can pretty much all be played in a single session of D&D, ranging from 60 minutes of play to about 4 hours on the high end. Each adventure has stat blocks included for any custom monsters, and there is an appendix in the back of the Kobold Press monsters used as well. The OGL is a wonderful thing. We get some high quality art of NPCs and some clean and well-made maps, with VTT files and tokens included. As part of a Kickstarter stretch goal, four new Character Backgrounds are included in the appendix too – Barber, Butcher, Bodyguard and Vagabond. I guess they couldn’t think of a 4th B-word. I’m not an expert on backgrounds, generally speaking, but they seem to be well thought out and functional. More options is always good, so if you have a player struggling to build their character, maybe one of these backgrounds could help. There’s also three NPCs that aren’t tied to any specific adventure, who can be dropped into your campaign as allies or antagonists. A nice touch.

What Makes it Good?
Look, coming up with adventures is hard – we all know this. It’s especially hard to do side quests – I’m sure many of us have a difficult time just keeping up with the main trunk of the storyline! That being said, there’s always a session that comes up faster than expected, or when a player has to miss on short notice, or even when the group just needs a breather from whatever intense plot they’re following. These diversionary adventures can fit the bill, and I guarantee they’re all better than what you might come up with just randomly rolling dice for 5 minutes and winging the rest. (Well, I don’t know you, maybe you’re an anomaly there – but they’re better than anything *I* could come up with that fast.)

Not every adventure is going to tickle your fancy, or fit your setting – whether it be because your players aren’t in a desert, your campaign doesn’t have clockwork automatons, or you all are tired of fighting goblins and just cannot do any more goblin adventures. That’s all fine – There’s still things here for you. Fetch the item, save the hostage, murder mystery dinner, lots of combat options, lots of role-playing solutions are available. Each one comes with suggested plot hooks for you to work with. Read through and bookmark your favorites!

I want do call out the NPC art in this – it’s really good and the character portraits are very evocative.

How do I use it?
As stated, just drop them in as a diversion in your campaign. Yes, the introduction does give you a sort-of campaign framework to tie all the adventures together – the titular Potbellied Kobold – but honestly I didn’t find it very compelling overall. I’d rather drop these in all over my world and let them stand on their own. That being said, the Potbellied Kobold herself is a fun NPC and should be used as the quest giver at least once!

Running the adventures – and prepping them – shouldn’t take very long, a deep read-through is likely enough, maybe with just a note or two for customization as needed. They’re short and self-contained enough that they’re not going to fall apart if you haven’t done a lot of prep work. These are meant to be run pretty much as-is, right off the page.

Downsides
While I don’t have any glaring downsides about the adventures themselves, there are a few things that I felt could have been improved. The first, just as a matter of taste – I didn’t really feel inspired or grabbed by most of the adventures. A lot of good but not much great. Nothing jumped out at me as bad, to be clear – just after reading many of them I didn’t feel any great compulsion to run them. The couple that did grab my attention were Athenaeum of Dust by Alex Clippinger, Shattered Grace by Michael Shea, and Spare Parts by Maxine Henry. These are all higher level adventures (for this book), so I’m not sure if that was coincidental or if I’m just partial to higher-level stories right now.

I need to go back and re-read the included random NPCs – they chose to sprinkle them throughout the book, and I was very confused about who they were and how they fit into the previous or subsequent adventure (they didn’t) – I think including them as an appendix in the back, like the backgrounds, would have been a better choice. I do love dropping random NPCs in my games, so I will likely use them sooner than I will any of these adventures.

A problem that often crops up in these compilation books is the jarring differences in author style – and it’s here too. I found a few adventures well organized and easy to read – and others not. Shattered Grace was the best laid out and organized, in my opinion, but I’m very partial to his prep and organizational style. I found Murder at Sable Mansion and The Orb of Envy particularly confusing and hard to read – they may also have the most discrete rooms and locations of the adventures in the book, so that might have something to do with it.

None of these are deal breakers.

Final Thoughts
Adventure compilations are hard. Quality will always vary given how many authors contribute, and not every adventure will be to the reader’s tastes. There’s a ton of art and maps to source, layout to try and cobble together, and a lot of editing and people to wrangle. Jeff Stevens has done a great job bringing all these authors, artists, cartographers, playtesters, and adventures together! It should be applauded – above average quality throughout and something for anyone. I love having these sorts of resources in my library, and this is a good addition to it.

Recommend or Not?
Conditional Recommend! If you don’t need short adventures, you don’t need this. If you don’t need content for levels 1 through 9, you don’t need this. If you’re miraculously talented at pulling NPCs, adventures and twists out of thin air – you don’t need this book! But for the rest of us – and I’m guessing the majority of us – this product holds some real value. I can always use content to panic-play at a moment’s notice when my players do something unexpected and skirt around the town I thought they’d spend 3 hours in! (This happened last week. I’m not bitter!)

I also think this is a GREAT product to have around for that day when you know one player won’t be able to show – and you have someone else who wants to DM for the first time. This is a GREAT way to get them into the big chair – the adventures are short, the prep is minimal, there’s no long tern commitment, most of the possibilities are covered and if they don’t like it – no big deal, it was only 2 hours anyway. As long as they have time to read the adventure they want to run beforehand, this is a great gateway experience to DMing.

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