Tabletop RPG Review: Treasure Hunt

I make no secret about my general dislike of Dungeons & Dragons in all its various editions.  I’ve played every version other than 4th Ed., and I’ve disliked them all, and before you say it, I generally agree that it’s not the game, it’s the people.  However, I’ve played D&D in groups with whom I’ve played countless other games that I’ve enjoyed, yet D&D specifically has been unenjoyable.  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me a dozen times and you must be D&D.  With that said, Dungeons & Dragons does have fifty years of material that’s been released, and while I may dislike the rules of the game itself, a great deal of material produced for it is ripe for theft.  Thus, I’ve acquired Treasure Hunt, a module for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

Was this the first Level Zero adventure published?  I’m not sure, but it must be among the first at the very least.  Like Dungeon Crawl Classics famous Funnel modules, Treasure Hunt begins with the characters as simple, unskilled peasants.  No classes have been determined.  That comes later.  I was prompted to pick this up by a few positive reviews and I’m glad I did.  It won’t take much effort to translate this over to a good beginning scenario for beginning DCC characters. Sure, this has a bunch of AD&D specific rules, but those are easy to ignore or cover over with DCC.

The basic premise is solid.  Characters have all been captured and are locked in the hull of a ship.  That ship gets caught in a storm and dashed upon an unknown and desolate island.  The characters escape and face new dangers.  It teaches a lot of good lessons for beginning players, too.  You have to be somewhat proactive, or else you’ll die from exposure.  You have to work together or else you’ll be recaptured.  You may want to be patient or avoid combat when it’s possible.  Pay attention.  Check the shadows.  Don’t run headlong into danger, but make sure you don’t lollygag.

The scenario also provides a lot of varied encounters.  There’s combat, to be sure.  But there are also several opportunities for roleplaying.  There are traps to figure out and avoid.  There are plans to be made and curveballs to work around.  It introduces multiple elements that might be good for later scenarios, assuming folks survive, as well as various fantastical aspects.  And while the scenario is not really “railroady” in that there are multiple ways to solve it, survive, escape, or triumph, it likely provides a nice, dramatic ending.

As far as translating it to DCC goes, much of it can be straight-ported.  If the PCs have earned enough experience by their first night of sleep, I might let them level-up at that time.  If not then, perhaps when they descend into the catacombs.  The way I’ve handled mid-adventure leveling from Zero to One in the past is to say, “your character had been studying this previously, and now it has all come together.”  It’s not like Level Zero characters tend to have much personality, anyway.  Heck, I rarely even think about naming them until they’ve hit Level One.  Until then, they’re just meat-sacks and monster food.

I would probably cut down on a couple of the traps and perhaps have some clue as to where the entrance to the catacombs are.  Also, I wouldn’t have the prince’s crypt bricked up.  It being DCC, I’ve thought about how to add a few extra weird things.  I’m not sure where I’m at with that, so far.  Perhaps something shuffles out of the sea, making it dangerous to be outside at night.  Even the Orcs and Goblins huddle in the darkness.  Because I’m me, I want to find a place to potentially put a game-breaking item into the hands of the PCs.  I’m thinking it might be on the crashed ship, or perhaps hidden in the temple?  Maybe the goddess’s blessing is a bit more extreme?  I’ll have to mull that over before running some players through it.

I would probably flesh out Melisana a bit.  She has potential to be a good source of information as well as a potential for drama.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense for her to be a romantic interest, as she’s of somewhat high status and the PCs are dirty peasants.  Still, stranger things have happened.  But she could certainly be a useful person to know in future scenarios.  Old Man Keestake could be a ton of fun to play, but I think it’s important you strike the right tone with him.  He’s clearly cracked, but also knows a lot.  So you don’t want him to be so annoying that the PCs drive him away. Also, if you keep the ghoul, which I probably wouldn’t, I thought it would be cool to give it and Keestake a connection. Like perhaps it was Keestake’s brother or wife or best friend, and that’s part of why it’s still around. It could make for an emotional kick if it’s discovered that they share a bond. A very sad bond.  Finally, I might add at least one or two named Orcs and Goblins, who might actually interact with the PCs.  Perhaps they can strike a deal to play one faction off the other.  What if one of them actually survives the finale?

If everything goes close to the way the module expects, the PCs should come away with a goodly amount of treasure and a boat, as well as, hopefully, a wealthy woman to return home.  This should set them up as adventurers if that’s what they choose to do.  The boat, if they don’t sell it, could be a great tool for a nautical themed campaign to follow.

I really enjoyed this book and definitely plan to plunder it and use it for Dungeon Crawl Classics.  It has a lot of useful advice and feels both well thought out and well play-tested.  I think this will make a great campaign opener, especially if folks are new to the hobby.  It has the right mix of old school and new school vibes.  You can get it in PDF or print on demand from DriveThru for a reasonable price.

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