Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/07/23/tabletop-review-castles-and-crusades-river-walk/
River Walk is the third episode of Troll Lord Games “weekly” adventure series known as “Adventures on the Powder River.” I put weekly in quotations because, although it is supposed to be a weekly release, it’s been more like a fortnight. To the Damenheit Bridge was released on June 15th and Thorns for Beer was released on June 28th. Three weeks and a day later, River Walk has finally been released. Let’s hope that the time between episodes starts to shorten up instead of spreading out even further. Otherwise, it’ll be September before we get the next installment, entitled Shingles of Gold.
If you’re new to the “Adventures on the Powder River” series, these are short, six to eleven page mini-adventures, meant to be played in a single session. They can be played separately or as one big adventure. At only ninety-nine cents per section, that’s not a bad price, especially as the content has been pretty decent so far. River Walk is written as if the DM and players have just finished up Thorns For Beer, however, so if you HAVEN’T, the DM will have to do a bit of restructuring of both the events and flow. Of course, you can always pick up Thorns for Beer as well, since it’s less than a dollar. I don’t know about you, but generally, when I see a “#3″ on a cover, it makes me want to start with (or at least read) the first adventure in the series.
When Thorns For Beer ended, the characters might have been given a task by a Fey that involves getting a small frog statue from a giant. In River Walk, you’re actually given the stats for the giant (actually a Cyclops), along with a second quest that has you charged with dispatched with the one-eyed menace – this one coming from the townspeople of Willowbreak shortly after the events of Thorns For Beer. On one hand, I’m glad they provided a second hook for this quest, but there are three big problems. The first is that the second hook assumes you have accomplished most of the main goal of Thorns For Beer but haven’t reached the ending. This makes no sense to me, as by the time that adventure is done, you’ll have left the village and confronted the fey, who then sends you to attack the Cyclops in this adventure. To get this second quest, characters would have to have backtracked to Willowbrook or had their DM tie the pieces together before encountering the fey. This second option is an impossibility because it ignores the fact that the “Powder River” series is meant to be episodic. The second problem is that most gaming troupes will have already had their DM make up stats for the giant and run the battle against it because River Walk is a month late. Even the most ardent C&C fan isn’t going to want to wait that long for their next gaming fix. Finally, River Walk doesn’t feel like it works as a standalone piece at all, mainly because it ties in so heavily to Thorns For Beer. Although the content here is good, the point of this series is that these short adventures work as one-shots as well as a concurrent series, and River Walk fails big time in that regard.
As a sequel to Thorns For Beer though, River Walk does a decent job. You get to continue the previous story, including a very detailed encounter with the Cyclops on the Powder River in some rapids. It’s a neat idea for a battle, and it’s a lot of fun to see players try to figure out how to navigate both unfamiliar terrain and fight a giant at the same time. The entire conflict takes up two pages of the seven page adventure, so expect this to be the bulk of the experience here. Aside from random encounters, you can probably play through River Walk in an hour – maybe two tops. That might sound exceedingly short, but remember, this is meant to be a very quick one shot.
So with two pages devoted to the Cyclops encounter, one page for the cover art and another for legal mumbo jumbo text, that still leaves us with three pages of content. In those three pages you get setup for the battle with the Cyclops, a map of the area, a nice amount of background information on the Powder River, two random encounter tables (one for on the water itself and one for when you’re on the banks/forest of the river) and a third of a page talking about the different ways to traverse the Powder River and the difficulties that can come with each. As always, I’m impressed with the sheer amount of DM-only content Troll Lord Games is able to pack into these mini-adventures, as you get everything you need to successfully run the adventure… and then some.
All in all, I give this a tentative thumb’s up. River Walk really doesn’t work as a stand-alone, but it’s a nice addition to Thorns For Beer. I can’t recommend purchasing this unless you have Thorns For Beer, but that ends up only being a two dollar purchase, so it’s not like it will break someone’s wallet to pick up both. River Walk is definitely the shortest in the “Powder River” series in terms of playable content, and it’s also the shallowest so far. The fact that two of the five pages of content are taken up by random encounter tables lets you know that Troll Lord really had to pad this particular episode. Definitely pick this up if you’re planning on playing or reading the full “Powder River” series, but so far, the only must get for any Castles & Crusades fan is the Thorns For Beer chapter.