Quirin Adventure #2: First Challenge is a d20 Fantasy adventure by GMC. The product comes in a zipped file which is slightly over four megabytes in size. The zipped file has two PDFs, one of the product, and a printer-friendly version thereof. The main PDF is thirty-two pages long, including front and back covers, a page for the credits/legal/table of contents, and a page for the OGL. Both PDFs have full bookmarks and have the table of contents hyperlinked.
The main PDF has a fair amount of artwork. The front and back covers are done in color, and the table of contents page has a colored background. Beyond that, several pieces of black and white art appear periodically throughout the book. There is also a map of the town of Clearwood in color with various locations marked, and a black and white version without markings to be given to the players. The printer-friendly version eliminates the covers and maps altogether, and also is devoid of the interior art as well. Boxed text is still shaded, though.
The premise of First Challenge is that the PCs, for mysterious reasons, are suddenly all magically transported to just outside the town of Clearwood, likely bringing the party together for the first time. They then band together and enter the town, which happens to be having a festival, which the PCs can enter to try and gain much-needed funds (presumably to try and get home). Clearwood, however, is a town in trouble. The evil gnome Zetto and his band of thugs are using a combination of bribery, staged heroics, and lies to make themselves into the heroes of Clearwood, and this includes winning the festival tournament, thus pitting the PCs against them.
After giving the background for the adventure, as well as very extensive notes on scaling the adventure for up to 10th-level characters, the town of Clearwood itself is described. This takes up roughly a third of the product, as several notable locations and NPCs are discussed. Enough information is given here that it seems like the designer wanted to intimate that the characters are going to be here for a while, and so should become familiar with the town and its people. The actual events of the tournament seem almost secondary in comparison, with Zetto and his band reverting to dirtier tactics until they eventually take a hostage to flee the town when they're undone.
An appendix gives a quick chart to track the tournament progression, as well as one new piece of equipment and two new minor magic items. It then gives statistics for the creatures and NPCs described earlier, essentially statting out everyone who?s anyone in Clearwood. The player's map of the town rounds out the product.
Altogether, First Challenge is largely what the GM makes out of it. There's plenty of information given here to run a starting campaign, but aside from the tournament (and a few minor occurrences in town), this is almost more of a supplement than an adventure. The adventure provides everything needed to set things up for the GM, but after the initial set up leaves him to his own devices; inexperienced GMs might find themselves floundering after the initial premise is taken care of. First Challenge might itself be something of a challenge to run, but for a Game Master who has a plan in mind, and wants to build a campaign from the ground up, it's a very useful resource.
LIKED: Clearwood serves excellently as a starting point for a new campaign. The small town is a believable home away from home for the PCs as they struggle to figure out what brought them there, and how they can get back. In short, there's great potential here to build a campaign from the ground up.
DISLIKED: Like most GMC products, this one is written in a style that could best be summarized as "intense." The information is presented quickly and pulls no punches, which can be overwhelming for inexperienced GMs. The entire adventure is like this, as the adventuring possibilities pale in comparison to the town information given. A GM will be best served by this adventure if he's done plenty of planning in advance for what to do after it ends.
QUALITY: Very Good