Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/25/tabletop-review-fighting-fire-ernie-gygax-benefit-adventure/
Ernest Gary Gygax Junior did not have a good 2013. At the beginning of the year his home and many of his worldly possessions burned down. Since then, his brother Luke has set up the Ernie Gygax Fire Relief Trust Fund so that gamers around the world can help him out. After all he and his family have done for the industry, it’s not a surprise that companies are donating profits or making outright contributions to the fund. Case in point: Creative Mountain Games. CMG is donating a third of all profits from Fighting Fire to the fire relief fund, which is pretty nice. So by purchasing this, you get a nice adventure, keep a small indie publisher going and help Ernie Gygax get back on his feet. Wins all around!
Fighting Fire is a system neutral adventure. This means there are no stats or mechanics. You are just given the story, a list of major characters and antagonists, and from there, the DM has to flesh things out. On one hand, this means you can use Fighting Fire with any fantasy based system, from Dungeon Crawl Classics to Castles & Crusades. Since it is a Gygax tribute, you’re probably better off thematically with one of the earlier versions of Dungeons & Dragons. Regardless of which system you choose, the fact remains you can play Fighting Fire without being locked in to a specific set of mechanics or rules. On the other hand, system neutral adventures require a lot of work from the DM. You’ll have to look up stats for monsters (or design them outright), craft maps of locations and more. If you purchase published adventures because you lack the patience, skill or time to make your own, you probably won’t get much out of Fighting Fire.
Fighting Fire has a somewhat comedic look. It does try to make light of the events that hit Ernie Gygax by turning them into the basis of a fantasy adventure. I’m sure some people may not be comfortable with, say, Ernesto Magnifico, a mighty wizard, who had his tower of solitude burned to the ground, along with many a mystical artifact. That might strike a little too close to home. For others, it is a wink and a nod to real life and an attempt to find something good at the heart of a tragedy. Whichever side you yourself fall on, the fact remains, the intent of Fighting Fire is a good one.
Fighting Fire takes place in the town of Gamington, a neutral town where many a heroic battle is fought. Sides with an itch or need to conflict come to Gamington, not to do battle with swords or spells, but with dice, miniatures and rulebooks. Yes, the treaties of Gamington have allowed surrounding countries to settle their disputes through tabletop war games rather than conventional methods that typically cost a lot of money and cause a lot of death. Until now, the use of tabletop gaming to settle disputes has served the countries surrounding Gamington, but with an outright attack on Ernesto’s tower, fingers are pointing and faith in the tabletop way of settling disputes is badly shaken. After all, if someone attacks the great Ernesto with fire, who is to say a full on assault of a country is not next?
This is, of course, where the PCs come into play. Due to the length of the adventure and the challenges it contains, they should be medium to high level characters. The PCs will have to make their way through a lot of encounters to find the culprit. There are a few false endings too, because right as you THINK you are at the climactic battle with the big bad, you learn there is actually someone else pulling the strings. As such, the adventure can go on for several sessions. It could even make up an entire campaign depending on how well the characters come to like Gamington and get to know its residents. There is a LOT of detail to Fighting Fire, with information on multiple local businesses, the most important residents, and detailed descriptions of the surrounding areas. I’m surprised at how much content was crammed into these thirty-four pages.
Of course, it all comes down to whether or not Fighting Fire is an adventure worth investing in. The truth of the matter is that, as the DM, you will make or break this piece. As a system neutral affair, your DM really has to be meticulous and willing to do a lot more work than you normally would see in a published adventure. This is especially true with Fighting Fire because of the sheer amount of content provided in it. It is as long, if not longer than most adventures with stat blocks and system mechanics written in, so while you’re getting a mini campaign of sorts, the DM will probably spend more time tailoring this than actually running it for his or her friends. Another good example is that there are four maps crammed onto a single page in the back of the adventure. Most DMs will want to probably redraw the maps onto a single page so that they can have more detail and room for notes. In the hands of a less experienced DM, this adventure will probably flop, simply because Fighting Fire is more of an overview or collection of story/encounter seeds rather than the hand holding process a lot of system based adventures are. Even if you don’t ever play Fighting Fire, it is a fun read, and it’s supporting a worthy cause, so you may want to consider purchasing it just for that reason.
Overall, Fighting Fire isn’t for everyone, and certainly not for people who are relatively new to gaming, as it will be a hard adventure to make work and there won’t be the emotional/historical ties to the product. Older gamers however, especially those well versed in Tactical Studies Rules era gaming, will more than likely get a kick out of Fighting Fire.