Review: Sellswords of Punjar

This comes as more than a day late and a dollar short, but I felt that I should review this anyway for 2-3 important reasons (give or take your perspective). The first is that Red Jason attempted to run this for Adrian and myself last week. We both pulled double-duty on our characters but eventually gave up the good fight when we found ourselves bottlenecked in an ally and were forced to tag-team the front line just to give the fighter a chance to kick up his feat before being knocked off of them.
The second is that this is technically the first time I've actually gotten my hands on one. I dont buy them because of bad quality or anything, I just dont have time to buy them. See, I get the "official" ones by Wizards, and Red Jason gets these. This habitual, almost compulsive behavior has left us with a slowly expanding library of adventures that we'll "get around to later". That being said, we're tenacious fuckers and have decided to run games on days that fall sometime after Monday and before Sunday, when we always game anyway.
The third reason is that now me and Red Jason have a consolidated blog where can communicate our thoughts to whomever the hell falls for the scam of clicking on the link that he has sequestered away in his signature on the Goodman Games forums. That and apparently Google directs people here from more reliable and less-biased sources (/sarcasm).

Sellswords of Punjar is the 53rd DCC released by Goodman Games. I've never played in one before Red Jason ran one, but Adrian has lauded them in the past. Of course, Adrian also compulsively buys Warhammer Fantasy armies with the chance of actually painting and using one falling somewhere between not-going-to-happen and negative infinity. Goodman Games prides itself on the fact that the golden days of role-playing didnt concern themselves with petty notions that NPCs might want to do things other than be shishkabobbed on the point of your spear, and that monsters didnt have backstories that served no purpose beyond distracting the DM from its stat-block. No, the best adventures are dungeon crawls, and they dont try to pretend otherwise.
Of course this narrow viewpoint isnt meant to be taken too literally. There have to be NPCs that you can communicate with, otherwise you wouldnt be able to trigger the fetch quest (har har)!

Actually this is more true than you might think. There isnt a lot of setup time: the DM is free to pick a rationale for heading to the dungeon, and there you have it the game starts with the entire party bunched up at Cutpurse Alley, ready to go inside and commiting all sorts of crimes not the least of which is aggravated assault. I use the term "dungeon" loosely since its really an alley that connects to a couple of large buildings that more or less serve as rooms in a more traditional dungeon complex.
The point of the adventure is to go into Cutpurse Alley and kill the Begger King. Easy to remember and very straightforward. This is the kind of plot that works best for a pickup or introductary game, but also works wonders if your players have the attention span of a goldfish. Like all good adventures, this one doesnt railroad you to the goal: you are free to get into this place and navigate it by whatever means you feel appropriate. Just dont count on Stealth if anyone in the party is running around with ten tons of metal on hand.

Goodman Games was kind enough to supply a map, but for a location that is supposed to comprise an entire neighborhood it seems a bit small. As mentioned before there is an incredibly narrow alley that the party can only file down singly, which wouldnt be so bad except for the fact that like, a hundred buggers with Reach 2 show up and stick your fighter with enough spears to make him look like an armored porcupine. Its like the Begger King specifically chose this neighborhood becuase the choke point is absolutely flawless just in case a band of powerfully armed vagabonds came trolloping through with (nebulously)good intentions in mind.
Note: On the other hand, you can print out roof-tiles that conceal the rooms inside the building, allowing the DM to remove them on a need to know basis, and its a minor if nifty touch that has no bearing on the playability of the adventure.

Back to the actual game! This D-Day style scenario occurs after you get through "The Gate". "The Gate" is a normal gate that was probably stolen from one of the rest rooms right out of the Tomb of Horrors. If you try to open it, you get chewed on by a demonic maw that injects you with poison. If you try to climb over it, spears shoot out of the top and skewer you. With a Perception DC of 20 its unlikely that anyone but a sensory optimized elf ranger is going to notice this thing. Worse, the poison has your character progress through one or two beneficial stages before eventually fading from existence if you fail too many saves.

Other than the crippling start, the adventure is a lot of fun, just in a bad need for renovation. The room sizes range from cramped to closet-space, making it incredibly hard to manuever in a tactical manner. If you are playing a wizard, then hopefully your allies dont mind the friendly fire or the fact that you are relegated to a less-damaging warlock wannabe. A lot of these problems can be solved with additional DM prep time spent enlarging the map a bit. My advice is to increase the sizes of everything by one-half to just flat out doubling it. Add some terrain featurs like actual items in the bazaar and beds or cots or what-have-you in other rooms. Just add some shit everywhere if you are going for authenticity. Make it look like thieves and beggers live here just to spruce it up a bit while still giving the players room to avoid recreating the bad gameplay from Eye of the Beholder.
Since these adventures are pretty straightforward and dont assume a lot of wasted time going around town harassing random NPCs with pointless dialogue, it instead amounts to something closer to what a DM would require running an adventure from Wizards of the Coast, and about a tenth of the time running anything from Paizo.

Again, this adventure is a lot of fun. We played through it once before a long time ago and are going to run it again with the aforementioned modifications in mind. We're also not playing with a couple of douchebags, which can turn any otherwise fun game to shit faster than eating spicy food and chasing it with ExLax.
If you are looking for your money's worth, then it certainly comes down to what you want. Pathfinder runs at about $20 a pop but is filled with a lot of text that only diehard fans will read, and even then most of it wont come into play at all. Adventures from Wizards come in tagboard folders that are prone to getting crushed flat, but dole out more material and maps. The downside is that you pay almost double the price, so its a pretty equal ratio there.
At $15 bucks I feel like that it was a fairly good deal for the amount of entertainment that we were able to tap it for. Its easy to pick up, read, and run.
On the other hand, I paid about $80 for the entire Rise of the Runelords adventure path and managed to squeeze a few encounters out of it before shelving it, but thats for a different review.

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