A Pot of Broken Bones (& Halfling Broth) (Castles & Crusades)
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
Page Count: 16
Release Date: 06/15/2013
Saturday June 13th was Free RPG Day 2013, in which participating retailers were able to give away copies of various RPG samples. A few companies did quick start rules, other adventures, and some even did a tandem hybrid. A Pot of Broken Bones (& Halfling Broth) was Troll Lord Games’ offering for this year, and it was the product I was most interested in, as I like the system a lot. There are no quick start rules for the adventure, so you need someone who knows the C&C system to run it for you; preferably someone who knows the system well and can explain it to newcomers. As well, this particular adventure is for characters between levels 3 and 8, and there are four Level 4 pre-generated characters included. Between this and the lack of quick start rules, it does mean that everyone involved needs to have some prior understanding of how the C&C system works… which isn’t THAT hard, considering its an OGL system, but it does mean A Pot of Broken Bones isn’t the best thing to throw at a group of people completely new to Castles & Crusades. With only a cursory explanation of what dice to roll when, you should be able to have a really fun time with this adventure though.
The adventure itself if a lot of fun and very well written. It’s short, but with random encounters and a potential (and very unexpected) third act, it can really lengthen the adventure to two or more gaming sessions depending on how players handle it. I really liked the twist that players can run into if they play their cards right (wrong?) and it completely changes both the dynamics and expectations of the entire affair.
The plot of A Pot of Broken Bones is a short and simple one, which makes it perfect as a quick freebie to entice veteran gamers to try a new system or to reward long time fans of the system. A Halfling village has been ransacked by a pair of trolls, and the three that haven’t been captured, killed, or eaten hire the player characters to take out the trolls and free what remaining brethren they might have. Players have a variety of options on what to do about the trolls. They can use brute force to slay them, Stealth to sneak past, or guile and charisma to perhaps befriend or barter with the trolls into letting the Halflings go. I really enjoyed that, even as a simpler adventure, A Pot of Broken Bones didn’t play out as a simple hack and slash dungeon crawl. I loved that the text offered nonviolent solutions to the problem, although the adventure does admit most players will take the more direct route of sticking sharp things through soft things that scream and bleed.
The adventure also takes place under freezing winter conditions, meaning players with have to deal with the chill and snow in addition to two powerful antagonists. Of course, the troll’s lair has potential dangers besides the gruesome twosome, so players will have to be prepared for that as well. Of course, players won’t see the huge twist coming if they encounter it (it’s possible to run the entire adventure without triggering it) and as I said earlier, I was blown away by it. This alone turns a simple adventure for new gamers until a highly memorable affair.
One odd note about this adventure. I found the cover ink came off on my hands and fingers very easily – a problem I haven’t had with any of the other products I picked up on Free RPG Day. I’ve never had that problem with a physical C&C release before either, so I’m not sure if I just got an odd cover or if this is an issue with all the C&C Free RPG releases this year, so just a head’s up in that regard.
Out of the sixteen pages in the adventure, ten are actual content, one is a map of two locations, one is the OGL license and title page, two are product ads and two are the four pregenerated characters. There are two small drawings, each of a troll in the text, but otherwise the piece is mostly art free. Not surprising, as this is a free giveaway. I really like the cover art though.
All in all, I loved this adventure. A Pot of Broken Bones (& Halfling Broth) is something worth paying for, so to get this adventure for free is an amazing deal. It is well worth playing through as veterans of RPGS and/or C&C will love this thing, and the twist will throw them off their guard and then some. For younger or newer gamers, this adventure may well turn them into big time Castles & Crusades fans, leading them to purchase the core handbooks and many an adventure. I know it would have piqued my interest enough to invest in the system had I not already owned much of what’s out for it. Whether you’re new to Castles & Crusades or have only ever heard about it from reading my reviews, try and track down a copy of A Pot of Broken Bones (& Halfling Broth). You won’t regret it. I normally don’t pick up physical releases for RPGS these days, but this adventure was well worth driving to a participating game store and then some.