Castles & Crusades: Golden Shingles
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
Page Count: 7
Cost: 99 Cents
Release Date: 08/22/2012
Get it Here: RPGNow.com
To say Golden Shingles has been a bit of a mess is a bit of an understatement. First it took nearly a month for this fourth piece in the Adventures On the Powder River to come out when this series was originally meant to be a weekly series of releases. Whoops. Second, in part three of the series, it listed the name of the adventure as Shingles of Gold. The names of each chapter keep changing from what is foretold in the preceding release to what is finally published. This is minor, but it also makes one wonder if Troll Lord Games is just whipping this out on the fly after each installment hits retail instead of having these done and in the can for some time. Finally, the first two attempts at releasing Golden Shingles on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG had some pretty big technical snafus and it took until the early hours of August 22nd for the actual PDF to be downloadable, roughly a full week later than when Troll Lord originally put it up for retail. All in all, that’s a pretty bad start for Golden Shingles. Unfortunately, the actual adventure itself doesn’t fare much better and it’s honestly the worst in the series so far. So much for my hopes that the even bits of Adventures On the Powder River would follow the Star Trek movie motif of evens being the good ones.
The Adventures on the Powder River series were originally conceived of as a series of adventures that could be played in a single night. Each adventure was to be able to stand on its own or could be connected to the previous pieces of the series to form one long adventure/campaign. The first two adventures in the series followed this idea pretty well – but then came River Walk, which really couldn’t be played on its own as it requires a good deal of set up from the previous adventures to make it work. This is the same fate that has befallen Golden Shingles. It’s designed in such a way that if you haven’t played at least Thorns for Beer (and probably River Walk as well…), it will be a bit nonsensical to players and more effort than it is worth for the GM to make it stand alone or fit into some other campaign. This is disappointing, to say the least.
Golden Shingles starts off with characters in Greely’s, the tavern they saved in Thorns For Beer. Here players learn of the “cobbled way”, a twenty mile long cobbled road that once led to a temple of an ancient forest god, but of which only ruins remain. The adventure suggests that it can work as a stand-alone…if you just skip a page and a half of content. Now that would be fine if this was a full length adventure, but Golden Shingles is only seven pages long – one of which is the cover, another is the legal mumbo jumbo, for the Open Game License, and one is for the stats of a new creature. That means there are only four pages to the adventure and asking to skip 30% of it to TRY and make it work rubs me the wrong way. Starting from where Troll Lord suggests if you haven’t played the previous Adventures On the Powder River actually makes things WORSE for the GM as there’s no real impetus for why and how characters are just on this twenty mile stretch of cobblestones. Why not just start from the beginning and instead of playing off the connection with Greely, have it be a generic tavern somewhere else. Problem solved and all the content is there. This just really wasn’t thought out very well.
Then there’s the content of the adventure itself. You have a full page of tavern based setup complete with how to get to the Macguffin by land or by sea. So a lot of the adventure is just travelling to the location’s start. Then once the players get there? You guessed it, nothing but more walking. Look, I love adventures that are more thinking that hack and slash. It’s why I tend to gravitate towards games like Call of Cthulhu. Golden Shingles, however, is almost all just walking. Seriously. How dull and boring is that? Once you get done all the walking you have a single battle where you save a treant from some assassin vines. Once you’re done with that…it’s more walking. When you get to the ruins, there is nothing at all to see or do on the first two levels of the remains. On the third you encounter a single Slyph that is exceptionally easy to bypass and on the fourth…is a single golden shingle. Now I’m pretty sure the title of this adventure was Golden Shingles but as there are not multiple ones, I have to wonder who named this thing. There is a possible plot point to an upcoming installment of the Powder River saga, but it goes nowhere and it’s useless to have hints about someone called Green Wizard if there’s nothing to follow it up with and this is supposed to be an adventure that can stand on its own. Yes, it’s supposed to just be Green Wizard, not “The Green Wizard.” That’s how the text of the adventure has it, so I’m reviewing it as such.
Look, I love Troll Lord. I really do. Castles and Crusades is a wonderful system and I own a lot of stuff for it including the hardcover first edition Player’s Handbook. That said, even for ninety-nine cents, Golden Shingles is a terrible adventure in every way possible. It’s almost all walking and god knows that’s never fun to run or play. The one bit of combat is lackluster and, while helpful to the story, doesn’t actually add anything to Golden Shingles. The adventure ends abruptly and despite being advertised to be able to be a stand alone, requires previous adventures in the Adventures On the Powder River series to make it work and definitely appears to require another installment to see things come to some sort of conclusion. As part of the full AotPR collection, this is mediocre and could easily be gutted without any sense of loss. On its own, it’s nearly unplayable and exceptionally boring to boot. Just avoid and let’s all hope that Troll Lord turns this thing around because right now I feel like I’m the only one interested in the concept of episodic tabletop adventures and even I am thinking strongly about avoiding the rest of the series.