Originally Published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/07/02/tabletop-review-castles-
Thorns for Beer is the second part of Troll Lord Games’ new series of inter-connected episodic adventures. It’s meant to be released weekly, although Thorns For Beer came out thirteen days after To the Damenheit Bridge, so perhaps it’s going to be bi-monthly now or even more spread out considering they changed the end from “The Overland Adventures Continues Next Week” to “The Overland Adventure Continues in the next Adventures on the Powder River…” Release dates can be pretty hard to ensure, be it tabletop OR video game, so perhaps TLG realized they bit off more than they can chew with a promise of weekly episodes.
The biggest change is that Troll Lord Games has added given these adventures an umbrella title of Adventures On the Powder River. This was completely absent from To the Damenheit Bridge so if/when people start searching for that collective title, they might not find the first part of the adventure. Odd that Troll Lord would give this a new “series” name after It has already started.
Thorns For Beer can be played as a stand-alone one shot or occurring immediately after To the Damenheit Bridge. Unlike the first adventure there isn’t a direct tie-in to a piece of Fat Dragons Game’s terrain for miniatures. FDG does get a quick plug on the DriveThruRPG ad RPGNow websites where Thorns for Beer is listed though.
Thorns For Beer may be only seven pages long, but it is entirely crammed full of content. This is all the more impressive when you realize the first two pages are a cover and a bunch of legal text. So a little under a dollar for five pages of content might seem a little much (Imagine how much a core rulebook would cost at that rate!), but you will DEFINITELY get your money’s worth here as Thorns For Bridge is well written, quite clever and sure to entertain your Castles & Crusades players when you run it for them. Also, it’s a page more than To the Damenheit Bridge so you’re getting slightly more bang for you not-quite-a-buck.
Thorns For Beer is designed for three to five mid-level characters. I thought that was a bit high in To the Damenheit Bridge, but it works here as you’ll need one or two spellcasters to accomplish your primary goal. You are given far more information about the sleepy little hamlet of Willowbrook (Population: Slightly over 300). It might seem odd that you are given a ton of demographics about the town (and that it has an 8th level Ranger in it!), but if the DM/GM/Keeper/Storyteller really likes the local, he has enough information to place several more adventures in the area. This foresight by Troll Lord lets C&C fans get even more use out of Thorns for Beer and I really appreciate that.
The crux of Thorns for Beer is that WIllowbrook’s only tavern has been cursed. It seems the proprietor of the local watering hole smarted off to someone (or something) that he shouldn’t have and now the tavern is shuttered. Mr. Greely and his sisters are nowhere to be found and the tavern itself is impossible to get into. Players will have to figure out how to get into the pub, find the Greely family and the cause of all this fuss, all of which will have players needing to use their heads instead of weapons and come up with creative solutions to save the day.
There isn’t any real combat in the adventure, although there are one optional place where you can slaughter something and a story seed that can pit players against a giant, but other than that, this is an adventure that puts aside dungeon crawling and hack and slash combat in favour of a pit of a puzzle and clever thinking. I really liked that. It’s an especially nice change of pace for Castles and Crusades whose published adventures tend to have a lot of battles and an overflow of magic items to where a NPC loaded up with magic weapons and armour is commonplace. Thorns For Beer is SO different from what Troll Lord Games puts out adventure-wise, that I couldn’t help but love it. I thought the story crux was quite innovative and this would be a blast to spring on players as a one night one shot or as a brief respite between larger and longer adventures.
If you’re a fan of Castles and Crusades at all, definitely pick up Thorns for Beer. It’s less than a dollar and you get an excellent short little adventure that can be played on its own or as a step in a much larger one. This is so much better than To the Damenheit Bridge and I can’t wait to see where this series goes from here. I was a bit pit out by the use of the same cover art as To the Damenheit Bridge and a few typos and grammatical errors that could be found (It’s only five pages of content!), but Thorns For Beer is still the best short adventure I’ve ever seen Troll Lord Games put out, and I’ve been a Castles and Crusades fan since first edition.