The concept of the GMless adventure seems to be coming back, an ideal way to while away a few moments when there's no time to round up some fellow players but you fancy some adventure... just the thing if you are waiting for an flight, or stuck with a long train ride!
In this, the first of a series from Open Design, you take on the role of the dwarf hero (or at least, would-be hero) Kalgor, son of Kongar, son of Kalal, of the Bloodhammer Clan. The time has come for you to try out for the Iron Shields, the elite guard of your dwarf city...
The test is one of combat, and as you move as directed from paragraph to paragraph you get directions in what to do in respect of game mechanics - indeed the GM is replaced, not just in terms of being led through the plot but in the wider sense of being helped to play... ideal if you are unfamiliar with the ruleset, or just don't happen to have the rulebooks to hand. These explanatory notes are printed in red, and provide sufficient detail that a complete newcomer to role-playing ought to be able to follow them.
Although the ostensible entry test to the Iron Shields is a straightforward head-to-head combat with another candidate, there is a lot more to this adventure that brawling... even if you manage to lose the first bout (and so miss out on that coveted slot in the Iron Shields) the adventure goes on with other things to discover, and a few more fights as well. It may be a bit simplistic, but it's fun and, for the newcomer to role-playing, gives a good idea of what it's all about, some of the scope of things that you will be able to do in a role-playing game.
The layout is the conventional numbered paragraphs of solo gaming, each paragraph ending with a choice or challenge, based on which you are told which paragraph to read next. It is all clear and easy to follow, although it would have been improved by making use of the hyperlinking capability of PDF design. For that matter, it might have been a good idea to put the character sheets - you may play at 1st level or 3rd level - at the front so you do not have to scroll through the entire adventure to find them!
That said, it is an exciting little adventure in its own right, with plenty that could be developed... indeed, it's something that could be readily converted into a regular adventure for one or two characters by an eager GM. If you are 'home alone' and want to exercise your battle axe (or at least your dice) you could do worse than give this a run-through.
[4 of 5 Stars!]