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CCC-GARY01-03: The Gary Con 2017 Story Arc $12.99
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Jasmine L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/29/2017 13:28:18

So this trilogy is really problematic and just, like, generally poorly done. I can see that the authors had the inklings of a very cool plot, but it reeeally doesn't come together gameplay-wise. And now get ready, because this is going to be long.

First off, the PDF file has no bookmarks. I run online and I rely on bookmarks to be able to flip through the file quickly, so not having them is an easy way to get a black mark from me. Then there's the problem that there are no maps. Many of the rooms have very confusing layouts. I'm sure it made sense in the writers' heads, but I could really have used some visual aids, and so could my players. Unfortunately, none are provided. This gets especially problematic later in the trilogy.

So let's talk about GARY-01. The setup is actually super interesting. There's this mysterious party at a mysterious building, and the players get a mysterious invite, which I didn't actually get to give to my players because the text refers to a handout that is not included in the module, so I'm just like, "Hey, you're invited, and something about not wearing armor, or whatever," so they missed out on that. Hey, by the way, I should mention, that heavy armor thing, it's a terrible idea? When I ran the mod, there was one player who not only wore heavy armor and used heavy weapons but also had the Heavy Armor Master and Great Weapon Fighter feats. They felt pressured into going in naked, and proceeded to be basically useless for the entire module while the whole rest of the party was operating at full strength. This is simply not a balanced restriction—as flavorful as it might be, it's a hard nerf to certain classes and builds while leaving most players mostly untouched, and it led to a poor gaming experience for that player.

Anyway, the first three parts of this one are actually pretty great. You have a neat little mystery with a fun exploration segment, followed by a multi-level combat with potential to knock people off ledges. So far so good—although there is a major plothole in that the players could very easily be immune to poison and screw up the whole "poison gas" thing, and even if they're not immune to poison, there's nothing really stopping them from going under the lift and down the empty elevator shaft with feather fall or the like. But, whatever. Anyway, then you get to Part 4: The Baths and it starts heading downhill fast. There's just...this random bathhouse. With yuan-ti. Like, what? Why are they there? What are they doing? Are they just unaware of everything that's happening upstairs and downstairs? I have no idea what their role in the story is supposed to be—the whole scene is just kind of random. And by the way, the module is kind of like, oh, yeah, the players should mop these guys up no problem, but you know what? There are eighteen enemies in the room and all of them can cast a save-or-lose spell every round. This is not a trivial fight, and if the party doesn't have AoE effects, they could be in for a long and dangerous battle, disproportionate to the intended difficulty.

Then we get to GARY-02. Geez, this one is a mess on multiple levels. (You see what I did there?) First, Part 1: The Kid is Not My Son, in which there's a convoluted puzzle room involving navigating a complicated map of—oh wait, no map is provided, so I can't visualize what it's supposed to look like, because the puzzle isn't confusing enough already? Let me tell you how this one went. I told the players they'd have to jump across some moving platforms to get to the other side. I asked which direction they wanted to jump in. They were like, "Uh...forward? Is this a trick question?" They made some checks. About halfway through, one of them fell, and they all went down to fight the naga. Then they tied some ropes and got the rest of the way across without really caring about the checks. The puzzle was essentially pointless. D&D is not a platformer, and platformer mechanics do not translate well into it.

Then Part 3: Wakka Wakka Wakka. While I appreciate the Pac-Man reference, the encounter does not work in theater of the mind. It just doesn't. There's ghosts and snakes moving all around the map, and you have to track their positions. But once again, there is no map—even though the text actually directly references the map that is not there. It's messy, it's confusing, and I understand the attempt to be clever, but it doesn't work. And the snakes also have this bit where it says they try to use their Swallow attack as their primary attack, even though their statblock says they have to hit with a bite first. Oh, and then you get a magic item which does not have a cert and is omitted from the Treasure section at the end, and you get an item called "Vial of Poison," which is supposedly found in the DMG, but it's not, and who even knows what it's supposed to be?

I also want to note that there is WAY TOO MUCH XP here. Minimum 6300 for a 2-hour adventure. That's more than any other T2 adventure. It's more than the maximum for almost every 4-hour adventure in T2. That's not very reasonable.

Okay, so GARY-02 is a mess. And then lastly we have GARY-03. Which has the lovely line of text, "General encounter areas are noted on the map," except, once again, THERE IS NO MAP. And then immediately after, the text itself says there is no map. Gee, maybe don't reference a nonexistent map, then? Come on, guys.

Part 1: Warzone is just some encounters. There are yuan-ti fighting the Kraken Society, which is here because the yuan-ti killed some stone giants, and the Kraken Society is best buds with giants, I guess? I don't know. It's fine I guess. The main problem is the items. This module has five permanent magic items in it. Five! That's so many! How are there so many? It's crazy! None of them are listed in the treasure at the end, either, by the way, and they're delivered in a weird random drop system that is very puzzling and non-standard.

Then Part 2: Decisions concludes the trilogy with the Baron revealing his true form and motives and blah blah blah and offering to take the players into his service. If they accept, they get a story award, "In Service to the Snake," which grants some boons in the city of Mulmaster, and is not included in the module. They just...didn't write anything for it. Not only is it not included, but the official word from the authors is that they didn't include it on purpose, and the intent is for the DM to just make up their own reward. So...that's a thing.

Anyway, the trilogy overall is just...sloppy. This is the first Adventurers League module that either of the authors has written, and it shows. There are some good ideas, but they don't come together very well, and they're tarnished by weak execution and a plethora of rookie mistakes. A good DM can fix a lot of the issues, but I don't buy pre-written adventure modules because I want to write my own adventures, and at the exorbitant price point the authors have placed this series at, I think it's pretty reasonable to hold them to a higher standard of quality than they have delivered.

Bottom line: Decent idea, poor execution. Confusing and difficult to run. Necessary content is omitted from the modules. Also, waaay overpriced. 2/5 stars.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
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CCC-GARY01-03: The Gary Con 2017 Story Arc
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