Tabletop Review: Prepared 2

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A press copy of Prepared 2 was provided for the purposes of this review.

Designed by: Jon Sawatsky
Published by: Kobold Press

kobold pressKobold Press’ Prepared 2: A Dozen One-Shot Adventures for 5th Edition is the follow up to last year’s Prepared: A Dozen Adventures for 5th Edition. Its premise is simple: to provide several encounters of varying levels and styles that a Game Master can slot into his or her campaign.

Not only are the encounters more interesting this time around, but the book contains some welcome organization features, role-playing notes, and virtual tabletop friendly maps to help a GM successfully run these events and mini-dungeons.

I’ll go over each of the 12 encounters before giving my overall final thoughts at the end. Obvious spoilers below!

“Dib’s Wagon of Doom” (1st-2nd level) should be immediately familiar to anyone who has read the first Prepared book. Dib the goblin returns with another machine of war, a fortified wagon that’s already rolled up in the middle of a town.

Instead of acting as a miniature dungeon, the War Wagon acts like a quirky boss fight. The players will have to damage the wagon enough or breach the door to cause the goblins to spill out and attack.

It’s a very simple, easy-to-run encounter that can take place in any town, and I like the added humor of goblins sporting wrestling moves. The entire thing is just absurd enough to be enjoyable, and a fun random encounter to occur in any town for lower level heroes.

“A Starry Breach” (2nd-3rd) would be a bit trickier to include, as it takes place around an abandoned outpost in a frozen land. A void dragon wrymling has opened a breach between worlds, providing a low-level boss fight next to some very dangerous terrain.

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There are extensive notes on the primary NPC researcher who accompanies the players, and could make for an excellent role-playing opportunity. If the PCs don’t subdue him during the final fight, he’s turned into a specter and becomes an ally of the dragon.

“Ooze Tomb of the Oathbreaker” (3rd-4th) may be my favorite encounter of the bunch. It centers on a contamination spreading from a lake.

A centaur camp asks for aid and the PCs must cross the hostile area full of saber-tooth tigers, panicked bugbears, and storms of acid rain and falling ooze to reach an emerged tomb in the middle of the lake.

The one room dungeon contains a mummy with a neat backstory, who could offer the players a quest instead of a battle. The encounter includes everything I like: NPC allies, role-playing good and evil creatures, lots of optional encounters, and a neat theme: the creeping death and decay from an arisen evil.

“Assault of the Steel Horde” (4th-5th)  is almost too cool for a one-shot encounter. A giant drill-like war machine emerges from the ground containing an army of automated soldiers, represented as Animated Armor and a Fellforged commander.

It’s a plot ripped out of a Twilight Zone episode (like all good one-shot plots) as the soldiers perform maneuvers for some ancient forgotten war.

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The encounter is as simple as it gets: kill all the soldiers. There are no answers to be found but plenty of story beats could be created.

I know if I ran this encounter my players would be very interested in learning more about the this ancient war, the technology of the cool drill machine, and the hole from which it emerged. On the flipside, that could potentially mean a lot more work for a DM who was just hoping for a one-off encounter!

“The Void Walker” (5th-6th) has a really fun premise but I’m not enthused about the execution. A Godzilla-like (Tarrasque-like?) behemoth is on its way toward a city. The creature itself is little more than an environmental hazard; the PC’s main job is to stop the pilot.

I love the concept of a Shadow of the Colossus/God of War battlefield on and around a giant creature. But in this case the PCs are provided a map to a portal, and the portal simply transports them directly to the creature’s shoulder.

kobold pressBattling on the platforms of a moving creature is awesome, but teleporting there is lame. I think this could’ve worked better as a higher-level encounter, and forced the PCs to use their resources to actually scale/fly/climb their way up in a very dangerous, epic environment.

I love a good mystery in a tabletop game, and that’s just what we get in “Hell Comes A’ Glittering” (5th-6th). People are dying in a town and the PCs are tasked with investigating the rash of murders.

The trail leads them to a gemcutter who basically sold her soul to a devil. Well the souls of others anyway, which is kind of a sweet deal. The PCs gather clues by examining bodies and murder sites and interrogating suspects, eventually leading them to a showdown between the gemcutter and a Gilded Devil.

This encounter, like many in Prepared 2, utilizes specific enemies from Kobold Press’ Tomb of Beasts to drive the theme, such as crystalline devils, and the gilded devil who literally eats gemstones. I love the investigation angle and the many opportunities for fun role-playing.

If your PCs are traveling by boat you can run “Neither By Sail, Nor By Oar” (5th-6th) to introduce a horror-themed series of encounters. Aboard the ship is an evil statue that begins driving all the NPCs on board mad (the text mentions that the hardened adventure PCs are immune, but I would still totally fuck with them).

There’s some delightfully unnerving encounters that play out like a horror film, including birds dive-bombing the boat and sailors found staring blankly at the statue. It culminates in a nighttime raid by some cultists. This is a really neat idea that could be applied during any travel scenario with a bit of tweaking.

kobold press“Dark Night at the ODEUM” (7th-8th) is similar to the first Prepared‘s “A Bad Night for Betting,” in that the PCs are attending a thing in town, and then bad thing happens. I like these scenarios because it lets the PCs act as actual people-saving heroes, rather than the usual dungeon-delving murder-hobos.

That said the stage-play doesn’t feel quite as interesting as a mutated dog-mole fight run amok. It’s mostly a scene to show off the Herald of Darkness creature, also exclusive to the Tomb of Beasts. The audience turns into a series of creepy environmental hazards, so the entire encounter boils down to a single, but potentially cool, boss fight.

“The Tangled Temple” (8th-9th) is a fun mini-dungeon, and I’m already thinking of ways to include it in our upcoming Tomb of Annihilation campaign.

The titular jungle temple had been sealed off to contain a nasty disease called mineral rot, aka Grayscale from A Song of Ice and Fire. An outpost was built to excavate the temple but the explorers recently succumbed to the disease. The disease grants some interesting properties to foes, though I’d be wary of passing it on to players who didn’t have a way to cure it.

The Vine Troll Skeleton boss fight at the end looks scary as hell, and another reason why Prepared 2 works well with Tomb of Beasts – and not so well without it.

“The Sparking Spire” (8th-9th) provides one of the better-looking maps of the bunch. It looks like an underwater cave but is actually a giant spire on a beach. It’s home to a young blue dragon, and the coral along the cave walls come equipped with some painful electrical hazards.

The map, like many of the higher-level encounters, is a bit too large and empty, however, containing only a single other encounter with some drowned maidens.

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The “Valley of Black Tears” (10th-11th) provides some interesting challenges for traveling through the deadly winds of a valley, including air elementals, damaging gusts of wind, and an encroaching madness that assaults each PC in a unique way.

The actual destination is a large cave containing a single encounter with a spirit naga and some gibbering mouthers. It’s not bad but in this case the journey feels more interesting than the destination.

The final encounter, “A Shroud for Agantha” (11th+) provides another mini-dungeon that’s a bit too large with only a pair of encounters (as well as a third encounter outside). The dwarf leader Agantha made a pact with a celestial being, and now she needs a special artifact to extend that pact.

It’s a simple fetch quest inside an old armory. It’s a nice map but there’s little going on until a battle with some wraiths at the end. A unique creature called a skein witch appears to offer the players an interesting choice at the end, and once again you’ll need the Tomb of Beasts to use her.

kobold pressIncluded at the end of the book are details for several unique new magic items, as well as player maps to use as tactical battlefields. Four magic items are listed as major rewards from some of the encounters, and they all offer neat quirks and abilities.

All the maps are constructed with 5-ft square grids, making them easy to use in Roll20, although there are no grid-less versions. Some of the maps are a bit larger than need be, letting you insert your own encounters or traps as you like.

My favorite part of the book are the little “In Your Campaign” side boxes in each section that explain that adventures’ regions, enemies, and plot in a few sentences.

It’s an effective at-a-glance way to tell which encounters you can easily slot into your campaign, as well as how to use them within Kobold Press’ own world of Midgard. It also offers suggestions for replacement monsters in case you don’t have the Tomb of Beasts, which brings me to a very important point.

kobold pressIf you own the Tomb of Beasts, Prepared 2 is a great tool for showing off many of the cool, unusual creatures that can be found there. Void dragons, skeletal plant trolls, undead warlocks, wraith-powered automatons, and crystalline devils are among the many creatures that can be effectively used here, often centering on specific interesting abilities or lairs.

Conversely, if you don’t have Kobold Press’ version of the D&D Monster Manual, many of these encounters lose their luster. Replacement monsters are often more generic, and a poor facsimile. It’s unfortunate that Prepared 2 doesn’t include the relevant statblocks.

You don’t have to own Tomb of Beasts to use these encounters, but I’m not sure I could fully recommend Prepared 2 without it.

Pros:

  • 12 encounters offering a range of varied experiences, from heavy role-playing to heavy combat.
  • Most encounters feature fairly generic locations, making them easy to slot into a campaign.
  • The “In Your Campaign” section of each encounter helps give an overall impression of how the encounter works, and what you’ll need.
  • Purchasing the digital booklet gives you separate player maps, and all are fitted with 5-ft square grids for virtual tabletops like Roll20.
  • Almost every encounter effectively showcases several cool creatures from the Tomb of Beasts.

Cons:

  • Practically requires the Tomb of Beasts to get the most out of nearly all the encounters.
  • The higher level mini-dungeons feel relatively empty.

The Verdict: Prepared 2 is superior to the first Prepared in every way, providing a plethora of even more enjoyable, varied encounters to slot into your campaign.

 

A press copy of Prepared 2 was provided for the purposes of this review.

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Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

3 thoughts on “Tabletop Review: Prepared 2”

    1. Yeah, the way Wizards licenses out D&D 5E means other companies can’t actually use the term ‘Dungeons & Dragons,’ instead using ‘5E’ to mean ‘compatible with D&D fifth edition.’ Most third party stuff right now is either Pathfinder or D&D.

      I’ve had this website and been freelance writing for about 3 years. Playing D&D for about 2 years. I reached out to Kobold Press after doing reviews with Roll20 and Paizo. I’d love to tackle board games too but for now I think I found my niche!

      Liked by 1 person

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