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Designed by: JVC Parry (+ Alex Clippinger, Beatriz T. Dias, Jeff C. Stevens, Ken Carcas, and Molly Meadows)
Fairy tales are classic story-telling devices, but the ones featured in “Grimm Encounters II” aren’t exactly the Disney-fied versions with singing and happy endings. This collection of 12 D&D encounters written by six different DMs Guild authors is based on the original, and sometimes very dark, Grimm’s Fairy Tales from the 19th century.
Each encounter is 2-5 pages long and designed to easily drop into a multitude of situations and environments, ranging from a single combat encounter to full on one-shots. The level ranges differ for each, with a generic Tier listed instead of specific levels (most are Tier 1 or 2). Since they’re based on fairy tales, expect to see several overlapping themes and archetypes, including evil witches, curses, and polymorphed victims.
As is the case with most compilations, some of them work much better than others. I appreciate that each encounter is very well organized, including listing the Tier CR, the Type (Combat, Roleplay, etc), the Grimm tale it’s based on, and a single opening sentence that ties up the entire mini-story.
A few of the encounters are quite gruesome, notably the two encounters based on the tale “How Some Children Played at Slaughtering.” These involve children violently killing children and are not exactly for the faint of heart (thankfully there’s a content warning at the beginning).
The most effective encounters are those that can be run easily, with fun, obvious ties to classic fairy tale stories. The Elves & the Shoemaker is a sterling example, as the PCs investigate a missing father, which leads them to a cobbler. The cobbler is in league with a Drow raiding party, including an entrance to the Underdark. It’s tied up with a simple combat encounter but it’s a fun twist on the story.
Several of the encounters utilize cursed, polymorphed, or just talking animals, another frequent fairy tale trope.
The Owl is, well, basically just a combat encounter with a giant owl and her babies in a barn, though more diplomatic PCs have the option of reasoning with the mama.
Bone and Feathers tasks the party with defending a young mage performing a ritual to un-curse her seven brothers, who fly in and attack as Giant Ravens.
The Town Musicians of Waterdeep features awakened animals, but they’ve been cursed and muted, unable to speak. When the party touches the nearby gold pile (what PC could resist?) the four animals combine into a hideous amalgamation with a unique four-hit multiattack. Simple, but effective.
My personal favorite of the bunch is The Glass Mountain, written by Alex Clippinger. This one has all the features of a fairy tale, including a witch and a cursed animal (a raven, naturally), and drops the players into a Wizard of Oz-like dream world to solve a series of challenges. The challenges are fun and clever and don’t necessarily involve any combat, yet can be easily be completed within a single session of play.
Overall the quality of each encounter is solid. The themes definitely overlap but if you choose a few of your favorites you’ll end up with several promising and memorable encounters that should suit a wide variety of play styles.
- Encounters feature a nice variety of role-playing, story, investigation, and combat.
- Each encounter is very well organized, explaining the Type, CR Tier, and Premise right from the start.
- The Glass Mountain and The Elves & The Shoemaker are particularly effective at applying the themes to D&D while effectively telling mini-stories.
- Lying Cat!
- Only a single grid map for one of the encounters is included.
- CR Tiers are provided instead of specific levels.
- The Trial of Little Franecker Finn is overly gruesome and cruel, with a premise that’s a bit too complicated for a single-session encounter.
The Verdict: If you like your witches evil and your talking animals cursed, “GrimM Encounters II,” features a nice assortment of encounters and one-shots based on a dozen classic fairy tales.
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