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Designed by: JVC Parry & Jeff C. Stevens (+ Ken Carcas, Jean Lorber, Patrick E. Pullen, Phil Beckwith, Tony Petrecca)
When I reviewed “Grimm Encounters II” I wondered where the more obvious fairy tale stories were. Turns out they were here in the first installment!
Within “Grimm Encounters” you’ll find a dozen fairy tale-inspired encounters (CR 1-7), including the much more recognizable tales of Hansel and Gretel, the Three Little Pigs, and the Pied Piper. The encounters are much shorter and simpler than the sequel, but still successfully apply classic grimdark fairly tale characters and themes to Dungeons & Dragons.
The weirdest change from reviewing the sequel before the original, is that most of these dozen encounters are very brief, one-page encounters. They often involve a single, straightforward fight without any notable twists.
Lament the Little Children is a single battle with a green hag (and oddly, there’s no chance to save the children – you just find bones!). The Barbed Piper of Harmakin uses a Barbed Devil (you can save the children, hopefully) and a couple rats. The Little Redcap is just a cave fight with a murderous recap, though the Confusion-causing mushrooms could create a neat environmental hazard.
While these encounters do feature the fairy tale creatures and situations, they’re just not terribly interesting or compelling.
The best encounters involve a bit more story and twists while still keeping to a single encounter or area. The Big Bad Bandits, for example, uses multiple lycanthropes to the classic Red Riding Hood story, including a surprise wereboar transformations from the merchants you’re supposed to help (and right in the middle of the werewolf fight). Red Riding’s Hood turns the titular little girl and her cloak into a monstrous Venom-like symbiote.
The Tailor and the Giant is notable for being the only encounter that isn’t explicitly combat-focused, instead letting the party make a series of skill checks while the hill giant groom-to-be munches on some humanoids! The Boy Who Doesn’t Know Fear also adds a layer of much-needed intrigue that reminded me of Pet Semetary with a resurrected child possessed by undead spirits. There’s some fun role-playing opportunities as the PCs uncover the mystery.
My personal favorite encounter of the bunch is Not Another Cinderella Story, designed by Tony Petrecca. It turns Tremaine Manor into a mini-dungeon, and the heroine into a dark Warlock whose patron godmother is an archfey. Prince Charming is a willing accomplice in her dark deeds as they transformed her malicious stepmother and stepsisters into ghouls. The party is lured inside by the Prince, fight the ghouls and search the house to rescue her, only for her to raise the ghouls again and attack. It’s an awesome twist to the story and sounds both fun and easy to run.
While I enjoyed reading the much more recognizable fairy tale stories, I was overall disappointed that so many of them boil down to simple combat encounters. I wish more of the encounters were like the evil Cinderella, Undead spirit-boy, and Giant wedding encounters. But even the simplest encounters can be effective and fun, as players should be able to recognize the stories immediately and have fun with them.
- Each encounter is very well organized, explaining the Type, CR Tier, and Premise right from the start.
- Uses highly recognizable fairy tale stories, such as Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, and Snow White.
- Extensive encounter scaling for most encounters
- CR Tiers are provided instead of specific levels.
- Almost all of the encounters are simple, straightforward combat encounters.
The Verdict: “Grimm Encounters” provides a dozen short, twisted encounters drawn from classic fairy tale stories, though most are heavily weighted towards combat.
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