DMs Guild Review – Town Musicians of Bremen

A highly moddable one-shot based on the classic folk story.

A review copy of “Town Musicians of Bremen” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Lucas Zellers

Town Musicians of Bremen is a one-shot based on the German folk story of the same name. Designed for Tier 1 (levels 1-4), the adventurers meet multiple D&D versions of the four animals from the folk story on their way to Bremen.

In the original fable, which is helpfully included as an appendix at the end of the adventure, an aging donkey sets out on the road to Bremen to strike up a new career as a musician. Along the way he meets a dog, a cat, and a rooster, all past their prime and out of work.

They agree to travel together, eventually coming across a home that’s been taken by bandits. The animals combine their howls and brays and scare the bandits away, then attack them when they try to return. They find a new purpose in living out their lives in the new home.

The tale isn’t one I’m wholly familiar with, though I do recognize the themes, most notably in the excellent children’s book, Room on the Broom.

How is any of this converted into a D&D adventure?

The answer is a linear gauntlet of encounters that occur on a road. The PCs come across the four animals, each of which has been given the monstrous D&D treatment. Furthermore, each encounter comes in five different styles, or tracks, that fit a certain theme, such as celestial, fey, and shapechanger. The DM can roll on a table (or simply choose) which of the tracks the players will face.

For example, on the Fey track, the adventurers will come across a satyr, a blink dog, a displacer beast, and a faerie dragon, while the Monstrosity track features a minotaur, winter wolf, griffon, and peryton.

dms guild

While over half of the encounters involve straightforward combat, I appreciate that each is given a detailed paragraph of set-up and information. The minotaur is frustrated that he has to guard the worst labyrinth ever, a straight road. The owlbear is chasing a chicken across the road, and stops to fight the PCs, while the winter wolf is preceded by a localized blizzard.

The non-combat encounters are also memorable. Successful Animal Handling and Medicine checks are required to heal an injured pegasus. A jackalwere disguised as an old man will attempt to deceive the party, while a Coautl will ask them questions about how they handled their previous encounters.

After encountering four different creatures, the party will reach a building. Once again this encounter (and the building itself) shifts to match the track theme. The Celestial track features a church with acolytes, while Monstrosity has a goblin-filled mud hut.

None of these encounters or areas are given maps, even though a single road map could’ve handled the 20+ road encounters. I’m also not a fan of the replayable format by using different tracks for each encounter, as it’s still incredibly linear.

The solution is to present each branching path as a choice for the players, denoted by symbols or language. A signpost could depict a donkey or horse, with each of the roads showing a cryptic symbol for what lies ahead, whether demon, angel, or shapeshifter. We’re not telling the PCs exactly what they’ll find, but we do offer them choices along the otherwise linear path.

We could even take it a step further and make the final building and encounters whichever path they chose the most (or was the biggest hit). Most are big combat encounters with yuan-ti, demons, or goblinoids, but I’m partial to the 1930s-era gangsters playing cards.

The adventure also lacks an ending. Although their goal was to reach the town of Bremen, the town doesn’t actually play into the story at all. The journey is the destination. A short epilogue awkwardly explains that the PCs can retire at the building they reached, or continue traveling to Bremen as the credits roll, proving that not every fairy tale or folk story makes for a satisfying D&D adventure.

Pros:

  • Each of the 20+ encounters are detailed and interesting.
  • Includes original “Town Musicians of Bremen” fable.

Cons:

  • No real ending.
  • No maps.

The Verdict: The original folk story of Town Musicians of Bremen makes for an awkward D&D Adventure that could be improved by making the different encounter themes entirely player-driven.

A review copy of “Town Musicians of Bremen” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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