DMs Guild Review – Rescue: A Familiar Tale

Play as daring animal companions on a stealthy rescue mission in this one-shot adventure.

dms guild review

This review has been sponsored 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: Transparent GamesAnna KonczakAndrew BishkinskyiMatthew BoothBernardo Bueno

We all grew up with heroic anthropomorphic animals saving the day, yet the animal companions and familiars in Dungeons and Dragons are often an after-thought. In Rescue: A Familiar Tale, the adventurers are captured by a mind-flayer, leaving their familiars and companions behind to rescue them in this clever one-shot adventure.

Rescue is a one-shot featuring a pre-designed adventuring party, all of who have familiars or animal companions. The levels don’t matter, as we won’t be playing the adventurers – we’ll be playing as the heroic animals!

In a fun opening twist, the adventurers are ambushed and knocked out by a mind flayer and taken back to its lair, leaving the companions to set off on a rescue mission.

It’s a super fun idea for a one-shot, especially as the resulting stealthy mission plays to the animals’ strengths. The players are given several options to choose from, as long as they take one of each type: a powerful beast (such as wolf, panther, or velociraptor), a flier (bat, hawk, raven), an aquatic animal (seahorse, anyone?) and a stealthy, smaller beast (spider, lizard, rat). If there are more than four players, additional options are provided in the form of a paladin’s steed and barbarian’s pet.

After the intriguing events that leaves the poor animals behind, their first task is to free the Ranger companion (the powerful beast) from a cage.  Unlike the rest of the adventure, this task is needlessly railroaded by a series of events that are supposed to encourage each animal to work together: the flier spotting a piece of wire in the water, the swimmer retrieving it, etc. I would’ve preferred several options for PCs to choose from, and undoubtedly they’d figure out their own way regardless!

The tracks left by the Mind Flayer’s cart is easy to spot and leads them to a cave. On the way they can meet up with a friendly ranger who warns them about the threat. In case your players aren’t already aware, taking on a mind flayer with a bunch of 1hp animals is not going to end very well.

The mind flayer’s lair is a standard cave dungeon, but I always like getting a full color battle map. The adventure also includes VTT-friendly tokens for each animal option as well as custom character sheets that include pictures and several tables of traits and quirks.

dms guild

The animals’ goal is to rescue their masters without waking up the mind flayer. They’ll have to deal with several grimlock guards, one of which carries a key to the cells. The cave is designed to allow plenty of stealth and reconnaissance opportunities, including a stream for our aquatic friend that runs through several rooms.

Once they meet up with the captured adventurers, the still-lucid wizard can magically empower the animals with a little DM-magic, giving them increased stats and new abilities. These empowerments are provided as handouts, and effectively turn the animals into mini-adventurers, including a big HP gain, limited spell-casting, and an illusory jouster ability for the seahorse! Someone did choose the seahorse didn’t they?

These empowerments allow our bestial heroes to take on the grimlock guards, though they’ll still need to play it smart to avoid waking the Mind Flayer.

Unfortunately the adventure lacks information when it comes to guard patrols and enemy activity, which is always an important detail for stealth-based missions. It vaguely mentions that half the grimlocks are usually awake at any one time, except during feeding, and the Mind Flayer rarely sleeps. I would’ve liked to see scripted events that the PCs can react to, such as draining and eating a villager, or cleaning a cave area, in case they want to spend time observing the enemy and planning their moves.

Once the guards are defeated, the animals and the adventurers can make their escape. Optional epilogues provide cutscenes of the adventurers defeating the mind flayer, or heroically sacrificing themselves. The players could then choose to continue playing as the animals with rules provided for properly scaling them up.

Despite its relatively short length, the adventure is adorned with lovely artwork, and comes packed with content, including the individual animal character sheets and tokens, empowerment handouts, full color battle map, and an opening chapter on RPG safety tools, creating a fun one-shot that’s as user-friendly and easy to run as possible.

Pros:

  • Stealthy rescue mission that plays into each animals’ strengths.
  • Over 20 animal character sheets and VTT-friendly tokens + battle map (grid and grid-less).
  • Optional epilogues to continue the adventure as awakened animal adventurers, with buffed-up stats.
  • ILLUSORY SEAHORSE JOUSTER (and other fun empowered animal abilities).

Cons:

  • The opening events aren’t nearly as compelling as the cave dungeon.
  • Needs more details on guard patrols.

The Verdict: The simple yet well-designed stealth-rescue mission shines a fun spotlight on D&D’s animal companions.

This review has been sponsored 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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