DMs Guild Review – Shipwrecked! Trilogy

A trio of adventures designed for a single player.

A review copy of “Shipwrecked!” 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: Blaise Wigglesworth

Back in the infantile days of the internet and 8-bit gaming, I enjoyed going to the local library and reading Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy book series. These books featured fantastical sci-fi and fantasy adventure stories written in second-person. Almost every page ended in a choice with a page number, and that determined how your story played out – including a premature death!

The Shipwrecked! trilogy is crafted like a D&D version of those unique stories, though with skill checks in place of most choices. Each mini-adventure is designed for a single solo player without needing a DM. 

The choice-based gameplay isn’t nearly as robust as the books from my childhood, but the high production value (including battlemaps) and immersive storytelling create a uniquely enjoyable solo experience.

Given the nature of this DM-less adventure, this review is spoiler-free.

Shipwrecked! exists as three separate adventures on the DMs Guild for levels 1 – 3 respectively. Each adventure thankfully tells a complete story as you escape your titular predicament on an island, then continue in future adventures to investigate a great evil plaguing the islands.

Each adventure is about 20-pages long, featuring text written like a novel, punctuated with small images throughout, such as lighting storms, crashing waves, and skulls, creating a wonderfully immersive little story.

The story plays out in a series of scenarios, and most scenarios feature a skill check. Succeeding could mean extra loot, or advantage on a future roll, or noticing a trap, while failure may trigger a trap, or lead to a surprise round with an enemy. It’s a simple but fun system made even better with the stellar layout, including frequent subheadings that make it easy to find the right point to continue reading.

Combat is a major element of D&D, and it’s certainly a cornerstone of the Shipwrecked! trilogy. Each adventure averages three combat scenarios, and each scenario takes up a full page, including enemy statblocks, tactics, environmental notes, and the map. The maps are glorious full-color grid battle maps that are also provided as separate handouts. Big thumbs up!

dms guild

The problem is that D&D isn’t at all balanced for a single solo player character, and none of the adventures offer any sidekicks (though there are scaling notes if you want to play with a second player).

Initiative means everything in these encounters – and if the enemy can surprise you (usually because of a failed check earlier), it’s highly likely you could be wiped out before getting a single turn. It doesn’t help that all the enemies in the first adventure (designed for level 1) have +2 to +3 DEX modifiers.

Certain class features are also nullified by playing solo, notably when I ran through as the official 5e pre-gen halfling rogue. Tough to sneak attack without allies, and very little chance to surprise enemies. On the flip side, when I did get a chance to surprise an enemy, I wiped them out in a single turn. Such is the swingy nature of D&D, exacerbated in 1 v 1 fights.

Some solutions could be used to help mitigate these issues, such as granting some pre-fight choices to certain classes, or letting me skip entire fights by expending certain spells. The adventures are balanced to tell me when I’m allowed to Long Rest, leading to a series of very challenging scenarios for most classes.

The bigger issue is the lack of meaningful choices. These are relatively tiny adventures, and the designer understandably wants us to go through each and every combat encounter and situation. Unfortunately that means we don’t have a lot of choice on where to go or what to do.

Instead of making choices, we’re driven along a set path and told to make skill checks, almost like being prompted for Quick Time Events during a cutscene. The only real choices are what to do during combat, and we don’t have a lot of options in the low levels.

It’s also a shame that failing any combat encounter leads to a Game Over end state. I’m okay with premature endings as that’s keeping in line with the genre, but it would’ve been more interesting to see story changes or lingering injuries as a result of failure, rather than so many hard stops.

Despite my complaints, I’m quite impressed with the Shipwrecked! trilogy. It offers something very few adventures are capable of: replacing the DM with a linear but enjoyable series of adventures. The production values are incredibly high for a such a relatively small and inexpensive product, and it’s fun to continue my character and their hard-earned loot into further tales.

Pros:

  • Short but immersive adventures with high production values.
  • Each part of the trilogy features a complete story.
  • Extra details on two-player and DM adjustments.
  • Full color grid battlemaps for every encounter.

Cons:

  • Completely linear (skill checks instead of choices).
  • Balance issues with 1 v 1 combat.

The Verdict: With solid story-telling built within an immersive layout, the Shipwrecked! trilogy crafts short but satisfying low-level solo adventures – No DM required!

A review copy of “Shipwrecked!” 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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